Third City: Walking on Red and Blue

Thursday 13 May 2010

Third City was an installation for photographs, drawings, maps, printed texts and two simultaneous recordings on a loop. Exhibited at Grey Area Art Space, Melbourne, 1998.

There is the absurd tale of a Spaniard who used a map of Barcelona to find his way around Paris; or of an associate of the situationists who traversed the Harz mountains with a map of London for guidance; or of Robinson’s quest for signs of Parisian cafĂ© culture in the suburbs of London. The UBD street directories used to feature on their covers an aerial photograph of the city in question (Adelaide, Brisbane) overseen by a man on a tightrope, invariably consulting a map of inner Sydney.

From the intersection of the preconceived city found on the map and the experienced city found on the ground, a third city results that can be found only in the mind – a discernible form rising out of the collision of images.

Such a city may be conjectured from the fragments assembled here, according to a plan drawn from a conflation of two cities. On a map of Adelaide (where I grew up) I marked sixty-four points in the city that had some personal significance to me, and mapped out the different psychogeographic ‘zones’ that I felt held sway over my movements about town. These points and lines were then transferred onto a map of Melbourne’s central grid, creating a plan that would determine most aspects of the eventual installation.

Certain points on this plan were selected by chance to be written about (referring to Adelaide), other points were photographed (in their transposed Melbourne locations), and maps were drawn from memory connecting points in different zones of Adelaide. Sounds recorded in central Melbourne were treated electronically, using the plan as a musical score, measuring selected points against the grid to determine the varying attributes to be given each sound.

The plan was then used to assemble these divergent images of cities, measuring corresponding points on the grid to determine the placement of sounds in time, the maps and texts in the space of their pages, and the placement of all the articles on the three available walls.

Walking the City on Red and Blue

In 1997 I walked two circuits around central Melbourne, visiting sites represented on postcards. An audio recording was made of each walk, with distance measured by aurally marking each red object passed on one walk (left channel) and blue objects on the other. This became the material to be electronically treated, according to the score generated using the Third City map. Two tapes were created, which played simultaneously on loops for the duration of the installation. The tapes were of different lengths and interspersed silences with periodic bursts of treated and untreated city sounds, in varying overlapping patterns.

A few years later I made a new mix of the tapes for the Hearing Place Audiotheque, which combined sounds from both the original, untreated tapes and the processed sounds, to make a composite sound portrait of walking the city.