Archive for October, 2007


Researching artists and the non-place…..

I’ve been looking into contemporary artists who have dealt with the concept of the non-place, and found work that I think is worth blogging for contextualisation.  ‘Ruhrtal’ by Andreas Gursky is a series of large photographs that deals with the motorway as a non-place of supermodernity.  This work is kind of unsettling showing a vast motorway flyover that looms over the almost idyllic green field that lies beneath it.  An individual is dwarfed by the gigantic product of supermodernity.  It personifies an alienation and a loss of identity with our landscape yet it portrays these premises’ with a certain poetic quality.


Another work that that has offered a new perspective on the idea of the non-place is Wim Wenders’ ‘Safeway’.  On the outset this photograph seem to portray something quite gloomy and uninspiring.  It shows the back wall of a supermarket and (what I assume is) the employees door for which they enter this non-place.  This throws up images’ of anonymity and repetition yet the work has a certain warmth to it.  Our attention is drawn to the deep blue sky, the inviting tones’ that radiate from the small yellow doorstep and even the shadowed letters that are created by the sunshine.  Wender shows’ the non-place in a different light, he breathes life into the scene as we create our own little narratives to what may have happened on this yellow doorstep.  Even though these places have no particular identity Wender metaphorically emphasises the human-ness that exists’ beneath this shield of supermodernity.  He makes us look through the non-place.  A premise that I find particularly interesting.   


Mark Wallingers’ video work ‘Threshold to the Kingdom’ focuses on how we experience the non-place.  This work looks’ at the sensations that embody us when we enter, in this case, the airport.  A camera is placed in front of the exit for international arrivals.  These individuals’ enter with a certain bewilderment, they search for their documentation (an example of identity?) and look to find the right door to continue their journey under the beady eyes of airport security.  It shows how we can become emotionally lost among the numbers of all the other transient bodies that inhabit the space.



An artist that I have found whose work looks’ at many different aspects of the non-place is Hans Op de Beeck.  One of his works in particular that I found quite inspiring is his installation ‘Location 1’.  The scene depicts a desolate landscape of a cross roads consumed by a dull blue light.  The traffic lights repeatedly blink through their automated program of red to amber to green and back again even though there is nobody present to obey their commands.  This installation is, for me, a more obvious example of what a non-place represents, but it does successfully characterise an environment that has no particular identity.  It depicts a state of limbo.  I find it quite unsettling.   


All these artists’ approach the non-place from different angles.  I feel I can take inspiration from this.  These works show how the environment can be experienced and portrayed (Gursky, Op de Beeck) and also observes how the individual reacts to this phenomena (Wallinger) Now I want to absorb these works and their intentions’ and try to think about how I am going to approach the non-place from my own perspective.  How am I going to go about this subject and create something different?  I need to do a LOT more research before I can approach this question, and with that in mind……..back to the Auge. 



The beginning of the non-place and Italo Calvino….

I’m reading Marc Auges’ ‘non-places – introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity’.  He addresses the non-place as an indeterminate state.  Supermodernity perpetuates a state of transience caused by an excess of time, space and ego.  But as I am reading my mind is thrown back to a book I read earlier this year called ‘Invisible Cities’ By Italo Calvino.  Some of Calvinos’ conclusions could be seen as a foundation for Auges’ writings’.  So before I reflect upon what Auges’ interpretation is of the non-place, I think it would be beneficial for me to refresh myself on this book.   


 I love the way Calvino writes, his style is fluid, fictitious storylines that also throw a speculative view over the position of reality.  Marc Auges’ writing style in similar in some ways, yet Auge prefers to predominantly focus on the real.  

Calvino observes that modernity perpetuated a new capacity for travel, via airplanes, cars etc. He suggests that this causes a disillusionment to travel and presents us with a very bleak view of a world of continuous uniformity, where our experiences of transit leave us with a feeling of numbness and a lack of fulfillment.  Modern life is epitomised by speed and continuous movement.  

Calvino suggests a homogeneity of cities, where the capacity for movement transforms the identity of the city, he writes ‘cities are turning into one single city; a single endles city where the differences which once characterised each of them are dissappearing’ 

Calvino writes of the ‘empty interval‘, the space that exists when in transit between these locations that we visit almost ephemerally.   

This ‘empty interval‘ that Calvino refers to is the non-place, which is the focal point and foundation of Marc Auges’ writings. 

It makes me think about to what extent this transient collective can affect how a place is defined.  Because we can now move easily and continuously from to place to place.  Does an influx of transient bodies moving through the space dilute the historical and relational connections that initially defined it?  

If the space is predominantly occupied by individuals’ that personify the non-place, that are only there as a result of experiencing a non-place, can this potentially redefine the place? and alter other individuals’ perception of it?

