Tim Cresswell defines Place

Notes on Place:

  • Geography = about place and places. But place is not the property of geography
  • a concept that travels between disciplines and must be studied using an interdisciplinary approach
  • not a specialised piece of academic terminology; can be used in various different ways, almost daily, especially in the English-speaking world
    • place as in particular location or building
    • position in a social hierarchy (i.e. “she put me in my place”)
    • particular order of things that have a socio-geographical basis (i.e. “a place for everything and everything in its place”
  • defined as all spaces which people have made meaningful, spaces people are attached to in one way or another; a meaningful location
  • Three aspects of place by John Agnew:
    • 1. Location – fixed objective coordinates on the earth’s surface
    • 2. Locale – actual shape of place which people conduct their lives (i.e. New York as a vast collection of roads and streets and buildings)
    • 3. Sense of place – relationship to humans (i.e. novels and films evoking a sense of place, the feeling of what’s it like to “be there”)
  • Naming – one of the ways space can be given meaning and become place

Hornstein’s Losing Site – who knew there was more to architecture than maths?

I’ve only read the introduction and chapter two of Shelley Hornstein’s Losing Site: Architecture, Memory and Place and already I found myself re-evaluating my misconception of the word architecture. Sure, my bias is towards its association with the maths, geometries, planes and angles, trigs, inaccuracies, a.k.a the death of me. But never did I believe the word architecture could also be identified by the intangible, omniscient presence of memory?

Hornstein defined architecture as the “mapping of space – physical, mental or emotional.” It is the act of “delineating” and shaping space to basically carve a place. What I enjoyed in her piece is this fact: the inseparability of memory and place, wherein the architecture can exist or be found beyond the physical site itself in our recollection of it. I, for one concur with this conclusion. If you were to ask me about my childhood, the first thing I will respond with is where it took place and what memory I have that accompanies that particular place. You just cannot divorce that fact at all.

In my personal reflection, I find out many new things. Pinterest and Tumblr are two social sites I am heavily invested in for their clean interface and availability for photographic collation without harassing my tabs with various online portfolios that are, almost always, ebbed with personal stories that, don’t get me wrong, are fascinating, but not so much as something that I would like to entertain. At certain times, sure, but Pinterest and Tumblr is a pool for photographs of places.

I follow various blogs posting photographs of places around the world that I could only ever have dreamed of. And as a photographer, they give each photograph their own sense of self, their signature in the angles, the iSO, aperture-use. And what I am absolutely fascinated with, and what I value in my creative endeavours, is how I myself, though I have not been to any of these photographed places, could somehow give meaning to each place. It’s as if I’m accessing a part of my memory. I’d like to call it the creative memory which is not exactly a tangible, experience-based memory based on an absolute fact, but it still counts as memory nonetheless as, in accessing it, you feel as if it’s been there all along.

The photographs of buildings, cracks on walls, a lonely chair in a classroom abandoned after the attack on Hiroshima. It has a broken leg. These photographic monuments “encourages our reflection in the present.” What does these mean to us now? How do we connect the real events of the past to the present now? Because obviously, the past is an opaque surface, and history tells us that it is usually the winners who erect shrines of remembrance for themselves, right?

I find that places hold deep, special meanings not just to the people who have experienced them first-hand or have some sort of connection to it with a family-tragedy or historic affiliation. I believe that we ourselves can give meaning to these architectural sites whether we do so through empathy or pure reverence. And in my creative endeavour, I would like to explore this more.

Experimental Short: The Caretaker


What happens when all that is left is the quietness? No pounding of gavels or black robes and unwashed wigs harassing the hallways? Of murderers on trial, of justice-seekers and curious peepers? No one really knows, but the old man who cleans, cleans, cleans.

Length: 3 mins 37 seconds

In the eyes of the Caretaker, the great Magistrates’ Court is nothing but a place wherein he succumbs to his loneliness.

The project is my first foray in the Experimental Film genre. The piece is a poetic, abstract reverie of what the place is to the invisible character of the Caretaker. I wanted to give meaning to the space and the place occupied by the building itself (the walls, halls, doorways, rooms) and how the Caretaker gives meaning to the place that has become mundane to him for he is always never seen; in the silences, when the doors are locked and no other soul is about.

