RetVersusAmyEllen | The City

James Joyce believed that if he could understand Dublin, truly reflect the nuances of its modus operandi, then he could better understand others cities as a result. That whilst culturally different it was humanities commonalities which became expressed in environment, and what more complete an expression than the modern city?

These artificial constructs are tailored to our daily needs as humans, from the basic biological to the socially connecting to the spiritually rewarding. Each brick, each building has been placed with deliberate intent, an externalisation of the will of the individual that built it.

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Over time a city grows from a convenient population cluster into a complex ever shifting super-organism, replete with its own idiosyncrasies, its own quirks and personality traits. To know these, to truly know them, is to begin to understand on a deeper level some form of self, some notion of who we are and why we do what we do.
Because for all that we have made these places to meet our needs the reverse also seems true; we come to reflect what the city needs of us.

I have lived in South Wales since I was about 4 years old with only brief stints of dwelling elsewhere. I mostly lived in Penarth across the bay, but moved to Cardiff proper in November 2014. Since then, and given that I don’t drive, I have been mentally mapping the city with each step, building a picture of its organisation, events, angles, its very energy.

I intend to leave Cardiff again at some point, to drift further afield. It’s just that I can’t help feeling that whilst I remain here I should collate what I have seen, felt and experienced, examine what I have learned in order to better understand the city itself and what it has been to me; who I am as a result. If I can do this and do it any form of justice, then hypothetically I could do it with any city in the world.


In the modern era we are more fully and completely able to communicate the sense of a place not just through words but also image, ubiquitous camera technology and social feeds mapping the cities eyes moment to moment. If my words are an expression of the cities voice then Amy will be its vision, photographing and capturing the angles better than my mere rambling.

In this way we can hopefully offer a more complete sense of place we all feel in the present moment, in the context of environment itself. To capture a moment in time, to convey the subtlety of felt experience is a near impossible task, the primacy of direct experience still unsurpassed. In offering a visual representation accompanied by some linguistic abstraction perhaps we can at least capture an element of this, some small percentage of the glory felt in experiencing the present moment.

This will be a weekly endeavour with Cardiff as our subject and a set theme, shifting in response to the city itself to cover as many angles as possible. From the daily movements of commuters and workers to the nightly releases in bar and homes, from the busy streets to the parks and coastline, from the technology and architecture to the people and wildlife we will aim to represent the city we ‘live, work, walk, love in’ as honestly as possible.

Enough waffle. It’s time to hit the streets, breathe in the city’s energy, take it all into ourselves and express it here that we might shine a light on what makes Cardiff, and those who live here, unique.


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