Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Cootie Catcher Dérive or A Walk With Some Really Interesting Dutch Chaps

A Device for a Chance Route
A few weeks ago I was very fortunate to be invited, along with a number of other Leeds-based organisations, to take some visitors from Holland on an urban walk around Leeds. So, on Monday October 11th I headed off to Temple Works in Holbeck to meet them.

Along with a dice, which I had made specially for the event, that gave instructions on turning in particular directions (e.g. first left), I also made the above device. We used to play with these at school, but I couldn't remember the name of them - neither could anyone else. Having searched for it on the web, it appears to be a Paper Fortune Teller. How dull! I thought it was going to have a much more exciting name. . . But then I found out it was also called a 'Cootie Catcher', which sounds a bit dodgy, yet much more interesting!

Paper Fortune Teller

My own paper fortune teller has numbers on the outside, then small symbols representing urban phenomena on the next face (motorway, trains, etc.), and inside, various instructions such as: head towards the nearest blue object, or look for the nearest railings.

On the walk, while I took my usual photos of prohibition signs, etc., I decided to concentrate my attention on images that were aesthetically pleasing (click on the images to get the full advantage of them).

Discarded Objects

One of the things I believe is important for someone exploring urban space is to reconsider the detritus of everyday life by reframing it. For instance, when looking at the above chairs it is hard to understand why, when they look perfectly fine, they have been thrown away. However, the side-effect of this casual act is that it enables a recontextualisation to occur, the product of which is the above photo.

While I understand this is not a new way of looking at the phenomenon in space, I think it enables discussions that digress from those that tend to begin in the area of whether you 'like' something or not; in other words it encourages a non-dialectical discussion. To me, liking something or not is, kind of, irrelevant: as this means attaching positive or negative terms to these objects, which always end in an impossible impasse (see discussions on classical v contemporary architecture). Of course, these images are of rubbish: however, there is rubbish everywhere and attempting to reframe it, aesthetically - as in, is it interesting?, what does this rubbish say about contemporary society? - may be a way through this problem.

What I try to do with the refuse that I see when walking is look for patterns, or seek an attractive composition, or engage with it on some theoretical/philosophical, if possible. After all, it is a product, well actually a by-product, of our postmodern age, and is hugely significant and should not be ignored. In a way it is the outcome of the spectacle of which Debord spoke. We all have too much 'stuff', we don't need all these consumer products - we discard perfectly useful objects without considering the repercussions: and I don't just mean that in an ecological way

The above image is interesting for a number of reasons: why did the trees get cut down (this area hasn't even really been redeveloped properly); also, if it were a rural area, there would likely be some local pressure group that would prevent the sawing down of these trees (in other words, dare I say, a regional middle-class demographic that had some power). Anyway, it provided me with a lovely, organic image...

In Conclusion
I'm obviously not the first person to have recognised the significance of these liminal areas such as Holbeck. Nevertheless, to prevent it from being just another theoretical discussion (either locally or nationally) it should be visited and (re)considered in the context of postmodern space and in the light of capital accumulation...

Relates websites:
Fonds BKVB
What's Up, What's Down