Monday, November 03, 2014

The Art of the Flâneur

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;

These opening lines from T S Eliot’s best known poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock set the scene for this dramatic monologue about London’s literary scene in the early years of the 20th Century through which he walked as a flâneur. An American outsider recently arrived from Paris (the spiritual home of the flâneur) Eliot laments that the English are like a corpse still breathing in this internal dialogue that is unable to extract him from his detachment as an isolated voyeur.

 The invention of the hand held camera and the flâneur’s detachment enabled street photography to flourish in the latter part of the last century. From Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” to Gary Winogrand’s New York photographs the non participatory observer became the hall mark of the genre. Winogrand’s detachment was such that he would leave the developing of his film for years. “You make better choices if you approach your contact sheets cold, separating the editing from the picture taking as much as possible." 

In January of next year New York multidisciplinary artist Brett Day Windham will embark on her Georgia Fee Artist/Writer Residency in Paris. About her residency Windham says “One important reference for the project is the rich history of the flâneur, the leisurely strolling dandy, as a "modern" late 19th century citizen.”

During her residency Windham says she will be embarking on a series of daily walks through Paris. Some of the walks will be solitary. Other walks will be collaborative with another artist, writer, musician or critic. Found objects will be collected while walking, and then used as the components for an assembled sculpture.

In April this year Windham had a similar residency in New York hosted by the Select Art Fair. Then she walked the streets of the neighborhoods around Sunset Park, usually with a fellow artist. A blog by Windham about this residency can be found here.

Although perhaps today, the flâneur of the 21st Century is the internet surfer using the social media outlet of their choice as their voice. 

1 comment:

DLKeur said...