Pick one spot in the city and begin to think of it as yours. It doesn’t matter where, and it doesn’t matter what. A street corner, a subway entrance, a tree in the park. … Go to to your spot every day at the same time. Spend an hour watching everything that happens to it, keeping track of everyone who passes by or stops or does anything there. Take notes, take photographs. Make a record of these daily observations and see if you learn anything about the people, or the place, or yourself”
“The Rules of the Game,” Paul Auster to Sophie Calle
Let’s play by Paul Auster’s rules. Choose one of the 50 spots on Providence’s “Independence Trail” as your spot. The historic significance of the Independence Trail only serves as a note of possible contrast with what you will see in today’s Providence.
Experimenting with the following recording techniques, create an exhaustive amount of documentation of your site. Note the word exhaustive might produce a range of materials or you may find that certain means of documenting your observations most useful. Notes may work better than images in some places or cases (nighttime). Be sure to spend a good deal of time not recording anything at all. A recording is often the result of seeing. Using what you’ve learned in the lecture, the readings and in the in-class activity, look to synthesize and communicate various formal and conceptual aspects of the place.
Present your findings to your classmates in section at the start of class next week in an organized fashion. Pin up what can be pinned up, have a laptop out for digital assets, make sketches visible, etc. Lead your classmates through your observations and at least five observations that you took away from the experience. Address this line of questioning: What do you notice? What did you decide to share? What tools did you use the most and why?
Each student will have about 3-4 minutes to summarize their findings. Everyone should be set up by the beginning of class.
This one week unit meant to kickstart best practices and ongoing forms that you will use in the next two years. Buy and begin using a sketchbook (letter-sized or smaller), set up a blog (specifically for this class, not Instagram or Pinterest… tumblr is ideal) and begin to reflect and document your experiences in a way that will make your final documentation go smoothly.
“The Bohemian Dinner,” Charles Greene Shaw
Through close looking and careful observation, how long of a list can you make about your present situation? Split into groups of 3 or 4 and find an area in the classroom where each group has 30 minutes to observe and record the presence of the group and its area. What are all the ways you can describe the group and its surroundings without asking anything of them? At what point do your observations lead to associations that you do not see. Make note of those as well.
How will you break down what you see into individual phrases? How do those phrases help both to describe the situation and help us understand more about the “seer” and the “seen”.
Your text document should take the form of a hand-written list on letter-sized paper so that it can be pushpinned up at the end of class for general class or small group review. The review should focus on how students existing in the same situation emphasized and noted different qualities (senses). How objective and subjective are the observations, and what ideas arise from any of it?
“Attention,” Lorraine Daston. Curiosity and Method: Ten Years of Cabinet Magazine
“An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris,” Georges Perec
“Approaches to What?” Georges Perec
“The Rules of the Game,” Paul Auster and Sophie Calle