2008. június 20., péntek

Constrained Experience

“Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image;
everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is alive.”
- Karl Marx

Artist Sophie Calle was used as inspiration for a character in Paul Auster’s novel Leviathan. In response to this, Calle asked Auster to create a character for her to step into and live her life in accordance to the boundaries this character imposes on herself. The result of Calle’s project is Gotham Handbook.

The use of tasks, constriction and rules are recurrent in Calle’s work; in her project The Bronx she went to the Fashion Moda Gallery every day between the hours of 2pm and 5pm to ask visitors if they could take her on a journey to somewhere in The Bronx. The collated journeys were presented as photographic documentation accompanied by a brief written account of her journey.

In The Bronx Calle acts merely as a means of transmission; by this I mean there is no sense of authorship in her work, no sense of response to her journey. This gives her work a voyeuristic quality in which those who view her work have no sense of agenda or message imposed by the artist and can read what they like into each small narrative. I feel however, that the project could have been taken further, that Calle might have reacted to her journeys, responded to the experiences of being taken on random trips.

To do this is to touch on the Situationist notion of the dérive: the act of ‘drifting, a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.’ [Debord: 1958] In Debord’s Theory of the Dérive he notes that ‘the dérive includes both… letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities.’ With Calle’s work she is lead, placing her in the middle of this contradiction; on the one hand she has no preconceptions, no history in regards to her journey, yet on the other hand she is being lead by somebody who has ‘deeper motives- the motives of [a] person who journeys into the past, rather than into foreign parts.’ [Benjamin: 1929]

I intend to explore these themes of attachment and dis-attachment, familiarity and unfamiliarity in my poetry by planning a series of my own dérives and experimenting with the aforementioned notion of constrained experience. I hesitate to call this constrained writing; my experiences will determine what I write, but I will impose no restrictions on the actual act of writing. The fruit of these experiences will be documented on this blog. I intend to work alongside other poets and artists with similar interests in accordance to Debord's opinion that a dérive is more productive in the company of others. As I have mentioned previously on this blog, I have found discussing ideas with other collaborators to be inspirational and encourages development through what is almost a sense of one-up-manship.

Angus Sinclair 19.06.2008

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