What is the relation between people and place? How do people turn space into a (lived, livable) place? Does not place emerge out of swirling trajectories that sediment into layered spaces of travel and dwelling, arrivals and departures, entrances and exits, encounters and separations, which unevenly criss-cross our built and virtual environments in both visible and subterranean ways?
Toronto’s diversity is frequently celebrated as an exemplary case of multicultural coexistence, made immediately visible by the ethnic differentiation of neighbourhoods, and a vibrant and diverse cultural scene. Settling above indigenous strata of pre-urban environments that persistently echo in street names and buried creeks, different immigration flows have historically shaped the city’s appearance, leaving ephemeral traces of the comings and goings, of the conflicts and settlements, of always arriving newcomers.
With this project, we want to unfold traces of history lost to public perception and reflect on the flows that keep forming and un-forming the city’s historical layers, by offering an open platform upon which people can explore how they perceive and make sense of the city in all its complexity. How do different spaces within the urban grid mark people’s experience? How does the city’s physical configuration carry the marks of people’s affective geographies of place? Indeed place is different from space, and building a sense of place for a people in search of space requires a multiplicity of social relations capable of helping turn space into place in important ways.
We want to ask questions about the moving bodies of city dwellers whose experience of the city always comes from somewhere else. Migrant, displaced, temporary travelers or else, our making place in the space of the city requires that we constantly negotiate our own precarious condition in it; that we make sense of our being always here and somewhere else at the same time; that we ask why or when we need to wear, or shed, our cultural masks; and that we figure out, for ourselves and others, how to tell our personal and often well-hidden stories.
Transitions in Progress aims to bring together the voices and faces of people from different walks of life and worlds in a multilingual polyphony of stories and conversations that perform the extremely local and the completely foreign within the turn of a sentence, or gesture, or drawing, or…
This itinerant and interactive project is conceived as a portable media-lab that can be set-up quickly across the city in different symbolic spaces of transit and of gathering such as subway stations, public parks, squares and malls, where people assemble intentionally or inadvertently for purposes of work, consumption, entertainment. The mobile lab will be set up as an enclosed space with multiple entry points. Inside it, participants will find a range of archival images, artefacts and texts originating from the City of Toronto Archive that are specific to the place where the installation is set. They will also be presented with a few input questions asking about their personal experience of the place itself. Once inside, participants will be able to record and share their stories and experiences of the space using iPads provided therein. A mobile app will also allow participants to engage in multidirectional and simultaneous conversations, and to feed them on the internet via direct streaming. Each iteration of the installation will carry the traces of the previous sites, thus providing a fertile ground of sedimentation and further transformation.
In the end we envision building online a stratified, living and constantly evolving virtual map of the city as a space of shared and distributed flows of affective interactions whose simultaneously local and transnational dimensions also help surface and honour imperceptible, and frequently difficult, histories of “making place out of space.”