the relationship between place and space………..

This blog entry focuses on the relationship between place and space.  I feel it is important for me to understand this because it filters through the main preoccupation of my project, which is how our movement through this space affects our perception of identity within this space.  So it’s back to Marc Auges book for a little info on this concept. 

The distinction between places and non-places derives from the opposition between place and space.  An essential preliminary here is the analysis of the notions of place and space suggested by Michael de Certeau.  He himself does not oppose ‘place’ and ‘space’ in the way that ‘place is opposed to ‘non-place’.  Space, for him is a ‘frequented place’, ‘an intersection of moving bodies’: it is the pedestrians who transform a street into a space.

‘The space could be to the place what the word becomes when it is spoken: grasped in the ambiguity of being accomplished, changed into a term stemming from multiple conventions, uttered as the act of one present (or one time), and modified by the transformations resulting from successive influences….’

Certeau highlights the importance of narrative that ceaselessly ‘transforms places into spaces and spaces into places’

‘There follows, naturally a distinction between ‘doing’ and ‘seeing’, observable in everyday language which by turn suggests a picture (‘there is…’) and organises movements (‘you go in, you cross, you turn…’)

Finally there is the journey narrative, the element that has the most importance to my project, which is compatible with the double necessity of ‘doing’ and ‘seeing’

‘….histories of journeys and actions are punctuated by the mention of the places resulting from them or authorising them’

When discussing Certeaus suggestions of the relationship between place and space, Auge argues that;

‘like the journey, this narrative that describes it traverses a number of places.  This plurality of places, the demands it makes on the powers of observation and description (the impossibility of seeing everything or saying everything), and the resulting feeling of ‘disorientation’ causes a break or discontinuity between the spectator-traveller and the space of the landscape he is contemplating or rushing through.  This prevents him from perceiving it as a place, from being fully present in it, even though he may try to fill the gap with comprehensive and detailed information out of guidebooks….journey narratives’

He continues to write:

‘Space, as a frequentation of places rather than place stem in effect from the double movement; the traveller’s movement, of course, but also a parallel movement of the landscape which he catches only in partial glimpses, as a series of ‘snapshots’ piled hurriedly into his memory and, literally, recomposed in the account he gives to them.’

It is this final paragraph that I can really relate to my project.  Maybe because of the speed of our movement through this space (or this non-place) in order to reach a destination that has been previously defined by others (the narrative) and to a place that we have some association with (due to it being of historical or relational value) that we fail to convincingly absorb the actual journey itself.

We fail to identify with this space because it is not on our agenda to do so.  We have little intention to recollect and understand it.

But I feel there are examples of identity within this space, there are indications of events and experiences that literally litter the non-place, from the flowers that hang of the central reservations of our roads and motorways to the marks made by graffiti artists on the undersides of railway tunnels. 

It is these subtle interventions of identity that I want my project to draw attention too.  For me it is far more interesting that trying to identify to with an archetypal structure or site of cultural intrigue that so many of us seem to feel a some sort of societal duty to experience and understand.         



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