January 23rd, 2008


There's more in 8 street minutes than 80 movies

1. Andy Warhol's biggest unfulfilled ambition was to have a TV show called "Nothing Special". It would just be a camera pointing at a street corner or something, he said. Nothing is so special!

2. There's a theatre company in Germany called Rimini Protokoll who think actors are boring. Instead, they build spectacles around what they call "experts in everyday life": ordinary working people. They don't like to call them amateurs, they're just professional in something other than acting. So far they've built productions around a failed German mayor, a Calcutta call centre worker, a Bulgarian lorry driver. "By allowing everyone to stand on stage as themselves and contribute something of substance as an expert, the Rimini Project takes on the character of a social experiment, a social utopia, a theatre in which every individual is interesting and valuable in their own way," said Theater Heute magazine.

3. Recursive circle alert: if ordinary is the new special, then special is the new ordinary, which is therefore the new special, so we're back where we started, and special is the new special.

4. "There are more truths in twenty-four hours of a man's life than in all the philosophies." The Revolution of Everyday Life, Raoul Vaneigem. "From now on the analysts are in the streets."

5. "Everyday life invents itself by poaching in countless ways on the property of others". Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life.

6. These two pieces of French theory have been plundered by the art world recently. They may well have been behind "Lovely Greetings", Erik van Lieshout's installation in the 2006 Berlin Biennial, a shipping container parked on Auguststrasse showing a video in which Lieshout gets to know Germany by bicycle. "He criticises a man on the street who appears to be out of work and yet owns an iPod; he gets beaten up; he worries about his pee being yellow."

7. Gorgeous Indian Girls: Nameless Beauty is a rather wonderful "nothing special" sort of blog about Indian women glimpsed on the street and in public transport. "Gorgeous Indian girls and ladies pictures which are not aware about the camera and really have an Indian look." The understated, normal and badly-photographed women are somehow more exciting to look at than carefully-made-up, fully frontal Bollywood celebrities.

8. My favourite YouTube channel is Hitodori: People in the Town. "Here is collection of videos taken from cities around the world. I record video on the street to see the people of the town," says its Japanese creator, who has assembled 366 fixed-camera "visual field recordings" of people passing on the street. Each recording lasts about eight minutes. I find them completely absorbing. Some are shot in my favourite people-watching spots, like this one at the entrance to Daikanyama Station:

"Atmosphere of towns are affected by people," the filmmaker explains. "To record the atmsphere, I focus on people, not building and landscape. By these videos you can try... marketing reserch... to feel traveling a lot of cities... human watch to kill time... to recover your lonelyness heart... to get used to rush hour." I'd add: to play guessing games with your partner, to study the relative smileyness, fatness or wealth of people in various countries, to check pretty girls, to admire traditional costumes and condemn baseball caps and boring black jackets.

Although this man has been all over the world with his camera (the tapes show Bahrain, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK and US), he doesn't think they're anything special: "Attention: These are boring... just videotaped on the street and upload them... no editing and no story... they are different from TV program and movie that have a lot of interesting scene and exciting scene. Please understand they are just record, not entertainment."