Archive for the 'Contextualisation Term 1' Category


A pure non-place…..?

One of my objectives is to research various ideas of the non-place, with the intention of eventually focusing on just one.  Currently I am looking at non-places that have the most relevance to me, the motorway, the train and the supermarket.   

One of the things I found interesting about Iain Sinclair and Chris Petits ‘London Orbital’ was the observation of the M25 as a continuous circle with no beginning or end to the journey, there is no destination.  Because it is continuity  the road perpetuates the boredom that we may associate with being in transit, this characterises a conventional attitude to such non-places.

Sinclair like Petit set out to challenge this notion of the M25 being the ‘worlds biggest car park’ and to find some interest and meaning behind it.  The M25 is about continuous repetition, the very nature of this perpetuates a boredom that becomes a constant battle compete with it.  Through time. at some point, Sinclair and Petit became consumed by the very entity they set out to challenge.  This is an affect I find particularly interesting.  Is this an example of a more pure non-place?

For comparison, if we were to look at the A13 which is a road that I use to journey in and out of London, this road has a destination, it has an end, it is not like the M25 that is trapped in a cycle of infinity.  The following excerpt is from an interview with Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit talking about an exhibition they collaborated on about a journey down the A13.


 What I find interesting is that when walking or driving down the A13 you will reach the end.  At some point your movement on the A13 will stop as you enter in this case either Aldgate or Southend-on-sea,  your experience of the A13 has ended and your movement within that space does not exist anymore.  One of my objectives is to try and understand what enables a non-place to exist, and I’m starting to think that movement is an important element that I should look into in more detail.  

How is our experience of the space affected and defined by the movement of other people through the space, this transient collective?

What happens to a non-place when this movement is removed?

Time is measured by the movement of the earth around the sun, so how does this cycle affect the non-place? and in what ways do they change from day to night? 




J.G. Ballard……


‘I believe in the limitless geometry of the cinema screen, in the hidden universe within supermarkets, in the loneliness of the sun, in a garrulousness of planets, in the repetitiveness of ourselves, in the in-existence of the universe and the boredom of the atom.  I believe in the power of the imagination, to remake world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madman.  I believe in my own obsessions, in the beauty of the car crash, in the peace of the submerged forest, in the excitements of the deserted holiday beach, in the elegance of automobile graveyards, in the mystery of the multistory car parks, in the poetry of abandoned hotels.  I believe in the light cast by video recorders in department store windows, in the messianic insides of radiator grills of showroom automobiles, in the elegance of the oil stains on the micelles of 747’s parked on airports tarmacs.  I believe in the non-existence of the past, in the death of the future, of infinite possibilities of the present.  I believe in the death of tomorrow, in the exhaustion of time, in our search for a new time within the smiles of autoroute waitresses, the tired eyes of air traffic controllers at out of season airports.’ J.G. Ballard 


London Orbital by Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit (vs Marc Auge?….PGPD???)

Iain Sinclair is the author of the book ‘London Orbital’.  This book documents his 12o mile walk around the ringroad of London, the M25.  I haven’t read the book, it is a beast at 450 pages!..especially when you have so much else on the go as I do right now, but i would like to read it, it looks like a real journey.   Sinclair looks at a rather mundane entity,the M25, and seeks for a connection with it.

London Orbital gets under the skin.  What looks at first like a dull and deeply unappealing journey is actually a multi-layered, lyrical, ugly, mythical, engaged and engaging excursion from the present into the past and back again.  A filmmaker sets out to make a voyage of discovery on London’s orbital motorway, the M25.  He enlists the help of several others to film the motorway from several points, drive endlessly around it and dig up stories and potential beauty behind the motorway. London Orbital takes off from Iain Sinclairs visionary book of the same title, which took the writer on a walk around the 120-mile route of this infernal circuit, excavating the histories of the sites through which it passes [or which were destroyed to enable its passage]. But rather than recreate Sinclair’s perverse perambulations, Petit took to the road, holding out until the tediousness of a drive without beginning or end began to produce visions: of Stokers vampires; of J.G. Ballards Shepperton; of Margaret Thatchers cozy conversations with Augusto Pinochet; of secret toxic dumps and ragged, dazed wanderers at the edge of the future’s past.’

Petit almost endlessly drives around ‘in orbit’ attempting to find a narrative within the M25 that we can connect to.  To uncover the history within the places that he passes through and to create a ‘museum of memory’, to find the lost voices of London and create a visual map of ‘all of the M25’s secrets’.  Yet in conclusion Petit finds that all the cultural and historical associations that may define this space become overwhelmed by the senseless repetition and true boredom of continuous transience.  We become ‘ a patient of the M25, we become like Bram Stokers ‘undead’.  Our personal experiences that collectively could become the essence of how we define that space get lost in this lack of feeling, it subdues our senses, it diminishes our experience and erases our memory, it continues to be a negative space.  

Petit meets Ballard on part of his journey, here is an excerpt from the film: 





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…


Mariko Mori and Matthew Barney

I’ve found that Mariko Mori’s work embraces the digital.  She focuses on how humans may evolve and what brave new world technology awaits us.  In ‘Wave UFO’(1999-2002) you were invited to enter a gleaming interactive space pod to be connected to electrodes and have your brainwaves analysed and visualised on screen.  This is a more aesthetic example of how to digitally interact with the viewer.



Digital art, whether it be a through a narrative, an interface or a collection of shapes and colours has the ability to shift your perception and interact with you on a new level.  I feel that this ability for it to redefine itself as it progresses facilitates a greater scope for aesthetically realising a theoretical approach.  Visual imagery can run concurrently or consecutively enhancing the communication between the work and the viewer.

Matthew Barney’s work is an ongoing non linear narrative that needs to be broken down into cellular divisions to reveal its’ meanings.  The ‘Cremaster Cycle’ is five films, a 300-minute long project that consumed 8 years of his life and addresses many varied themes such as gender, sexual reproduction, Celtic mythology and opera.



The last picture is from ‘Drawing Restraint 9’ currently showing at the Notting Hill Gate Cinema starring his long time partner Bjork, and this work continues Barneys investigation into religious rite, this piece focusing on the Japanese religion ‘Shinto’



June 2018
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