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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, July 21, 2007
    Thoughtless Acts

    This is a screenshot from Thoughtless Acts, a project by designer Jane Fulton Suri, which I discovered via an excellent article at Core77 in which Kevin Henry compares and contrasts Fulton Suri's mapping of everyday minutae with the approach of artist Richard Wentworth to the same task.

    Wentworth's Making Do and Getting By is an ongoing series of photographs illustrating the tiny details of everyday environments in a way which raises the viewers awareness of them, and of how we humans interact with them. His actual everyday environment is the Caledonian Road, a messy urban corridor heading north out of King's Cross, a road I've walked many times and which Wentworth describes as An Area of Outstanding Unnatural Beauty.

    Wentworth takes the inspiration from his daily walks along The Cally into his work as a sculptor. An interview at the time of his Liverpool Tate retrospective noted that:
    "Street litter may cause distaste in most of us but Wentworth finds these sights constantly illuminating about the way man is changing his environment. Typically, he points out that a folded cigarette packet beneath a wobbly table leg is more monumental than a Henry Moore sculpture. 'There are five reasons for this, firstly the scale. Secondly, the fingertip manipulation. Thirdly, modesty of both gesture and material. Fourth its absurdity and fifth, the fact that it works.'"
    Fulton Suri organises the various ways in which we subconsciously engage with the world into seven suggested categories: reacting?, responding?, co-opting? exploiting?, adapting?, conforming? and signalling? and the website accessibly details what she means by each of these (as above).

    All of this endeavour to illuminate the quotidian leads Kevin Henry to speculate on
    the way that photography has 'been used by social scientists, designers, and artists to document minutia since the medium began.'
    [Photography] instantaneously captures a slice of life for later examination which, as Susan Sontag wrote, "thickens the environment we recognize as modern."
    This got me thinking just how much of the material which has helped me to deepen my understanding of the mundane, quotidian, everyday, has been photographic: Martin Parr, The Caravan Gallery, etc; and filmic: Keiller, Kotting etc.

    And Henry encourages reflection on the significance of social networking sites like Flickr and MySpace - 'repositories for all these quotidian images'. Seems that more of us than we'd imagined are reading the everyday, indulging in monitoring and promoting our personal Thoughtless Acts, and quite possibly becoming increasingly open to the idea of encountering Heaven in Ordinary.