concept and initial proposal

January 11, 2010

The starting point: Potemkin

In order to start with the idea of Potemkin, I started to search and try to understand what is Potemkin.

“Potemkin village, a term for fake settlements, named after Grigori Potemkin.” “…as politically a Potemkin village generally alludes to a false construct that hides an unattractive situation.” ~Corey Apar

“…So, while “Potemkin village” has come to mean, especially in a political context, any hollow or false construct, physical or figurative, meant to hide an undesirable or potentially damaging situation, the phrase may not apply to its original context.” ~wiki

“The title of the album is an allusion to Potemkin village, a political term referring to a false construct intended to hide an undesirable situation.” Potemkin City LImits, an album by the band Propagandhi.

What I read from the explanation of Potemkin is to establish a fake phenomenon, perhaps it’s because the repeating words such as ‘hide’ . In the beginning, this is simply act as a artificial but real layer which make the audience believe it’s the truth. I found this concept is also very close to idea of ‘frame’ in photography or film. It depends what should be inside the frame and what not. Nevertheless, as it developed until now, not only the ‘artificial, un-real skin’ still continues, but many times people also revile the conflict surrounding (or what I call the back stage). And in my opinion, this performance had made the issue more interesting. Modernisme Als IdeaalBeeld — Visual Acoustics, een profiel van overleden fotograaf” ~ Julius Shulman Un-expectedly, I saw this series of photo above. The interior in the photo constructs a very modern atmosphere, while the house itself is located in a relatively wild nature. The message I get from these snapshots is that “the people living in that house seems lived in a bubble. The life they dream of has nothing to do with the outer world (which is just right outside the window or the door)”. Isn’t this the essence of Potemkin? I than search for more pictures inside urban area, such as the park (present a very comfortable natural environment) in the foreground and lots of high scrapper (the busy, convenient living) in the back. What I am trying to show is that any project which “if you only focus inside the site you can illustrate an certain atmosphere, but when you zoom out to let the surrounding environment be inside the picture, the case itself is very conflict with the nearby circumstances”, is Potemkin. If we concentrate in the so-called ‘fake phenomenon’, I consider one of the essential factors is to have sufficient element to guide the audience to imagine and ignore the surroundings. If we take this idea into extreme, it could be the traditional Japanese garden. For example, the Ryogen case in Kyoto presents the movement of the water within limited material and space. Meanwhile, the musical is also a nice example if we try to link with the ‘frame’ mentioned before. Within restricted space and fix scene, the musical are forced to use relatively basic stage properties, light effects, together with the performance of the actors to create the whole world in the script. It has to be intense enough to attract the audience only focusing on the stage and temporary forget the fact that they are only inside a theatre. To be more specific, imagine you are seat in the back row with telescope and picture the scenes as you take off and put on that telescope. I consider this status is very close to the significance of Potemkin.

How to make the concept as a concrete project?

At first, I thought the best way to present is through photography. Because it can than clearly present the point of inside/outside the frame. However, after discuss with colleagues, we thought maybe the stage could strengthen the concept and bring more vitality. Meanwhile, it is important to emphasis on the part of ‘border’ (frame), and the conflict between inside and outside visually and meaningfully. When link to the 5*5*5m model, I imagine this box as a stage in the shopping mall, a stage-like exhibition space. The drama (just to give the stage a scene) is the life at home, such as the snapshots of the movie above. The audience will see the interior (on the stage) and outdoor (the normal shopping behavior) at the same time (which has a strong contrast) when they are meters away, and see the same picture in the photo when they walk into the exhibition place on the stage. I am still studying on how to bring the contrast of the stage and the surroundings (shopping mall). Perhaps work on venue, the difference between western (shopping mall) and oriental (for example, living room in Japan) condition, or base on time difference: medieval castle hall versus shopping mall.

vs. vs.

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