point, The Residency:
his book, Invisible cities Italo Calvino expresses the idea
of multiplicity in the city, a place within which a 1000 cities exist.
This idea challenges the perceived notion of the city as one physical,
geographical area, suggesting instead that the city lives within the
individual as a perceived space. Onto this space each person projects
memory or plays out their lives. The physical city could, therefore
be seen as a backdrop or stage set to those who live within it. Conversely
it is also perceived by those who have never visited, imagined through
fragments of information or even the sound of the word.
The "Anecdotal Cardiff" archive was constructed over 6 months
at Cardiff Central Library. As a site the library bore a specific relationship
to archiving and the re-publication of information, issues central to
my working process. The library, as a situation was chosen because it
is a site open to everyone and used by a non-specific Public, I hoped
that this would attract a genuine cross section of Cardiffians. Using
noticeboards at the library and regular articles in the South Wales
Echo I invited people to come and talk to me about Cardiff as they remember
it. As people came in to take part I transcribed the interviews and
put them back up on the noticeboards, illustrating each interview with
Polaroids and photos from the library archive. This part
of the process served to disseminate information and allow people a
window onto the project. It also acted as a conduit for participation.
In most cases I did not target specific participants. People contacted
me and arranged tocome in to be interviewed either because a story on
the noticeboard jogged their memory, they had picked up a flier or had
seen an article in the Echo.
The interviews were not directed, they were more of an informal conversation
about life in Cardiff. My initial question would be "So how Long
have you lived in Cardiff?" from that point on I would refer only
to information that had already been given to me, going back for expansion
on specific points. Often, after the initial question people needed
no further direction. This process of interviewing did not seek to be
objective or hold historical value, instead it could be seen as a documented
conversation on a specific issue.
During the transcription process I sought to transcribe actual language.
It is however possible to see the development of my own transcribing
skills from the first transcription, which was not that accurate, through
to later interviews where it is almost word perfect. After each interview
had been transcribed it was edited into anecdotes referring
to specific moments in the city. My primary aim was to achieve the essence
of the anecdote or story- to enact the feeling I had when speaking to
participants. These moments could be termed sublime or a moment of truth,
in that both teller and audience were engaged in activity of imagining
something outside of that specific time and place and beyond the tangible.
The sound and transcriptions document this event but fail to fully translate
that feeling. However having been told a story I frequently found myself
recounting these moments to friends, describing what I had been told.
This Chinese whispers" effect means that the moment of truth
will be re-enacted through the re-telling or remembering of the story.
After 6 months at the library I had interviewed over 60 people. Having
amassed this much data I took on the role of archivist. As with the
interviews I wanted the data to define the archive, the material itself
to title thecategories and headingsI
did not seek to be objective in my selection of headings, my only rule
being that the heading came from repeated subjects within the text.
Initially I thought this was somehow anti- the idea of the archive.
In its purest sense maybe it is, however I soon realised this is how
many archives actually evolve. This process could therefore be seen
as a microcosm for the actual archiving process.
All this data then had to be processed to end up in an electronic form.
Working in this way mimicked the factory style data entry that is modern
At the end of the process this mass of memories has become an accessible
source of information that is neither truth in the academic
sense or pure fiction. Each person who told their story did so in good
faith, they recounted their truth, their version of the real. Through
the re- presentation of this information we can get a sense of a multitudinal
city, an infinite stream of consciousness, an idea of a place.
Through taking part the participants have become iconic voices, idiosyncratic
reference points, concrete markers in the city.