This observation adds’ context to the book I am currently reading and also gives me a foundation from which to work from.  

I want to think about this idea further that the transient collective can affect the definition of a place, potentially redefining our own perception of that space.  I’ll think about how this concept relates’ to Darnell M. Hunts viewpoint that the urban environment is shaped by the peoples experiences with it.  To what extent are our experiences affected by the presence a transient collective that personify the non-place?  

Back to the Auge……     





Driving Dreams…and the non-place

I went to see a film the other night at Chelsea, it was called ‘Driving Dreams’ by an artist called Boris Gerrets.  Heres’ an excerpt about the film from the e-mail Andy sent us:

Driving Dreams (Netherlands, 2006, 51 minutes) is a portrait of the anonymous zone that lies between motorway, petrol station, carwash and carpark. Impersonal observations – wheels, roadmarkings, shadows behind windshields, cars flying past and security camera footage  –  alternate with short interviews and personal portraits of people in their cars and along the road. Meeting various motorists in the course of the film, the viewer also shares the viewpoint of a petrol station cashier and a cleaner who changes car park bin bags. The final stop is a snack bar on wheels, parked in a rest area in the early morning, close to the sea.  




 The films’ intention was to portray the loneliness of anonymity and also the pleasure one can get from being anonymous on a motorway, one of our man made middle landscapes, or a non-space.  

What I really took away from this film was the interpretation of the motorway as a transient space that is shaped by the peoples experiences with it, yet it remains undefinable.  

My interpretation of this film coupled with conversations with Andy and all you guys has really made me think about the non-place and its’ effect on the individual, and also the individuals affect on it.

I think this could be a good focus for my work.  I may look for non-places and explore what ways that space can change the way the individual conducts themselves within that environment.  Do these non-places perpetuate a sense of anonymity? Do these places alter our perception of normal social conduct? Do we create this sense of anonymity or does the space create this for us?  

In conjunction with this, if I was to take away the mediated experience from a space, for example to film Tescos supermarket and digitally remove all the Tescos signs, by removing what that place actually represents would that then become non-place?

I got a book out today called ‘non-places: Introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity’ By Marc Auge.  Will give this a read and continue to think about what I have just written and see where this takes me…. but I think I may be finally getting somewhere with this project..!.. signing off…


Proposal in progress part 2……

I’ve made quite a lot of progress this week in a funny sort of way.  I have spent most of my time trying to refine my proposal.  But as always seems to be the case with these things, is the more you concentrate on a particular aspect, and start to formulate a deeper understanding, it throws up a multitude of other things to take into consideration which can just confuse you even more!! In a way, I suppose this shows that my research is working.  I have refined my proposal to the extent that I am looking at fewer aspects, but I am now looking at those aspects in more detail.  On the outset it looks like I haven’t made much progress, because my proposal is just as complicated as last week! But I have delved a lot deeper into my subject, and now I just have to keep on digging….I’ve been reading a book this week called ‘Visual Worlds’.  There is a chapter called ‘Los Angeles as visual world: Media, seeing and the city’ (Hall, J.R. ed., (2005) ‘Visual Worlds’  Routledge, New chapter explores how we orientate and represent ourselves within our environment.  The author, Daniel M. Hunt, addresses to what extent the urban space is an object of its’ participants knowledge.  Hunt proposes that Los Angeles is a ‘collective representation’ shaped and understood by the peoples experiences with it. these experiences can be ‘mediated’ in the sense that we continually encounter media content that can influence our perception, creating new experiences to absorb and for us to represent.  This lead me to think about how our perception of anonymity may be influenced by mediated experiences.  In what ways does society affect how we relate to the premise of anonymity? So, just the aims and objectives again, as follows……..  

Working Title(s):

Mediated Experiences and our Perception of Anonymity.       

Metaphors for anonymity in our visual reality.


Our experiences affect our perception and how represent and orientate ourselves within our visual environment. One of my aims is to investigate whether the media creates a non-discursive reality that can influence how we perceive ourselves within our environment.  I want to explore how mediated experiences can influence and even shape our understanding of reality.

For anonymity to exist does there need to be some form of reference point for it to be measured against?  With this in mind I am interested in the medias’ construction, implication and deconstruction of the concept of fame.  I want to question whether our perception of fame, which is predominantly a mediated experience, creates a reference point for which to base our perception of anonymity. Can anonymity only exist as a effect of our mediated experiences that we actively represent and determine to be real? 

I also want to investigate can anonymity exist within society acting as an independent entity removed from the processes that I have previously described. 

What level of autonomy does the individual possess over the formulation of their perceptions.

An exploration of the near possibility of disappearing, can we completely disappear?



