ormeau baths gallery 3
curated by hugh mulholland
Extract from essay by Dr. Suzanna Chan researcher and writer
In Charles Baudelaire's writing, the flaneur is a walker who strolls the arcades
and boulevards of nineteenth century Paris. In enjoying the imperial capital's
wares displayed as a tantalizing spectacle of commodities and in the pleasure
of their consumption, he finds respite from a nagging sense of absence. According
to Walter Benjamin, this lack is one of consciousness, the absence of awareness
that the source of his city's wealth is derived from its distant colonies. If
the flaneur's experience of Paris involved a simultaneous disengagement from
the political factors which rendered the imperial metropolis possible, what form
of stroller might walk through a city where amnesia about its political context
has not been such a ready possibility?
Temporary Provisions demonstrates that Baudelaire's masculine figure of the metropolitan
stroller cannot withstand displacement from his original context.
A requirement of literary flanerie is the flaneur's ability to perambulate without
curtailment, whilst the author takes in the wider scene from the vantagepoint
of a panoptic gaze. But the contrary negotiations in Temporary Provisions are
those of a city where the ability to wander its spaces freely has not been a
given. This installation makes a supplementary intervention to a dominant architectural
structure with transient and make shift building materials. The ceiling grid
is temporarily redeployed as a cartographic device, on which the locations of
Belfast's security and military installations have been picked out with assorted
potted plants. Defunct installations are marked with video cameras, hence the
only physical structures signaled by this temporary map are those whose function
is one of military surveillance. The hegemonic power of cartography to claim
and erase the spaces of others is deployed to emphasize structures of urban surveillance
Marx claimed that ideology requires a process of inversion so that it appears
to descend from heaven to earth. He uses the analogy of the camera obscura to
describe this upside-down turn, whereby ideologies founded on real material bases
are provided with the illusion of independence from them. Like ideologies, as
products of the human brain, commodities as products of the human hand give the
illusion of autonomy from the processes of their own genesis in labour. Once
they appear severed from the social relations of their labour, commodities can
engage in specular relations with one another; each mirroring the other's value.
A bottom to top inversion is presented in Temporary Provisions, so that we must
look up to see reflections of what should be on the ground. But a further analogy
can also be traced between the reflections of plants visible by an upward glance
and Marx's description of the specular relations objects engage in as commodities.
This text is based on the writings of Sarah Kofman and Enda Duffy.
Mixed media, 30'.40'.10' / 900cm.1200cm.300cm