In his book, 'Invisible cities' Italo Calvino expresses the idea of multiplicity in the city, a place within which a 1000 cities exist. This idea challenges the perceived notion of the city as one physical, geographical area, suggesting instead that the city lives within the individual as a perceived space. Onto this space each person projects memory or plays out their lives. The physical city could, therefore be seen as a backdrop or stage set to those who live within it. Conversely it is also perceived by those who have never visited, imagined through fragments of information or even the sound of the word.
The "Anecdotal Cardiff" archive was constructed over 6 months at Cardiff Central Library. As a site the library bore a specific relationship to archiving and the re-publication of information, issues central to my working
process. The library, as a situation was chosen because it is a site open to everyone and used by a
non-specific Public, I hoped that this would attract a genuine cross section of
Cardiffians. Using noticeboards at the library and regular articles in the South Wales Echo I invited
people to come and talk to me about Cardiff as they remember it. As people came in to
take part I transcribed the interviews and put them back up on the noticeboards, illustrating
each interview with Polaroid's and photo's from the library archive. This part of the process
served to disseminate information and allow people a window onto the project. It also
acted as a conduit for participation.
In most cases I did not target specific participants. People contacted me and
arranged to come in to be interviewed either because a story on the noticeboard jogged
their memory, they had picked up a flier or had seen an article in the Echo.
The interviews were not directed, they were more of an informal conversation about life in Cardiff. My initial question would be "So how Long have you lived in Cardiff?" from that point on I would refer only to information that had
already been given to me, going back for expansion on specific points. Often, after the initial question people needed no further direction. This process of interviewing did not seek to be objective or hold historical value, instead it could be seen as a documented conversation on a specific issue.
During the transcription process I sought to transcribe actual language. It is however possible to see the development of my own transcribing skills from the first transcription, which was not that accurate, through to later interviews where it is almost word perfect. After each interview had been transcribed it was edited into 'anecdotes' referring to specific moments in the city. My primary aim was to achieve the essence of the anecdote or story- to enact the feeling I had when speaking to participants. These moments could be termed sublime or a moment of truth, in that both teller and audience were engaged in activity of imagining something outside of that specific time and place and beyond the tangible.The sound and transcriptions document this event but fail to fully translate that feeling. However having been told a story I frequently found myself recounting these moments to friends, describing what I had been told. This 'Chinese whispers" effect means that the moment of truth will be re-enacted through the re-telling or remembering of the story.
Constructing the Archive:
After 6 months at the library I had interviewed over 60 people. Having amassed this much data I took on the role of archivist. As with the interviews I wanted the data to define the archive, the material itself to title the
categories and headings.
I did not seek to be objective in my selection
of headings, my only rule being that the heading came from repeated
subjects within the text. Initially I thought this was somehow anti- the
idea of the archive. In its purest sense maybe it is, however I soon
realised this is how many archives actually evolve. This process could
therefore be seen as a microcosm for the actual archiving process.
All this data then had to be processed to end up in an electronic form.
Working in this way mimicked the factory style data entry that is modern
taking part the participants have become iconic voices, idiosyncratic
reference points, concrete markers in the city.
At the end of the process this mass of memories has become an accessible
source of information that is neither ‘truth’ in the academic sense
or pure fiction. Each person who told their story did so in good faith,
they recounted their truth, their version of the real. Through the re-
presentation of this information we can get a sense of a multitudinal
city, an infinite stream of consciousness, an idea of a place.