Notes on My Practice/ What's Wrong with the Hidden City Project?

Walking around the work, walking from side to side and looking up and down, left and right produces different perspectives and points of view. Looking activates the work, revealing new aspects of the possible.

What’s wrong with the Hidden City Project?

I have been making notes and thinking about this project for almost twenty years. And yet I haven’t made a single work to do with it. Why is that?

Perhaps one aspect of the HC project that disturbs me is that it requires me to take on a ‘voice’ that is not my own, to play the part of an unreliable narrator. This narrator sees things that do not exist, and pulls them together to form a false narrative, a delusional account of an otherwise innocent situation.

In this way, it verges on the parodic, specifically a parody of suspicion and conspiracy theory. What I do not want to do is present something that is not in my voice, i.e. not something that I really believe. I am not currently interested in creating an alternative artistic persona. This tactic, of using someone else, however fictitious, tom put forward interesting ideas, is something that has been extremely useful and popular in the arts – Rrose Selavy, Frank Sidebottom, Lewis Carroll – all fictitious creations of their makers’ fertile imaginations. One might argue that Lewis Carroll is just a pseudonym, a pen name. But while Charles Dodgson’s world was mathematics, Carroll allowed him to inhabit the imagination.

In order for me to continue with this project, if at all, I think I’ll need to change the works to reflect a more nuanced idea of what I’m presenting. Perhaps the authorial voice will be more circumspect, more ambivalent.

Ambivalence is an interesting position to take in art – and maybe even in other spheres of life as well. It suggests a hand in both sides of an argument, yet not committed to either. It suggests an independent position, not one of hesitancy or vacillation, but of a sufficient sympathy to exist for both sides, with a reluctance to having to commit to one side or the other.

I find myself ambivalent about a great many things in life, especially those I have no choice over. I don’t like having to come down on somebody else’s side. I don’t like the pressure. With the works I envisaged for this project, a misunderstanding or misreading is central to the reason the works exist (as yet in my mind). Thinking about it now, maybe my ambivalence has something to do with having to make the works in order for them to exist for everyone else. After all, they already ‘exist’, somehow, for me, and have done so for quite a while.

Or maybe it’s much simpler. They haven’t been made because the idea hasn’t merited further exploration. My ambivalence is actually more of a rejection of action. Maybe that too is a misreading. Before I fall further into a self-inflicted conceptual rabbit hole, I should think about what it is that attracts me to the idea of a city just beyond the liminal space of our imaginations, just outside our reach, unknown, yet hinted at by the ordered chaos that surrounds us.

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