The Arcades Project : A 3D Documentary
The Arcades Project : A 3D Documentary is a series of projects which will take place in Cardiff’s Victorian and Edwardian Arcades between October 2008 and October 2009.
Cardiff is known as the city of Arcades because it has the highest concentration of Victorian and Edwardian Shopping arcades in the UK. Over the next year (2008-2009) I will be leading an exploration into these spaces, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s Arcades project and constructed in the light of the Saint David’s 2 Shopping Centre which the developers are calling ‘Cardiff’s Grand Arcade’.
Walter Benjamin’s project framed a place in time which manifest a significant shift in socio/ economic structures. Perhaps today we live in similar times of change. The shape of inner city architecture reflects the nature of a globalised economy which, for example, needs large shop fronts to incorporate chain stores, everything has got bigger in order to accommodate the contemporary market place. Local / global issues have become more complex, more abstract and less human. The narratives present in these contemporary market places seem alien to our day - to day lives and yet we are more acutely aware of the human and environmental cost of a global market. Benjamin’s study of the arcades signalled an economic shift at the height of colonisation whereas the changes happening in our cities today manifest a shift towards a globalised de- centralised market.
The arcades in Cardiff were designed and built at around the same period as the Paris arcades. They therefore stand as a testimony to that time, the moments between then and now. The Arcades Project : A 3d Documentary will trace narratives, stories, memories and ideas back throughout the history of the arcades and in the light of the building of the Saint David’s 2 Shopping Centre which the developers are calling "Cardiff's Grand Arcade " (!) Through my explorations I shall seek to represent human stories during this period of change and also look for links with the rest of the world through the individual elements present in this location – for example the goods sold in the shops have as much of a story to tell as the networks of people who use the arcades.
The Arcades Project: A 3D Documentary will manifest as a series of projects see listings below.
2-5th October 2008 - Portable Cinema Project
A site specific response to the building of a shopping centre. The Portable cinema will be located in a port-a-cabin adjacent to the SD2 Development and will show documentary, experimental and artist films in order to map the complex narratives current to the 21c city.
In addition to the film programme artists Peter Cusack (sounds of London) and William Raban (London Film Cooperative) will present their work.
Films by: Peter Wyeth/ Semiconductor/ Nathaniel Kahn / Jem Cohen/ Beureau of Inverse Technology/ Charlotte Ginsburg/ Vision Machine/ Jean Rouche & Edgar Morin/ John Smith/ Margret Tait/ Stan Brakhage/ Guy Sherwin/ Chris Marker/ Rosalind Nashashibi/ Cordelia Swann/ Mayling To/ Jaques Tati/ Dziga Vertov.
Film Programme curated by Victoria Tillotson in collaboration with Jennie Savage.
For more information on the programme and port-a-cabin address go to www.arcadeproject.org and click on film club.
March 2009 - The Arcades Project : A 3D Documentary (A walk for Wireless headphones)
A sound track to Cardiff’s Victorian Arcades which will make visible a collage of possibilities discovered through historical research/ recorded oral histories/ interviews/ constructed dialogue & found narratives. The soundtrack will invite the viewer to re- think place in relation to time through a series of interlocking sound pieces which will be transmitted wirelessly through the arcades.
Researcher Dr. Andrew Cochrane
March 2009 – Nutopia : Exploring the Metropolitan Imagination
“Each epoch dreams the one to follow”
Michelet, Avenir! Avenir!
Drawing on speakers from a range of disciplines and backgrounds the symposium will seek to explore the imagination of the ‘Global City’ as a possible source of inspiration; A city of dreams. This ‘Think Tank’ will be an opportunity to talk about the nature of community, human stories, the new – utopia’s which we may find present amongst contemporary town planning and architecture.
October 2009 - The Museum Of The Moment
Over the course of The Arcades Project : A 3D Documentary Savage will generate a new layer of research mapping Cardiff’s Victorian Arcades and The Hayes area of the City. She will respond to this research by creating an interactive DVD archive in collaboration with designer Garry Bartlett. This Archive will act as a document not only of this place but also of a moment in time when the city is in transformation. The subject being the point in time between the start and the end.
