Re-imagining the City: (Con)Textual Gaps in Implementation and #QtCoL

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This paper explores the concept of narrativity in the city by analyzing the project Queering the City of Literature (#QtCoL), a distributed narrative inspired by Implementation (Rettberg and Montfort). Distributed narratives are literary texts that are distributed across different spaces and times to create divergence rather than unity (Walker 1). Implementation and #QtCoL build on several modern-day practices: both of the works consist of text fragments that participants were invited to put up in places of their choice on public surfaces. The texts were photographed and posted online.  

This paper analyses the work by means of a "diffractive reading" (Barad and Haraway) between the narrative and its urban context. Central to my analysis is my observation during the of #QtCoL event, which I co-organized, to understand the choices and experiences of people while choosing locations for text fragments.

The practice of putting up the texts highly influences the way in which the actor views the city, looking for an appropriate place for the narrative. The actor is invited to connect elements in the text fragment to elements in their surroundings. The actor who places the text might not have noticed certain elements if it hadn't been for the text fragment. Once the text fragment is placed in its context, the opposite occurs: the context influences how the narrative is read. Once the text fragment is placed, the surroundings influences the reading of the narrative.

This diffraction between narrative and context is highlighted by the act of photography, which shows the immediate context of the text but makes the city as a whole invisible. For the 'analog' reader, however, the context of the whole city is highly visible as the text has to be found inside the city. The combination of analog and digital practices thus highlights the representation of the city as a visual practice. In addition, the invitation to post images of the project on social media furthers the experience of ‘taking up space’ and having a presence, not only in the city but online as well. 

(source: ELO 2018 website)

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Amirah Mahomed