A New Project

8 09 2010

Please proceed to gate 7B where your adventure begins

Since I finished my living by the rules experiment, I’ve had a hankering to start something new. I’ve now got a new project. It’s a bit different and isn’t quite as punishing as following all the rules but it’s in the same spirit and hopefully it will be just as rewarding.

A bit of background:

I’ve always been interested in making more of the everyday, turning the normal and ordinary into a subject of study or at least something worthy of note rather than a mundanity to be ignored.

I think it’s a way of engaging with life in a different and potentially more exciting way. I don’t want to get too academic here but there’s a good precedent. I’ve mentioned before some of the avant-garde French writers who’ve taken the idea to extremes like Francois Bon who made the same train journey every week for several months, scrupulously noting down everything he saw from the same seat and window in an effort to build up a picture of the life next to a moribund low-speed train line.

There’s also the work of John Ruskin the artist and teacher who encouraged his pupils to learn to paint not necessarily to create great works of art but to sharpen their appreciation of the world around them.

‘I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may learn to love nature, than teach the looking at nature that they may learn to draw.’

Source: Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

So what’s my idea?

Pretty much every day I walk or cycle along Essex Road in Islington, London to get to work. It is the very essence of an everyday experience and for want of a lateral eye, it could easily become a grind

I’ve started to become attached to the things I pass. The different businesses, the people I see more than once. It’s like setting out to paint a picture and adding just a little bit every day.

But it’s hard to paint a picture of something that keeps changing. Shops close and open, graffiti gets washed off, houses get built, signs change.

One day I noticed a sign outside the Green Man pub saying ‘under new management’ and I was hit by the sickening sensation that things were changing without anyone having recorded what went before. Conversations took place, people got drunk, seats got sat on and there was nothing to show that.

So I’ve resolved to try and capture a portrait of Essex Road as it is in the time it takes me to do it.

Not everything of course, that’s impossible but by forcing myself to interact I’ll hopefully be able to make a journey into the infraordinary.

Like a photographer choosing where to point the camera, I want to set some rules for what I’m recording. I’m going to look at the businesses on Essex Rd in a methodical way. I’ll make my way from number one to number 400 visiting every business, taking a photo of each one and trying to speak to the people there, to get some sense of their experience. To make sure it’s consistent I’ll set some common questions to ask them. It’s not necessarily just the answers I’m after but it should be useful to have some commonality.

It’s art within constraints. We’ll see what happens from there.




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