Men on chairs in Tanker Mai. Sketchbook
Places may be private to the individual. My favorite rocking chair, wedged between the fireplace and the curtained window, is my special place within the house. It has a specific location, it has special meaning for me, and this bond between the rocker and me is recognized by other members of the family. I have a prior claim to it, and its location cannot be changed without disturbing, how ever slightly, the focus of my world
Yi Fu Tuan
Yi Fu Tuan (1975) 'Place: An experiential perspective' in The Geographic Review, Vol LXV (2) p153.
My initial idea was to map and walk areas in the city. It's a big place and so I have picked half a dozen areas, most of which are adjoining each other in the oldest and busiest parts of the city. The problems I have faced are these:
How do I choose what to draw? I don't want to impose my ideas before I have learnt anything, but I have to start somewhere. An unexpected side effect of drawing is that by concentrating on whatever is in front of me, makes me miss the quick actions right and left. Each image is by nature composed of incidents that happen over a period of time. People are rarely in the same place together and so it demands a leap of faith in the viewer that what I am drawing, happened. I have got round this by drawing the buildings first, which frames the action/interaction of the people. In some places, I began to see connections; the same people would appear in different places and this has linked some of the drawings together.
I haven't had as much meaningful conversations as I'd hoped. I hadn't anticipated the language barriers would be so great. I've been met with suspicion occasionally, but I've been very open about what I am drawing and always show what I am doing. I'm met with bemusement sometimes, but almost always a positive reaction. People call all their friends over and take photos of the drawings. I have wondered if this public display could affect what I choose to draw, and how I draw it. Would I offend someone if I depicted their washing strung out on the balcony, or the rubbish at the door? This is a much more personal censorship than the government constraints I had anticipated. This is a problem encountered by Mitch Miller, in his Red Road Flats project, making decisions about content that may not have been intended for inclusion, and torn between the honesty of his work and his loyalty to the community he portrayed.
I am now at the stage where the structure and relationship between the drawings is important. It seemed easy at first -it was a geographic decision, but the more images I am making, the more tenuous the links seem to be. It's time to re evaluate.
The drawn line, in Ingold's view, becomes the 'ontology for the production of anthropological knowledge'. Is this only for observational drawing? What it does do, is firmly situate the drawer in the place, in terms of scale, viewpoint, and in skill and the orthodoxies of representation.
"Sketching is not just an immediate, relatively unmediated documen- tary practice but is both a medium of visual orthodoxy and a cultural practice inflected with multiple visual genres--an embodied dialogue with multiple knowl- edge and aesthetic systems."
'Is it possible to draw potential things" ? This was a question raised recently at a conference led by Tim Ingold. The question is about time and drawing as process, but for me it also raises questions about situation and the decision of where to draw. How can I know that what I am going to draw is significant given that the subject isn't news journalism - this isn't a protest, a war. It's a quiet normality that's as much about inaction. Drawing is life unfolding, so the choice of viewpoint is literally that, my view of the world
Stallholder sitting quietly: Abu Dhabi fruit and veg market, Thursday 10.30 a.m
The workshop was held at the Meeting Room of the King’s Museum, Old Aberdeen Town House, University of Aberdeen on 22nd and 23rd October 2015, under the umbrella of the ERC project Knowing from the Inside: Anthropology, Art, Architecture and Design, led by anthropologist Tim Ingold
Guy Debord 1957: Psychogeographic Guide of Paris. Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit, Penguin Books (June 1, 2001)
Wandering Abu Dhabi streets, each of which can have several names and no name, or be known by a reference which doesn't exist (the Fish market, isn't the fish market, that's somewhere else), means that unless you are 'there', you're never sure where you are.
In 1955, Situationist, Guy Debord coined the term 'Psychogeography' to describe the effect a geographic location has on emotion and behaviour. It's an playful anti-map, alternative map way to discover a city.
It seems to be the way my locations have been chosen, although I did definitely begin with a map. Once in a location, I followed the stories, the ones I could see and the ones I have been told and this has defined the places and neighbourhoods for me. Coupled with the absence of street names on google maps (although they are there on-site) and no streetview, it was often difficult to pinpoint exactly where I had been,
Every single day I am out drawing I am met with kindness, interest and generosity. Today was no exception, sitting outside the Liwa centre, I drew some of the Textile shops. Safe Lady is a great name, and I was invited in for sweet tea and a chat. I left with an unexpected Abaya. This is a relaxed and friendly street and the men wander up and down to talk to each other. It's clearly a tight community. My surprise is always how drawing breaks the barrier between the drawer and the drawn. Berger's description of the act of drawing as a conversation or dialogue seems apt.
" The encounter of these two energies, their dialogue, does not have the form of question and answer. It is a ferocious and unarticulated dialogue" (Berger, 2007, p.77).
This conversation, initiated by the drawer, allows for a quick familiarity between strangers that is impossible with photography.
Berger, J. (2007) Berger on Drawing. Occasional Press, Aghabullogue, Cork.
He was smiling when he spotted me drawing, and let me know he saw me. I'm glad he took the chance - it's big trouble if you're caught offending someone with a hand gesture here.
A neighbourhood can be thought of in a couple of ways. First as a planner of cities, divided on socio-political lines, by type of housing or land use. Objective and mapped.
A neighbourhood is also understood by it's inhabitants in a different way, and is defined by direct experience of place. Your neighbourhood is where you walk the dog, buy your bread and milk.It's a common place place which nevertheless is emotionally imprinted, It's intimate enough to be known by all the senses, and in that way is an extension of your home. it's boundaries change depending on who you are and how you use the space. It may even be that the pavement over there, isn't in your neighbourhood if you never walk that way.
Joyce Lankester Brisley, 1928, Milly Molly Mandy
One of my earliest memories of solo reading was this map at the back of a Milly Molly Mandy book. Not essential to the stories, but for me, an essential place maker. It was really important to know precisely where to imagine all her adventures in context. Where did Billy Blunt live? how far from Susan's house? How did they get to the village fete? I suspect that some of this compulsion has informed my project. I've mapped the places I've been and marked exactly where each image has been drawn, so I know where they all fit in relation to each other. Lots of mini-stories waiting to interact with each other.