L’être ou le néant, voilà le problème.
Monter, descendre, aller, venir, tant fait l’homme qu’à la fin il disparaît.
Raymond Queneau, Zazie dans le métro, 1959.
I have been thinking about recording the noise I hear in public transport for a while now. To be honest, my original project was to document by video my daily experience of commuting across the city. Finally, I decided to concentrate only on the sound heard and produced in a bus or a train on a regular urban route. I truly believe that, for a large part of the population living in “westernized” countries, a significant amount of time is spent in moving and crossing a city, cities or countries. Thus the natural question is, what happens there? In that time and space which at the same time separates and connects us from our regular and productive activities (school, work, family, hobbies etc.)?
Marc Augé defined the anthropologic nature of the means of transport through his idea of the non-lieux, based on the conception of contemporary society as a surmodernité. Accordingly this abundance of modernity is in fact due to a transformation of time, oppressed by numerous events and their acceleration, space, reduced to a single point facing the world, and the individual, considered as separate from the world. According to Augé non-lieux are both the infrastructure and transport means necessary to circulate people and goods, but also shopping malls or refugees camps. If spaces are socially conceived as having a specific identity, function, relation, history etc, then the non-spaces do not. We only know that they are suspended in the middle of something.
In the introductory issue on “ruins”, in the contribution titled “in search of lost ruins”, I tried to create a connection between the definition of the experience of ruins as described by Augé in Le temps en ruines, clearly related to the notion of non-spaces, and Giorgio Agamben’s study of desecration in the essay Elogio della Profanazione. In this text, Agamben explains how something (also a space) can be violated by changing its “normal” use. By doing so, the inner normative power can be deactivated, returning the confiscated thing to a new use. If consuming does not correspond to using, there is still the chance to bring back commodities to a sort of degree zero.
If non-spaces do not have a specific identity apart from that of moving people from one space to another, their users have a real opportunity to define it through how they decide to employ them. I believe that the space and time marked by the means of transport, the suspended moments and places of when we are moving from a point A to a point B of the city, could really embody a profanation by a free, useless, and unproductive act.
The recordings that I present show, more or less clearly, what people do while been transported or transporting: talking alone or at the telephone, singing, reading, cars crashing, crying, getting drunk, praying, dancing …. and so on. The length of this collection of sounds is 55.25 minutes, approximately the time that I spend in public transports every week. All these places seem to be faithful to what Augé wrote, “Il nous faut réapprendre à penser l’espace”.
here a little doozy