Manchester Flaneur

Dodo went on a flaneur around Manchester last Friday as part of a study trip with fellow MA students.

Incase you don’t know what a flaneur means here is some information from Wikipedia:

The term flâneur comes from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, “loafer”—which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means “to stroll”. Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of flâneur—that of “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”. Because of the term’s usage and theorization by Baudelaire and numerous thinkers in economic, cultural, literary and historical fields, the idea of the flâneur has accumulated significant meaning as a referent for understanding urban phenomena and modernity. In French Canada flâner is rarely used to describe strolling and often has a negative connotation as the term’s most common usage refers to loitering.

The aim of the trip was to:

– Help us develop project and research inception points

– Continue to expand upon the idea that we are surrounded by potential inspirational sources

– Encourage us to direct our own MA “journey”

– Encourage us all to challenge what we actually “see” and avoid working with assumptions

Below are some of the photographs taken on the day and a few of our thoughts on the city.

Needless to say it was raining – but that didn’t dampen our spirits.

The day began underground when we walked below the surface of Piccadilly following a canal tow path.

We then stopped for a curry bun and a Portuguese tart at Ho’s bakery in China Town for lunch (as you do). We highly recommend Ho’s bakery, we easily could have eaten everything in there. 🙂

Opposite Ho’s Bakery is an intriguingly large door way. There is some thing quite ghost like and melancholic about this door – its worn and neglected appearance is sad and beautiful. We figured that the building must have been an old cotton warehouse at one point and that the door was designed to allow access for large cotton crates to pass in and out of the building.

We then visited Manchester Art Gallery for the Recorders exhibition by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a Mexixan-Canadian electronic artist who specialises in creating artworks that see, hear and feel the actions of the people around them, using technologies such as biometric scanners, surveillance cameras and microphones. The exhibition included the world premiere of a large-scale installation People on people and the seminal Pulse Room, the artists contribution to the Mexican Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 2007, where hundreds of suspended lights switch on and off according to the heart rates of the visitors in the room.

Pulse Index (2010)
“Pulse Index” is an interactive installation that records participants’ fingerprints at the same time as their heart rates. The piece displays data for the last 509 participants in a stepped display that creates a horizon line of skin. As new recordings are added, the oldest ones disappear, —a kind of memento mori. To participate, people introduce their finger into a custom-made sensor equipped with a digital microscope and a heart rate sensor; their fingerprint immediately appears on the largest cell of the display, pulsating to their heart beat.

Close-up (2006)
“Close-up” is the third piece of the ShadowBox series of interactive displays with a built-in computerized tracking system. This piece shows the viewer’s shadow revealing hundreds of tiny videos of other people who have recently looked at the work. When a viewer approaches the piece, the system automatically starts recording and makes a video of him or her. Simultaneously, inside the viewer’s silhouette videos are triggered that show up to 800 recent recordings. This piece presents a schizoid experience where our presence triggers a massive array of surveillance videos.

Please empty your pockets (2010)

Any item up to 20 x 20 x 30 cm can be placed on the conveyor belt. Once the objects pass under a scanner an image is captured and you will see them reappear on the other side of the belt, beside projected images drawn from the memory of the installation.

As a real item is removed from the belt it will leave behind a trace in the form of a projected image. The work remembers over 600,000 objects which are re-played and used to accompany future objects.

Microphones (2008)
“Microphones” is an interactive installation featuring one or several 1939-vintage Shure microphones, placed on mic stands around the exhibition room at different heights. Each microphone has been modified so that inside its head is a tiny loudspeaker and a circuit board connected to a network of hidden control computers. When a public member speaks into a microphone, it records his or her voice and immediately plays back the voice of a previous participant, as an echo from the past.

Pulse Room (2007)
“Pulse Room” is an interactive installation featuring one to three hundred clear incandescent light bulbs, 300 W each and hung from a cable at a height of three metres. The bulbs are uniformly distributed over the exhibition room, filling it completely. An interface placed on a side of the room has a sensor that detects the heart rate of participants. When someone holds the interface, a computer detects his or her pulse and immediately sets off the closest bulb to flash at the exact rhythm of his or her heart.

People on people (2010)

On entry powerful projectors cast your shadow on the wall to create what appears to be a giant shadow-puppet theatre. A portrait gradually emerges inside your silhouette, but the person staring back is not you.

Images of other people, gathered by a sophisticated surveillance system, are shown within your shadow and these images become animated and look out at you when they are revealed by the shadows, creating an uncanny and unsettling effect. The portraits that you see are not passive subjects, as they very often are in traditional portraiture, instead they are looking at you, looking at them.

