History & Critical Thinking
To live is to leave traces*

Imaginary lines define London. Zones, boroughs, and transport routes carve the city into sectors with little concern for changes in character, texture or trace. We are here or there but never stop in between. London is considered as a series rather than an expanse.

The series aims to record the condition at the edge of transport zone three and redefine it as a continuous place. It aims to record what is there rather than suggest what may come. Defining the place in a moment, these edge conditions are translated into somewhere to stop, to notice.

Outside of the centre, within this zone, the sky opens up, illuminating what has ben left behind, perhaps forgotten, perhaps just passed over, considered not worthy of mention. These are spaces normally walked past, and quickly at that. They are not places associated with dwelling, with stopping and there are an unlimited number of them just a few stops past the London of Georgian townhouses and elegant parks.

London is explored through this zooming in and out between detail and expanse. Travelling along unfamiliar lines, alighting at unknown destinations and exploring on foot. When you don’t know where you are you are forced to look at your surroundings. To uncover and to record. Switching between monochrome and colour, the textures of each place are allowed to unveil themselves in different ways.

This continuous place is considered the middle of an unlimited expanse of London that lies beyond the centre. It is a place that at first appears empty but is in the process of becoming full. It is a place that exists in the margin of history.
* Walter BenjaminEventide

As part of a series taken in London, during the twilight of both morning and night, this image depict an instant were form can equially appear or disappear. Here, form is understood through a minimum of light and colour in order to capture its essence, the instant moment when we understand that we are looking to a three-dimensional space. 

Details are blurred or erased in order to depict space as it is, and the result are images constructed by contours, masses, light and colour. 

This seemingly mannerist way of photography aims to relate itself to a wider arcihtectural tradition of the imagination of space, which resonates in Le Corbusier’s definition of architecture as: '(...) the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light.' But this erasure of detalis and context produce an ambiguous image, one in which we can no longer distinguish interior versus exterior or day versus night; and this ambiguity deprives the image from any meaning, seeking to show a reality without details, formless.
(...) formless is not only an adjective having given a meaning, but a term that serves to bring down in the world, generally requiring that each thing have its form. What it designates has no rights in any sense and gets itself squashed everywhere, like a spider or an earthworm (...) On the other hand, affirming that the universe resembles nothing and is only formless amounts to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spit.

In Bataille’s definition, the concept of formless appears as impossibility, an unreachable aim in which we are trapped, unable to achieve truth because of our recurring pathology of labelling everything we percieve. Indeed, even if the aim of these images was to erase the context from which they where extracted, we can still recognise spaces like the Tate Modern or the National Theatre, among other anonymous spaces taken from alleys, streets and housing complexes. The certain uneasiness taht invades our brain when lookng into things that we do not understand completely, might be triggered by this impossibility, and it is exactly in this threshold between form and formless were this image aim to stand.Untitled

In the act of taking these photos, I am interested in capturing an encounter with a particular location. Taken in urban areas less coherent and less planned, more makeshift and transitional, these are places where multiple actors have implemented their construction, objects, or markings in adjacency to the same. What I discover is a conversation between elements, mixing in ways seemingly familiar but at the same time not familiar. Seemingly whole but at second glance not confirming or reassuring. The goal is never to simply document a place, a building, a landscape, a time of day, but to capture or even reconfigure my expected understanding of these things. The operation may be as simple as the reframing of a view. Alternately the setting may be inherently incongruent. Using familiar materials that make for uncomfortable neighbors. Or the transitory imbued with the light of the setting sun. The heroic banal. The unintentional polyphony.Unraveling the mesh

Eline Ostyn

There are different ways to read a city, especially a thriving one as London. This photographic series investigates the relationships between different buildings, on diverse levels. London’s skyline shifts and grows rapidly. Observing the capital from an aerial point of view, one can easily count the historic landmarks and modern icons. From this point of view one can have an understanding of the scale and complexity of this sprawling city. Looking down, the infrastructure seems complex, as the big offices are crammed together in irregular spaces. Other buildings are twisted into a variety of strange forms to maximize the limited domain they can occupy. These buildings are not located on a regular grid, but on a street arrangement that hasn’t changed in a thousand years. Going back to Celtic times, this plan forms an ancient delicate spiders web in a rapidly changing world. Regardless of the mediaeval street plan, the City of London still functions, though not in the same way of course. On ground level, the level of the pedestrian, one isn’t immediately conscious of the intriguing street pattern, nevertheless there are certain compositions to be found when we explore the interaction between buildings. Various older buildings are embracing or rejecting contemporary ones, a classic case of ‘age-value’, as Alois Riegl would label this situation. Depending on the composition between old and new, one building can give the impression that the other is out of the ordinary, but therefore not necessarily a misfit. In between bold high rise buildings one can find a 19th century church and it is exactly this experience what makes London such a stimulating place to wander around. But there are also new built sites
in the city, where wasteland was a blank canvas for architects to emerge millions of square feet of office spaces. These areas are being developed with one main material, glass. Old and new, textures and silhouettes, past and future are being combined. In this complex network, various layers of connections are revealed, as they are being made in different ways and by diverse means. On the one hand this can be literal: by the use of bridges or through passages and narrow alleyways of the mediaeval street pattern. On the other hand the connection can be less obvious and can contain another meaning. Through perspectives and outlooks we can once again notice the interaction between new and old edifices.Intervals

