Urban Attractors, Private Distractors (UAPD)

Urban Attractors, Private Distractors
Psychogeographics of Privacy in East/West Cities


Project Description

This project explores the shared psychodynamics that are involved in group boundaries that identifies what is inside (cultural, spiritual, political) and how it is reflected on the outside (architecture, urban planning, symbols, monuments). Here, psychogeography refers to the inhabitants’ collective psychological representations of place, the influences on those ‘maps’ and the group interaction and dynamics according to this common map.

Privacy boundaries both invisible and within the built environment are examined, categorized and compared between the New York City and Ho Chi Minh City. One study that will be observed is distance regulation in Eastern culture where close proximity of interactions brings much discomfort to the Western individual. Members of a communal society arrange their environment according to their own mental typography. Wide open spaces, austere structures, hidden transport systems do not reflect Vietnamese philosophy (Buddhism, Confucianism), politics (Communism) and values (filial, communal). Hence, the proposal of a radical post-planning Asian urbanism (William Lim). This glocal Asian city includes layers of collective memory (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City) and complex hybridized centers that converge and embraces a quasi-anarchistic approach (Bangkok, Shanghai). Concepts of privacy, which is highly valued in the West, is compromised in the Eastern city with the extreme proximity of public transport, advertising, hawkers to places of residence. This is also noted in the African megacity of Lagos. Rem Koolhaas remarks of Lagos, "Every square foot is claimed by someone--for selling, for washing, even for sleeping--and there is almost no privacy. Many residents sleep outdoors. And what particularly amazes me is how the kinds of infrastructure of modernity in the city trigger off all sorts of unpredictable improvised conditions, so that there is a kind of mutual dependency that I’ve never seen anywhere else." With its massive traffic jams creating instant markets on roads and highways, Lagos is not "a kind of backward situation, but, rather, "an announcement of the future."

The separation of stage (public) and home (private) is broken down into a continuum of semi-public, quasi-private, privacy zones (private attractors), exchange centers (urban attractors). The mobile/global city will have no need for the romantic Roman city with private villa stepping out into intimate alleys leading to a semi-public street up to the public avenue and then onto the stage of the piazza. The megacity necessitates multiple transport systems superior to the individual private automobile. All is exposed. Therefore, how will the American with their philosophical and political values of freedom, individuality, mobility and exploration find privacy (physical, psychological and informational) in public space?

Developmental Time, Cultural Space, Studies in Pscyhogeography, A world of Strangers, Lyn Lofland
Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples, Haime Nakamura, Asian Ethical Urbanism, William Lim


During a 2 month period (March-April 2007) student groups in Ho Chi Minh City and New York City will conduct public action-experiments to observe the current psychogeography and how it reflects the transition from a modern-post-modern place to a new world replete with mobile devices and abstract space. These actions are broken down into 3 categories: ‘Re-mapping Public Attractors’,

‘Boundary Maintenance’ and ‘out/in, off/on’. In ‘Re-mapping Public Attractors’ the group will break into 2’s or 3’s and go on a 1 hour derive. They will take video of symbols in the environment while noting private conduct and places of congregation. With this information they will make a video map using layers of symbols, geography and GPS paths. In Boundary Maintenance the groups will experience situations from their respective collaborators’ city. The New Yorkers will have a meal outdoors on the street on mobile stools and tables. The Vietnamese will place a temporary portable booth and ask passersby if they want a moment of privacy. Each action will be documented with video. ‘out/in, off/on’ uses customize traffic signs whereby performers will mark a space: ‘warning: private distractor’, ‘slow down: semi-private’, ‘merging traffic: urban attractor’, ‘warning: invasion of public’. Perfomers will locate a space that corresponds to their traffic wands and label the place accordingly while another documents with video.

Each group consists of an artist lead (Angie Eng, New York City/ R. Streitmatter-Tran, HCMC) and 6 students. Additional collaborating artists/interns may facilitate the groups. All performers will wear white lab coats labeled with the UAPD patch. They will each carry a clipboard, digital camera and at least 1 video camcorder in each group. GPS devices will be used depending upon the action. Each action is the duration of 1-2 hours. A discussion will take place the following meeting. The group meets eight times. After each action the two groups exchange information and experiences via teleconferencing.

Angie Eng (New York City) and Richard Streitmatter-Tran (Ho Chi Minh City)

HCMC Participants:
Eun-Hye Kim, Nguyen Anh Tu Do Ngoc, Thuy Vuong, Xuan Hao Nguyen, Tung Mai, Chi Mai Phan, Nguyen Thi Mai Anh,Tran Thao Ly, Dang Tran Nguyen Anh, Le Trong Duong,Vo Nguyen Mai Tram 



Project concept by Angie Eng (New York)
with R. Streitmatter-Tran (HCMC)
April 2007

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