Through the integrative course we were introduced to the book “Invisible Cities” by Italino Calvino which we studied and analyzed in detail in seminar. We worked on this book over the next 6 weeks to arrive at out final project. The short study of the city of Isidora was like a warm up activity to understand how to deconstruct the passage and find its meaning. After rewriting the passage its essence, we then created a visual in studio depicting our narrative. The way I saw Isidora was as a city of youth where everyone feared turning old and everyone had a dream to achieve thus my visual tries to narrate the same.
Reading through the whole book a lot of cities and the message behind them intrigued me so when we had to narrow down on anyone of them I knewit had to be Despina. Rereading the passage several times, we looked at the city through several lenses such as Memory, Constructed Environment andSemiotics, my interpretation changing everytime. By relating the passage to theidea and working of memory we made a visual in Studio keeping in mindsilhouette. Through the Constructed Environment lenses we studied the build and plan of the city and what we imagine it to look like then again converting it into a silhouette and then cutting it out. During this process we learned how silhouettes and cut out work and how to make them work together so that the entire visual does not fall apart or has any loose edges. We then went on to analyze the city through Semiotics which is the study of signs and symbols. To make the deciphering easywe made a table dividing it into “Signifier”, “Signified”, “literal” and “metaphorical meaning”. This way we had an easy reference to aid our visual cut out which had to depict the same.
Finally we rewrote the city as a narrative taking help of all the lenses we studied our city through and used the narrative as our inspiration ofThe Tunnel Book. My narrative revolved around the idea of mirage,reflection of desire and the concept of perspective .My narrative spoke about a sailor who sees the city as a camel and when he finally arrives in the city he falls in love with it and a girl.However he leaves her to join a caravan travelling into the desert on the other end of the city andnext when he returns he sees the city as his ship.He thinks he is in a completelydifferent city until he sees the girl he is in love with. The protagonist imagined the city to be his desires and pictured elements of the desert and ocean and thus when entering it from either side the city drew him in deeper and deeper taking him back and forth between fantasy and reality. This concept had to be translated into a tunnel book Finally after several trial and errors we were now accustomed to the art of cut out which made the process of developing 15 slides much easier. Through one side of my tunnel book one can see the elements forming a camel in the ocean and through the other side a ship in a desert with the girl in the middle of the two which makes you realise you are looking at one box and not two, similar to the essence of my narrative.
A two faced border city,
A ship in the oases of sand,
A camel in the desert of sea,
The skyline changing forms,
Could it just be me?
Lost somewhere in the desert of Atlantic, no matter how deranged he had become, a sailor could always find his way around to reach his destination or tell where he was. And this time if he was right, he knew he wasn’t too far from the ‘Devil’s Triangle’. After being thrown around about his ship the water all of a sudden turned into calm, gentle waves and he knew death was nearing, what else one would expect being sucked into the Bermuda Triangle?
What he saw next blew his mind, he knew you couldn’t be wrong about his location; he was a sailor after all but a city in the middle of the ocean? No, but wait, why is there a humungous camel swaying in the distance? Its two humps, shining as the embroidery of its saddle reflected the sun. Thinking of the date wine and candied fruit made him weak at the knees. He started thinking about the exotic women belly dancing, the curves of grand castles and jagged lines of the relaxing palm trees. All of this felt familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time.It was everything he imagined and day dreamed the earthy, cultural desert to look like .He couldn’t wait to reach the shore.
On his arrival to the city he fell in love with it. He spent several months exploring it and stories of the desert which lied on the other end fascinated him. Over time he met a beautiful woman and fell in love with Kriyola but his longing to join a caravan on their adventure through the other side of the city, the desert put an end to their romantic fling. The desert didn’t do too well with visitors and no matter how hard she pleaded, he was adamant. He wanders off into the desert and lives the caravan culture, embracing each day in the oases of fresh water. But the sand storm takes away everything from him and once again he finds himself stranded in the middle of nowhere. He walks and walks and loses the count of days and endless amount of mirages he had come across.
When he saw his ship in the far distance he dismissed it as a trick his mind was playing. But as the city sailed closer to him, he couldn’t believe his luck. The tall windjammer, chimneys and unfurled sails make him feel at home. The loud, aggressive brawls from the tavern, cranes and sky scrapers made him wonder as to which city he had stumbled upon this time. As the horn blew, he ran to be able to board it in time. The city felt strangely familiar.
This city built of angles overwhelmed him. He couldn’t wait to explore this new city, thinking to himself how funny it was that all his desires were always met in the form of a city, saving him every time. While wandering though the straight road he froze in his path. There was Kriyola buying flowers. He rubbed his eyes but she was still there.
Memory can be stored away anywhere and anything can hold memories and trigger them. The smallest and simplest of things can set off the most complex memories and emotions. For me one such trigger would be, Maggi. Not just any regular Maggi, the kind of one that Arifji put all his heart into while making so that we would feel warm and cozy after a dip in the freezing 5 degree water of the Ganga. He made it very differently, adding tomatoes, onions and “secret masala”.
The thought of steaming hot Maggi on a chilly day takes me back to my trip to Rishikesh in Diwali 2015, which has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. From all the places I’ve eaten Maggi in and all the trips I’ve been for, abroad or in India, the kind of people I met during my 6 day camp in Dev Prayag, Rishikesh that I took with three of my best school friends was the highlight of my trip other than the obvious white water rafting. With no network or electricity in the camp premises one had to travel 5-10 km to make any contact with the outside world and when my mom informed me that Maggi had made its way back to stores back in Bombay, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. A five minute walk from the camp lay one small shack that sold a few miscellaneous items and food, I couldn’t believe it when we found Maggi in the smallest of shops after the ban and rushed back requesting Arifji to make some for everyone on camp but he agreed only after we promised to eat the lunch he made especially for us as we were the only ones camping. Arifji is one of the sweetest people on camp, he never let us go for any adventure without a hearty meal and made sure we all loved it. The instructors over a day or two had turned into family as we toasted around the bonfire and tried to sing along to the native songs and the tune of the guitar under a magical, starry night. Perplexing how something as simple as food is capable of bringing back memories of so much more than just its taste but something that means so much more, something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy not only in my tummy but heart too.
How does Calvino describe the city?
Calvino describes the city as being a border city between an ocean of sand and desert of water. He tries to portray how the city has two faces and how either side perceives it. The city on one hand is a large steam boat ready to take camel riders away from the desert, where as on the other hand the city looks like a long caravan which is ready to take the sailor towards an oasis of fresh water. The city is a reflection of what travelers from either desert desire.
What is the role that monuments play?
Monuments give the city recognition and its uniqueness. They form the border between the two deserts. The monuments which are the skyscrapers, antenna, satellites, radars aid the imagination of the sailors who imagine a camel and camel drivers who imagine a steam boat.
How do the urban interact with the nature?
The urban in a way is the divider between the two extremities of nature. The high rise buildings blocks out the view of the other side, it makes people from either side desire and imagines what the opposite would be like.
How do we distinguish between natural and man-made?
Man-Made objects are made from the resources provided by earth and thus are a misfit in the city of Despina which is bordered by two extremities of nature. The urban and man-made in the city of Despina are completely contrasting compared to the natural.
The area once of run down mills is now completely transformed into the area of elite.Where on one side of the area the employee’s of the top companies mint money the other side their wives spend it,trotting around with expensive bags around their arm. Chauffeur driven high end cars make their way in and out of one of the best hotels of Bombay,adding to the endless traffic.Lined by restaurants who serve traditional food in bizarre ways grabs everyone’s attention making it the sunday family hotspot.