Monday, 21 September 2009

The Way Things Go - Urban Interlock

One thing leads to another - it could be called a sentence of very old wisdom. But somehow it is also part of our daily experience. A lot of the actions we take will have some form of impact on how we do something afterwards.
As for my day there are some elements that are interlocked. I need the key as I leave the house to lock the door, I can take the tube that would be faster, but on the bus I can read something and it is not as crowded, both ways I need my travel card to get on. The packed lunch depends on the left over of the evening before and the daily hits on the blog depend on what time I upload the new post. Early is good for European readers, whereas later it will be picked up by readers overseas. On the way back the transport issue applies again and if I am late because I wanted to write this additional email, I have to take the tube to get home on time where I will need the key to let myself in.
Our decisions are not only driven by what it is, but by the consequences it might have. I suppose this is called planning.
Still, there are a lot of moments when things are not going according to plan and even this will influence everything there after. Here in Britain, superstition has quite a tradition. Things like not walking under leaders, black cats, numbers and so on are part of people’s decision making process moment by moment.

On an individual daily level it might look as described above. These aspects apply to the whole range of scales too though. On the level of city infrastructure an incident can have the same consequences. An accident on a road in central London will disrupt the commute of thousands of commuters. Greater events, such as 10 cm snow can bring the city to a stand still. However, it somehow works most days and this is all we care for. The city can be imagined as gigantic machinery with hundreds of thousand little elements switches and circuits that work in sync. The most quoted visualization in this context is probably Metropolis, the city machine.

Image film still - Metropolis 1927 by Fritz Lang

What actually happened behind he scene of the real city and how it all works together hardly anyone cares, maybe no one even knows. For a large city it is hard to imagine, that there is one person that REALLY knows why and how everything interlocks. Imagine if this person were superstitious, would the city still work? This would probably turn the whole city into fear over a certain aspect.
This might even be the case with London. Everyone is very excited about 2012 with the Olympics to be held here in London. But on the other hand it does put on a lot of pressure and certainly sparks some fear.

However the aspect of interlocking events have been subject to great works in the world of art. The artists Peter Fischli und David Weiss created the famous movie “Der Lauf der Dinge” (The Way Things Go) in 1987. Similar to a chain reaction a motion is unleashed that travels through a setting, constantly changing its form, shape and character. On youtube the full movie is available in three parts. Surprisingly the movie manages to build up a tension carried by curiosity over the just 30 minutes. As a metaphor for an urban machine it works rather well.

Part 01

Part 02

Part 03

The same topic has been used for a car advert by Honda. It is obviously modeled on the above original. There are even some direct quotes.

A very recent interpretation of the theme was hyped on the internet the last week. This time a fundamental shift has taken place. From the very physical and body / object centered original the latest interpretation has replaced the physical aspect with ... technology I suppose. The different elements do not touch to pass the motion on any longer. It is all magic here. Nevertheless it is a great demonstration of RFID technology.

Nearness from timo on Vimeo.

Through metro

Even though some of the fundamental aspects of the original “Der Lauf der Dinge” is missing here does it very much resemble the daily life of interlocked actions. It is not so much the curiosity, but the familiarity that builds up the tension in this new example. It is realized by Nearness, a collaboration of Berg and Timo.

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