By Catriona Duffy from Panel
We are in the habit of moving through our cities at pace whilst paying little attention to what surrounds us. Maps are set out in our minds and phones, and we hurriedly navigate certain paths, rarely exploring beyond the boundaries we set out in order to get from A to B. As we get to where we want to go we pass through places; airports, petrol stations, shopping centres, supermarkets, motorways, banks, hotels, and these, our transient spaces, are on the increase.
Some are left over places, their commercial or manufacturing purpose now obsolete, some are places we commute within or wait by. Pavements, aisles, hotel receptions and function rooms, places that have been designed to create movement, or to create barriers, signs guiding us, telling us where to go and where not to go, watching us.
As a part of Behaviour, Gob Squad presented their portfolio of constructed journeys within such non-places. Their observations, encounters and recordings of our urban and social structures were layered into an hour long performance lecture, with each chanced upon meeting narrated by audience members giving voice to the companies’ individuals.
They offered intimacy in the most public of places, a reprieve from routine movements on the street and within the buildings that we temporarily inhabit. In doing so they proposed to reflect upon the ambiguities of our contemporary urban condition and specifically the individual at its centre.
But our cities can also be an interaction of place and life; they play out thousands of narratives, evoked by particular environments, in each of our memories. A city is a celebration of coming together and one which we should take pleasure from within its public spaces. Our built heritage should be remembered, and we should consider how we will live within our future spaces too. Our cities are the sets for our small and our significant encounters and we each contribute new layers of expression to the places where we live every day.
Raoul Vaneigem explored urban life in his situationist text ‘The Revolution of Everyday Life’ (1967) investigating the alienation and isolation of living, working and consuming within western capitalist structures. Through the book Vaneigem offeres alternatives through the construction of situations.