What is inscribed in a name? Whether it is a name of a person that you can’t get out of your head, or the quirky name of an important file that you hope you won’t forget.
I don’t know when and how my fixation with names started. It must have been before ‘Bill’ had become an obsession of mine.
Initially I experienced Bill Drummond much like a rumour or a myth through my friend, artist Leah Gordon. Bill came up in one of our conversations as we walked along River Thames. She told me the story of Bill burning a million pounds as part of the art duo K Foundation in 1994. It sounded so Rock & Roll! Like Mick Jagger, Axel Rose or Kurt Cobain destroying their guitars on stage.
For years Bill had written his name on the London A-Z and walked its path. He neither documented these walks nor kept the A-Z maps baring his NAME. As a kind of homage (or counter homage) Leah sets out to walk the outline of “Bill” on the streets of Stockholm.
I grew up in Ramallah and until recently (at least officially) the streets had no names. In 1010, Ramallah city Municipality realized an ambitious project that entailed renaming and numbering all the city streets. “All The Names” was my response to this change. Listing 210 streets named after different individuals, the signacts as both an index and a portrait of the city.
“Al Jahith”, “Shakespeare”, “Picasso”, “Naji Ali”, “Patrice Lumumba”
Are now also places that I can go.
Ramallah is not the only city that has named an avenue after the first elected Congolese president Patrice Lumumba. South African photographer Guy Tillim spent some time chasing after Lumumba’s ghost across central and southern African countries. In her essay ‘On Street Names and ‘De Facto Monuments’, Leora Maltz-Leca reads the recurring image of the road in Tillim’s series as ‘a motif for picturing history’. For the act of renaming is both, an erasure of the past and a manifestation of utopian aspirations for the future.
Yet we often navigate these streets absent mindedly, drifting and searching for connections to other places. As we walk, we Like, Share and Tag. In “Landscape of Codes” Katrina Sluis examines the continuously blurring line between our city landscape and the “World Wide Web”. The web is no longer a place to go to, but another layer of life, she states. It is this unseen layer that Barney Kulok’s “InVisible Cities” tries to capture as he creates a portrait of New York through its most ephemeral coordinates, namely its Wifi networks.[i] So ‘Take me on this walk again’, we may venture onto another conversation.