Metropoetica in Ljubljana, August 30 th- September 6th 2009
The second Metropoetica workshop was attended by Ana Pepelnik, Sigurbjörg Thrastadottir, Julia Fiedorczuk, Ingmara Balode and Zoë Skoulding. This time, the focus was on preparing for two public performances, a poetry walk through the city and an evening presentation as part of the Vilenica festival.
The poetry walk took place on Wednesday September 2 nd, starting from the Tivoli Castle, continuing into the centre of Ljubljana and along the river, where it finished in a quiet corner by some steps down to the water. We stopped to read poems in the park, in the subway, by a building site, in the Post Office, in the shopping street, on a bridge and outside a café, accompanied by a small audience of Ljubljana residents including poets Gregor Podlogar and Primož Čučnik, and Ana and Primož’s son Filip. At the end of the walk Sigürbjorg invited them to rename some streets of the city on maps that she had prepared. The event was filmed, so that footage of the walk and the maps could be presented in the final performance.
A bridge in Ljubljana has just been renamed Japanese Bridge by a local girl, on the grounds of the fact that groups of Japanese tourists tend to stop there to take photographs. She’s seen it so many times. Another street is Meeting Street, because that’s where she by default has appointments with her friends. On the same map, a local poet has marked the place where he always has coffee and renamed the street Coffee Road.
I’m thinking how I would rename the streets of my city, were I entitled to. Roughly, I’m thinking Aragata instead of Skólavörðustígur, because my friend Ari runs a photograph shop at the bottom of it, I’d put Flugbraut (Runway) instead of the new Miklabraut, for it has five lanes and looks like an airport, and I’d dub Hafnarstræti as Morðport (Murder Alley). And so on.
We distributed copies of Ljubljana maps to local people, the guests of our poetry walk and others, and those maps had had the original street names removed. A colleague of mine back in Reykjavik helped erasing the names. Another colleague, a graffiti artist, inscribed on it: Handmade City – Ljubljana. The guy at CopyLand in Ljubljana helped operate the copy machine. Then I helped myself. When I was paying, the copyist asked how many copies I’d made. I said ten. When asked if he wanted to verify that, he replied: No, I believe you. I don’t have time but to believe you.
This is how people help each other, trust each other, and collaborate in making things, projects, visions. Entire cities, even. This is how Ljubljana has been made through its centuries; through plans, accidents, favour exchange, conversation, hard work, madness and destruction. It has resulted in the city we see today, and the names we see on today’s tourist maps, but it could have been quite a different city, with different names, if different people would have been in charge. Or if we would have checked in at a different time in history.
With our handmade map of Ljubljana we invite the people to (re)name their city as if they were in charge – to slide their everyday life into the official aspect of the city, to share memories, to shape the Ljubljana aura, to personalize their home-city which in its own right is a very personal entity to the inhabitants. We encourage them to translate experience and habits into words and names, to wear the private everyday on the formal outside – in short, to turn everything inside out, in order to expose a different reality.
Sigurbjörg Thrastardottir September 3 rd, 2009.
During the week we also developed ideas about the synergies between walking and writing, and wrote a multilingual collaborative text that responded to some of Henri Lefebvre’s ideas about the city’s social and environmental rhythms. In the performance, the poem was read with voices overlapping in different languages, while the film ran with a soundtrack of breath and footsteps above the city’s noise. In the version shown here, the poem has subsequently been added to the film in subtitles.
Julia’s initial suggestion:
Lefebvre and rhythmanalysis
I suggest that we write a collaborative poem in response to Henri Lefebvre's idea of rhythmanalysis, that is, the analysis of rhythms (presented, for instance, in his book Rhythmanalysis: space, time and everyday life). Lefebvre's objective is to move beyond images in order to experience and describe a deeper level of the life of the city. That deeper level is, for him, rhythms. There are various kinds of rhythms: natural, biological (for instance: heartbeat) and social (various human repetitive activities). Rhythms overlap. We get polyrhythmia (consult your body, Lefebvre says). The state of health, when different rhythms unite, is eurhythmia. But when discordance appears, we get arrhythmia.
Lefebvre associates images with commodities. Images imply the illusion of stability and immutability, while in fact there are no things, only processes (rhythms). Rhythm is a result of the interrelation of space and time. Nothing is stable, things pulsate, either in a cyclical, or in a linear way.
Perhaps we could write a poem that would address this idea of rhythms. I suggest that each of us writes in her own language but tries to use some of Lefebvre's key words (rhythm, arrhythmia), which would be recognizable regardless of the language we use. The poem would be a sort of conversation, and we might try to read it in such a way as to make our voices overlap, in order to produce the effect of polyphony.
I like the fact that Lefebvre addresses the “scandal of the sensible”, moving beyond sight in order to incorporate other senses in describing the rhythms of the city. Whatever we register of the external world we do as embodied subjects.
In this sense walking can perhaps be viewed as a radical exercise: an attempt to counteract the alienation of someone who simply watches. To walk is to become a tone in the music of the city. Rhythmanalysis, according to Lefebvre, would ultimately have ethical (practical) implications, because “knowledge of the lived would modify, metamorphose, the lived, without knowing it.” (18)
The scandal of the sensible. To restore the sensible to experience, so that human experience is not limited to the rational, so that the world is not limited to images, the individual to his/her intellect.
Much has been said about the deceptive dimension of images (Guy Debord, for instance). But we have to use images, both in our poems and in our film. How does one distance oneself from the deceptive power if images? Foregrounding the artificiality of one's medium comes to the mind as one obvious solution. The idea goes back to old Russian formalism, represented, for instance, by Victor Shklovsky and his idea of art being synonymous with technique. Shklovsky believes in the subversive power of what he calls defamiliarization, that is, presenting things as if they were seen for the first time, in order to rescue the elements of reality from habitualization. The point is that we must truly experience things, rather than repeating the same automatic (alienating) gestures.
Julia Fiedorczuk, September 3 2009