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Photo-Sensitive Cities

Article  /  History
Published: 26.01.2006
Photo-Sensitive Cities.
Author:
Carla Castiajo

Intro
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But the most attentive citizen to the reality of his city is aware that a city’s cultural memory also depends on his commitment, energy and awoken movement.
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"There were attempts to establish the ideal city, but that is just what they were. There are many ideal cities. There are those, which are interesting enough to rouse the appeal to live in them, but the city is always imperfect, it has its dark side.
Whenever you tried to build a perfect city, there was some kind of chemistry missing that, sometimes, is born in an unusual way. And nothing of that is scientific: we feel well at some parts of the city and at others we don‚t."1

A city must be a space where you can interact, a space of freedom where everything might happen. It is a place where constantly exists, even if implicit, the visual, the auditory, feeling, the smelling and even tasting dialogues. Even if the going around the city is inattentive, there is too much information which surrounds and which doesn’t leave the most absent-minded citizen indifferent.

But the most attentive citizen to the reality of his city is aware that a city’s cultural memory also depends on his commitment, energy and awoken movement.

The will to visit, to return and to remain in a city happens when the existence of a cultural politics is capable of creating mythical, literary, poetic, musical and filmic images or when there simply is some kind of chemistry which causes wish.

There is not an ideal city, but there are spaces in a whole of possible remaining, open to the citizens‚ intervention, because the city offers raw material to creation.

According to Andrea Branzi, the metropolis started by being mechanical, in the sense of the logic of transformation, reduction and production. Afterwards, they started being homogeneous, where industrialization and mass-production predominated. In the post-industrial society, the citizen inhabits the hybrid metropolis, where he faces new values with the coming of the new century. We live in the cold metropolis, where cultural and social contradictions are constant, chaos and order, crafts and high technology, dialects and English as a universal language. Experimentalism and complexity are also frequent and you can see the annulment of the barriers. It is this territory that some designers come across. Those who know the importance that the words co-responsible, eco-responsible and the prefix trans have.

While conceiving a project, the designer, as well as the jeweller, must be aware of their responsibility and they must realise that the limitations they are confronted with can be overtaken. The creation of a new human environment and of new ways of being in life depends on their dedication and commitment. The human relation to the artificial universe is evident.

“We start living less in the proximity of other men, in their presence and in their speech; and more under the mute look of obedient and hallucinating objects." 2

Artists have, as an obligation, to be attentive to the reality that surrounds them, so that they are able to question, to criticize and have the courage to assume their principles, as the Droog Design has been doing in Holland, since the 90‚s. They are based on the underground culture, that is, on the spirit of intervention and freedom of speech, they defend experimentation and simplicity and they want to refresh senses. In many of their works, you can see recycling, reuse and the defence of the old. Gijs Bakker and Renny Ramakers were the founders of the Droog Design group.

A pause for reflection can be noticed in Gijs Bakker work. It is evident that he pays attention to the reality which surrounds him. Seizing the publicity used by Alfa Romeo: "I don‚t wear jewels, I drive them", he created a series of pins, based on this idea. Formally, the pins represent different cars.

Today, the automobile takes the place that once had belonged to jewellery and that is still visible in the most primitive societies, that is, its use to define social status.

The automobile has conquered cities. They gradually grow, developing and satisfying the needs of the vehicles and losing its pedestrian scale which predominated in the medieval age, that is, at the time when most part of the cities we live in were invented.

"Most our cities have been losing the scale which would be more adequate to its enjoyment as space, as architecture, as choreography, because the measurement of the pedestrian citizen or the measurement of the passer-by of public transportation which should be the cities measurement ˆ has been giving its place to the automobile as a means of fundamental occupation of the city." 3

The loss of the public space and the need to recover the streets, which the automobile was conquering, led a group of people to start expressing themselves. Then, it appears a movement called "Reclaim the street", in London. As Jordan says, "The RTS has always tried to change the isolated question of transportation and cars into a wider criticism towards society to dream with a recovered space for collective use, a community." 4

An RTS from Toronto says: "I have already noticed that all of these events and actions had something in common: RECOVERY. Whether we were recovering the street from the automobiles, recovering buildings for occupations, recovering food, which is left over, to the homeless people, recovering universities as spaces of protest and theatre, recovering our voice from the dark depths of the enterprising media, or recovering our visual environment from posters, we were always recovering something. Retaking possession from what should have always been ours." 5

The need to create and to recover public spaces has always been a part of the reality in our cities. Their creation makes progress or permanence in the city a reality. The creation of shows and activities in unconventional alternative spaces started being looked for by creators.

