The Others – Rasha Shehata

The Others, a name that I have chosen to represent non human presence in the city. During my city walk, I did not feel a strong human presence, if any. I felt a strong non human presence that took over the city space.


Birds, plants, cars, bikes, and buildings, they all seemed to be in control of the city. They handle the city with grace and confidence. They own the city. Meanwhile, human existence felt weak to me. Humans in the city are weakened by their daily struggles and demands. To me, on humans are the aboriginals of the city. Humans seemed to me like secondary residents, extras, who are working hard to fit in and keep up. While wild animals and birds are the owners of land, buildings, cars and bikes are the settlers who, by time, became part of the city. They have developed ownership and status over time. They co-exist in harmony with the living non humans.

Trying to apply a theory, transfer a feeling and create a place that touched me, all in a small box, seemed like an impossible job at the beginning. I did dioramas before, but they were very specific. This one was different, it had more meaning than just a miniature theatre. I had all the city to chose from. I noticed many things and liked a few of them to be in my box. Once I was able to chose which part of the city was going to be in my box, another dilemma started. I knew it is not just a maquette of my favourite street, building or wall. It has a lot more to it than just that. How am I going to present an impression in a shoebox? Thousands of people see my sight everyday. How am I gonna give them the feeling It gave me? How am I gonna show how I felt in the box? what material shall I use? Gradually and with your help, ideas started to flow.

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I have intended for my shoebox installation to reflect the classist city. The city contains both higher and lower classes of non humans. They exist side by side. The multiple square silver and glass buildings in the box reflected the industrial side of the city, that appears to be glamorous. The graffiti, obviously represented a lower class of buildings and the racoon a lower class of living non humans.

I intended for my shoebox installation to show the prevalence of non humans. The blue jay is disproportionate because birds seemed to be the most present to me. That is why it is placed in the centre of the box. My site was the intersection at Union station, where birds were taking over, with humans compromising the space for them. Also, during my tour, and in the very site where my cover picture was taken, a game has just finished and a lot of cheering was going on. The cheering noise was part of my audio production. The perspective that I created was to make space for the spectator to roam inside and to take his/her time to observe the details: the bike, the huge flower, the bright shiny windows and the plants. The human arm is a manifestation of the human existence that I can’t just ignore. The hand is trapped a window, entangled in plants and locked within the industrial/glamorous side of the city. ti glamour isn’t necessarily struggle free, on the contrary. The arm represents the weak/incomplete human existence. The human struggle to just exist and the hardship they face along the way. On the other side, gravity and the racoon reflect the contrasting classes among buildings (a prominent non human inhabitant) and animals (the racoon). While the blue jay is well accepted within the city since it is a cheerful representation, the racoon is not. It is dark, dirty, sneaky and defiant.

As for my shoe, it is similar to an aboriginal shoe (inspired by the ones that I have seen in the Bata museum) covered with feathers to represent the most prevalent non human existence, that of birds. It is a reflection of my thought of the birds being the aboriginal inhabitants of the city. The glitter is a representation of modern glamour. I wanted to present the way contrasting elements are blending in a totally acceptable manner. To find out that what I thought was a very personal passion is actually something, a theory, was an accomplishment in itself.

This course was a very unique experience for me on many levels. First of all, it was a a great way to bridge the theoretical side of the program with the practical side. Personally, I have always done practice. I did a lot of field work in production. I have been practicing it for many years. When I joined the program, I found it challenging, to an extent, to handle the amount of theoretical work involved. This course helped put things in place for me. It helped me translate theoretical material into a practical language that I could relate to/understand. Thus, things started making more sense to me. What I loved more about the course is that it offered me a unique experience. It was not like other practical courses where you learn or apply practical skill. It was very intriguing because, as much as it was practical, it was equally theoretical. Having to show that we did learn in a very different way than we used to in theoretical courses was very stimulating.

The project was not just another diorama or maquette, where you create a miniature set. It was more of a practical research. I had to read, observe, collect data, research, chose a methodology and make a point out of my journey. The only difference is that it was not on paper, it was executed using material that produced an experience for the audience.

Secondly, walking the city after discussing the course readings was a very unique experience. Since I am new to the theories we had to read about (flaneurism, and space theory), I started seeing the city differently and feeling it differently. One thing I noticed is that my findings, or remarks, out of my city walk did not end there. Ideas and feelings kept coming to my head at home, in the carp-shop, and while driving. The experience was ongoing. Since then, the way I see the city has been developed into a more deep observational experience.

Finally, the readings. I was intrigued and stimulated by all the readings. I have not studied Flaneurism before. When I went through the readings, I discovered that Flaneurism is something that I have been doing, at least in some ways, and enjoying. I was impressed and proud to realize that this was something serious, not just wasting time. I would often go to places, and perform some flaneur activities, if we can describe them as such.

I enjoyed Walter Benjamin’s “The Flaneur” the most, for the above reasons. It put a lot of things I have been practicing and observing in place. It defined what would be described as a waste of time into a theory. I have also enjoyed “The Invisible Flaneur” because of the very realistic feminist approach. The order of work was very organized and helped me to learn, observe and apply in a convenient time frame. One great thing about this course was that it was a very interesting and continuing learning process.

The Discussions:

They were done in a very interesting manner that helped me shape my views and understanding of the readings while we discussed them. Listening to my colleagues and instructors brought my attention to various things that I might have missed while reading the course material. The board display was very helpful in linking all the points in all the readings on one big visual.

The City Walks:

Although I was not sure at this point how I am supposed to make my box, I knew very well what I am supposed to do each time we went around the city. Starting by separating sound, sight, smell and touch was such a simple way to get us started. Going together in groups of two to get lost was very reassuring and amusing. We had a chance to get to know each other and become part of one team. Being independent and separate at the same time was a good way to build a supportive relationship that went on through out the course.

I started my walk trying to search for certain things that would inspire me. This was very tiring. When I listened to Stephen’s tip of allowing the sites to call you, rather that trying to call them was a turning point in my progress. Once I stopped searching for a sight, I started being called by a few of them. I was attracted to sites that I never had in mind, to concepts that I have never contemplated. Taking the time to do the turtle walk allowed me to experience many details, textures, colors, smells. It allowed me to communicate to the city differently.

The Carp Shop:

At the carp shop The confusion started. I had a few sited that I was interested in. I had a bunch of good photos, some material, but I had no idea which to chose. Putting reflection, material, theory and A/V together in a small box, to create a production (that would hopefully make sense to the audience) seemed hard to start. Once I started shaping my first cardboard sheet, it all came into place. I immediately knew what I wanted to do. Having all three instructors there for me to support and guide me was a great plus. By the third day, we have all become experts and started guiding and supporting one another. This spread confidence and team spirit among us, I felt.

The Show:

The show was the less stressful phase to me. I was back into observational mode. feeling sure that my box was in safe hands back there, I had fun doing some ushering to the audience. Observing how they took the whole concept and how they got sucked into watching many boxes, instead of just one, made me realized that we accomplished. I enjoyed observing the audience,their choices, their reactions and their differences. Some would take a minute to watch the box. Another would take a long time looking through the whole. Some would just ask for different boxes to watch, while others would be keen on viewing specific boxes.I did not worry the least that they might not get my concept. As long as I had one, they sure will make something out of it, some concept of their own. A result of their own personal experience/reflections on the city.


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