The short film is to be incongruous, hence, it being experimental in its genre. There is no narrative to follow, but the clips, both found-footage and recorded, are deliberately placed to allow the viewers to freely interpret what is being told.

Produced, edited and directed by me.
Thank you to the Ghosts of RMIT team on the day of the shoot for helping with camera problems (there were heaps).

The making of this short film definitely came with its problems. My first dilemma was where exactly to place the captured clips and videos in a sequence that will encapsulate the concept I have of putting meanings to the spaces through the eyes of the Caretaker. This was my biggest challenge in the production of this film. I went about in finding a resolution to this by going through some of my video inspirations with an addition of Ballet Mecaniqué by Fernand Leger, who gave me the idea of repetition as a motif to represent the distress the Caretaker is experiencing in his bouts of imagination due to his lonely job.

The production began quite smoothly. I followed the work timeline I prescribed to myself stringently albeit with the surfacing of aforementioned dilemma of the delivery process. Nevertheless, the filming went really smoothly. On the day, I took as many shots as possible of the interior of the Magistrates’ Court but what I found that inevitably helped in my final storyboarding and editing process was the visit to what is known as “The Plant Room.” It was an old, decrepit storage room located in the far recesses of the main court behind two supposedly locked doors and an eerie gaol cell to fit the bill. It was an atrocious sight and Jackie and I would not have dared to enter the room if not for Rachel (thank you, kindly) and a fellow student, Linh, who ventured on, turning the lights along the way.

The room was forlorn, dusty and a treasure trove for all things old-fashioned. But what got me the most was the single chair that sat in view of the open door. It was curious, it was lonely, and I knew then and there that the Caretaker, his character, his soul, whoever he may have been in the past, was an incredibly lonely character.

This epiphany drove me to evaluate my draft storyboard, which then also allowed me to appropriate the concepts I learned in class to the differences between space and place with place as a space that has meaning. In my video, I applied the techniques of opacity and scaling to the very extent of my skill in such. I’m thankful to our guest lecturer, Jeremy Bowtell for the basic tutorial for Adobe Premiere Pro, but mostly, I thank this class for allowing me to test my skills, add on to, and really push myself to my editing limits (and that is an incredibly short limit, f.y.i.).

The final outcome, eventually, after much harassment from a very neutral-looking editing suite, turned out as hoped and planned and even more. The chosen music, ghostly and haunted with the appropriate title of “At the end, everyone dies” by the ingenious Kai Engel (I bow to you for the royalty-free) was inspired by Abigail Belfrage who made certain that I think about what fits well with the overall thematic I had. The colours are minute black-and-white, easier to manipulate to encompass the ghostly, almost macabre message I had in mind with the Caretaker’s loneliness. It also worked really well with the found-footages.

An abundance of improvements include mastering Adobe Premiere Pro as the go-to editing suite. Finding out how plug-ins works, particularly subtitles, is a must too. I was to include subtitles in this piece as opposed to narration (in the final film, I utilised titles as subtitles), but Premiere’s built-in closed captioning were stiff and incredibly frustrating to handle. I decidedly gave up, but I plan on experimenting with that medium in the near future. I uses titles and “subtitles”, albeit vague, to give the piece texture as well. And the only colour is during the “poisons” scene…appropriately. And before I forget, incorporating images would be quite helpful too.

The class has taught me to appreciate spaces and places in a whole different way. Through The Caretaker, I was able to give meaning to places as opposed to simply admiring its architecture and the echoes of its past. I was able to wander through the halls and assess the cracks and fissures, the importance of the little nooks and crannies and what they are used for and most importantly, the people who give meaning to the space, particularly, the caretaker in the Old Magistrates’ Court in this case.


Hook: Laneways and the Grid System

I love Melbourne’s Laneway Culture. Really, I do. And no, you most likely won’t find me with an obscure-coloured Holga and my Oxfords traipsing along these little lanes taking photographs of macarons in velvet-coloured boxes or sipping authentic chocolat chaud. I live too far away for this kind of endeavour, but when I do get the chance, oh do I try.

But I’m here to engage with Professor Martyn Hook’s articulation of the reason behind the sudden emergence of such culture. And it has nothing to do with the quirkiness of them hipsters.

Night Vision of Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne seen from the International Space Station at night reveals its young history. Unlike the winding streets in older European cities, Melbourne’s streetlights follow a more planned grid system. Established in 1835 around the natural bay of Port Phillip, Melbourne is the capital of the state of Victoria in Australia.

