Arturo Soto‘s photographs from ‘Circling The Square’ bring us on a psychogeographical journey through London, a wander along the streets he walks everyday from home to college, in particular a 12 minute trajectory between Cartwright Gardens and Gordon Square and then later, from Marylebone and Battersea to work.
For those of you unfamiliar with psychogeography it’s an approach to geography, first devised by the founder of the Situationist International, Guy Debord, in the 1950’s and emphasises playfulness in urban spaces or as he put it, ‘the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals’. This relationship between a fixed space and our movement through it is what concerns Soto in these pictures and are his attempt to make sense of where he lives and how he relates to it.
Living in a city is imposing, its vastness always threatening to overtake, overwhelm the individual. The concrete mass casting a long shadow over our lives, dissolving our sense of self and our emotional reaction and dialogue with the environment. This intransigence, between an immutable concrete city and our fleeting emotional lives, lies at the heart of these photographs. We are taken along empty streets, look into shop windows and closed shops as we walk with Soto on his way into college, his narrative, as a Mexican living in England, becoming the basis of this story, the geography of London becoming the starting point of his photographs.
They are acutely aware pictures, his eye focussing on geometrical juxtapositions and the solidity that bears its weight on his existence in a place far from home. They make for a fascinating experiment and give us an insight into his life in a foreign land. Here’s what he has to say about his photographs:
The series originates from a need to de-emphasize the importance of events, turning that attention instead to the sites where experiences take place. Paul Virilio has stated that cities have no voids, since everything in them is suggestive of meaning. This does not mean, of course, that everything is equally interesting in visual terms. Even if photography is a useful tool to understand how urban spaces shape our everyday experience, the artistic gesture consists of arranging that surplus of signs into visually compelling ways, unhinging them from the present, and transfiguring them through the technical means of the camera into images worthy of attention.
As one of history’s primary stages, the streets tend to give an impression of authority and permanence, when in fact, public spaces and the objects they contain do not remain unaffected for very long. Time here is every bit as important as in so-called decisive moments: the weather, technology, legislations and the endless drive for renewal affect the constitution of the built environment, not to mention human traffic, which leaves its mark on even the most reluctant of surfaces.