Conor McGarrigle is an artist and researcher working at the intersection of digital networks and real space. Coming from a background in net art his work is concerned with the ways that digital networks are entangled in all aspects of everyday life. This practice is focused on approaches that reframe, reimagine and resist pervasive technical systems creating new understandings of the action of networks in the contemporary city.
“The Flaneur in the Smart City” – A Talk
The flaneur as a concept originates from the birth of modernity, drifting through the urban crowd, strolling through the arcades as a detached yet astute observer, part of the crowd but also aloof from it. The historical figure of the flaneur is seen through Benjamin’s reading as the quintessential figure of modernity who perhaps alone fully understands the emerging modern city and its repercussions. Flanerie served to make the city legible through a close attention to the rhythms, patterns and usage of the city, and in certain readings is seen as a figure of resistance to the “work-a-day pressure of the punch-clock” (Shields) resisting the commodification of urban space and celebrating the city as lived space (Harvey).
Conor McGarrigle will talk about the Flaneur in the smart city, where infrastructural processes are governed, and urban space produced, by code-based processes. The widespread deployment of networked location-aware technologies such as smart phones interacting with often global software platforms not only enable a range of new spatial practices but also render the very act of walking in the city as data. As the city becomes increasingly described through data most, if not all, activities leave a data trail. This calls for new approaches to scrutinise and reflect on the nature and function of these urban spaces, for while the 19th century city of the flaneur and today’s city present radically different scenarios they share a moment of and perhaps the figure of the flaneur still has something to offer in this analysis.
“Directions” – A Participatory Walk
The Directions is a new walking project based on ideas of the Situationist psychogeographical derive and Fluxus instructional works. For the Directions I take as a starting point the pre-Google maps and location-aware situation of navigating an unknown city and asking for directions.
“Walking West” – A Video Work
Walking West is a video documenting the entirety of a durational walking art action, Walking West, that took place in Denver Colorado in 2014. For Walking West I walked Colfax Ave, at 26 miles (42km) the longest continuous street in the US, once dubbed the “longest, wickedest street in America” by Playboy magazine. As I walked I physically drew a line, while a GPS device simultaneously traced a virtual digital line along the route, the action was also captured from space by a commissioned satellite photograph. The project sought to inscribe the virtual on the physical as it combined the physical act of walking with the ephemeral digital traces of its GPS track and the invisible actions of a satellite 400-miles above capturing the scene, thus placing the act of flanerie within a digitally mediated and surveillance infrastructure without which we cannot consider the meaning of the flaneur in the contemporary city.