Interval: attempt at alternative mapping

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

–-John Muir (1838-1914)

For a few weeks in December 2008 passers-by could observe threads of light in

the passage under Bergen Town Hall. The passage is a shortcut between a

parking space and the entrance to the Town Hall. The Town Hall rises to 50

metres above ground with over 10000 square metres of space; built chiefly in

glass and concrete. The passage is a narrow strip under the relatively compact

wall on the western side of the structure. This is also where the structure’s

micro climate can be observed. When the wind hits the building’s walls it is

forced through the narrow underpass, and even when passing through at a

quick pace, it is possible to sense how the 14 floors transforms even the

mildest breeze to howling winds. This space is nothing more than a cold wind

tunnel.

During a few winter weeks the odd pedestrian was able to glimpse strings of

light between the columns. From a distance these threads seemed fragile,

undulating in the brisk wind. When passing under the glimmering suspended

ceiling one also noticed the sound. The sound gave form to this otherwise

nondescript space, created imaginary walls and provided the auditory space a

warm resonance of pulse and activity.  Where the highly local wind pushed

strings from one side to the other, the composition of sounds triggered pulses

of light in the optical fibres.

The event was the public art project

Interval

, of which this composition –

0100102

by Maia Urstad and Hilde Hauan Johnsen – constituted one of a total of four

artworks. We, as curators, introduced some ideas as to how the city/space can

be investigated and perceived in our invitation to the artists. These suggestions

 

were intended as textual backdrops to delineate and sharpen the investigation

of meeting-points in urban spaces.

We define the city as a socio-cultural zone. We see it as an arena for exchange

and trade; developed from hundreds of years of human activity. As a socio-

economic structure it constitutes a structural interaction between public and

private interests. The city is where history is revealed and concealed in a

complex structure of private and public narratives and desires. It is

unpredictable. The cultural context which represents a region’s collective

identity is shaped by all of us. It is a constant friction between what has always

been there and what is yet to come. On a day-to-day basis, however, the city

has two key features;

as

organism and as map

.  These features are irrevocably

linked, yet significantly discrepant. The map refers to a timeline; the measured

and established past and the planned future, but never the here-and-now

which defines the city as organism – and in which we all live. The friction

between map and organism creates a need for supervision – usually based on

the map and the plan. The fact that this organism is a fluid and constantly

changing negotiation between rules and exceptions makes supervision a

necessary constant.  We normally define a region’s identity as a loose mass of

I

’s, an accumulation of groups in constant interaction with their environment. It

is through our interaction with all of these diverse phenomena, these collective

groups of

I

’s, objects and spaces that our identity; what we are – and can be, is

defined. Interval wanted to investigate some of these issues. Could art open up

to a form of resistance which would sharpen our perception of the environment

we live in? Can (experiencing) art increase our critical observation of society?

Art is an opportunity for me to scrutinise truths or doctrines. When we asked

the artists to participate we also wanted to investigate our own dogmas. We

wanted to highlight our own ambivalent and fluid perception of society. The

first obvious choice of locations were the desolate, overlooked, unchartered,

undefined or ignored areas – often lacking defined identity. They are interstitial

places, intervals between already defined places.

When art occupies territories beyond the institution and becomes public, it

almost always causes friction. Usually because public spaces are rife with other

content, activity or needs with no room for added elements. The artwork often

has to elbow its way into a space and conquer it. Often this requires something

else to be replaced or removed. For obvious reasons this causes resistance.

 

When the project occupied this particular space; an inhospitable, windy, narrow

gap filled with bikes and cardboard boxes – it used two specific elements:

Sound and light. In theory we could read the sound from observing the

pulsating light, but up close the relationship between light and sound became

much more complex. The sound was a repetitive rendition of an invisible

universe of information circulating the world’s communicative systems and

structures as airwaves, broadband, telephone signals or digital radio and TV.

Waves of noise and voices which invisibly pass through us, leaving no trace.

The auditive room of

0100102

added sounds from railway stations. If one

listens carefully it is even possible to distinguish train schedules and

destinations. The flow of communication is converted to an audio visual ceiling

which enables us to visually access some of the enormous information matrix

which is incessantly distributed through all kinds of electronic devices – in spite

of our incapacity to understand and observe the pulses directly.  The sound was

a rhythmic flow of impulse and resonance transformed through fibre optic

cables. The auditory space resonated in the visual space. Perhaps more

importantly it created movement at the fringe of the homogenous façade, a

slight movement which linked the windblown space to an invisible reservoir of

information. This aspect was significant to the artwork as well as the “Interval”

project.

0100102

quietly invaded the architectural rhetoric, based on grids and

repetition, with its unpredictable and performance oriented character. Nothing

was destroyed during the process and the project did not violate its arena. But

it emphasised the rejection – and thus violent – characteristics of this particular

space. So, what did it make us aware of?

The friction is a possible result of the contrast between the delicate threads

and brutal architecture. But the friction was also present in the compact stream

of information against an equally massive and solid architecture. One

monumental structure is invisible to the eye and the other a constant presence

as a physical space for the agents of power. The physical space is recognizable

and slightly familiar in spite of its unbecoming appearance, whereas the other

“space” is fluid and transcendent and could represent almost anything. Perhaps

this is where I for a short moment realised that the world isn’t something I look

at from outside or control with my gaze but a constant stream flowing in and

passing through me and – metaphorically speaking – dissolving the boundaries

between that which is genuinely me and everything else.