Categories
inspiration

Night Haunts: A Journey Through the London Night

“3AM is the dark heart of the city, when the carefully repressed anxieties, aspirations and dreams of its emotionally parched inhabitants can no longer be contained”

Elena, who is with us at the Proboscis studio under the Leonardo Da Vinci scheme, used a very eloquent excerpt from Night Haunts: A Journey Through the London Night by Sukhdev Sandhu, in her post accompanying the visual essay she is currently composing, Mapping The Streets. The book runs parallel with some of the themes we’ve been exploring for City As Material, particularly the notion of an outsider’s forays into a hidden landscape – in this case, ironically, a world normally veiled by the light of day.

I immediately set out to buy it, but soon discovered it was available in full online, as it was originally commissioned by Artangel Interaction as a web project, with chapters, or “episodes”, released monthly. The website uses ever-shifting, distorted pixels and visuals as a backdrop and ambient sound paired with the text, both emanating an eerie nocturnal resonance, as the reader delves deeper into this insightful and poetic work.

Read it here.

Categories
inspiration

Writer App

Instead of featuring a publication today, I’m looking at something which might aid in creating one. Writer, by Information Architects, is an ultra minimal word processing application for Mac and iPad, designed to hold your attention purely on the task at hand – writing. It has no formatting options, one font, one size, and can be set to focus only on the sentence you’re currently working on, fading the rest of the text out, so you “think, spell and write one sentence at a time”. I’ve been using TextEdit recently to compose any creative pieces I’ve been working on (often, handwritten first, then edited in) to avoid distractions, so I can appreciate Writer’s intention. We’ve recently got an iPad 2 in the studio, so I might have a tinker with this – I can imagine it would be useful for writing on the fly during City As Material events or whilst lounging in the studio, free from the dreaded desk and it’s vast, blank screen!

iA Writer for Mac from Oliver Reichenstein on Vimeo.

Categories
inspiration

Diffusion Archive Highlight: Three Essays by Samuel Johnson

Selected by writer and journalist Bill Thompson, this eBook compiles three of Samuel Johnson’s essays in a slim, portable format; Rambler 2, pondering the nature of ambition and self-deception, Idler 48, in which he speaks of  how we ‘play throughout life with the shadows of business’, and Adventurer 95, exploring the process of writing and original ideas. As Bill says, “They are the perfect refuge from the blogosphere and, since they require no external power, excellent for those long journeys when your laptop battery dies before you reach your destination and the only discarded newspaper to hand is yesterday’s Daily Express.”

Read Three Essays on Diffusion.

Categories
inspiration

Sketches In The City

An offshoot of City As Material, Sketches In The City is an occasional series of observational expeditions in various locations across the capital. Mandy, Radhika and I sketch, take photographs and write poems and prose to form a collaborative eBook with underlying themes. Focusing mainly on people and interactions in public places – places that shape, and are in turn shaped, by the people in them – we’ve produced two books so far, and are working on a third.

Sketches In The City was our first attempt, created as a result of visiting the busy Victoria and Waterloo train stations – places which reveal an interesting insight of the human character when bored or stressed. Highlighting the material we collected on the day, this tidy scrapbook was an playful experiment with little interpretation or narrative, letting us take the time to view hectic environments from a different perspective than usual and refine our creative processes.

Sketches In The City: British Museum showcases the unique architecture and exhibits in the British Museum, looking at how visitors observe and interact with them and one another, as well as their grasp on the intangible knowledge that exists amongst that which we can see and touch.

Read them on Diffusion.

Categories
events

Observational sketches – Field report

The other week I mentioned an impromptu City As Material expedition with Mandy and Radhika, to Victoria and Waterloo stations. Despite it being FREEZING, we captured some interesting moments (fingers glove-bound) from the trip. I found just being still and observing whilst people whizzed about, quite relaxing, and it inspired a completely different way of seeing and thinking that is neglected when we’re commuting. It also a chance to watch people who were waiting for trains, their quirky mannerisms and subtle interactions with others becoming more apparent as time went by.

In the studio the day after, I assembled a quick eBook from Mandy’s sketches, Radhika’s photographs, and my writing. Designed to showcase a selection of the material created on the day, it’ll be hosted on Diffusion soon with our other efforts.

Tomorrow we’re journeying to the British Museum for more observations, comparing the contrasting locations and further developing what form these trips will take. I’ll probably be Tweeting some snippets of stuff as we’re doing it, so follow bookleteer on Twitter for a peek.

Categories
events

Guerilla City As Material

Tomorrow, myself and some of my fellow Probsocis team, Mandy and Radhika, will be venturing on a mini City As Material expedition, hopefully the first of many. We’re aiming to draw sketches and write observations of people and interactions in a variety of public places – places that shape, and are in turn shaped, by the people in them – almost People As Material, if you will. Rather than having a theme or any set ambitions, we’re just going to try and capture the essence of random people and actions, perhaps inventing some fictional narratives and backstories along the way, and see how this format might inspire future City As Material events. Tomorrow we’ll be scouting out a few busy rail stations – places that reveal an interesting insight of the human character when bored or stressed, which should be prime fodder for some amusing drawings and writing. We’ll probably create some eBooks with the results, once we’ve done a few of these, so keep posted.

Categories
inspiration

Can A Million Penguins be wrong..

“Software is rarely written in a vacuum and indeed the “open source” movement is built on the premise that collaboration is the only way to get bugs spotted and move forward. Scientific research, too, is more often than not a collaborative activity – and peer review is key to checking and honing the development of scientific ideas.

However, is the same true in artistic fields? We are used to the romantic notion of the artist or the novelist working alone in an attic room, or in the shed at the bottom of the garden. As James Joyce memorably put it, the artist forges in the “smithy of [his] soul”. Yet many of the most highly regarded television programmes of recent years are written by teams of writers; and the majority of films go through rigorous screen testing exercises (and are often altered as a result) before they reach the paying customer. The painters Holbein and Titian, among any number of their contemporaries, used students to add the detail to their pieces before signing them, a tradition continued to this day by Damien Hirst who openly acknowledges the contribution of his studio team.

But what about the novel? Can a collective create a believable fictional voice? How does a plot find any sort of coherent trajectory when different people have a different idea about how a story should end – or even begin? And, perhaps most importantly, can writers really leave their egos at the door?”

And so it began – Penguin’s 2007 experiment into the online collaborative novel. I came across the A Million Penguins project as I begin my investigation into sharing the making of books or in this case, a novel. Penguin set up a wiki where authors could contribute, edit and delete a collaborative novel. You can read the novel – and about the process that went through – at www.amillionpenguins.com.

On the Institute for the Future of the Book blog there is an insightful and analytic post by Ben Vershbow discussing the merits of the project as an idea and as a novel. Ben concludes that a wiki is probably the wrong format for the online collaborative novel. So if not wiki – what?


not quite a million penguins (via penguinsland.blogspot.com)