Displacements, adaptation and translations


To be aware of the geographical and cultural influences in the achievement of a new knowledge is an awareness that allows the observer to reach the most efficient positioning in relation to the observed. To challenge a specific context, in which such situations occur, may result in new types of knowledge and aesthetics.

By moving out from centric spheres leads one towards cultural and economical boundaries - i.e. the underground sub-cultural tendencies are mostly found in peripheral areas or non-institutional venues. Such places might be of use for the rising of new experiments and questionings to move towards irregular regions, and avoid familiar, stablished or centralized references.  However, this potential is emphasized for the one who departs from one position to another, meaning it is productive to become a stranger in such territories. In this case, the notion of stranger should not imply its nativity, but to be played as a character without pre-given knowledge within the new context. The stranger, by definition, doesn't know something - he is an external element towards whatever placement at stake. The notion of a stranger also implies a mutual awareness or an omnipresent narrator (the consciousness of what is new and familiar) and two different territories - a centric position, somehow familiar, not strange and a peripheral, the unknown. The stranger with such awareness becomes a flâneur, which according to Walter Benjamin, distinguishes him from the touristic pursuit of the merely exotic and picturesque. Although Benjamin’s insights are mainly a dialectic image of a Europe-centered metropoles, where the flaneur moves in urbanized gaps of non-places, like the Parisian commercial passages; in his posthumous Magnum Opus, the Passagenwerk, Benjamin exposes the qualities of flâneries in-between the local and the cosmopolitan. I propose to re-take some of the wondering qualities of the flâneur, moving it away from its privileged bourgeois association with euro-centric modernism, and transpose it towards the peripheral, stressing out a geographic dislocation, cultural transgression and conceptual reconfiguration. Like Willi Bolle refers[1]Benjamin’s flâneries can be read by opening up an intercultural dialogue, transgressing the boundaries of European metropolitan consciousness. Rolf Goebel also proposes a conceptual relocation of Benjamin’s flâneur [2] by giving to it the specificities of an extreme place like Japan. As he claims, whereas in Paris or Berlin, the natural continuity of history is achieved by memory, a western visitor in Japan will inevitably need to acquire a non-familiar approach by “ethnographic interpretation replete with uncertainties, self-doubts, and fearful desire that constructs meanings through a self-conscious comparison of foreign sights with the flâneur’s own values, recollections of myths, and conceptions of urban modernity.”

Even though the truthiness of the self-alienation that a western flâneur imprints in such faraway dislocations from Europe, I disagree with the total absence of apprehensive tools by the visitor, at least in the actual temporal context, where one can clearly recognize in Japan, the traces of western capitalism adoption in the far-east. Actually, it is from this recognition, that I pursue my own flâneries during the production of Double Double (see artefact), by looking for in the exaltation of west-east post-war heritages, the constructed and fictionalized remembrance of modernity. What I found the most interesting transformative manifestations were mainly non-graspable events, happening among sub-cultures communities of artists, clandestine cultural venues, noise musicians and drunk salarymen; all stressing out the unstable reality by triggering forms of inebriation, that occur out of the enterprise context, but in - similar to European Metropolis - non-places of the urban landscape, like metro stations, peripheral and commercial passages.

I don’t deny the superficial indeterminacy of my own observing notes and materializations. Reason why I use the medium of art to help me in providing the recontextualize flâneuries, as much as open and transitory forms of transmition. I believe in the efficacy of Art as a medium of research, once it allows to move beyond historicity towards a set of multiple translations and mutable forms. I am still aware though, that one must be conscient that every result are fictionalizations directed by its own and cultural desires. Therefore, I opened my own work to collaborative moments with native artists musicians, and other cultural agents, which would probably go against Benjamin’s or even Bernhard Kellermann’s idea of the flâneur, as a self-aware cultural individual, the embodiment of a westernized dialect. I didn’t avoid any beaten track of tourism, neither ventured myself into exclusively cultural cloisters; I did many experiments from wonderings to focused documentation. The main results of such experiments, became momentarily available in the art center rooftop where I was exhibiting. I no longer exploited the initial flâneurism, as an external and reflective observer of an urban landscape, but emerged into action, by participating in-collaboration with a Japanese musician, by giving back a manipulated-copy in the form of radio feedback of some of the achieved receptions/perceptions.

Such approach, and the last practical artefact of my PhD research, differs from the other displacements or dislocations I undertook (see Quiet Sun – Pharoe Islands ; Ultraperipheral – Azores Islands ; La Longue Durée – Liwa Desert), in which the smoothness of such isolated places were much more relying into entropic  and preliminary absorptions of such geographical territories. 

The ideal as something external, far, or standing out of territorial limits is an historical practice recurrent within western cultures, funded in colonization, more than in others. The western desire for what stands beyond the horizon, determined as a fixed goal, as well as assuming distance as an obstacle to overpass, that has to be diminished, throughout strategical moves, might as well contribute to the way of regarding at the green ray, in the sphere of what would come next...The not known. Perhaps similar metaphysical knowledge is absorbed in other cultures, instead of projecting it as it happened by mystifying such phenomenon in Europe. Such doubts become a challenge in my perspective, to better understand other cultural practices of cosmological matters.

[1] BOLLE, W.  (2000) Physiognomy of the Modern metropolis and representation of history in Walter Benjamin. São Paulo: FAPESP/EDSUP

[2] GOEBEL R. (1998) Benjamin’s Flâneur in Japan: Urban Modernity and Conceptual Relocation. The German Quarterly 71.4