X-tendo

Therefrom Hereto – project outline

Therefrom Hereto – project outline
title: Therefrom Hereto – project outline
year: 2004
place: Sofia
publisher: Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia
ISBN/ISSN: 3-86588-028-2
language: english
author(s): X tendo
source: Visual Seminar. Resident Fellows Program 2: An Eye for the Pale City, 2004, Sofia: Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia, ISBN: 3-86588-028-2

The project Therefrom Hereto is presented by X-tendo, an association for urban research through the means of the arts.

We are focused on the human condition in the most typical and critical of contemporary environments. We view the city as a fluctuating system. We take probes into spaces, inhabitants and behaviour – factors forming the city’s texture – and into their functions, features and essence. We share a dedication to everyday conduct, memories, habits, traces and signs.

It is generally accepted that art is made and appreciated within special times and spaces while everyday life is what surrounds us and what we experience most of the while. We however use precisely everyday living as the material we transform into an art product, and the latter is to be taken back where it came from. We suggest a possibility for everyone to recognise, rediscover and reinvent themselves in their individual existence amidst urban space and the ways it is featured in memory.

Out contribution to the Visual Seminar is our Therefrom Hereto project. The key concepts we employ are the city as a system of elements existing in symbiosis as the habitat of modern-day humanity, and as a dynamic system, which is both constructed by its dwellers and constructs them in return. We also tap into the concept of memory epitomized by the traces (both lasting and transient) remaining within the urban ambience.

Therefrom Hereto in one and the same breath speaks about movement in space and time. It brings forth the energy accumulated from experiencing and the carryover of experience to a different point in time (now). The project pinpoints the spots clustering together historical moments. This is the energy of memorising capable of manipulating our notions of aesthetic values and modes of conduct, sifting this through specific places we inhabit.

In our fast-changing environment familiar values undergo dynamic processes of mutation transfiguring them beyond recognition and demanding a different pace of life. We jointly aspire for change and grope for something steady to lean on; edged out into alien land we grow nostalgic to the images of yore.

Our project aims at placing those images in the proper context of recollection thus evoking a comprehensive atmosphere live with familiar happenings and faces from the past.

To this end we have collected visual material organised round the tasks we set ourselves in an attempt to define long-and short-lasting memory in an urban context. We are trying to provide answers to a few questions: Does the city have memory? How does the city recollect its own past? How do we remember the city and ourselves? Where and how do we come across these traces of memory?

We carried out two actions involving work on passing traces of memory in the urban environment. By “passing” we mean all marks of human behaviour which have no lasting effect on the spots where they have been left.

We have also identified groups of artifacts related to the longer-lasting trails of urban memory. We have agreed “lasting” will be the signs carrying Sofia’s history over a longer period of time (like monuments, buildings, inscriptions, etc. bearing witness to the past even though the place itself may have seen its functions changed).

Human behaviour or, to be more precise, the different types of it, also bears a memory of its own kind – this memory is imprinted on the city, but the city is imprinted on it as well. We are therefore interested in the two-way link between behaviour and vision. We take account of various tiers of city life – social, cultural, political, everyday routines. The exploration we do tries to restore the visual and behavioral environment of different periods: we interpret signs from the past which have lived on to the present, archives about past events and old plans that have been eventually carried out.

The material captured is building up into a project to do with conduct and vision. We are looking to expose the points where lasting and transient traces of memory intersect in urban space.

Our aim is to usher the spectators into an atmosphere from the distant or more recent past, to “stop the time” for a while breaking clear of the day-to-day routine, in an effort to make urban memory more visible.

Exploring memory by the means of the arts
(passing and lasting traces left by humans across the city)

We share the following understanding of urban exploration using the tools of the arts:

1. Observation and registration of places and behavior typical for the city;

2. Analysis and classification of places and behavior as well as the typology of their inter-
dependence.

This way we glean places, elements, objects and conduct models (routine gestures and activities) from the city environment, which we use to make products of art. The latter takes part in the research itself: through exposing and overexposing the places and behaviours explored we examine the degree to which we have identified their key functions and features. The functions of places and behaviors we select may vary subject to the targets and tasks we set ourselves in an individual project.

Observation and exploration – a set of examples showing what passing and lasting memory is:

1. Searching for visual (photos, pictures, films) and textual artifacts (fiction, poetry or documentaries), showing the daily life of Sofia’s people from the 1970’s.

2. A series of actions aimed at marking out and photo-registering objects forming the short-term memory of the city and directly linked with the daily business of its inhabitants. Central places in Sofia were crisscrossed and examined (such as “Slaveikov Square”, the Central Post Office, the garden in front of the National Theater “Ivan Vazov”, the immediate surroundings of the Presidency, the government buildings and the Archeological Museum, the Central Universal Store, Halite (the meat mall), the subway in front of Sheraton hotel, “Vitosha” boulevard, “Garibaldi Square”). For the sake of comparison a few blocks of smaller central streets (between “G.S. Rakovski” and “Vitosha” boulevard and “Patriarh Evtimii” boulevard and “Graf Ignatiev St.”) were also covered.

3. Monitoring, over a short period of time, of the changes, which did or failed to occur across the marked-out spots or how long the objects were staying. Change monitoring and registration went on over five days in a row whereupon the spots were re-examined in two, and then in seven days.

4. The registration of the long-term urban memory traces was carried out throughout the central areas of Sofia based on historical literature references.

Analysis and classification of the memory traces observed and registered within the city environment
Passing traces (having a short life – an hour, a day, a week – within their spots, yet ubiquitous in a modern-day urban ambience)

The passing traces were analysed and classified in view of the types of behavior generating them. Thus the following groups of traces and spots were formed:

chucked or dumped: usually on pavements, streets, sewerage grids, plant pots (pieces of paper, cigarettes butts, etc.);

placed or stood: on parapets, railings, fences, fountains, plant tubs, electricity boards (bottles, cups, bags, scraps of food, etc.);

stuck-in or thrust: behind pipes and gutters, in all kinds of holes, crevices and openings (wrappers, newspapers, etc.);

glued or jabbed: on lamp-posts, trees, walls, windows (notices, posters, etc.)

written or painted on: on walls, blind walls (inscriptions, graffiti, etc.).

Long-term traces (slowly mutating with time – years, centuries – and prominent in the city’s setting, some from its early origins)

Based on their function the long-term traces have been classified the following way:
buildings and parts of buildings (residential and public);
monuments, statues and plaques;
recreation sites (parks and gardens);
traffic facilities for people and vehicles (streets, pavements, squares, subways and
flyovers).

In-between traces (midway between passing and lasting traces in terms of their length of existence)

According to their function we divided them into:
those which have preserved their function but keep changing their appearance in relatively short periods of time;
those, which have become unusable.

The former group includes streets lamps, dustbins, phone-booths, benches, plant pots or tubs, the street signs (boards with the street names or buildings’ numbers; the road marking and traffic signs, information or prohibition boards). The latter group includes deserted buildings and cars, dumped old furniture, old tramline rails, etc.

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Vector. ICA-Sofia: Motives, Analyses, Critique is a project by the Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia.
The project is realised with the financial support of the National Fund Culture, Critique Programme