I have been traveling – largely alone – for the last month or so. This has meant spending lots of time in what might be called in-between or ‘transient places’ (Bissell 2007), sometimes even ‘non-places’ (Augé 1995). Different names to describe the spaces you move through to get somewhere else: train stations, bus stops, airports, ferry terminals. Sites of restless (in)activity. Static points of waiting before planned movement.
These places are impersonal, made almost interchangeable through the ubiquitous vernacular of functionality, standardisation and control (Kellerman 2012). Divorced from locality, you could be almost anywhere.
These places are nodes, bringing together – if only for a moment – an array of disparate and dispersing people. Within this setting, a solo traveller is alone in an often-crowded public.
These places are heavy with potential, filled with ambitions for various future-selves (Hilbig 2002). They spark a multiplicity of possible versions of yourself each embarking on a different journey to an imagined destination (Augé 1995).
Marc Augé argues that in translating or describing non-places, “the act of the [artist] looking is a spectacle in itself” (1995, p. 92). Certainly that was true within this collection. Performance was present in the gathering of visual material; the strangeness of someone – alone – filming a wall or the floor or themselves pointing at nothing.
For some responses, there is a second layer of spectacle in the ritual of their structure. I ‘collected’ each station of the Island Line in Sight – often only jumping out briefly to film before reboarding the next train. I re-performed the scavenger-hunt brief for Touch – following a known script to navigate unknown spaces. I revisited (both within and from a distance) the bus stop in Hearing despite having no intention of ever ‘using’ it to move on somewhere else.
Further, over the course of the portfolio development there was an increase in the, albeit low-level, theatricality of my responses. The creation of on-site installations in Smell and Intuition were small acts of resistance against the underlying authority that controls the way we inhabit these spaces.
Within this collection, place-based experiential tensions are reflected through the repeated motif of multiple (sometimes moving) images. Attention is frequently pulled in different directions simultaneously – looking at one screen may result in missing something on the other. Depictions of the body (both my own and that of others) are implied, partially shown or presented from a distance – a deliberate movement away from presenting individual and fixed identities.
This collection was developed within the constraints of limited materials, tools and spatial access. The ability to record short films on my digital camera allowed me to explore videography – a way of working with image I hadn’t used before. I then learnt a new software program, Adobe PremierPro, to edit the videos.
I am struck by how much this collection unintentionally echoes my ongoing artistic practice. Though unconscious of it at the time, in retrospect I can see this work is a continuation of my interest in the use of colour and pattern as a means of recording place.
- Augé M 1995, Non-Places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermoderity, Verso, London
- Bissell D 2007, ‘Theorising movement: engaging the railway journey’, Mobile bodies: train travel and practices of movement, doctoral thesis, Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham
- Hilbig W, Cole IF (translator) 2002, ‘Das Provisorium (The Interim)’, Chicago Review, Vol. 48, No. 2/3, pp. 141-148
- Kellerhan A 2012, ‘Terminals’, Daily Spatial Motilities: Physical and Virtual, Ashgate, London
- de Botton A 2009, A Week at the Airport, Vintage International, London
- Harley R ‘Airportals’ 2011 in, Bissell D and Fuller G (eds) 2011, Stillness in a Mobile World, Routledge, New York., pp. 38 – 50
- Wiles W 2013, ‘Rem Koolhaas: Junkspace’ ICON, 29.10, accessed 8 July 2016, <http://www.iconeye.com/opinion/icon-of-the-month/item/10011-rem-koolhaas-junkspace>