This Friday in Leipzinger Platz, Berlin I am having an opening/screening of an “Analogue” Augmented Reality installation called Herein Berlin.

This work is a collaboration between myself and poet Hayden Daley, and is an attempt to address the danger of Augmented Reality applications in homogenizing and rationalizing spaces. Story-telling is a powerfully evocative tool. By using Interactive Fiction as a medium to navigate mythic spaces and poetic encounters we attempt to reactivate the imagination as a faculty through which to experience our surrounding.

Join us 6 – 7 pm Friday 4th March, Leipzinger Platz, Berlin with your imagination and phone pre-installed with a QR-code reader.

 


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Background

In a chapter titled “Walking in the City”, spatial theorist Michel de Certeau writes from the top of the world; the 110th floor of the World Trade Center. (1) Looking down on Manhattan from this “God’s-eye view”, he muses on the exaltation of a scopic and gnostic drive: the fiction of knowledge related to a lust to be a viewpoint and nothing more. The elevation has transfigured him into a voyeur, and from here, with the city apparent as a whole, it is possible to believe in fictions of abstract representation such as The City. For de Certeau, this typifies the “Strategic” spatial practice of those with demarcated territory to control; the institutional, the logic of the state.

In contrast, down in the street:

The networks of these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representations, it remains daily and indefinitely other. (2)

Julani Pallismaa shares de Certeau’s concern with the surveying, reifying vision of dislocated observation. In The Eyes of the Skin he challenges the pervasive ocularcentrism of contemporary architecture – the privileging of the image and the eye over the other senses – and calls for an architecture that appeals to “the essence of lived experience […] moulded by hapticity and peripheral unfocused vision” (3)
For him, focussed vision is a confrontation with an object, whereas peripheral vision envelopes us in the “flesh of the world”, a concept borrowed from Maurice Merleau-Ponty to describe the “interweavence of things and space, a presence of a human body in the world into which it is immersed.” As Artist Polona Tratnik articulates the consequences of a model of the “flesh of the world”:

A human being lives in an environment and is a part of it; he does not gaze at the world as at a display or something that is distant from him. He touches things and regards them. In such a manner he is seizing them, they are becoming a part of him. (4)

This interweavence fits well with de Certeau’s emphasis on the inadequacy and restrictiveness of abstract representations of place as administered by authority (land owners, city planners, architects). This definition of place de Certeau identifies as similar to Merleau-Ponty’s “geometrical” space of “homogeneous and isotropic spatiality”, in contrast to an “anthropological”, phenomenological space. (5) Exposing the quotidian lived experience of space which is enacted beyond the geometrical, de Certeau defines space as socially constituted; streets can be sinister or inviting not based on a label on a map, but on others’ practice of the space, i.e. “space is practised place”. (6)

The abstract conception of place is held by those with established, demarcated territory, who attempt to control, survey, and order it. He calls this action strategic. De Certeau’s emphasis on surveillance follows Foucault’s analysis of the panopticon as a metaphor for state power. He states:

[Strategy] postulates a place that can be delimited as its own and serve as the base from which relations with an exteriority composed of targets of threats ([…] enemies, […] objects of research, etc. ) can be managed. [T]he eye can transform foreign forces into objects that can be observed and measured, and thus control and ”include” them within its scope of vision.

In previous papers (7) I have explored how despite its appearance, the use of AR is a predominantly strategic spatial practice; The documentation and digitization of elements of our world in this way is a form of autographic surveillance. Codification using tags, categories, and ratings neatly enframes (8) the city into a concrete, Cartesian-space system which begs the question of the city as something that facilitates optimized, directed engagement – a city understood through productive logic. (9)

De Certeau’s model of strategic and tactical spatial practice emphatically suggests that simply voicing counter-narrative accounts of the meaning of the city is in danger of being strategic, and points to the importance of resisting this through art and the poetic, lon-literal exploration of ideas. Herein Berlin attempts to explore the meaning of spaces through personal mythologies and invested emotions, rather than an objective knowledge system, while humorously subverting the high-tech aesthetic of Augmented Reality.

1 Certeau, M. d. (2002). The practice of everyday life. , University of California Press.
2 Ibid. p93
3 Pallasmaa, J. (2008). The eyes of the skin : architecture and the senses. Chichester Hoboken, NJ, Wiley-Academy;
John Wiley & Sons.
4 Polona Tratnik, A Minima, http://aminima.net/wp/?language=en&p=826
5 Certeau, M. d. (2002). The practice of everyday life. , University of California Press. 117.
6 Ibid., 292.
7 Harle, J. (2010). TACTICAL AND STRATEGIC EXPERIMENTATION IN SPACE, Studia Philosophia, LV, 2010:3
8 Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology, and other essays. New York, Harper & Row. 182.
9 David, E. (2008). Archive Fever, Arthur No. 30