From shady corners to lonely alleys, somber figures in a swarm turn desolate landscapes into spaces of everlasting action. An action within context, in our case the city; an artefact in which multiple plots endlessly unfold. A stable backdrop where thousands of constructions, in their humble immobility, silently observe the spectacle on show. Is it 'architecture'? No one cares. All occurs in intervals, spaces in between. Squares, streets, walls, dead ends. All are stages where an infinite amount of humanly gestures overlap, second after second. And the result, one could say, is nothing else but noise. Incessant noise. Noise which kills clear understandings and simple concentration. White noise. The noise of which infinite authors have written of. Noise which produces silence through reverberation. Nevertheless, noise from which other intervals can be extracted. Not only intervals in space. Intervals in time. Moments in which actors take a pause; in which the stages remain vacant. Moments of distraction, where spectators too rest their senses. Moments of real silence, as in music, where the space between two notes gives the ratio of their frequencies. And the right notes, in balance or dissonance. The notes which have been noticed, selected and framed within a gap. And a gap which is once more an interval, in its most archaic connotation: the space between two columns, or why not, two buildings. An interval which is crossed at once, clear-cut and straight through the middle, bringing opposites together, vis-à-vis, in a symmetric observation with asymmetric outcomes. A sharp projection from the eyes of one subject; an attempt towards a project, where all is premeditated, or at least controlled, and nothing left to chance. In its mathematical translation, an interval is the precise selection of a subset of elements extracted from a greater, ordered set, e.g. a city. It is a frame, enclosure and exclusion, where all falls in place for a very specific purpose. Hence an interval is found, not searched for. It is breath held at once, the time of an exposure.Untitled

The process of seeing is a process of exclusion. The eye, alone, reduces an infinity of wavelength to a manageable abstraction. Manageability however necessitates subjectivity: the viewed is personal and irreproducible. Each instance of seeing is thus unique; two people looking at the same thing will never see it exactly the same. Time of course is key too; someone looking at a thing will never see it the same way twice.

Superficially at least the process of photography is analogous to this process of seeing. The photograph, like the eye, delimits a singular view from an infinite whole. The eye however implicates multiplicity as a function of time; the photograph instead crystallises an atemporal unity. It is, in other words, a monolith: its frame negates context, its dimension ignores time. Singularity triumphs.

I hope not to imply that photography is then some sort of post-subjective ideal. Indeed the camera itself processes the visual in some imperfect way, and the printing of a photograph allows the photographer to create impossible views. And, ultimately, the eye re-enters the scene the moment a museum-goer approaches the print.

So then while photography might not transcend some essence of seeing, it could serve instead as a critique on seeing. By delimiting a small fraction of the visual, photography establishes a hyper-reality. Or, no, it parodies reality.Gate, Passage, Light

A gate is a measure of divide and mystery. Whether tightly locked or widely cast open, it suggests to all that pass by it the preciousness of what lies beyond; a threshold between what is accessible and what is protected. In the city, a gate is an outward expression of hierarchy and of desire for privacy. Small apertures in the solidity of the walls give hints of the treasure; foliage crawls over the coursing and down into view. It is both a statement of protection and means of taunting. Paradoxically, it is the restrictiveness of a gate that creates the allure of what is within.

Through the gate there is a passage. The passage presents a new plateau of restrictiveness and mystery. The gate has been conquered, but victory does not disguise the discomfort that one has entered a forbidden place. Yet, the passage does not present the stores of the sought treasure; it is a new threshold of apprehension. The decision to pass through the gate is momentary, a small allowance of mischief. Advancing down the passage is to knowingly take on the violation of another’s sanctuary.

Down the passage, light is the redeemer. It defines both the path and the destination. Suddenly a journey that was at first foreboding has turned into adventure. The light gives detail to the heaviness of the protective walls. They are no longer looming and restrictive, but simply a surface and a texture for the light to play across. The journey has ceased to be defined by the destination and has instead found treasure in the moments along the way.Untitled

It was quite clear from my frst images. My tendency that is, to capture distortion within the picture frame. Whether it was handrails, the leading edges of eaves, wall surfaces, or concrete curbs they all slashed sharply across the photo surface, cutting it into angular shards. Once brought to my attention, this tendency bedeviled me. Everywhere I pointed my machinery I was caught in London’s lineaments lining its carved spaces. For this can be London: a web of lineaments prone to distortion. As an act of resignation, I wandered
this superstructure of architecture and wondered if it was possible to free myself from its perspectives. To free myself from London’s immersive control. Slowly I started to rotate, to reposition myself face to face with London’s deformed surfaces—think of rebar. I found when the picture plane was parallel to London’s walls it offered relief. So I captured this image and it fascinated me. It was also possible, I found, to once again rotate and reposition myself ever so slightly and shoot an image without getting caught in a full draw of a perspective. Because now I worked to exclude the lineaments that continued beyond the picture frame in such a manner as to deny full perspectival capture. On rare occasions, London’s ray of lineaments curved away from me not unlike an umbrella caught in the wind, releasing me totally from its photographic grip. So I captured this bending away of surface and lines and the resultant image is one of luring rather than of netting. Capturing London in forthright spatial, in not distorted, ways as it caught me was no longer my goal. Perhaps it was never my goal given my immediate frustration and boredom with this standard positioning, once it was brought to my attention. What is interesting is capturing London as it fronts you with the surface of real or imaginary space beyond.London: too nice to be real

