My research has taken a sharp turn into how we as humans understand a city as an environment in which to dwell. The theory as related to the reflection/reflexion dichotomy and Bourdieu’s ‘field’ and the ‘habitus’ inevitably led to a consideration of mapping as the end point of an interpretation and the starting point for new interpretation, this one at an arms length from the city itself and therefore potentially alienated or abstracted.
Maps mostly appear to take the form of a series of overlapping networks, breaking the city up into digestible and navigable chunks which, while no doubt useful for the pragmatic and essential everyday use of the city, begin to profoundly affect the way we think of the city and ultimately serve as an alienating device; a barrier between us and our environment. The wayfinding device as a quick route to an understanding begins to erode or entirely replace the urban form it is attached to.
The two films I have made so far have attempted to represent places (as opposed to spaces) within the city using other writers’ interpretations as a starting point. I then counterpoint this with my own interpretation of both the city and the text using moving image and sound. By ensuring that I return to the city itself in the act of filming and sound-recording, the end product (the filmic map) can therefore be said to be an interpretation of the city enriched by the text, rather than an interpretation of the text on it’s own.
The theory I have been looking at with regards to cartography suggests that map users rely on the map as someone else’s interpretation assuming it to be objective. The idea behind this approach was to openly accept this as the unavoidable inevitability of assuming another’s interpretation of a place and attempt to use this to enrich one’s own. What has happened, however, is that this process has made me aware of yet another pitfall.
The more I set about developing the techniques I needed to map in this way along with studying and deciphering the poetic interpretations which I was using as a springboard into my own, the more I got drawn into the objectification of the map, the production of a beautiful yet ultimately empty object. I got drawn into the game and lost the awareness that I was a mere player. I believed I was reflecting, while in actuality my reflexivity was running amok, unchecked. Somewhere, my ego kicked in and I became film-maker/cartographer, rather than the level headed researcher and observer I claim to be.
While it sounds like I regret this, and that I am criticising or even chastising myself, I’m glad that this has happened and that I have managed to step out of it without getting too carried away. I’ve developed a set of technical skills and acquired some physical equipment which I can return to at some point and use in a more intelligent and self-aware manner. Additionally, falling victim to the very things the theory and my own writing warns against I feel I have a better understanding of the fallacy of mapping, and the dangers which come with it.
After three or four weeks away from the books and journals, I now feel I can return to the theory, burying myself in it again before returning to the field smarter and more prepared to produce something worthwhile, helpful to others and free of personal pride and ego.