We lose ourselves in Cities’ and Suburbia, walking and wandering, trying to discover what it is and why we are connected to each other. Rows and rows of undiscovered lives with people waiting and wanting to be discovered. This action of walking is one of the most primal actions we have that connects us to this world. There is time to amble along and appreciate what is genuinely around us; the rhythm and speed of placing one foot in front of the other involves a simplicity that is easily romanticised (Luscombe, 2011).
This idea of a person losing themselves in their surroundings on foot is not a new idea. This wanderer or Flâneur (wikipedia) has been around in the literary world for hundreds of years. This Bourgeois stroller is discovering the world one step at a time, slowly and succinctly observing his surroundings. Placing the isolated into the many, the flâneur blends into using the act of walking to an engagement with the dynamics of the public space.
My flâneur is different. My flâneur, my wanderings, are much different to those around me. My journey is taken for a different reason; mine is a flâneur to reminisce on older times and ponder the idea of my broken life. Slowly, step by step wondering why and where I have been; a time more painful a time that has been lost and cannot ever be forgotten.
Nan Goldin said “I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.” (Goldin, 2013) And how wrong was she. Images are a reminder of the things we have collected over time, good and bad, and they remind us of where we have been. We choose to go back to the old ways; it’s never thrust upon us.
Edgar Allen Poes’ flâneur in ‘The Man of the Crowd’ (Poe, 2013) has the same inquisitive nature strolling through the London streets during the Second Industrial Revolution. This enchanted wanderer observing from a distance catchers a ‘glimpse of both a diamond and a dagger’ (Poe, 2013). His changing London is stepping more and more into the evolution of modernity, and further and further from the dark dagger it was. Even Poe’s figure is just another face in a busy London street when he is shown to occupy the walkways with ‘an order of men somewhat different in habits, but still birds of a feather.’ (Poe, 2013) We differ not in the eyes of Poe, and walk along and observe each other at our own pace. Poe’s changing London is for everyone to see, and we all observe the change to it differently.
Every facet of what I am today comes from this perpetual breaking and rearranging of the self under circumstances of my choice, and sometimes by others. We know behind closed doors ‘there are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told’ (Poe, 2013), but these secrets and forgotten pieces are what we should explore to better understand ourselves and our surroundings.
Collecting little trinkets and broken items on my walks, gives me a chance to recall past misadventures and re-live them in smaller fragments; less painful and yet with almost the same emotion. Using these small objects to account for these time periods lets me index my life; piece by piece and step by step.
The idea of collecting trinkets on our wanderings is not something new. In fact Northcote Artist Charlie Sofo’s piece “Objects Found in My Shoe” (Sofo, 2011) speaks of Charlie not only moving through his neighbourhood and connecting with it, but collecting these tiny fragments to keep him there and remind him of this connection. They are displayed under Perspex on the floor, almost as though he was there picking them out of his shoes soles.
One of Jesse Marlow’s photographs in “Don’t just tell them show them” (Marlow, 2013) has a feeling almost like a modern day fairytale. The picture of an apple in a rain filled gutter can be read many ways. In a Snow White scene, we see the Poison Apple in the rain filled gutter wanting to be collected and taken, its journey cut short due to foul play or simple clumsiness. This image makes us think back to our childhood, not forward into our immediate future.
Max Creasy uses traditional photography, but the images we see are made from things he has created to look real. These similes like Pen #02 astound us, and befuddle us. We see this as a photograph of a pen, but in reality it is a thing cast from a silicon mould and painted to be ‘Pen Like’, then photographed to further skew the meaning. Creasy uses a bird’s eye view and white background to enhance our reality and interpretation of realism, but more importantly his photographic images recall taxonomy – the scientific endeavour of classifying objects (Hirschfeld, 2012). These images tell us to believe that these items are real, when clearly they are not, forcing us to recollect and challenge our perception of reality and memory.
My work ‘12 steps’ is like a historical line of familiarity, an opening stanza to a bigger broader story. These collected dirty damaged pieces of other people’s lives isolate memories of our own, and slot us sequentially along the line, remembering what it was like at ‘that’ age or in ‘that’ period. The blue background in the images helps us be nostalgic, as it is a colour that lives in the past, relating everything in the present and future to experiences in the past (Color Blue, 2009-2013). This collection of pieces is a reflection or window to the pain and broken parts of life, like lines in a poem, time unlimited time undefined (MutaBaruka, 2003). These little pieces of forgotten history form a narrative from birth to mature freedom and back again along the same axis. The silver spoon of birth to the feather of flying from the nest, we connect with the items in a row, a time line that has many meanings and connotations. Everyone will see the line differently, and take a different thought from it. Ultimately the lost feather reminds us the line is never ending, and we must go back on occasion to see the path forward.