Tuesday, 13 November 2007

walking the city - the practices of everyday life...

its winter, and in a typical reversal of nature, the city is bursting with buds of intellectual life after the lull of the summer.

as usual, i’ve spent the summer preoccupied with getting away, experiencing other places and cityscapes, and returned somewhat jaded and pessimistic to manchester, venting my spleen against all the initiatives and strategies of the city authorities that tend to overshadow our personal or shared sense of belonging, autonomy or self expression. however my recent interludes with those young boffins has reminded me that underneath the simulacrum and bravado lies ingenious and affirmative tactics for tracing ones own path through the city, for weaving ones own reality of city life. these street level activities, these 'de Certeaian' (sic) tactics, tend to be so deeply embedded into the fabric of the city that they can go unnoticed amidst the brouhaha of the spectacularised city.

according to de Certeau, the city no matter how beautifully planned or ordered is nothing, is worthless without people. it is people who take space and turn it into place; people who give it life and meaning. for de Certeau, it is people, specifically pedestrians, who in constantly walking the city, bring it to life, weaving into its streets a patchwork of stories, at ground level without the ‘celestial eye’ of the city planner and authorities. these overlapping, multilayered tales and navigations actually create the city, a palimpsest of fleeting lived experiences, or as he puts it, ‘the created order is everywhere punched and torn open by ellipses, drifts, and leaks of meaning: it is a sieve-order.’

the pansy project is just one such tactic for re-navigating the city. it is fragile, ephemeral and serendipitous, unconcerned with memorialising itself or self aggrandising its purpose. in this it differs from the sometimes aggressive manifesto of the Situationist, in whose styles and stances i have been immersing myself. some time ago i recall expressing some unease with the rigours of the Situationist as being perhaps too military for this weary bluestocking, whose natural cynicism can easily spill over into bleak pessimism. perhaps it is foolhardy to gaze up at the spectacle of the metropolis for too long without regular forays into the urban undergrowth, the untidy warren of the city as experienced at ground level. time to rethink the city, walk it afresh without expectation, take a stroll around this 'parallel' city, gasping for breath and often even thriving just under the radar...

just before the summer recess i was enjoying eavesdropping into the secret cultural life of the metropolis and i'm happy to note that some of those initiatives have resumed. they are generally free, easy to nip into after work or whatever and offer an unparalleled opportunity to dip into the whirlpool of interdisciplinary creative and academic endeavours usually going on behind closed doors, dusty archives or quiet libraries...

urbis have already got the ball rolling with their regular talkies series, held every other wed or thurs at 6pm; their forthcoming programme can be viewed by following this link - http://www.urbis.org.uk/page.asp?id=3067. this week is a chance to hear ben kelly and peter saville talk about design, factory records and the hacienda, and if its fully booked, there is also the chance to catch it online, at second life, their virtual gallery! i'm also keeping my eye out for curious, a new postgraduate forum, which has so far had a couple of facinating talks by the city's research students.

then, i'm keen to attend Joy on Toast, Jordan Baseman's new work, made during his Alchemy Fellowship; a portrait of one woman's life as a botanical explorer. there will be six screenings situated within the Manchester Museum's botanical storerooms, itself a rare opportunity to peer into the wonderful labyrinthine underbelly of the museum - a mirror to the public, pristine, orderly shopfront, a nosy delve into its cupboard under the stairs! spaces are limited so do book for this splendid event this thursday 15 november, or sat 17 november...http://www.alchemy.manchester.museum/

last but not least is the launch of shrinking cities at cube on portland st this friday from 6pm, and simultaneously across liverpool. the press release is most enticing -

'Around the world, cities are shrinking. Neither the crisis of many cities in the UK in recent decades nor the dramatic development in Eastern Germany since 1989, which has led to more than a million empty apartments, has proven to be an exception, but a general pattern of our civilization

After decades of urban decline through deindustrialisation, in the course of the last 15 years Manchester and Liverpool have achieved a remarkable urban regeneration of their city centres, which became a model for other cities. However, the benefits of renewal have not been felt by all. Some neighbourhoods have stubbornly remained deprived, leaving pockets of high unemployment, social exclusion and abandonment.'

Shrinking Cities runs from 17 November – 26 January and is on display at CUBE, the RENEW Rooms and Site. See http://www.shrinkingcities.com/ for more information about the project

1 comment:

jack.hale said...

The Shrinking Cities exhib is absolutely fabulous, you must cycle down and take a peep.