Non Place: Passageway

• Selected for screening on the curated German online architecture channel in 2014.

Selected for broadcast on SOUVENIRS FROM EARTH ( ) an independent Art TV Station on the European Cable Network which broadcasts a 24/7 art program in France and parts of Germany reaching 10 million viewers. The film will also be promoted at the channel’s permanent installation at Palais de Tokyo in Paris which is similar to an extended museum space. Screenings will take place for a period of 12 months from September 2012 onwards.
‘Non Place: Passageway’ was screened as part of an academic paper presented at the Affective Landscapes conference at Derby University 25-26 May 2012


A Passageway to Pleasure: a Creative Re-Working of ‘Non-Place’ Using Film as a Virtual Organ of Consciousness

This film is concerned with non-place as a form of affective landscape. By the term ‘non-place’, as coined by French anthropologist Marc Auge [1] , I refer to a place of transience that does not hold enough significance to be regarded as a place in its own right. A non-place is typically denuded of aesthetics, utilitarian in design and devoid of landmarks and history. Examples might include: a car park, a waiting room or an exit passageway.

Spatial qualities associated with a given place it can be stated – carry psychological meaning – they affect how a place is experienced and how it is appropriated by the public. However non-places – devalued and disregarded as they are – do have the potential to evoke emotional resonances phenomenologically in people, especially through their portrayal in the medium of film. The high definition cinematic experience, with its verisimilitude to reality, can be used to reconfigure perceptions, human relationships and interactions with the built environment. This then is the premise of my paper.

I approach this subject very much as an artist seeking to understand and express the urban topography in a way that engenders a more imaginative engagement with it, in accordance with views espoused by Guy Debord [2] and the Psychogeography movement. Psychogeography is the point where psychology and geography intersect. Its proponents have set out to devise strategies to explore the city and experience a new awareness of the mystery beneath its banal surfaces. To sensitive and transform our experience of everyday life and re-code the meaning and function of places free from the homogenizing effects of capitalist development. It is the role of the filmmaker, novelist, and poet to uncover and celebrate the overlooked and forgotten corners of the city, the movement posits.

This film explores such a non-place – it is a narrow unassuming city passageway that links two shopping zones together and the social actors that inhabit it – albeit fleetingly. It is more in the way of a meditation on place, rather than a traditional narrative set within a contextual space – and should be read as such. The environment is in a sense the character of the film – it is both the background context and the foreground subject. The passageway in question is an ambiguous space, being as it is, formed out of the back walls of commercial buildings in close proximity to one another which act to both create an external barrier to the public – which prevents access – while at the same time establishing a new place – the passageway. Monitored at either end by CCTV.

Film by its inherent sequential nature narrativizes space. I use narrative in the loosest sense of the term to mean that it provides a visual structure that takes the viewer on a temporal, digitally mediated, cinematic journey. Through the juxtaposition of shots of various frame sizes – both at the macro and the micro scale – it can provide a strong impression of the complex totality of an environment, conveying a sense of its form, structure, and activity. Film captures a place’s subtle, ephemeral qualities – the changing pattern of light as it falls upon its surfaces, and sound and social dynamism of bodies flowing through it.

In this film I have adopted the realist mode of production – as espoused by film theorist Andre Bazin [3] – as I consider this the least intrusive and most neutral for an observational study of an environment. The camera was locked-off on the tripod and long takes were recorded of the environment to enable the viewer to scrutinize details – for example graffiti on a wall and cigarette butts discarded on the ground, etc. The forensic traces that evidence attitudes and actions occurring in a public space.

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