Love Assignment #4: Find beauty in the city

This assignment comes from Anna Francis, who runs and manages there is beauty in the city on the project blog.

You too can take part in ‘there is beauty in the city’ by visiting the blog and writing to Anna. Alternatively, you can pick up a magnet pack from the Love Is Awesome exhibition, as Anna has kindly sent me some to distribute amongst visitors who wish to undertake art assignments themselves.

The project is on the surface quite simple; you take a small magnet and attach it to any surface you can in your city, near a location or object that you determine to be ‘beautiful.’ In the words on the magnet pack;

All you need to do to join the project is identify your ‘beauty spot’ and find a magnetic surface nearby. Place the magnet contained in this pack on the surface, take a photograph of the magnet ‘in situ’ and send it to us with your name and where the photo was taken.

The project could easily be (mis)interpreted as an effort to simply collect and label images of ‘pretty’ urban spaces and indeed if the project was to be undertaken by just one person or one individual, this idea of ‘beauty’ could become very problematic.

As it is, the fact that many people’s views on ‘beauty’ are included in the project makes for a very interesting end result. Although ‘there is beauty in the city’ reads rather like a statement, the processes of photographing the phrase in situ and determining which areas to include, are quite inconclusive and questioning in nature. Additionally, the fact that many different people are working with this phrase on their own terms means that the idea of there being beauty in the city is open to a wide variety of interpretations, which makes it hard for ‘beauty in the city’ to become a fixed idea. In this project the meaning of what we find ‘beautiful’ becomes an open question, which we – as participants in this idea – have the opportunity to answer for ourselves.

I think it is important to see the phrase ‘there is beauty in the city’ as essentially a starting point or tool for interacting differently with ones’ environment. As urban flaneur, one always has the freedom to notice and consider the city on one’s own terms, but I like the specific opportunity to curate a series of images or snapshots of ‘beautiful’ areas in the city that ‘there is beauty in the city’ provides.

As has been noted recently by Kate, the process of walking does bring us into close contact with our environment, giving us a greater sense of its peculiarities, nature, surfaces, textures and character. Bringing a magnet and a camera with me on those walks that are part of my urban life in Reading, is just one means by which I can record – and share my views on – the often unnoticed places that I see along the way.

So the first submission I made to ‘there is beauty in the city’ involved the cow painting that I also noted during my Reading: An Open Gallery experiment. The appeal of the painting is perhaps better understood than the appeal of my second submission, which is an image of these pipes near the canal that I now walk along in order to reach the city centre. I love these pipes because they make an absolutely amazing sound, which is simultaneously musical and industrial in nature. I would love to know what happens inside the pipes; they make intriiguing listening.

My final submission for today re: there is beauty in the city concerns the flotilla of swans that I recorded yesterday using my Edirol. These are the notes that I included with my submission to the project; you can hear the swans below.

The swans live on the canal which I walk along to reach town. They have a tendency to flock in large numbers and I find the sound of them splashing in the water and the spectacle of them jostling one another very beautiful. Sometimes they float gracefully down the canal; at other points they appear to bicker and squabble and bother one another. I love to see them.

8 Responses to Love Assignment #4: Find beauty in the city

  1. Liz T. says:

    Hi Felix,

    I’m getting a message that the “photo is currently unavailable” for the images above. You might have too high a privacy set on them.

    Cheers

    Liz

  2. Felix says:

    Very strange… it displays fine on my PC and the privacy setting is totally public? I had huge issues with flickr yesterday though; wonder if its because I had to email the images to flickr in the end?

    Is everyone getting the same message?

  3. Stephanella says:

    Same here Felix, I cannot see the pics and I am trying on two different computers, a Mac and a PC.

  4. Felix says:

    hmmm… I tried out a few things. Hopefully now it works?

  5. Stephanella says:

    Yes it does! I want a magnet too!

  6. jeannette says:

    oh! i’m going to do the beauty in the city here in d.c. tomorrow. it’s freezing, but i will do it.

  7. alun says:

    Oooh lovely – I wonder if they’re the very same swans as …
    http://www.alunward.co.uk/marathon/2009/02/07/guess-the-bird-competition/
    (if this link comes out?)

  8. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Blog Archive » Audible Fields

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