12 February 2011

Place/encounter/time project

The project involves a place that you find fascinating, an encounter, and some sense of time. I've been thinking about it for a while ... first of all agonising that I didn't seem to find anywhere "fascinating". I got sidetracked into that place/non-place thing, and was a bit influenced by the research lecturer who talked about spaces between things. At one point, stuck in a crowd (and feeling a bit panicky) I wondered if a sociological place would be appropriate and/or interesting.

How to determine if a place is fascinating:
1. do you notice it
2. can you give it a name
3. do you see/visit it regularly
4. have you mentioned it or talked about it
5. has something come to be associated with it
6. can you recall it/think about it/describe it
7. are there things yet to know or find out about it

Travelling on the tube, as I do most days, I suddenly realised there IS a place I find fascinating - a point, just before Finsbury Park station, where there is a gap in the tunnel wall and you sometimes see another train coming into the other platform (the station has Victoria line and Piccadilly line). I started standing by the doors and keeping my camera ready as we approached the station. What joy when I got a photo - even though it was very blurry - and even better, the next day the train stopped just where the gap was. I was able to get a better photo,
and also one of "the void" without a train -
helped by the light in the carriage, of course. (Just this minute noticed that this is where another set of tracks starts... and remembered a ghost story in which passengers suddenly notice that the train is taking a long time to get to the next station - a very long time - and they seem to be travelling downwards - for a very long time - and it's getting hotter and hotter in the carriage...)

Picture taken, job done, I thought ... a fascinating place, the "encounter"... just have to figure out the "time" ... and the structure ... and make the book ...

But serendipity hadn't finished with me. Unable to get a seat one morning, I was squished against the door and happened to have the camera handy, so took photos through the glass as we went through the tunnels and stations. This would be the "time" element. The camera takes a few seconds to "reload" after each click; it does its best with the focus, too ...

Now the project would also incorporate that fascinating thing, random chance - perhaps there were other voids on other lines? I started looking (and listening - the train noise changes) - and taking hundreds of photos. Here's half a journey -
Larger pix from another method of making a "contact sheet" -
Here are a couple of the photos - in a tunnel -
leaving a station -
I used the smaller pix to do a mock-up -- in monochrome because I don't have a colour printer. The "pages" are 1" (2.5cm) square -
Over 100 pix folded up into this little bundle -
It can be read page by page -
but will spring free at the slightest lapse ... revealing a quotation from Walter Benjamin on the back - "To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it 'the way it was'. It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes by at a moment of danger."I started putting graphite at the top and bottom of the pages (to rub off on the reader's hand, like grime in the tunnel) - but then realised that a traveller would be kept inside metal, plastic, and glass, away from the grime. It would be good to add red to the pages where the cables in the tunnel are red on the colour photos.

Development (no rush ... we have till Tuesday!) will be in the form of printing out coloured photos of one of the other journeys, possibly pasting them onto gritty black paper ... or having them loose on an accordion spine. It may include other quotes (one at each station?) ... like this one from the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras: Appearances are glimpses of the unseen.

title is yet to be determined....


Fiona said...

wonderful, love how you have developed the idea (and the contact sheets) and created a journey that could fit in your hand...whilst squished in the train!

Sandy said...

quotes...perhaps ones like poems on the underground?

Connie Rose said...

Wonderful, as always, Margaret. I'm thinking "places" can also be those spiritual/emotional/psychological spaces where we live, day to day. I wonder how one would articulate those.

June said...

Fascinating. I think about "place" a lot, particularly when I'm painting outside. I actually made one of those springy books from a panorama of seven panels that I painted -- but they didn't have such an elegant box into which they fit. I love the notion, too, of using the contact sheets and a quote on the back.

"appearances of the seen -- and unseen as well."