Sunday, 26 June 2011
"The city is a discourse and this discourse is truly a language: the city speaks to its inhabitants, we speak our city, the city where we are, simply by living in it, by wandering through it, by looking at it." Roland Barthes
The above schizocartographic map is a collage of a walk that took place on the University of Leeds campus on the evening of 23rd June 2011. The walk was run by Gerry Turvey, with assistance by myself: two walks took place, each one led by one of us. This map reflects the walk led by Tina.
It was a random exercise in urban exploration (developed from an idea by the German choreographer Thomas Lehman). It required a small group of people, a willingness to have fun, and a sense of imagination: a series of timed walks, followed by short interventions of fantasy from participants. Most of the participants were from Leeds Psychogeography Group and/or the university.
Want to know what schizocartography is?
Click here: What is Schizocartography?
Andy Turner's blog of the walk
The Collage University
Barthes, Roland. 2004. 'Semiology and Urbanism', Rethinking Architecture, ed. by Neil Leach (London: Routledge). pp. 166-172.
Friday, 24 June 2011
“Collage is simultaneously innocent and devious.” Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter
The above image is a collage of a walk that took place on the University of Leeds campus on the evening of 23rd June 2011. The walk was run by Gerry Turvey, assisted by myself: two walks took place, each one led by one of us. This image reflects the walk led by Gerry.
It was a random exercise in urban exploration (developed from an idea by the German choreographer Thomas Lehman), requiring a small group of people, a willingness to have fun, and a sense of imagination: a series of timed walks, followed by short interventions of fantasy from participants. Most of the participants were from Leeds Psychogeography Group and/or the university.
Andy Turner's blog of the walk
The Semiotic University
The Collage Seaside
Row, Colin and Fred Koetter. 1987. Collage City (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press).
Thursday, 23 June 2011
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Yesterday I went to the BA Show at the School of Design at the University of Leeds. This poster by Daniel Bird - a final year student about to go into the world and get a job along with his peers - caught my eye for a number of reasons, not least because of the frightening amount of debt students are expected to incur.
However, what I particularly liked about it is that it is a brilliant example of the performative aspect in which the university now operates (input/output), but from the other side. I am referring to the work of Bill Readings in The University in Ruins and also Jean-Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Nevertheless, I think Mark Fisher says it very succinctly in Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? He makes direct reference to university bureaucracy, including providing an extensive list of documents a module leader has to complete for each module they oversee. (2009: 41) Fisher says that the constant checking, monitoring and production of figures does not provide "a direct comparison of workers' performance or output, but a comparison between the audited representation of that performance and output" (2009: 42).
We no longer have a system focused on knowledge (learning and teaching), instead we have a system that concentrates on measuring performance and output, and disseminating that data: “The true goal of the system, the reason it programs itself like a computer, is the optimization of the global relationship between input and output – in other words, performativity.” (Lyotard 2004: 11) It is essential for the functioning of the bureaucratic university that this system is open, even if its process of self-defining (for example, in using terms like 'excellence') is internal and closed. The university needs to reduplicate itself internally, and also express that reduplication externally, in the form of representable data. What this means for the university is a spectacle-like appearance in the form of signs that appear as this representable data, the output of the excellence process.
Daniel's brilliant poster lists the quantifiable data in the form of the 'cost' to himself of his degree. The university of excellence, in theory, should be happy with this particular representation of data. However, I doubt that we will see anything like this appearing on the University of Leeds website as a way to attract future students.
Student Debt from Online Schools
Fisher, Mark. 2009. Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Winchester: Zero Books).
Lyotard, Jean-Franois. 2004. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Manchester: Manchester University Press).
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
I did, however, ask them if I could take a photo and they all stopped and 'posed' momentarily. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the man on the ground in the shot at all, and also chopped the man at the top's head off. The image reminds me of the ITV ident Snakes and Ladders
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
These Lomography images were taken in May on the University of Leeds campus. These are my two favourite images of the day taken with my Diana F+. Although it isn't clear what's going on in the above one, it is a superimposed image of the Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre and a campus signpost and the buildings behind it. I think it produces a slightly uncanny effect whereby you can't work out what buildings belong to what image. Also, the signpost is in such a place where it looks like the beige building on the right is abutted to the grey concrete building in the background.
