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City as space of rules and dreaming. Metropolis of the mind.

We keep constructing an immense city of evocation and remembrance, and all the cities we have visited are precincts in this metropolis of the mind. (Juhani Pallasma)

KuvA Research Days 2021, Day 1. Session’s theme enrolled in Oodi Libary states: City is a space inhabited by a wide range of interests and practices in the cross-section of political and artistic activity. The theme was explored via site-specific works at the Oodi Library by the Time and Space Arts students.

According the discussion opened by Henri Lefebvre on spaces of representation and representations of space conception of space must be understand as a coherent visual structure into which the actions of human life could be inserted in a controlled and orderly fashion. (Social) space is a (social) product. To make things even more complicated, social space also contains specific representations of this double or triple interaction between the social relations of production and reproduction. In reality, social space ‘incorporates’ social actions, the actions of subjects both individual and collective who are born and who die, who suffer and who act. People look, and take sight, take seeing, for life itself.

Gaston Bachelard referred to “polyphony of the senses,” to acknowledge that visual aesthetic experiences come from the fact that the eye collaborates with the body and the other senses in a state of continuous interaction. Juhani Pallasma with the title of his book The Eyes of the Skin wished to express the significance of the tactile sense for our experience and understanding of the world, but also intended to create a conceptual short circuit between the dominant sense of vision and the suppressed sense modality of touch. Our contact with the world takes place at the boundary line of the self through specialised parts of our enveloping membrane. The dominance of the eye and the suppression of the other senses tends to push us into detachment, isolation and exteriority.

By Geographer Ji-Fu Tuan, tools and machines enlarge man’s sense of space and spaciousness. Space that is measurable by the reach of one’s outstretched arms is a small world compared with one measured by the distance of a spear throw or arrow shot. The body can feel both measures. Size is the way a person feels as he stretches his arms. Enclosed and humanized space is place. Compared to space, the place is a calm centre of established values. Human beings require both space and place. The place is a pause in movement.

Video and sound work by Karoliina Korvuo & Pedro Riva, Shadow of you, demonstrated bodily experience, relationships between the physical environment and digital world. Oodi is for all of us—a space of rules and dreaming. Space as the level of mental space—a large portion of the attributes and ‘properties’ of what is actually social space. The keyword of shadow turns us to the Junichiro Tanizaki, according to whom the shadow becomes the essential part of the whole perception of the world. The thing reveals in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness. Furthermore, the question arises—how to picture the flowing water? (Miia Autio). The signposts narrow the conversation to a place marked by dialogue, water, stone, letter, photograph. The pathway reviles the Silvola Reservoir. For outsiders, it is hard to understand all underlying political meanings and conflicts of interest, but at least the gathered pure touchable (untouchable ) things remain clear. The same is true with a crushed crescent of concrete and dust (Kristiina Mäenpää), where materiality itself maintains what is lost in translation. It’s Merleau-Ponty who says that we’re always “condemned to meaning” and that we can’t inhabit or move through or intend towards the phenomenal world “without its acquiring a name in history.

Climbing a Memory by Pavel Rotts indicates the space in the city scape. Involve, intrigue, convulse. Past events make no impact on the present unless they are memorialized. Generation of damaged houses and killed grandfathers. Identity of action is achieved by dramatizing personal life’s aspirations, needs, and functional rhythms—the path without a goal. Artistic expression is engaged with pre-verbal meanings of the world, incorporated and lived rather than abstractedly intellectually understood. The tactile sense physically and indisputably connects with time and space. Exploration of materiality incarnates the mental constructions of the unexperienced memory. Thus the earth-bounded structure of buildings constructs the feelings about space which otherwise would remain diffuse and fleeting.

The final stop is at the Anne Roininen extraction of the online selling network Tori. City as the space of praised, unwanted, desired, unnecessary things. The selling platform indicates all the valued processes inside the digital organism of ever-changing, self-forming and testing construction of time and space.

The mixture of mentally generated and on-site experienced multi-sensorial images of the newly discovered space conquered the proper place within the metropolis of the mind.

Rita Ļegčiļina-Broka, PhD student, Art Academy of Latvia

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetic of Space, Beacon Press (Boston), 1969.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, Routledge (London), 1992.
Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows, Leete’s Island Books (New Haven), 1977.
J.F. Tuan, Space and Place. The Perspective of Experience, Minneapolis University of Minnesota Press 1977.
Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, translated by Donald Nicholson Smith, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991.
Juhani Pallasmaa, The eyes of the skin. Architecture and the Senses, TJ International Ltd, Padstow, Cornwall 2005.

KuvA research activities

This blog highlights the activities of the research unit and doctoral programme at the Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki | Tämä blogi esittelee Kuvataideakatemian tutkimusyksikön ja tohtorikoulutusohjelman tapahtumia ja toimintaa | I den här bloggen presenteras verksamheten och evenemangen vid Bildkonstsakademins forskningsenhet och doktorandprogram

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