The three curators, who are also part of the Berlin-based KUNSTrePUBLIK artist collective, will be experimenting with a number of tools to document their movements in the city, their perceptions of the environment, their relation with urban heritage. Following mapping methods that have been developed, for instance, by the GroundTruth initiative in the Tandale neighborhood of Dar es Salaam, they will be equipped with GPS trackers to collect data. Thanks to smartphone apps (like OSMTracker or OSMand) that can function offline, they will be able to record different types of geo-tagged information –not just words, but also pictures, videos, sounds, conversations.
All the data collected is meant to play on the idea of rationalizing the city, of recording its unique and specific character in an online, accessible and participative platform (such as OSM, although this is still to be determined). And for what purposes? This is not ours to fix –Simulizi Mijini is a platform that gives a voice to the residents, the wanderers, the simple civil society: the true users and makers of the city. Thus many questions remain: what will we be recording? What we will be mapping?
While many of the iterations of this initial trip are planned ahead, the artists have also expressed the desire to “get lost in the city” – a contrasting aspect, defined by the idea of the flanerie. Wandering in unfamiliar surroundings, observing the different language of the city in its sights, sounds, smells, in the way it materializes (and has been materializing) against one’s body. To put this in theoretical context, we can refer to the paradigm of the flaneur, the casual city wanderer who is both detached from and immersed in all the physical manifestations of urban life. Sounds, sights, smells, and stories –the flaneur collects them and recreates a kaleidoscopic memory of the city as seen from below. One of its first and foremost figures would be Baudelaire, who was keen on taking strolls in the dark arcades of 19th-century Paris and flesh out the grime, the vices and the poetry of these neighborhoods…
‘Le Vin des Chiffonniers’
On voit un chiffonnier qui vient, hochant la tête,
Butant, et se cognant aux murs comme un poète,
Et, sans prendre souci des mouchards, ses sujets,
Epanche tout son coeur en glorieux projets.
Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal, 1857
‘The Ragpickers’ Wine’
We see a ragpicker who comes, bobbing his head,
Stumbling, bumping into the walls like a poet
And, with no care for the snitches, his mates,
He pours out his entire heart in glorious projects
Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil, 1857
The point of such an approach is to be able to receive the intense sensory stimulations with less censorship –being aware and receptive to a maximum array of the city’s manifestations –rather than removing certain information for practical or survival reasons. The psychological state of flanerie is one of expanded consciousness, capable of creating new narratives based on his “disorderly” movement in the city (that is, with no end point), or generating surrealist imagery with the superimposition of relevant socio-economic observation. D. Parsons argues that the meandering of the flaneur have historical significance as the gathering and collecting of these images eventually produces a “vast array of past objects, buildings and spaces that he then attempts to reassemble into illuminating order”. Eventually, we can only refer to Baudelaire in his monumental Painter of Modern Life work to define the meaning of the flaneur’s activities:
« Ainsi il va, il court, il cherche. Que cherche-t-il ? A coup sûr, cet homme, tel que je l’ai dépeint, ce solitaire doué d’une imagination active, toujours voyageant à travers le grand désert d’hommes, a un but plus élevé que celui d’un pur flâneur, un but plus général, autre que le plaisir fugitif de la circonstance. Il cherche ce quelque chose qu’on nous permettra d’appeler la modernité ; car il ne se présente pas de meilleur mot pour exprimer l’idée en question. Il s’agit, pour lui, de dégager de la mode ce qu’elle peut contenir de poétique dans l’historique, de tirer l’éternel du transitoire. »
Charles Baudelaire, Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne – IV – La Modernité, 1863
“And so he goes, he runs, he searches. What is he looking for? Certainly, this man as I have portrayed him, this solitary man gifted with an active imagination, always traveling through the desert of men, has a higher aim than that of pure idleness, a more general aim, different from the fugitive pleasure of circumstances. He is searching for this something that we may call modernity; because no better word comes to mind to express this idea. For him, it is about extracting from fashion the poetic contained in the historical; to draw the eternal from the transitory”
Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life – IV – Modernity, 1863
In order to keep a detailed, legible account of their flaneries, the KUNSTrePUBLIK trio will be experimenting with a number of information and communication technologies recording, for instance, their movements in the city, allowing them to take notes, etc. Through these, we also want to see if we can understand their interactions with residents of Dar, their relation to urban heritage, etc. It must then be determined if this data has scientific value and describes properly the realms of emotions, personal connexions, and memory. With this visit, we hope to gather: photo and video (including a diary-style documentation of their activities), GPS tracking, voice recordings (from the artists but most importantly, from local residents), and any other digital-friendly format.
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Baudelaire, Charles. Les Fleurs du Mal. 1957. Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne. 1863
De Certeau, Michel. Pratice of Everyday Life. 1984
Debord, Guy. Society of the Spectacle. 1967
Parsons, Deborah. Streetwalking the Metropolis: Women, the City and Modernity. 2000