The Instax had stayed at home since seven years. I was yet to find a use for its double-exposure mode that didn’t feel contrived, and the cost of film was a deterrent to experimenting. When I began using the portable printer I also worried that if I brought the Instax along it would be a distraction; a demand to listen on too many frequencies at once. I had experienced this manner of distraction while experimenting with the smiley face badges, on the evening that I distributed both the tagged badges and their corresponding stickers. The placement of each type of artefact required attunement to competing aspects of the streetscape, which together with the rigid rules I had established for distribution made any sort of resonance impossible to achieve. Likewise, the Instax and the Zip seemed to call for differing modes of engagement, although I had not yet experimented enough with either to be able to articulate those differences.
Unexpectedly, it was the Zip that led me back to the Instax. Out with the printer for a third day, becoming more attuned to the city’s ephemeral frequencies, I felt a stirring that my digital devices were unable to answer. This time it was not shadow that stopped me but a play of light upon a laneway fence, and yet I was held by something more than just this flickering visual. Cold clear air, leaf rot and skitter, a peel of laughter somewhere. A moment. The only one, no copies to be intricated with some other place and time. Just the infinite glimpsed through this window, imperfectly perfect in its low fidelity; indelible in its ephemerality.
An instant. T1
T1:Early in this project my readings on affective geography led me to a book that has influenced me greatly: Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas by the American artist and cartographer Denis Wood (2010). Long frustrated with the instrumentality of map-making and its calculated ends (plotting airstrikes, planning subdivisions), Wood asked if instead it might be possible to create maps that were ‘an expressive art, a way of coming to terms with place, with the experience of place, with the love of place’ (ibid p. 18). Everything Sings is Wood’s attempt to answer this question. It does away with the ‘map crap’ (ibid. p. 18) of street and scale to chart a different vision of Wood’s Raleigh, North Carolina neighbourhood. Each map is visually distinct, plotting the place that is Boylan Heights through the occurrences of a particular phenomenon. Flowering trees. Barking dogs. Wind chimes, radio waves, Lester’s paper route. Jack-o’-lanterns on porches, the light at night on Culter Street.
The Parallaxis is not a mapping project, and Wood’s influence has likewise not been in his methods. Rather it is in what his methods reveal; ‘the way a certain poetic specificity manages to resonate’ (ibid p. 19). Wood articulates this specificity throughout the pages of his atlas, both in words and in his unconventional maps, but there is one passage in particular to which I always return. In it I have found a manifesto akin to that expressed by Ingold’s dream; a methodological philosophy encrypted in a koan:
‘I say to you there is no real deal. There is only this starlight falling tonight on these asphalt streets still warm with the sun’s heat, these slopes down which the streets slip, these mains beneath them with the runoff from this afternoon’s rain, and — listen! — if you bend over the manhole cover, you can hear the sound of the rushing water. There are only these wires scarring this sky, these trees with their heavy shade, this streetlight casting those shadows of branch and leaf on the sidewalk, those passing cars and that sound of a wind chime. But none of it is Boylan Heights tout court and none of our maps pretends to catch more than a note or two of a world in which everything’s singing’ (ibid, pp. 29-30).