There is a discontinuity between me as spectator-traveller and the space of the landscape I journey through that stops me seeing sites as places or from being fully present in them, even when I try tactics to bridge the gap.
I’ve surveyed my entire journey and am now focusing on seven places that feel important. I don’t know the names of these places, their purpose, or even precisely where they are. I could find out but I don’t want to – it seems irrelevant. Failing to name them has some benefit; it blocks the law of the ‘Other’ from gaining entry, impeding their drift towards non-place. I feel them as a kind of abstraction; a construction largely of my own imagination to be recorded, documented, captured, and visually explored.
Rather than making a film of the journey as a whole, I’m going to focus on a site at a time, using each to explore different characteristics of film, image or the mobile phone camera.
The train creates dual movement – the physical momentum of my own body during the journey and also the parallel motion of the landscape rushing past. I catch views in partial glimpses – a series of snapshots piled hurriedly into my memory – which are re-composed in the account I later give of them. Augé suggests such re-telling tends to lean towards ‘prophetic evocations of spaces in which neither identity, nor relations, nor history really make any sense; spaces in which solitude is experienced as an overburdening or emptying of individuality, in which only the movement of the fleeting images enables the observer to hypothesize the existence of a past and glimpse the possibility of a future.’
I am confronted with a landscape I ‘ought to contemplate, cannot avoid contemplating’ and I derive ‘a rare and sometimes melancholy pleasure’ from my awareness of this responsibility.
The train is an ideal vantage point from which to see. It offers movement but maintains distance – separation. The landscape vanishes; ‘soon it is only a shadow, a rumour, a noise. This abolition of place is also the consummation of the journey, the traveller’s last pose’.
Reference: Marc Augé, Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity, trans. by John Howe, 2nd ed., (London: Verso, 2008 [Non-Lieux, Introduction a une anthropologie de la surmodernite, 1992]). 1st ed. published 1995, pp.68:72, p.77