Flâneur

This weeks task was on the concept of Flâneur. It’s a French term meaning ‘stroller’ or ‘loafer’ used by nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire (9 April 1821-31 August 1867) to identify an observer of modern urban life.

A couple of notions new to me arouse during the meeting. First, is the idea of the flâneur, the casual wanderer, observer and reporter of street-life in the modern city, was first explored, at length, in the writings of Baudelaire. Baudelaire’s flâneur, an aesthete and dandy, wandered the streets and arcades of nineteenth-century Paris looking at and listening to the kaleidoscopic manifestations of the life of a modern city. The flâneur’s method and the meaning of his activities were bound together, one with the other. Also, some suggest that the flâneur is trying to achieve a form of transcendence. The second one is the concept of psychogeography, as the term suggests, it is the intersection of psychology and geography. It focuses on our psychological experiences of the city, and reveals or illuminates forgotten, discarded, or marginalised aspects of the urban environment (what informs our walking and looking).

I researched several artists and their works related to the flaneur method, recommended in brief, Hamish Fulton, Mark Power, Janine Antoni: tight roped walked 1 hour a day, Francis Alys: Two Halves of a tuba (coming together), Richard Long: Walking a line, Hamish Fulton Leaves: marks upon himself and the landscape, Marina Abramovic: 90 day’s Great Wall of China lovers coming together, Tehching Hsieh: 1 year without entering a building, Vito Acconci: following random strangers (Sophie Calle), Anton Breton: Places that have no reasons to exist.

I watched suggested video clip on the subject. I thought Fulton’s concept was very profound and meaningful in its simplicity, and I am very inspired by it. All you need is space, big or small, and an idea.

Hamish Fulton interview (2012).

I also read recommended readings, Tate website explaining the term (https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/flaneur), a library pdf source (https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/handle/2123/9647/forgetflaneur.pdf), and a Manifesto of Surrealism by Andre Breton (1924) (https://www.tcf.ua.edu/Classes/Jbutler/T340/SurManifesto/ManifestoOfSurrealism.htm).

The idea was to create a method to get out of an ordered routine and make a short series of images. I relish the concept and immediately thought of the approach of letting dice to make my decisions. Since I read ‘The Dice Man’ novel by George Cockcroft, I have been fascinated with the concept of completely ridding oneself of control. I was excited about seeing where it will take me and what would result from working in this unusual manner. Of course, I did not take it to the extremes of Luke Rhinehart, the main character in the novel, still, I was very enthusiastic about this assignment.

THE METHOD: I wanted to use dice, yet the only one I own was a non-traditional, gaming dice (I don’t even game, I think I picked it up in charity shop because I thought it was pretty). As I was looking for it in my draw, I saw a box of chalk. I decided that it was meant to be, and embraced the flow, meaning the chalk to be part of the scheme. I thought that apart from creating photographic work, I also want to do something kind and friendly. The idea formulated adequately.

RULES: I can walk around in any desired direction, once I roll the dice I have to write a positive message and take a photograph of something inspired by the symbol on the dice in my proximity. I can only move on achieving that, walk for a bit, roll the dice, repeat. Each character has a positive message assigned to it. I can interpret the symbols freely. GO!

First I rolled a KING = LOOK UP! = our cat Jodorowsky, I consider him the KING of the marina.

Second the QUEEN =SMILE YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! = a royal looking horse on the playground, which I thought was very QUEEN like.

KING again = LOOK UP! = the tree in the neighbourhood, which I thought looked like a KING.

SET OF DIAMONDS = WARNING, SPRING AHEAD! = DIAMOND like shapes on the stairs.

SET OF DIAMONDS again = WARNING, SPRING AHEAD! = stairs that made me think of set of DIAMONDS.

QUEEN = SIMILE YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL = wonderful nature, the QUEEN of it all.

TRANSPARENT = LISTEN TO THE BIRDS = TRANSPARENT shaped gate.

QUEEN = SMILE, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! = QUEEN bee.

JESTER = CALL A FRIEND TODAY 🙂 = JESTER at work.

I enjoyed this assignment and thought it to be incredibly liberating and gratifying! I will do more work following this notion and compose more inspired methods to follow, perhaps something more interactive with other people in my environment? Yes, the ideas are brewing!

‘Reference List’

‘Hamish Fulton interview’. Ikon Gallery. (2012) [Online video] https://youtu.be/EKJ7G_btW34. Available through YouTube. [Accessed 03/02/21].

Breton, A. (1924) ‘Manifesto of Surrealism’. [Online] [Accessed on 04.02.21] https://www.tcf.ua.edu/Classes/Jbutler/T340/SurManifesto/ManifestoOfSurrealism.htm

Tate. ‘Art Term, Flâneur’. [Online] [Accessed on 03.02.21] https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/flaneur,

Published by Elzbieta Skorska

My name is Elzbieta Skorska. I am a second-year photography student degree at MMU.

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