This raises the issue of who is the observer and who is the observed. Lozano-Hemmer often uses shadowplay to engage the public and encourage interaction on a personal and a communal level, usually as large-scale outdoor installations in public spaces.

After Manchester Art Gallery we headed over to the Peoples’s History Museum which tells the story of working people and democracy in Britain. The museum has recently undergone significant redevelopment, with visitor space being trebled by the addition of a large and distinctive extension by architects Austin-Smith:Lord.

Me and Michaela are currently in the process of designing Dodo’s brand and identity so we where particularly interested in the branding used for PHM. After some research we discovered that Brand Consultants True North where responsible for the brand and identity of the museum.

True North decided to focus not on the objects, collections and archives the museum displayed but instead on the ideas that the museum represented. Ideas like liberty, democracy, fairness, protest, equality and reform. Ideas that historically, individuals and groups have fought and died for.

Creatively “ideas worth fighting for” has been translated into an identity that’s as bold as it’s positioning. This has been developed across all communications throughout the museum – they worked with the management team to embed “ideas worth fighting for” into the museums culture and behaviour.

A group of us particularly wanted to go to the CUBE to see a very unusual design exhibition entitled Design Disorder.

Here is some information from the CUBE:

Starting as a work of fiction, design is always oriented towards a possible future; a community of users that have yet to exist; it forecasts human desires and asserts solutions. As a contrast, disorder illustrates a state of entropy, disease and unpredictability a negative diagnosis of a symptom or state of play. This exhibition brings these two definitions together revealing the ethical and behavioural implications of a future defined by engineering and science . From the recycling of urine into whisky to the simulation of phantom limbs, Designed Disorder radically inquires into how we behave, mass consume, self medicate and travel, making the design of human experience an altogether uncomfortable encounter.

Extra Room by Gunner Green and Bernd Hopfengarther (2009)

In an imaginary future world, our homes could have Extra Rooms to guard us from outside intrusive mind reading technologies! Inspired by the 1960’s experiments involving sensory deprivation The Extra Room will provide space for isolation to adjust our minds and our thoughts? What is the likelihood this will become the norm?

Phantom Recorder by Revital Cohen (2009)

When a limb is lost, the mind often develops a phantom sensation. The phantom owner is suddenly endowed with a unique and personal appendage, invisible to others and sometimes capable of extraordinary hyperabilities. As strategies for repair focus on practical solutions, they tend to overlook poetic functions of our body, but what if one could record and keep their phantom sensation, to be awoken on request?

A novel peripheral nerve interface allows regenerating axons to grow into microchannels incorporating embedded electrodes. This neural implant enables sensations to be inserted to the device, or for activity to be recorded from movements.

The Phantom Recorder system projects a cold and damp sensation onto the skin surface, triggering the brain to hallucinate a phantom. As the phantom movement stimulates the peripheral nerves, its activity is captured by the neural implant and external wireless machinery.

When the prosthetic has been fitted, digital data of the recorded phantom sensation can be transmitted to the implant, allowing the nerves to recreate the sensation of the telescoped phantom hand, the fourth feet or the split arm.

Could we use this technology to record illusions of the mind? What if our imagination could be captured through our nerves?

On our travels we also came across this piece of guerrilla advertising by Soda Blasting Service BlastAway. By using the city as a blank canvas for their advertising campaign they have cleverly self promoted their business and demonstrated the service they provide.

Dodo would like to branch out into visual merchandising, so we where particularly interested in Zara’s window display, especially as they had an urban decay theme.

They used brick wallpaper to help set the scene aswell as re upholstering the chairs in used denim.

The old newspapers and packing crates serve as props for the street setting.

Steve (our tutor) had also booked for us to have a look round the library at Chetham Music School.

Chetham’s Library is one of the oldest free public reference library in the United Kingdom. Chetham’s Hospital, which contains both the library and Chetham’s School of Music, was established in 1653 under the will of Humphrey Chetham (1580–1653), for the education of poor boys and a library for the use of scholars. The library has been in continuous use since 1653. It operates as an independent charity, open to readers and visitors free of charge.

Chetham’s was the meeting place of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels when Marx visited Manchester. The economics books Marx was reading at the time can be seen on a shelf in the library, as can the window seat where Marx and Engels would meet.

A close up of the beautiful cornicing above the window seat in Chetham’s Library.

After all that walking we where pretty tired and thirsty so we headed over to the wine bar Corbieres for a few drinks and to discuss the day’s activities. The few of us still remaining decided to finish off the day with some tapas at the Spanish restaurant El Rincon. The food was great but the company was even better. 🙂

Karen Smart