Georges Perec's Geographies

LEE, Joanne (2019). Georges Perec's Geographies. In: FORSDICK, Charles, LEAK, Andrew and PHILLIPS, Richard, (eds.) Georges Perec’s Geographies: Material, Performative and Textual Spaces. London, UCL Press, 218-235.

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In Species of Spaces Georges Perec suggests various ‘Practical exercises’ as a means to investigate the street. The instructions propose its exhaustive exploration through attention to what would be most obvious, common and therefore usually of no interest; to take up this methodology, investigators are told to go about things ‘more slowly, almost stupidly’. As part of his project to reveal and understand the infra-ordinary, in Approaches to what, Perec makes clear that the purpose of such activity is to wrest ‘common things’ from the dross in which they remain mired and to give them a tongue, to ‘speak of what is, of what we are.’ As an artist-scholar researching ‘everyday’ places through essayistic photographic practice, I am drawn to Perec’s specific injunction ‘Force yourself to see more flatly’, which reflects for me photography’s ultimate translation of dimensional space into flat picture plane, and relates to what David Campany has described as modernist photography’s ‘heightened interest in the surfaces of the world’. This contribution emerges from photographic research, which takes up very literally the Perequian practice of seeing flatly, and attending to what is ‘most colourless’: it investigates therefore, via the constraint of black and white image-making, the material surfaces encountered along the 12 minute walk from my home to the tram stop from which I commute to my university job. That Perec makes clear his interest in ‘A town: stone, concrete, asphalt’, and recognises the ‘invisible underground proliferation of conduits’, or the ‘underneath’ of limestone, marl, chalk, gypsum, sand and lignite, encourages me to consider what lies exactly underfoot, passing unremarked on so many daily journeys. This visual essaying of the surface of a place (given that properly speaking an essay is a trial, test or experiment) will be excerpted for the current context, accompanied by a reflection upon Perecquian photographic practice as a method of artistic research, and what a determinedly superficial attention reveals about the infra-ordinariness of place.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: the everyday; Georges Perec; photography; defamiliarisation; place; artistic research; surface
Identification Number:
Page Range: 218-235
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2019 16:49
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 03:06

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