In the seventies, two contemporary jewellery galleries were founded: Ra and Marzee. This is relevant because in this field there are not many exhibition spaces. The interventionist and creative qualities of the jewellery has been conquering its territory. There are more and more jewellers who, in their works, reflect their worries and present time observations. In Otto Kunzli‚s work, his critical attitude is explicit, provoking and protesting with a sense of humour. In the pendants he made, in 1995, he inspired himself in the kind of things we see in our day-to-day and that come from the pop culture and from the publicity of our consumer society. He has collected visual information that belongs to our collective imagination. He tried to play with our subconscious references.



The pendants suggest Mickey mouse, Batman, as well as the golden arches of the well-known fast-food brand, which you can find in almost every city.Nowadays, the conquest of the cities by consumption brands, by publicity that spreads and mirrors is evident. "Now the buses, electrics and taxis, with the help of image digital services and of big pieces of adhesive vinyl, have become advertisements with wheels, loading passengers inside giant chocolates and gum packets"6


We live in the context of the globalisation era. We inhabit the city of publicity and consumption more and more. "What is this new space like? The space of fragmentation, of expansion, of dispersion, of diffusion, of new mobility and its users, of infrastructures and new nets, of new geographies, of new types of the futile." 7

The notion of the wearer’s importance is explicit in some projects. The designer and the jeweller have a conscience of the fundamental part that the wearer has, so that the work comes to its goals.

Ted Noten’s work, "Chew your own brooch" from the year 2000, compulsorily depends on the wearer. "Whoever buys a brooch from Ted Noten, first receives a packet of chewing gum. The idea is that the client chews the gum into a shape and returns it to the designer who gold or silver plates the chewing piece." 8



Friedrich Becker‚s jewellery is a personal celebration to the era of technology, making use of the machine and its ability to reach perfection. However, his work reaches its plenitude when it is humanized, because any wearer‚s arm or hand gesture changes the visual look of the piece, producing rotational and revolving movements in the shiny surface of the metal.



His work literally moves in different directions, stressing the body movements, that is, it highlights and interprets the wearer‚s body, not due to its shapes and colours, but due to its constructions, whose inside dynamism is an answer to the body laws themselves. His pieces end up fulfilling such unpredictable movements that it seems they have their own life. They seem to challenge the laws of the physics and the expectations of those who wear them. The wearer‚s natural movements are the motor to the mechanical movements of the jewellery piece.
Friedrich Becker refers to his work like this: "My work consisted of pieces of jewellery which take up, amplify and transform the chance of movements of the wearer into new and differentiated configurations of movement. This is achieved by the use of moving parts, of centric and eccentric, vertical and horizontal bearings, of balances and impulse of platinum." 9

Living in an age when the wearer‚s importance is evident, when there is a complexity environment and when you want a balance among contrasts, it is fundamental that the designer and the jeweller’s projects take responsibilities, before the clear evidence of the citizen’s relationship with the artificial universe, the preservation of the natural environment also keeps being more and more important.

© Carla Castiajo 2003

References

1 In the newspaper Público, January 32, 2003, supplement “y”.
2 In Baudrillard, Jean, 1991, A Sociedade de Consumo, Lisboa, Edições 70: 15.
3 In Prototypo#007, “Cidade em Performance, Performing the City”: 76.
4 In Klein, Naomi, 2002, No Logo, Lisboa, Relógio D’Água: 346.
5 In Klein, Naomi, 2002, No Logo, Lisboa, Relógio D’Água: 353.
6 In Klein, Naomi, 2002, No Logo, Lisboa, Relógio D’Água: 60.
7 In Prototypo#007, “Performing the City”: 143.
8 In Ramakers, Reny and Bakker, Gijs, 1998, Droog Design: Spirit of the nineties, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam:127.
9 In W. Drutt English, Helen and Dormer, Peter, Jewellery of our Time: art, ornament and obsession, New York, Rizzoli: 71.

Remarks

ESAD, Matosinhos, Portugal, 2003
Paper submitted for the subject Trends of Contemporary Design.
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