<em>Taxis, noises, lights, people running
Nobody knows the songs
Nobody wants to know
It’s too nice to be real
Sometimes it happens
Nice to be real
It never happens</em>

Second - Living in London (excerpt)

It has been more than two months that I landed into this mystic and sophisticated cosmopolitan city, but my sanguine expectations with London were shattered in this week of photography workshop, wandering around endlessly under the 'obligation' to click photographs and in search for what I adored. I distinctly remember my first day in London, my ride in an Audi SUV from the Heathrow airport to the heart of the city. I am sure my face would have been like that of a villager or a peasant who saw, for the first time, what they have been anticipating. The city seemed to fit perfectly into my “image” of London; long rows of Georgian houses, architecture that was almost the same throughout (at least it seemed so in the beginning) and beautiful, churches here and there, and the Great River Thames. Having come from a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, India, I can’t even begin to explain why and how much I loved the first sight of London and also for next few days to come. I remember travelling in buses only, so that I could savour this city and not miss anything by travelling in the complex ‘circuit diagram- like’ tube network.
But then almost after ten weeks of my love and 'divine' relationship with this city, we had this photography workshop. And as we stepped outside our college to click photographs, I ended myself in a little disappointment, as though my 'lover' revealed some of his dark secrets!!! I have now seen the typical 'New York' side of London but still fighting its way to be just 'the London' it made me dream of. Inspite of the tall glass- clad ‘monuments’, it still managed to combine culture and history with corporate and commerce. As the week passed I was no longer in astonishment, for I came across a decent, if not incredible, blend of arches and trusses, glass and carvings, dodgy and shady areas with horrifying and demonic graffiti and also architecture more than just glass and steel. But now I think, I will miss the ‘pure’ London, for now I know that my love for this city is- too nice to be real and just good enough for my dreams …

Halted Glances on a Wanderers Passage Through a Rather Small Entity in Space*

Highly defined edges shimmer softly through strikingly encompassing outlines, rush by in a lacklustre string of perception (perceptual landing sites build up imaging landing sites) - the celerity of the perceiving body determines contiguous heaps, interludes which keep the eyes fascinated, the ones connecting to my mind. Tiny and gigantic, cleft and gluey, blisteringly fast and sluggish fragments stay hermetic, form indecipherable structures. Phenomenons transcending the allegeable neuronal reality of synapses are impossible to be elucidated by educational walks - science based ignorance. Halting glances are standstills - intended or not - they produce shrill soundlessnesses - irritating quietness, correspondent dysfunctions. Silentium contrasts progression ad infi nitum. Ceaseless progression is the existential ground state of contingent stillstands. Experimental arrangements abruptly burgeoning become rather discarded. A compassionate smile to the refused! Viscous sweet-smelling tears toil down over the liberal zones of the cheeks, then lines of worry squeeze visibly nutritious growth into abyssal black holes. Holes seal themselves, thus trapping involuntary obviousnesses. Crooning voices grumble: Sift out discomforting truthes! Still, skeptical notes explode out of the urban underground here and there into the night. Imagine a hypothesis: every inhabitant of different urban islands writes down a one hundredpage narrative of his every-day experiences, the look through the microscope could be dispensable. But who would listen to them? Presumably only the one who anyway understood long ago. In the dusk invaluable elusiveness attracts the attention, precious inconspicuousness. Triggering a propitiated search, starting with a climbing venture on top of an elevation amidst the indeciduous gray nothingness. Arrived at the top below seems higher up. Near to perfect infatuation tries to exclude; the diffuser only counts as pillar in the infi nite labyrinths of tangled audacities, exhumed ferocities become
evacuated. Zappzarap forgotten. At every corner mental rapids get split up in well-meant battles. Mutually unknown gestalten amalgamate with adjacent barriers to an ensoulment of the city. Well-nigh ruinous hostilities to life become considered poeticized. Upwardly directed glances become directed downwards through perfi dious eulogies, bird’s eye view out of a dilapidated cage. Constant collisions with the frontiers of freedom result in dull, ruffled plumage. Rusty bars let the joints of their wings crunch. Hollow bird bones, heavy. Though hollow aren´t the impressions of singular struggles for survival. Abound in strategies of imagination. Less prolific, but heavy: maintained hierarchies within fl ocks of birds. The rotten cage stays the very last home.

* The title plus the accompanying prose poem are dedicated to G.-E. Debord, S.I.