The French writer Georges Perec wrote a book called An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (1975) in which he wrote down everything he could see from a certain viewpoint. You may like to read it.I&P p.127
A further work by Perec is entitled ‘Species of Spaces and Other Pieces’, the first chapter of which attempts an interesting classification of spaces, ranging from the page itself to world and space outside. Again, this might help in relation to the following exercise.
Choose a viewpoint, perhaps looking out of your window or from a café in the central square, and write down everything you can see. No matter how boring it seems or how detailed, just write it down. Spend at least an hour on this exercise.
Here are some areas to consider:
● Can you transform this into a photography version?
● Would you stay in the same place or get in close to the things you listed?
● Would you choose to use your camera phone in order to be discreet or would you get your tripod out?
● Would it be better in black and white or colour?
● Would you include your list with the final images?
You may choose to turn this into a photography project if it interests you.
[19Apr21] First decide where to sit
• Looking out of my front window would generate a steady flow of pedestrians, cars and vans, 10-20 per hour, I would guess.
• My local high street is a possibiity, but really it would be the same sith added busses and unmanageable volumes.
• An earlier suggestion was on the Embankment, but while that would be interesting, it would be limited to pedestrians.
• I think I shall sit for an hour on one of the benches in front of my local library, on the high street and see what happens.
I have read Perec’s Exhausting… and sampled his Species… They are not as interesting as I had hoped.
Here’s a section of Exhausting… Perec carried out the exercise over three days and most of the detail such as visible buildings and bus destinations was dealt with early on. Entries were being abbreviated by the time of the excerpt.
It is one fifty.Georges Perec, from An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, 1975, p.14
SNCF parcels service.
The people from the funeral procession have entered the church
Passage of a driving-school car, a 96, a 63, a florist’s van, blue, which parks next to the undertaker’s van and from which a funeral wreath is taken.
In splendid unity, the pigeons go round the square and return to settle on the district council building’s gutter.
There are five taxis at the taxi stand.
An 87 goes by, a 63 goes by. The Saim-Sulpice bell begins co ring (probably funeral chimes)
Three children taken to school. Another apple-green 2CV.
Again the pigeons go round the square
A 96 passes by, stops before the bus stop (Sainc-Sulpice section); off it steps Genevieve Serreau, who cakes rue des Canettes; I get her attention by knocking on the windowpane, and she comes over to say hello.
A 70 passes by.
The funeral chimes stop.
A young girl is eating half a palmier.
A man with a pipe and black satchel.
A 70 passes by
A 63 passes by
And here’s Species…
3Georges Perec, from Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, 1997, p.26
A bedroom is a room in which there is a bed; a dining-room is a room in which there are a table and chairs, and often a sideboard; a sitting-room is a room in which there are armchairs andl a couch; a kitchen is a room in which there is a cooker and a water inlet; a bathroom is a room in which there is a water inlet above a bathtub; when there is only a shower, it is known as a shower room: when there is only a wash-basin it is known as a cloakroom; an entrance hall is a room in which at least one of the doors leads outside the apartment: in addition, you may find a coat-rack in there; a childs’s bedroom is a room into which you put a child; a broom closet is a room into which you put brooms and the vacuum cleaner; a maid’s bedroom is a room that you let to a student.
My approach to documenting the traffic would be to
• start with a ruled page with columns for items such as pedestrians (M/F/child?)
• and vehicles (cars, vans, busses, trucks, bikes and motor bikes)
• ruled rows for 5-minute segments
• a second page with sgment rows but freeform entry for anything interesting
• and don’t forget birds and possibly airplanes
In addition to the things in motion, there is also the static things on view, the buildings, shops, road, sky and so on
In photographing it, I might try a device I first encountered on a film-making course in Chapter Arts centre, Cardiff in the 1970s and which has been on my mind lately. I could probably find the name and artist with a bit of effort, but it comprised mostly a black screen with a single narrative voice. i do not recall whether it was meaningful, structured sentences or just a list, but after a while there were flashed frames and after a while the small audience, including me, realised that the flashed image related to the word being spoken at that moment. They were just occasional, but became more frequent.
It would be interesting to find it and see how well it corresponded to my memory after c.45 years.
• I would record my log of things seen on two or three tracks, one for the dull detail, one for the freeform notes and perhaps another for the static items.
• And, having returned on another day to photograph the stills, I would edit in the flash frames.
• For the main track, I would photograph from the bench. For the detail, I might move.
• It would be in colour because I cannot see and particular reason for using B&W, but I could reconsider this.
• I would probably include images of my original log in the documentation of the piece, but with the voiceover, there is no need for a list.
This would be quite a job, but I might create it, especially if I can identify the original.
Google – “1970s film voiceover mostly blank screen occasional flash frames corresponding to the words” — nothing useful. Several other phrases tried, nothing yet.
[3Aug] This exercise (and the next) have been sidelined for a while as I concentrated on the Assignments, but they need doing.
I have considered several complicated plans for this but the other day thought of that scene in Educating Rita in which, given an essay on the complications of staging Ibsen’s (was it the) Cherry Orchard, Rita just wrote, “do it on the radio” and it was later revealed that was written as ‘as a play for voices’, rather than the stage. (I’ll check the details †.)
The obvious solution to “transform[ing] this into a photography version” is to film it. I might record a soundtrack of electro magnetic resonance to add another dimension.
That’s the plan. For all the more complicated versions I envisaged siting myself outside the Rusty Bucket pub and I see no reason to change that.
† It was Peer Gynt – The Cherry Orchard was Python’s Gumbys.
There’s a hand-tooled version of the script here – http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/e/educating-rita-script-transcript-caine.html.