This image is also superimposed. It is of the Clothworkers' Centenary Concert Hall (what used to be the Presbyterian Church) and a lovely tree nearby that was in bloom with yellow blossom. The effect is of golden light emanating from the church door, which is interesting from a religious perspective, even though it wasn't my intention.
Presbyterian Church on Leodis
Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre - Listed Building
Monday, 6 June 2011
Here are some recent images I took of St George's Field, what was Leeds General Cemetery, on the University of Leeds campus. The above one was taken with a sensecam. And the following two, black and white, were taken with my Diana F+.
The above image is the best one that I took with this film. One of the reasons I like it is because it looks like an old photograph, but was actually taken in May 2011. Why I like the image below is because the young man is challenging the traditional use of space by using the base of the Henry Price Halls of Residence - made from the original cemetery wall - as an object to traverse.
Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Film: The Sound of the Sixties
During the major planning drive by the University of Leeds that took place after World War II, architects were employed to draw up plans to expand and develop the campus. Many architectural plans were made, alongside two large bound proposals prepared by the architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, who are most famous for their concrete brutalist architecture in places like the Barbican - the grade II listed complex of housing, education, office and exhibition space located in the City of London, completed in 1976. Much of the text of the reports that Chamberlin, Powell and Bon submitted to the university is oriented towards a section of the campus referred to as “the precinct”. The precinct area includes plans for a number of very large buildings and vast car parking zones. Part of the conclusion of the 1963 report by the architects says the following:
No effort has been spared in Leeds on the part of the City Authorities, the Hospital Board and the Council of the University to make the planned expansion possible despite the extreme difficulties inherent in the comprehensive re-planning and redevelopment of the old City sites which have hitherto rested in many ownerships and were laid out between a network of streets obsolete for any present purposes.
The innovative architectural designs of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon were not only aspirational for the University of Leeds, but also British universities in general. The university led the way in rethinking the nature of university architecture, and in employing a younger generation of designers to build it. While the University of Leeds was not the first to embark on a rebuilding effort during this period, they were the first to deal with the campus in a holistic way.
This 3 minute film is an acoustic psychogeographical response to the area called the precinct and features two of the most impressive of the buildings designed by the architects: the Worsley Building and the Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre (now a Grade II listed building).
The film alludes to a moment-in-time architecturally, with the popular cultural reference of the title - The Sound of the Sixties, a radio and TV series playing pop music form that era - and the 1964 track by the R&B British pop band Manfred Mann. The song title 5-4-3-2-1 provides a countdown to the walk, which was actually 8 individual edited films, appearing in the sequence they were recorded.
So as to avoid being distracted by the campus scenery only the feet were shot, they being the instrument used to tap out the sound on the surface of the topography of the precinct. I considered just supplying the sound without the visuals of the walking feet, but I decided that the trace left by the feet becomes a form of cartography which has a number of functions that to me, as a psychogeographer, are important, and which also support the tenets of schizocartography (my own particular form of psychogeography):
1. they make a claim to that space, even thought it is a momentary one
2. they attach an identity, however nebulous, to the walker
3. by revealing the feet and the surface of the terrain, focus is directed towards part of the production process behind the sound-making, the mise en scene of the film
Chamberlin, Powell and Bon were considered not to be very vocal architects, and there is little information on them and even less by them, other than their architectural work. So, in a way I consider this film to be in part a homage and in part a challenge to the space of the precinct in the sense that it might be perceived as a spectacle. I shall conclude by quoting Penelope Curtis from the Henry Moore Institute's publication The New Monumentality.
How should we interpret the work of such silent architects? In the words they chose to use in the meticulously prepared reports for the Court of the City of London or for the Court of the University of Leeds? In the words of others? There were reviews enough in the 50s and 60s on their newly published projects and realised schemes, even if there has been almost nothing published since. Or should we interpret their work through the language of the forms themselves?
I hope, however unconventional it might be, that perhaps I have given sound, if not voice, to the work of Chamberlin Powell and Bon at the University of Leeds, while simultaneously staying faithful to my own project of challenging anti-production through the process of schizocartography.
Chamberlin, Powell and Bon on e-architect
University of Leeds listed buildings