Filling a silent room

The city perhaps cannot be summarised. On reading The City Reader; one can group ideas of construction; of power; of struggle; of effort; but the city which is so referred to becomes a façade of a tired mind; consumed in definition and the engulfing need to classify experience to allow it to become comprehendible. The everyday life of the city; the routine; as so often we see projected in cyclical realms of film and in images of the dawns and dusks; but whose city do we so eagerly consume with tired eyes in the early hours. Watching yesterday films of the unique everyday lives of subjects unknown; reading accounts of the trials of the city and trying to allow an identity to form. To remove the self; the walk to work, the supermarket, the potential eviction; the bailiff, the broken boiler, the decisions, made and unmade, the lily pollen which stained my clothes, the boy who bought me a cup of tea and gave me a book, the lady who asked me if I would sit with her a minute as she was lonely, the bus stop, then what does the city become. Such softness in the kindness of strangers. I live in London. I walk the streets on a daily basis with a camera, framing, curating and navigating the string of discordant events which seamlessly pass; yet to what avail? To begin an understanding? To formulate a hypothesise? To construct and reconstruct? I collect their stories.

The stories of the city folk. The boy on the bus sat there for over an hour and narrated his version of the map of London. The lady on the train let me walk with her all the way to her office and told me her tale of a city, the man in the newsagent tells me what happens to him everyday, the duke in the kiosk tells me all about his long nights as he stands behind the shuttered gate. All of these stories are different; they are all in a medley of event, sorrow, mistrust and hope. The city remains a playground to dreams. This morning I taught 8 nine year olds how to dance like no one was there. It was in a studio and as soon as they left they said that they would not do that outside. The city seems often a façade; an allure of image which no one quite holds true; as though we are all desperate to see the city as soft; but know it is firm and does not wait for dripping impressions. Each day I get a letter from a friend in a different city. Each day I reply. The cities we both describe are similar; the city on the page I read is very similar to the city I write. We have never said the names of places or people in our city. As though the city becomes a vessel for own thoughts; which we project softly an awe as to nature of the daily city we both narrate. We do not keep the letters; instead; post them in a letter box to a new address. We have yet to trace the letters; yet one arrived to the other city two weeks ago with comments; a sign perhaps that our insanity is shared; or that the city can always be a source of intrigue, mystery and delight.

I began the other day to tire of the city; three years now of dedicated research; seemingly meaningless in the eyes of Walter Benjamin on the grander scale. I began to question my own ability to define the city; referring to past deifications, scaling Weber and Hall to make my own observations more creditable. I seek now not to define the city but to allow it to redefine each slow hour which passes as light changes. I am embarking on a project; it need not be stated; but it soothes such query; as I will seek to define the city beyond the nature of own belief and questioning. The city exists as fragments of life’s; colliding and meeting; moments of intense beauty in the railway station and immense sadness in haunts remaining with shifting names. I will aim to collect the everyday; in notebook, in mind, on film, to mark the ticking of the heavy clock and to make soft the weight of universal definition. Stories in pubs of the last night out, “ her boyfriend left her on the bus” “ They don’t even sell that in the shop by mine” “ His potatoes are too pricey” “ Jane said he got her on her knees” These moments where consumption with the symphony of other people’s lives is all one will need to fill a silent afternoon and gloaming. Collecting fragments of other people’s lives to make stories which all categories to form.

The everyday haunts us, walks with us the darkest hours in the silent passages we prefer to forget. The everyday mourns our misgivings and grieves our departures. For a moment I sat at the bus stop. A woman walks past with a collection of birds in cages which she carries like a handbag, docile they consume the jungle which awaits their impressions; a man vomits his kebab on the curb; a car speeds past; the bus arrives and I depart to the next narrative. The everyday refuses categorisation; slipping between the lines of assured sociological definition to assure us it will remain constraint and limitless in its potential.

The road outside is mute. A horse slowly passes guided by a police man. A old man walks laboured along the pavement. A leaf falls. Such silence is beauty. A beauty almost absurd. The post man arrives. Another letter from the city which shall remain nameless; paved with the same concrete and covered by the same grey sky.

~ by beatricejarvis on February 9, 2010.

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