14
Feb
08

julian opie, imagine you are driving….

Julian Opie attempts to find new ways of dealing with our world as one of accelerated movement and overabundant information. As representations of reality supplement reality itself, everyday experience is increasingly about a fast-paced flow of imagery.

Society is in flux, buffeted by a constant flow of information and of people. Our lives are channeled through road, air and rail routes, around airports, service and railways stations, dependent on invisible and interconnecting cable and wireless networks.

Auge believes that we do not yet know how to look at this world; it is in fact a world that we read rather than look at, a world through which we pass at speed.  Speed drastically alters our perception of the landscape and Opie’s art is much inspired by the idea of travel and motion.

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 Imagine you are driving’ presents us with an endless sequence of images of the road ahead: we have less of a sense of the inspiring and exhilarating pace of movement, and more an expression of the anonymity and monotony of motorway travel. But the obsessiveness of the depiction is compelling. We fix on the white lines marking the tarmac, propelled by the vanishing point towards a horizon we never reach.

Opie attempts to capture the real effects of driving, how the car both liberates and distances us from the world – so that we pass through the landscape quickly and are closed off from direct experience of it. The sights, sounds, tastes, temperatures and smells of the material world are reduced to the two-dimensional view through a windscreen, we find ourselves in a sealed, stable, weightless environment, with our senses impoverished and our bodies fragmented, we fall into a dream-like state.

Opie feels that when we drive through the city, the streets and buildings become the backdrop to our thoughts, virtual passages through which we move, on the way to another place.  The signs and texts planted along the motorway tell us about the landscape through which we are passing, making its features explicit. This fact might enable us to refrain from the need to stop and really look. 

Because we are constantly on the move we are always in a state of distraction, having to deal with a barrage of visual and social stimuli.  This is where my own practice and Opie’s work overlap.  We are both questioning whether because of our ‘modern’ state, and specifically when within these ‘modern’ landscapes, have we learned to overlook the subtlety and detail of the space? And how does this change our experience of it?

In contrast to the visual stimuli that Opie presents to us in ‘Imagine you are driving’, Opie’s ‘Cityscape’ is an audio recording of a journey through London by car. In it, he and fellow artists Lisa Milroy, Richard Patterson and Fiona Rae recorded what they saw en route, each of them focusing on a specific subject category. Opie listed the brands of cars seen, Patterson identified building types, Rae read from posters and billboards and Milroy described the people he observed along the way.

For me this work emphasises that we are unable to assimilate everything that surrounds us; that we reduce what we do see to the essentials in order to negotiate our way. But on the other hand, the abstract flow of words can be as evocative as actual images, and just by listening to them; we can conjure up images that we know intuitively from memory. 

Our senses are always working and deciphering the world around us.  My task now is to break down these spaces into their component parts, to discover the D.N.A of the space (a phrase that Andy should have credit for!) Once I can understand this, I can use this information to manipulate the environment, to change the code as it were and present a different representation that will attempt to challenge the conventional way most of us experience this landscape.

 

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