It is not given to every man to take a bath of multitude;
enjoying a crowd is an art; and on ly he can relish a debauch of vitality
at the expense of the human species, on whom, in his cradle, a fairy has
bestowed the love of masks and masquerading, the hate of home, and the
passion for roaming.
Baudelaire, C. "Crowds". (1970:20)
This talk presents the 'Getting Lost in Tokyo' project from my recent PhD research entitled "Towards a Theory of Notation as a Thinking Tool." The methodology for this has involved my own engagement with different forms of notation and inscription. By making a mark, I reflect upon it through academic text and critical discourse. The two sides of the thesis are in conversation, informing and reflecting upon one another. This project explores the idea of notation and its relationship with other inscriptive practices, including diagrams, drawing, painting and photography. The fundamental research question asked here is: "how is it ever possible to communicate with marks on a surface." What kind of social agreements and understandings must we enter into in order to be understood?
The work takes a starting point in a journey, and tells the same story of getting lost in the Tokyo Subway in several different ways. This is similar to the way in which the same basic narrative can be expressed in a novel, a poem, a film or in the theatre. The story remains the same, but each treatment adds some value and emphasis. I worked by notating my experience of getting lost in Shinjuku station rather than attempting to recreate the station through drawing. My experience of this space reconfigures Shinjuku station when I draws it. This idea of perception and spectatorship is crucial to the work, both in terms of my own perceptions as practitioner, and the interpretation brought by the audience. The translations of the experience continue to reconfigure the events into a new architectural space, a labyrinth which must be broken up in order to be understood. Finally, each episode is related to a place in Tokyo, distributing the experience back across the city and setting up correspondences which are direct and metaphorical in nature, claiming that this episode is this place, not simply like it.
The aim of the project was to explore the notion that a mark on paper, be it a drawing, a diagram, or a notation; is not the expression of a pre-formed idea. We do not draw an image already held in the "mind's eye" rather, we explore and develop the idea by drawing it, and do so in different ways with different kinds of drawing or inscription. The project is also about the wanderer, the flâneur. This figure can be traced through the work of poet Charles Baudelaire, critical theorist Walter Benjamin, and the urban art movements of the 20th century including Dada, Surrealism and the Situationist International. The wanderings of the flâneur are architectural, and perceive urban spaces differently from the everyday commuter. This appropriation of space is a form of architectural creation in itself, simply by understanding the environment in novel ways, the flâneur may lay claim to ownership of a space. This aspect of place-making is the subject of the painting series. The first series looks at places in Tokyo as defined by the actions of people rather than a static architectonic space. The second series takes pattern as its focus, and looks at painting as an inscriptive practice conforming to its own rules and formative diagrams.
ABSTRACT REFERENCES Baudelaire, C. 1970. Paris Spleen. L Varése (Trans.). New York: New Directions.
5 December 2006, 6:00 PM, Refreshments 5.45 pm,
The Elliot Room, MINTO HOUSE & THE MALTINGS
20 CHAMBERS STREET. EDINBURGH EH1 1JZ
The University of Edinburgh, School of Arts, Culture, and Environment