I’d like you take a deep breath in before we continue. Don’t you just want to say “Whoa” but with a full stop instead of a violent exclamation point? I’m spellbound by the composition, the singularity, all perpendicular lines, unbent, untwisted. And if you zoom in a lot closer, you’ll see what I’m talking about with those laneways.

Professor Martyn of RMIT’s architecture and design described the superimposing of the grid not as a landscape function, but in fact, an economic one. The Laneway Culture is vibrant and unconventionally appealing, and that’s exactly the point. The very city of Melbourne, divided up by streets thanks to the power of the grid lines, is an invitation for commerce. What can be done there? What can be traded? How can these smaller streets be used?

And RMIT University works the same way. Looking back, RMIT had been a closed-off University, barricaded by a watchman who made certain that only students were allowed to pass through, specifically in Bowen Street. Nowadays, anyone can pretty much walk in, walk through and no one would give a water’s dam that they are actually walking through an academic institution. And why would they?

RMIT organises itself as close to how the city organises itself too. The University invites the city in so there’s the commerce there. And RMIT is surrounded by civic centres, much like the whole of Melbourne. Looking from Bowen Street, there’s the State Library of Victoria to your right and across from that, Melbourne Central. Up top is the Old Melbourne Gaol, and to your left, the City Baths. Sound civitas enough for you?


I loved the notion of “letting the city in.” It makes me think of the security issues that may arise with this pursuit of commerce; the value of the University as a whole in the eyes of both students and staff as opposed to those unaffiliated to it. The Laneway Culture (more of in the next post) and the superimposing of a grid on every new map back whence Colonial days because systems are a must.

It really does make me think more of the reasons behind the making of the city, and specifically, of RMIT itself and how I may be able to document Building 20’s significance in my future project.

Some in the list:

  • Economic Function
  • Commerce
  • Surrounded by civic centres – what does this mean?
  • Maybe Building 20’s exterior placement has some sort of significance that can be researched and further developed?
  • Does the interior of Building 20 have anything to do with its surroundings? And if so, how can I use this to my advantage in telling my story and representing place?

Oh, lots to think about!

Ghosts & Spaces: A preview

note: plagiarising myself because I can.

Original post date: 14 days ago

I have returned from the land of the living and no, unfortunately this post does not contain a Vimeo trailer of a sophisticated thriller film from aforementioned title, but it’s relevant, nonetheless!

Second year university is just around the corner and I’m bubbling in a cauldron of giddiness because finally, I breathe out in deep suspiration, finally, the routine-learning, assessment-crying and busy-fun is back back back.

This year and for the first time in- I’m not even going to finish that, my course is implementing what is known as “Studios.” It’s our media term for subject, really. An elective specifically chosen in regards to what we want to learn about most. And here’s a hypothetical bag of gold for those who guessed which studio I’m in.

Ghosts and Spaces : Mediating Place

In this studio we will examine how place is conceptualised and represented in many forms across a range of media and how these are applied in a variety of contexts such as galleries, museums, archives and augmented maps.

I am almost always on a state of fernweh, feeling homesick for a place I’ve never been. Does that sound strange? My missing a place I’ve actually never been in? Is that even possible? I believe so. Truly. How many of you have watched a film, seen a television show, read a book that made you somehow feel like you’ve been there already but of course, you haven’t really, and thus, you feel an ache to return to it?

I’m definitely not the only one.

As a media-peruser, I’m curious as to how exactly books, media, print, music mediate place. Define it. Emotionally tag you that you cannot escape it. Those feelings, emotions that a certain place evokes. I love this quote from Tim Creswell:

“When we write ‘Calcutta’ or ‘Rio’ or ‘Manchester’ for instance, even those of us who have not been to these places have some sense of them – sets of meanings produced in films, literature, advertising, and other forms of mediation”.
(Tim Cresswell, ‘Place’ in The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, 2009) 

I have a similar connectedness to New York City, Rome, and Paris. I could name a hundred more countries, cities, capitals, but those three have been there before my eyes traversed the digital globe.

I’m to explode into my atom counterparts because who gets a chance to philosophise such a nebulous idea that is the sense of place? To test, experiment and play with all kinds of media forms and platforms in order to represent place?

Man, I’m burning up.

What places have you felt fernweh for?