trackings is informed by the concept ”flâneur”, the ”stroller” who walks the city in order to experience it. The term was originally conceived by Charles Baudelaire and later revisited by many sociologists, philosophers and artists such as Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, the Situationists, Michel de Certeau, and Francis Alÿs, among many others. In trackings, I play with the idea of flâneur and storytelling: instead of offering a complete dramatic story-line, I aim to stimulate the spectators' thinking apparatus by creatively combining my actual observations and encounters, imagined events and memories into a rather fragmentary set of performance acts. As a flâneur, and as an artist, I can only observe things and communicate with other persons through my subjective eye, through the lense of my personal history and the networks of socio-economic power I have been and am part of. My accounts of events are always partial and open to contestation from someone else's perspective. Does it matter to you whether you know which parts of trackings have a basis in reality and which don't have? Why?
Without being didactic, the performance aims to subtly encourage its partakers to reflect on urban environment both socially and aesthetically. Who is visible in the everyday hustle and bustle of city life; who has the legitimate right to be in the city and who doesn't? Have you ever come to think about which kinds of random urban stimuli, for instance, awkward scratches on a tile wall texture or the sticky sound of rubber sole shoes, attract your atten-tion while you are walking on the street or sitting on the Tube? In which ways could those chance notions relate to you and your history?
My solo performance work revolves around the notion that the world is full of contradictions and competing claims for ”truth”. In any society, there should be room for dialogue between the various political, social, economic as well as aesthetic claims for ”truth”. I hope that my performances stimulate the partakers to grasp that it is possible and, indeed, important to be able to toy with our own judgements and opinions which we have formed and assumed during our lives. I believe that the selfreflective, playful challenging of one's ideas, values and thoughts every once in a while helps one to stay conscious about what his/her actual world-view and its everyday implications really are; to change some of his/her opinions and values if he/she feels it to be necessary; and to be able to discuss with people whose worldview differs from that of one's own.
A subject of dead reckoning, concerning setting up a track
on other objects momentarily viewed from the observer's
(hunting) learning about a place via animal trails and other environmental evidence;
(commercial airline flight) the means of tracking civil airline
flights in realtime;
(sports) skydiving, freeflying: technique of moving horizontally while in free-fall;
(education) separating children into different classes
according to their academic ability;
(typography) the process of uniformly increasing or decreasing the space between all letters in a block of text.
openLAB :: open end
Thomas J. Jelinek
>>One morning I was walking to the tube and something caught my attention. The cars parked on the road were winking at me! Someone, the night before, had lifted the pavement-side wind-screen wipers of each car, and this row of cars with a twinkle in their eye accompanied me to work that morning. I was delighted. Someone was communicating with me, making me smile, transforming my everyday walk. Momentarily I connected with someone, the sense of humour and wit of this nocturnal prankster, a passer-by travelling through this part of the city. This was particularly uplifting, as there had been a surge of car breakins on our street, and most mornings I had discovered small piles of broken glass on the pavement.
There is something in this anecdote that characterises life in a city. It seems like there are always two sides to the coin. One that embraces the chance encounters with strangers and events in the city, and the other that tries to avoid it by lowering the gaze, staying behind to tighten shoelaces to evade a potential meeting, or staring ahead without even a possibility of an eye contact. Are such averting strategies there perhaps to maintain some kind of privacy amongst so many people sharing the same place? Or is it shyness, introversion, or do we even have the capacity to deal with the dizzying quantity of stimuli in a metropolis? Or have I just been here too long, and is it time to go as Samuel Johnson would have it?
Early on in the creative process for trackings Joonas told us a story about Natalie, a busker he had come across at Tottenham Court Road Station. He offered her a green apple, something for her troubles, and the two ended up having a chat, exchanging a moment. Natalie became a character that re-appeared in Joonas‟s performance, and this encounter has developed into a performative act. What is true, what are figments of imagination have now blurred, and real life has entered a performance life. When I first heard the story, I was at once excited about the ro-manticism of it, but at the same time petrified imagining myself in the position. I am certainly more of the averting type. And I couldn‟t help but thinking about the other side of the coin. The suffering artist grateful for a few pennies and a bite of an apple is perhaps somewhat naïve an interpretation in a culture where even street music is controlled by a global lager giant. Buskers go through a process of auditioning during which some business representative selects acts that are “as cool as a pint of Carling”. These fleeting moments of entertainment are nothing as coin-cidental as they might seem. However, when I pass that spot on the underground, I now look for Natalie, imagining her through the stories I have heard about her. Funnily I can‟t remember what her instrument is though.
Trackings is a selection of fragments from Joonas‟s life, and these particular memories and cultural references define the piece for him. The present experience of living in London is strongly documented, and as he walks the city, this young flâneur, he takes pictures, and notes down the everyday. He is a student abroad, a „man about town‟ that is a thousand times larger a city than Helsinki where he is from. He is a tourist, an outsider, a visitor, he is just passing through. Playfully he maps his experiences onto the performance. They are shaped for a show, the texts are written with attention to detail, the materials are considered, and everything is carefully framed. What we see in the studio is a composition made out of the everyday.
It is however the performance of the city itself that spills over into the performance and makes it truly interesting. Each of the elements in the performance has already been a performance outside of it. For Joonas it is the city that performs. It shows him a private view of some extraordinary work, created for those who have the time to stop and look. A piece of rubbish blowing in the wind might stop Joonas for a while to watch it, and begin a series of questions and imaginary answers, the ruminations of a passer-by, momentarily transfixed by the beauty of the most ordinary things. He notices the red front door that might remind him of the childhood piano teacher‟s house, or wonders whether the beggar has travelled to Central London to make his living, and will return to the suburbia at the end of the day. Joonas is interested in the small details that make up the common place, and would like us all to pay more attention.
Even though the winking cars may have been far less subtle than these mundane moments Joonas is dealing with, I am glad I still have a capacity for appreciating it. And even better, I still might not have to deal with strangers face on, but follow the traces they leave behind instead. <<