Jennie's Project

We say that time passes or flows by. We speak of the course of time. The water that I see rolling by was made ready a few days ago in the mountains, with the melting of the glacier; it is now in front of me and makes its way towards the sea into which it will finally discharge itself. If time is similar to a river, it flows from the past towards the present and the future. The present is the consequence of the past, and the future of the present. But...looking at the things themselves, the melting of the snows and what results are not successive events, or rather the very notion of event has no place in the objective world. When I say that the day before yesterday the glacier produced the water which is passing by at this moment, I am tacitly assuming the existence of a witness tied to a certain spot in the world and I am comparing his [sic] successive views.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty - The Phenomenology of Perception (1962) 

A person's sense of place in the world is most universally expressed through their sense of living and being in spaces. It is something common to us all. Every body occupies and lives in spaces designed by nature, by our predecessors, by our contemporaries and by ourselves - and are understood through our subjective selves. The way in which we perceive lived spaces are most acutely articulated through our individual understandings of home and, as a consequence, belonging to - or occasionally alienation from - the spaces that we spend most time in. 

By asking people to tell their stories and talk about their feelings towards the city of Cardiff a unique map of a population's home is being created. It is a map where no single building or street is the same, as every part of the city is seen through different eyes and understood in relation to individual experiences. Places of no consequence for one person are of monumental significance for another. It is an archive of a place in time, rather than a place in geography. The narratives across three generations of people living and working in Cardiff give a unique opportunity to follow disparate lives along common roads.

The narratives provided by contributors to this work may be providing a 'snapshot' of their lives and of the city of Cardiff, but the way in which Jennie/Savage uses them ensures that they are not transitory accounts; they are neither lost in nostalgia nor fixed in time. By recording and interpreting these stories Jennie/Savage permits us to create our own maps according to others' experiences and opinions. By visiting and revisiting these accounts we constantly refresh our own views of Cardiff, by reflecting on our own constantly changing standpoint in relation to the experiences of others. This is essentially a process of history building, both personal and social. Our personal histories are to a large extent informed by where we live and where we feel we belong, and these feelings are intrinsically linked to our perception of the city, town or village itself. In this case the social history of Cardiff is being compiled through the personal histories of the residents who have contributed memories, thoughts and feelings to this project.

The testimonies, by their compilation alone, are transformed into icons or monuments in the same way that buildings, streets and events are. They are located in the time at which they were constructed and then interpreted and incorporated into the present; other things are built around them, they are destroyed and forgotten or exist in the stories of others. The stories in Jennie/Savages work will be talked about in the same way that the story-tellers themselves are talking about the world, they become a part of the city of Cardiff as much as any physical infrastructure or civic institution.

By allowing other artists to provide representations of some of the narratives elevate them still further into iconic monuments. The interpretation of others' interpretations completes the exercise in subjective abstraction and iconism - and it is fitting that the stories of the (extra) ordinary citizens of Cardiff are recorded, interpreted and celebrated.

From my window overlooking courtyard and gardens, the view and the offer of space is very different. Over the gardens, the differences of habitual rhythms fade; they seem to disappear into a sculptural immobility.

Henri Lefebvre - Writings on Cities (1996)

Ben Fincham is a Sociologist