non-place a personal exploration aimed at initiating discussions
myrna dâ€™ambrosio & fanny wacklin nilsson
“ If a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place. ” Marc Augé, ‘Non-Places, Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity’1995 (Augé is a French anthropologist who coined the word non-place in the mid-nineties).
non-place When we first approached ‘non-place’ as a theme to research and explore, no clear definition came to mind. We looked at the concept by focusing only on the two components and tried defining a literal meaning. An environment which is all around us but we don’t interact with it. Most of the time we might not even notice its existence. We all walk past a non-place, we might walk through it, near it. But we do not really consider it in any way. We started visiting different environments around Bristol that for us represent non-places. Over the duration of a week, we documented them by taking photographs, mapping, sketching, writing down our emotional and physical reaction, and by interviewing people around us. This last point was a really interesting experience as it allowed us to interact with people of different ages and backgrounds. By asking them questions we managed to set off insightful debates, which broadened our understanding of a non-place and sparked new ideas. Thanks to this varied research our conception of a non-place started to take shape. One question we posed to the people we interviewed was to describe the non-place they were in with one word. By taking all the words we have come across we made a selection of the ones that to us best described what a non-place is. These are:
CONVENIENT ADEQUATE ACCESSIBLE PRACTICAL GENERIC EASY TRANSIT LONELY EMPTY FAMILIAR UNEXCITING RELIABLE SERVES THE PURPOSE WELL SOULLESS USEFUL FORGOTTEN DECAY DEMOLISHED ABANDONED MELANCHOLY
A non-place is something that can take you from one spot to another and never represents the final destination. Walking around looking out for them was for both of us like a disruption from an ordinary routine. We were noticing spots around town we would normally ignore: we identified alleyways, car parks, contained spaces that were completely isolated from the rest of their surroundings. All of these seemed to fit in the definition of non-place. However walking around trying to identify non-places seemed like a contradiction. Since they ARE non-places, giving them a name and a location took away the whole concept of them being an environment which is deprived of an identity and that people do not acknowledge. We found that the only way of expressing our idea of a non-place is to show photographs of environments that you would not be able to place anywhere specific. They could be anywhere and everywhere. For this reason we have chosen not to include any captions or descriptions with our photographs. This way it is impossible to know where each of these non-places are located. Nevertheless they still look familiar because in reality they could be found anywhere around the world.
â€œ In contrast to traditional places, where orientation and belonging are based on sedentary and localized inhabitation, non-places are designed to be experienced by transitory and mobile shoppers, commuters, corporate nomads, tourists, itinerants, migrants, and virtual workers.â€? www.design21.dundee.ac.uk
non-place a publication designed and printed in bristol