I read so slowly and forget so much…
London: The biography by Peter Ackroyd
Observer review: ‘Nobody in their right mind would have invented this London, the London we know. But nobody, I think, can subdue it now’.
Walkscapes: Walking as an aesthetic practice by Francesco Careri
From primitive nomadism to modern art, here we have the narrative that perceives the landscape through a particular history of the traversed city.
The text speaks of the difference and interrelation between the nomad and the settler.
It talks of the importance of the path – the first marks made by man on the earth, the first implied architecture. Walking as need and symbolic gesture, modifying the world through action.
The most important change occurred when man constructed artificial verticality, a physical transformation of the landscape through architecture; the menhir or the standing stone. Interpretations for the explanation for doing so are plentiful, it is unlikely that there is one such reason. Suffice to say at this point, it changes everything… when a stone lay horizontally upon the ground it is still just a stone, but as soon as it is moved or placed then the connotations change entirely.
It is the birth of the idea of ‘interior’ space with the Egyptians, who were considered to be a stationary civilisation, first worked with the notion of menhir as volume and interior space as the path or the structuring of the landscape. There can be seen a resemblance of the rows of stone menhirs and the rows of columns in the earliest Egyptian temples. The stones were almost certainly expressed the idea of wandering, since there seems to be no places for congregation but only spaces in which to walk.
The end of art theory: Criticism and Postmodernity by Victor Burgin
…where visual art is placed within the framework of contemporary cultural theory rather than traditional art theory and aesthetics. Of particular interest is the chapter on Burgin’s re-reading of Barthes Camera Lucida.
Some notes: from page 71 – In a preface of 1963 he characteristically remarks that to write is ‘to become someone to whom the last word is denied; to write is to offer others, from the start, the last word’ (Critical Essays) Of course, says Burgin, that ‘last word’ offered to his commentator is itself no more than a thread in a web of texts which will grow for as long as Barthes’s work is discussed…
He discusses at some length the idea of meaning, of signifying systems, within art generally – referring to Barthes approach (broadly) and later to Saussurian linguistics (specifically). Describing how ‘semiotics’ is now more likely to refer to an ever-changing field of study where a focus on the phenomenon of meaning within society. The distinction between as Burgin puts it (after Barthes essay ‘From work to text’) ‘a work’ to ‘a text’.
As an example of the notion of intertextuality Burgin offers up the following:
Flaneur magazine – Issue 2 Rue Bernard & Issue 3 Georg-Schwarz Strasse
Wonderfully illustrated, extensively researched. The narrative of a specific street within the broader narrative of the urban environment in which it exists. Filtered through the lens of it’s history, it’s architecture, it’s economics, politics, landscape, decay, rejuvenation and reinvention… but mostly through the people who inhabit the micro-world.
City is what it is because of the day, but for me, for some reason, the city only reveals itself by night. It is true of the best images of Rue Bernard and it is true of the images of London in London After Dark by Alan Delaney. Street lamps connote boundaries and way-marking and life absent, AWOL. Reflections in the glass shopfronts and unoccupied offices embody this land of the living asleep. The lights inside illuminate the darkness – signs of life – but of the city, more the interior of the body like pumping veins.
Flanuer – fragments of a street, it proclaims on the cover of issue three. RUE BERNARD in large red letters with the text…
Like a caterpillar emerging into the sunlight as reborn, re-imagined the cocoon of winter is being lifted, broken away… for city dwellers this is a shared experience – maybe for inhabitants of Rue Bernard in Montreal it is a different kind of butterfly.
I want to talk more of this magazine, which becomes more interesting as I live with it… unlike most periodic journals there are interesting little nooks and crannies that appear as you navigate the pages. What seemed initially as impenetrable or hidden reveals itself slowly over time and with familiarity. Much like a city street itself… I’m hooked.
London After Dark by Alan Delaney
A book of extraordinary photographs of a city at rest. These images were made over a few years at a time of night when even London, it seems, is devoid of movement, human life. The city however is very much alive in these images… street light defines the shapes we see the natural world is absent.
My Winnipeg by Guy Maddin
Special mention: The docu:fantasia My Winnipeg by the director Guy Maddin. A personal journey through his love/hate of his hometown… beautifully and seamlessly put together from fragments of found footage, personal archive and newly shot material.
Of Time and the City written and directed by Terence Davies
Similarly, the docu:poetic work of Terence Davies here describing his home town of Liverpool. Narrated by Davies throughout with interludes of music which seem so personal yet, concurrently, universal; both as a reference point for Davies himself and the city on which he is reflecting.