Wednesday, January 13, 2010

you are the city | Petra Kempf

I am currently waiting for the arrival of Petra Kempf's book You Are the City, which is not actually a book but a series of transparent sheets which allows the reader to perceive the urban phenomena by isolating and superimposing individual components in order to have a personal interpretation of what the city is.

I chose this excerpt from an interview with as I thought Kempf's answer was not only refreshing but reaffirmed why I originally connected with the concept of her publication.

Ethel Baraona:
There are lots of technical and digital ways to represent cities and mapping new urban plans, but you used a simple traditional way to reproduce the city just with 22 sheets of clear acetate and this is enough to represent all the concepts you want to show in the book. So, what do you think about all these new digital technologies to make data visualizations and what do you think about the future of mapping techniques?

Petra Kempf:
I agree, there are many ways to represent cities and each of the mapping technologies available certainly have their value and importance. However the technologies that are currently available, are mostly based on numbers and facts, not personal experiences. But to really experience a city one must be part of it. This is an analog process, by which we engage with a city’s intricate fabric. To re-create that analog process, in this project, I needed to use a tool that helped me simulate that experience. The limitations and computational restrictions of a computer program did not allow me that opportunity.

I appreciate that you used the word ‘simple’ to describe the method of drawing. Albert Einstein wrote once that if one is not able to describe complex things in a simple way, one has failed the purpose of communicating altogether. I believe he is right about this. These simple analog drawings are intertwined with a complex body of text; of language, of ideas. The mind, the body, and the human experience reside in the drawings through the text. I mean to suggest, through the text and the drawings, an engaged human experience. Do the drawings stand alone? Yes, but perhaps there is also a certain kind of silence, of contemplative thought required by the participant to see them or read them. Nevertheless, the drawings are intertwined with my thoughts, my text on the city.

images via kosmograd +
interview via

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