wooden structure
2.20m x 16m

with temporary public works by:

Andreas Fischer
Thilo Frank
TU Braunschweig/IAK Kevin Schmidt
Alfredo Jaar
Kai Schiemenz
Michael Sailstorfer Tobias Rehberger Danika Danic
Björn Dahlem
Elín Hansdóttir
Studio Drift
Yvonne Goulbier Fabrizio Plessi
Mark Dion

Diffractive movements, take one

She is listening to the local radio station while waiting for the light to turn green, distractedly adding items to her mental shopping list. Have they run out of milk? What to cook on Saturday? A song comes on that reminds her of last summer and she quickly turns down the volume before she sinks into self-indulgent nostalgia. Another ten minutes and shell be home.

Cities are dynamic places defined by the incessant flows of people, capital, information, ideas. As a map of lived trajectories and potential detours, the city is continuously retraced along the routes we take, around the points where they intersect, between an arrival and a departure. We keep following traces and leaving traces. The force of habit and the mechanics of need keep us on the same tracks everyday, yet we can never be sure what might await us after the next turn of the road. And what about the road not taken?

Around these lines of movement the city emerges as a site of passage, an accumulation of travel stories, a place created and experienced while on the move. In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau traces the word ‘metaphor’ back to its etymological origin—in Greek ‘metaphor’ means transfer, a word still used in modern Greek to refer to the vehicles of mass transportation. He argues that spatial stories are like metaphors too, narrative practices establishing itineraries that found and articulate spaces.  

He wasnt sure why he kept using the GPS even though he knew this route by heart. There was something about the firm tone and the unplaceable accent of the turn-by-turn navigation that hed grown quite attached to over the last year. Her voice was like the ideal traveling companion, and her assertive pronouncements gave him the feeling that he was on the right track. In 500 meters, turn left.

The transformation of urban centers at the beginning of the 20th century is intertwined with the emergence of film. Movement has been key to both these processes, not only in terms of how cities and films are composed but also in terms of how they are ‘read’ and experienced while being traversed, and how they fundamentally end up ‘moving’ us too.

Right at the intersection of architectural and filmic motion, a whole genre of early city travelogues was produced which fed on the raising urban consciousness and unconscious. City panoramas and travel films made use of various camera movements, with pans, up-and-down tilts and other tracking motion opening up a number of city views. In other instances the camera was directly attached on moving vehicles, effectively transporting spectators into space.

The relation between film and architecture along these lines of transit was further explored by Sergei Eisenstein in his essay “Montage and Architecture” (1938). Analyzing the shifts in perception that a person moving through space experiences, Eisenstein traces a path linking these spatial journeys to the sequential impressions that montage creates in film and the virtual movement that is generated in this way.

He preferred the late-night shifts because there was no traffic, and that was also the time when he would encounter the most memorable characters. It could be
that people became more vulnerable and exposed as their morning make-up faded or maybe it was just easier for him to project his own emotions and thoughts onto strangers in the dark. Is it okay if I open the window a bit?, she asked. Via the rear-view mirror he caught a glimpse of her big watery eyes.  

Montage in film establishes a rhythm which depends not only on the length of each shot but also on the action within each shot and the particular ways the shots are cut together. On a more abstract level, rhythm emerges as an interplay of light and shadow.

The way time and space are composed at the urban scale is also producing various rhythms, which became an object of study for Henri Lefebvre. In a collection of essays published in 1992, Lefebvre introduced the notion of ‘rhythmanalysis’ as a tool of urban analysis whereby one would listen “to a house, a street, a town as one listens to a symphony, an opera.” In this manner he highlighted the interconnectedness of time and space and furthered his Marxist analysis of everyday life by examining how the circadian rhythms of the body are determined by our social environment and the mechanical repetitions of the cycles of capitalist production.

In 500 meters you will have reached your destination on the right.It must have been a few minutes past 8pm; it always was. He avoided looking at the rear-view mirror because of those small flares that he recently started noticing. He was worried that there was something wrong with his eyes. But when he looked this up, he came across a forum where an optical engineer was explaining how scratches and dirt on the windshield might cause light waves to diffract, creating a series of unusual effects. Well, maybe a good car wash would do for now.

Diffraction is an optical phenomenon that occurs when waves encounter an obstacle or slit, causing them to bend and spread in different directions. Unlike reflection, which can be understood using purely “geometrical optics” and is basically reproducing the same, diffraction produces patters of difference. Diffraction can occur with any kind of waves, including light, and its effects are often discernible in daily life.

Starting from this physical phenomenon, Donna Haraway argues for diffraction as a “metaphor for another kind of critical consciousness” that urges us to rethink difference and move towards “more interesting interference patterns on the recording films of our lives and bodies”.

She felt the summer evening breeze on her skin as she lowered the window and could sense the increased humidity as they were approaching the water. Taking taxis was her guilty pleasure and that was the least she could do for herself on a day like this.

As a hybrid cinematic apparatus, Elín Hansdóttir’s Interference captures the light of the passing cars and projects it, diffracted, onto a screen. Composed out of pure movement and light, a fleeting spectacle appears, a study in rhythm. Like an abstract street film, it is a cartography of contingency and passage, an unrehearsed traveling shot.

We are here.

Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga