Text: Bill Psarras © 2015
Cities are made of humans, they surround us – yet they are within us – and in a way we are the city. Cities thus are a kind of knowledge to be obtained. They encapsulate our past halo of experience: errors, victories, uncertainties – yet they are an example of our future intention. Cities reflect our existence – they are animated examples of our minds and way of thinking. A city makes me stranger, anonymous however the next one makes me brighter and bold. Cities keep an account of our memories, yet this is not a list. It is presented in numerous entangled and poetic formations – brought to life through our sensory perception.
I grew up in a small town, yet my interest in cities and urban experience can be justified as a utopian need to touch the sublime of them. In other words, a need to see the city through holistic lenses – to bring the spiritual into the transient, the technological and the geographical. In smaller scale, going back to our places – our towns and streets – reveals an evolving experience made of many branches and layers. The focus on the intimate shows various topographic, geologic, cultural and everyday layers. Through such topographies, materialities and sensory layers we often understand that our people are almost interwoven in them. Memories come as a next layer to colorize such landscapes. Past versions of our lives have stayed there, under stones, near the sea, close to mountains, through paths and street corners. Walking through such micro-landscapes triggers unexpected playbacks of our memories – in a way as the surrounding place play itself in filmic and interactive ways.
A parallel city of memories comes to light while we traverse the intimacy of our real city. We are never strangers to this experience, yet we are moving terrains for unexpected shocks of happiness, neutrality and nostalgia to take place upon and within us. While accepting such metaphor for ourselves as animated terrains of experience, I do not refer to a passive terrain that memories meet. On the contrary, we are electricities, thousands of kilowatts under constant becoming. Walking or driving through such places, we are prepositions of potential; prepositions and links that history needs to have in order to become a massive entanglement of lives, materials, intentions, flows and emotions. We encounter cities – like our loved ones – that their material nature rise and gradually fall in decline. However, they are still there, they found the time to fool decline by passing in various ways into places, streets, paths, surfaces, materials, photographs and videos. They are not there to just tell/narrate the past experiences but – as Calvino (1974: 11) says – they contain it.
Space is freedom, but place is embodied experience, grounded to earth, articulated through repetition. And it is this repetitive action that brings us to familiar spatial and sensory motifs while re-entering in our city. The departure has always potential freedom and hope but also danger and sadness. We are micro-cities that leave a bigger geographical mother circle in search of experience. Yet, the experience of arriving in the city – of connecting our embodied cities to the familiar – reveals degrees of happiness, of achievement but also of neutrality. Cities around us are the instruments but we are chord-cities – we reverberate, we produce the melody – in a way each one of us constitute a range of melodies to be activated.
And yet it is this constant repetition of these verbal conjunctions. It is the yet or the however that makes cities and humans evolve – one more step to be taken.