1of 4 Publication series
During the year I will release 4 publications that make visible her research. “1of 4 : Auto - portrait of a development ” will be available at the launch event on October 2nd
The title “The Arcades Project : A 3d Documentary” refers to the arcades project by Walter Benjamin. Walter Benjamin began working on the Arcades project in 1927 and considered the arcades to be the most important architectural form of the 19th century. He linked the manifestation of the arcades in Paris to a number of major and minor phenomena of that century. This phenomena being the dawning of a new age of consumerism and rise of the new middle classes- the bourgeoisie. The building of the arcades signalled a dynamic shift, a change not only economically but also in terms of philosophy, technology, the way people thought about life, interpersonal relations and social interactions. Benjamin wanted to grasp these changes to record this dramatic shift, which could in fact be seen as an architectural manifestation of the birth of consumerism. He was not however interested in representing the great events of history but instead focused on locating the everyday in the refuse and detritus, the traces of the everyday life of the collective. He worked as a collector finding his evidence in the line of a poem by Baudelaire, a piece of text or a novel by Victor Hugo.
Benjamin’s intention for the project was to create a work that intersected on many levels revealing the vast interrelation and collision of experiential layers that occur at any given location. Any site therefore has multiple pluralities existing in an infinite number of positions. The arcades project took one site and exhaustively explored its meanings, functions and the social relations that occurred within it.
Benjamin saw the arcades and their architecture from the perspective of the individual and the individuals place in the city. He raises the fundamental point that architecture is the stage set for the theatre of the city. It is used to form the individuals perception of the self in the city, frame inter personal relations and also govern ones movements within the city. However Architecture is not benign, it frames the way that the individual behaves, the ways in which one perceives oneself in relation to the world. The subtleties of architecture could therefore be seen as a hinge that both reflects a contemporary society and frames it. Architecture effects the individual both in their behaviour and self perception.
The project will be very heavily located in human conversations, ideas and responses. It will be a place to tell stories, reflect memories and discuss the site.
The research process will work across all 6 Arcades and the Central Market and seek to bring together networks and different aspects of the arcades through participation in events and drawing on local knowledge. This process will make visible both the existing communities of people who work in the arcades and the central market, and also the sub networks of customers and people who use those spaces. For example, I would like to work with Ashton’s Fish Market finding out about how they do their trade, where their fish comes from – perhaps documenting that process and their relationship to this business. I would then seek to get to know their regular customers and find out about their relationship to the firm. Perhaps I would work at Ashton’s for a week in order to learn about how the company runs. I would seek to employ similar methods of investigation with shops in the arcades, for example, Neal’s Yard run therapy rooms – perhaps looking at what people get out of alternative therapy, or the craft stall in the Central Market – what do people who shop here make? Or the community of people who work in Servini’s in Wyndham Arcade, the history of ‘The bear shop’ tobacconists also in Wyndham arcade. I will be based in a space/ office in one of the arcades for the 3 years of the project. This will be a space I use to research, work and interview people.
The nature of documentary, and in particular ideas representation have been a reoccurring theme in my work as have ideas of representation, the truth and notions of reality. The project will seek to create a document of the arcades which is at once about the present but also about the visibility and prescience of history in both the new build arcades and the existing Victorian Arcades.
It is an attempt to find new ways to represent our world or reflect a situation, offer a view or share information through a sense of multiplicity rather than singular voices or threads of knowledge. Is it, however, possible to create a document which is expansive, which represents a situation through multiple views or makes visible threads without a conclusion? Through my work I have sought to address this conceptual problem creating projects whereby the ‘final’ piece is not a conclusion, rather a point of convergence that mediates the voice of the many or the narrative of a collective. In this sense I seek merely to create an arena for discussion.
All design and production Project © Jennie Savage 2008