Invisible lines – invisible lives

I was recently invited to speak about my work as part of a Pratt colloquium whose theme is the urban landscape. I asked the organizer if perhaps I could design an interactive project for the students to participate in and then spend the time discussing that project instead of me coming in to lecture (yes I am a big believer in experiential learning).

The project idea that I came up with was based on the experience of past projects and some upcoming projects. In order to create a closer connection or deeper understanding of their landscape, I asked the students to come up with a data set that could be mapped, but that was unseen. (Much like the 10′ above sea level line or historical topographies).

Historical Topography for Paths of Desire

Historical Topography for Paths of Desire

The students presented their projects: mapping the paths of campus cats, overlaying a star chart on a nearby park & mapping the constellations, the path of a sail boat from point A to point B and how it is altered by the weather, mapping access points to graffiti a spot, documenting ritualistic paths (daily chores, special trips), mapping crime sites and documenting those, using the body as landscape/map, using historic/personal maps/events to explore, paths implied by remnants, spaces with arbitrarily assigned meaning.

All these projects enabled us to discuss a great range of experiences and issues:
-the concept of boundaries, how are real and perceived boundaries manifest, and how does that affect one’s experience or interpretation.
-emotional attachment/detachment to place
-relationship of the body to experiences
-changing landscapes (in weather, time, seasons)
-communities that one discovers through a deeper inspection of place, how those communities exist & interact within the space
-the psychology of landscape: how does it alter your perception, awareness, emotions and responses
-the constantly changing landscape of an urban environment

It was great to see the projects (thank you all!) And to have the time to delve into this discussion.

It also makes me want to start a website to collect these wanderings and the experiences that people might share.

For more information on work like this, start first at the Conflux Festival – the great gathering of psychogeography, then check out these projects:

untitled pratt cat, originally uploaded by kara canal.

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