Monday, February 1, 2016

On A Month of City Thinking

It's hard to believe that I've been writing one-page scripts inspired by Think of a City for a whole month.  I've been having such a good time that it feels like it's been a lot less, but I only need to count up my scripts to see the true length of time.

What better place to start than the beginning?
So what have I taken away, having spent all these days focusing on these individual entries, each amazing and wondrous in their own way?

For one thing, I'm humbled at the reception to this little experiment.  At the beginning of January, after having spent three months writing three different long-form scripts here, I was looking for a change of pace and I figured some one-pagers inspired by such engaging art would be a good approach.  These were always for me, so when I posted that first script, actually tweeting about it to the @ThinkofaCity account was such an afterthought I almost didn't do it.

It's still kind of mindblowing to consider all the people who have signal boosted, expressed interest, and sent positive vibes.  I got a post on the Think of a City blog referencing what I'm doing here.  Alison Sampson, one of the architects of Think of a City, has been retweeting, liking, and replying at my tweets about these scripts all month.  I've received plenty of words of support from many of the artists I've taken inspiration from.  And people completely unrelated to Think of a City have been engaging in their own way.  It's all really quite amazing to think of all the people I've connected with this past month due to what I've been doing here.

So, you know, thank you to everyone who's taken some time to look over my words.  It means a lot.

Speaking of the engagement I've received, Alison Sampson asked me a few questions this evening about my experiences reading the first thirty-one Think of a City pieces.

Firstly, she asked me about Dérive and whether I see Think of a City as a single narrative.  Unsurprisingly, I've also been thinking about Think of a City a lot this past month, commenting here and there about the project itself and its hopes and dreams (insofar as projects can have those things).  One aspect that I've been less willing to get into is the project's idea of Dérive, and that's mostly because I fear that I haven't spent enough time wrapping my head around the concept to be able to comment on it in an intelligent manner.

I will say that, as a speaker of both English and French, whenever I look at Dérive, I cannot help but think of dérive - drift.  In that sense, I would say that Think of a City is a true dérivement (he writes, knowing he's kind of making up French words).  Each entry drifts into the next, slowly moving forward, always changing into something new while holding onto pieces and elements of the past.  And like a physical drift, we sometimes come back to earlier ideas and places - such as motorcycles, colours, or even feelings.  Following those paths and attempting to track those throughlines has been one of the great joys of looking at these images in greater depth.

So is it a single narrative?  I think it depends on how you define the term.  I mean, it certainly isn't anywhere near as obviously coherent and direct as a traditional novel or film might be, but I don't think that it has to be to qualify.  As I allude above and have commented all month, the connections from one piece to another is clear when you know to look for it.  And there are obvious ebbs and flows in emotion and atmosphere that feel organic and with purpose.

Alison also inquired as to whether or not I believe the project's aim of creating a city is being achieved - or whether it can be.  The site itself notes that "If we have maps, they will be partial", and I think that hits the nail on the head.  This endeavour is not a city where I can point to one part and say "This is the suburbs" and to another and call it "downtown" and then draw the streets and ways between them.  But that doesn't mean there isn't a network weaving the two (or three, or four...) together.  As above, the connections are there if you're willing to find them.

Maybe the issue is that I haven't yet seen enough.  A city is a rich, complex, and complicated thing.  How does one neighbourhood truly relate to another?  And another still?  It certainly took me a lot longer than a month to figure that out where I live.  Why would it be any different for somewhere I visit?  Perhaps simply tarrying longer will help the outline and borders become more and more visible.

One thing I realized when looking back at my initial posting on this experiment to translate these stunning images back to words (beyond a brutal mistype that I have now corrected) is that I apparently only set out to do this for a single month.  I'm sorry to go back on my word, but having come so far, I can't stop now.  If you'll continue to indulge me, I think I'll while away the next little bit catching up to the current entry (whatever that may be by the time I reach it).  I don't know what I'll do once I get there, but happily I have a few more weeks to figure that out.

Still so much to see...

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