My objective is to discover how anonymity is accentuated and perpetuated in modern society. With regards to this I will visit areas of London that embody the concept of fame, and look for imagery within the places that represent our media reality that actually or metaphorically personifies an anonymity.  By doing this I will be able to evaluate whether anonymity can exist within an antithetical environment. 

In juxtaposition to this, I intend to look for metaphors for anonymity in the spaces that are the most familiar to us, the places that make up our visual reality, for example, the park where we walk the dog, or the bus we get to work everyday.  I will investigate to what extent anonymity can subtly influence our experience of such situations.  

Can I create an indeterminate and indefinable space that is neither present or absent?

Ok, so I’ve attempted to look at the concept of anonymity in relation the the individual and the influence of ‘mediated’ experiences.  And acknowledged the possibility of looking for more subtle examples of anonymity and its’ affect on our perception.

I think I want to move away from the concept of fame, its’ a very large subject that has been mused over many times before and I feel there is a much more room for scope, research and intrigue within the concept of anonymity.   

Conversations with everyone over the past few days has made me think more about how this premise can actually relate to a physical reality.  Can a space embody this premise, or does the person dictate the space?  






When you see an ambulance, do you assume it is for someone you do not know…

I’ve been working on an experimental piece thats a composition of footage I captured in the college car park of the leaves in the wind, and the shadow of a tree on the wall, layered with an excerpt from an old promotional film from the 1940s about communication and the media( Thanks to Tim for showing me the Prelinger Archives website!) This technique of compositing very different visual imagery is something that I have not done before, it is taking me into unfamiliar territory, and I kind of like it! I want to continue to try and push myself to produce something different, to learn new techniques to better visually realise my intentions.  The sound originated from the original footage shot in the car park. When you see an ambulance, do you assume it is for someone you do not know…  When I was making this piece, I was reflecting on experience with the leaves in the park.  In a way, watching the swell of leaves bustle around each other in their masses personified an anonymity that is reflected in society.  There’s something quite contemplative about this imagery.  I want to go filming again and capture some footage that literally portrays this premise, I just need a windier day….!    


Proposal in Progress…

I just want to document the title, aims and objectives for my proposal that I have written thus far.  After my tutorial with Andy my thoughts about the areas’ I am going to research have progressed slightly, so I feel that before I refine my proposal I think it would be good practice to document how it reads to date.

Working Title:

How Societal Constructs Affect the Individuals’ Perception of Reality?     


My aim is to explore how society affects’ the individual and influences our perception of reality. Continuing from a foundation that I established throughout my degree course I want to further my investigation into capitalist society, explore the construction and implication of the modern mass media and evaluate the consequences and implications of having to adapt to our constructed reality.  


I want to explore aspects of the modern mass media and how it as a construct affects our perception of reality.  I am interested in the construction, implication and deconstruction of the concept of fame. 

In conjunction to this I want to research the concept of anonymity. To investigate how the majority that make up the rest of society can more subtly influence our perception, and to what extent does the concept of fame redefine our perception of anonymity potentially perpetuating the individual into an a state of anomie. 

I am also interested how we escape from our perceived realties.  To what extent does society allow us to be more hedonistic and ego-driven so we spend more time away from our perceived realities to escape the struggle to satisfy basic needs and the stress that causes.  Finally I intend to establish the integral links between these concepts. 

As my research progresses I am becoming increasingly interested in the individuals’ perception of anonymity in society.  What do we reference our state of anonymity against and what can influence our perceptions of it?  I am starting to see subtle interventions in society that may subconsciously accentuate our perception of anonymity and I think that this is something I am interested in pursuing.  To find metaphors for anonymity in the factions of society that are made familiar too us.  To juxtapose this against the concept of fame.  Can anonymity exist? is it a contradiction of terms?

I’m not keen on the word ‘construct’, I want to move away from this word because I think it is too clinical.





Reflection Time..

I’ve been working on a piece recently.  It been experimenting with structuring overtly staged situations with unconventional mannerisms.  This work metaphorically focuses on the medias’ ability to deconstruct their progenies.  It may be the start of a non-linear narrative about the the medias’ construction, implementation and deconstruction of the concept of fame.   I feel that this particular work does not achieve the shift in perception that I am looking for.  I feel that I the narrative overwhelms the visual aesthetic so as the more subtle interventions go unnoticed.  I want to experiment more with non-figurative work that will concentrate more on visually shifting a perception rather than through a narrative, non-linear or otherwise.  By creating prototypes that are essentially the antithesis of what I have just created will hopefully reveal alternative ways for me to achieve my intentions. Eventually I may combine these concepts, but I’ll evaluate that further down the line.   I did have a few technical problems with the colour grading workflow (namely, getting it in the wrong order) but I have learnt from this an will approach it correctly next time.