Views of the City
Our project is concerned with both looking up and looking down on Grafton street, significant on this street where shop fronts and advertising are composed to streamline the view to one level. This is not necessarily a commentary of this particular street, but a relevant inquiry into how we see Dublin city and other cities today.
Stills from footage looking up and down
The intention of the project was to question the city, to expand our knowledge of it and to show it in the form of a composed view from which the observer can procure his or her own ideas. The challenge of composing a view is where to begin. Kevin Lynch, in his book 'Image of the City' alludes to our comfort on a street; “We are supported by the presence of others and by special way-finding devices: maps, street numbers, route signs, bus placards. But let the mishap of disorientation once occur, and the sense of anxiety and even terror that accompanies it reveals to us how closely it is linked to out sense of balance and well-being” 1. The views we have chosen to bring together are disorientating, as is the way we have decided to show it, by projecting on to the ceiling. The idea of challenging the viewer comes both by disorientating them and giving them views, which are abstract, where the only direction is that which the camera decides. In this sense, while the view may be out of the comfort zone of the observer, they are still being carried and shown the way by the stream of video.
John Berger reminds us in 'Ways of Seeing' that “Seeing comes before words, the child looks and recognises before it speaks” 2 It was in two views which only an infant is used to perceiving which we thought could best illustrate our question to the city. It forces the observer back into a state of infancy, being carried through the street. Looking up from a height of just under a meter, as if being pushed in a pram, and an exaggerated piggyback on the shoulders of a giant, looking down from a height of five metres. This defamiliarization is not a new technique. In the story Kholstomer (the story of a horse) by Leo Tolstoy (1886) 3, it shows the human world from the viewpoint of a horse, exposing the irrationalities of human convention. It is these conventions that our project may begin to question. Without the shop fronts in view we begin to further question our habitation of the street.
Grafton Street looking up
Grafton Street looking down
We are so rehearsed in seeing Grafton Street from eye level, that when it is shown in this extreme way it becomes ever more interesting. It adds a depth to the layers which the viewer already understands. What our projection will physically show are the tops of buildings and the ground cover on Grafton street. We see people move past these views from uncommon angles, yet it still shows occupancy. When we see people occupying the street it does give us a familiar starting point. It points to this view as archive, and survey.
To exhibit our work, we will use the main entrance hall in the Richview house. Including the bicycle which we used to film both views was an essential part of our thoughts for the exhibition. By building a frame to hold both the bicycle and projector, where both depend on each other, it shows reference to both method and exhibition in the same piece. A frame holds the bicycle steady, while also holding a perforated box, which carries the projector. The bicycle counterwights the frame, allowing the perforated box to be suspended between two timber elements and appear to float. The projector plays the videos on a split screen, which will loop approx. every 10 mintues.
Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City. London, The MIT Press, 1960
Berger, John. Ways of seeing. London, Penguin, 1972
Tolstoy, Leo. Khlolstomer. Montana, Kessinger Publishing, 2005
Ruscha, Ed. Every Building on Sunset Strip. 1966
Geffellar, Andreas. Supervisions. 2009-2013
Rokeby, David. Watch. 1995