Calvino’s City

With reference to site specific drama, we are researching Italo Calvino’s Invisible cities reflecting and contextualising memories of cities and site; in particular the city of Lincoln, in order to build and create our own piece of site specific performance with influences, objects and possibly essences from other spaces/places and sites. Below is my own vignette in the style of Calvino:


City of the unidentified

Continuing north three hours from the south east you find yourself struck by the most inner beauties of the city of Lincoln; followed shortly by the most inner secretes formed by its lingering past. Each corner turned brings to light yet another wonder of the city along with its many clues of its previous identity. Just through walking the city, buildings and architecture whisper the truth of what used to be – ruins of the ancient Roman community still stand strong, although hidden by the coming and going of the years and the passing of both travellers and people of the city. The highest point situates the overwhelming sight of the cathedral followed by the deep-rooted image of the castle where the forgotten souls of the Victorian gaol have acuminated. It is from this point where the eye can stretch over the many miles that fall below its power shortly after the long forgotten gallows. This dominance has been for hundreds of years, the identity of Lincoln; this is only the surface. There is much more to Lincoln than what first meets the eye. Once elements and essence of place emerge from the woodworks souls and lost identities of the prior centuries can be remembered but never identified; they are non-existent today, they lived only for the past. The longer you spend in this magnificent place the more you fall upon, but the identities suspend in the atmosphere are never revealed. The city is a huge muddle of passers-by and the coming and going of past and present communities who find Lincoln to be mysterious, and when moving on, each having left a segment of their identity behind with the unidentifiable. The city stays on your mind even after you have left and embeds a part of its identity in replace of yours.


Through creating this text it has enabled me to consider places within the city that have elements of uniqueness and enable essence of identity to be created. This dominance of the city’s identity is one that I find intriguing and creating this extent of power through site specific performance could be satisfying.

My own invisible hell

A sylum
B ravery
C orridors
D eparture
E arly death
F ootsteps
G hostly
H aunted
I nsane
J ail
K nife
L unatic
M adness
N o hope
O n going
P leading
Q uestions
R espected
S creams
T rusting
U nseen
V oices
W asted
X sistence
Y ears
Z ero

the lawns

During todays seminar we were asked to go home and create our own invisible city extract. Here you can see mine. I didn’t want to do an idealistic Utopia as this did not reflect my performance idea and that is what i wanted it to do. So here, you are able to see a picture of The Lawns, which i have based this extract on. It is not so much an extract as the others but a list. I did it this way as in my groups performance, I am potentially going to be reading out lists of names of patients at The Lawns. Now when I come to looking up lists of names I am able to refer back to this.

Invisible Cities and The Idea of Utopia

On hearing about the Site Specific module and the basis for this being Invisible Cities, I was intrigued as to what this module was going to entail. The idea of an Invisible City excited me and I couldn’t wait to get started and find out more about what an invisible city actually was. The only Instruction we were given as a class before the first session was to bring in a lot of ‘stuff’ and to read extracts from the novel Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. This very general definition of ‘stuff’ meant that anything from toilet rolls to doyleys and shot glasses were brought in by members of the class, but still there was no idea as to why these objects were needed. Tim Cresswell suggests that ‘what begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value…..the ideas ‘space’ and ‘place’ require each other for definition’ ((Cresswell, Tim 2004, Place A Short Introduction Blackwell Publishing p.8)) What site specific means to one person may be completely different to what it means to another as it is personal to the performer themselves.

The novel, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is one which describes several cities through the eyes of one of the main characters, an explorer Marco Polo. the novel acts as a conversation between Marco Polo and the emperor Kublai Khan, whose merchants constantly describe to him his ever expanding empire.  The following quote I feel, is very deep and powerful and in my opinion really sums up the entire novel, “Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.” ((Calvino, Italo (2004) Invisible Cities Vintage Classics, p.34)) This quote really captured the idealistic values of the novel as when visiting a new place for the first time, you can essentially find out things about yourself you did not know.

Further more, after a discussion on the novel, the attention was focussed on the idea of Utopia and what it meant. At first I thought there was a straight answer to this question, but it became evident that the idea of Utopia was completely different to each individual when it was time to create our own utopian cities with the ‘stuff’ we had collected. On reflection of my own utopian city and the feedback from the class, it was clear that my idea of Utopia was based around symmetry and order; a place where every space is utilised and blends in. I chose to use a lot of pink as it’s a warm colour and one which always fills me with a feeling of calmness and serenity. It was likened to a ‘Barbie Palace’ by members of the class and I can understand why this was although it was not my initial intention. As with the age old saying ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, the same goes for the Utopian ideals.


A Pretty Utopia to A Pretty Lincoln

My inspiration for this specific blog post has come from exploring my Utopia. Looking back at my creation of a Utopia I used many ‘pretty pink’ objects, so I wanted to take a small section of my ‘made up’ Utopia  into the city of Lincoln, so I could make Lincoln as close to my Utopia as physically possible. To do this I wandered around Lincoln and placed homemade ‘pretty’ notes in unexpected places. The notes consisted of being wrapped in tissue paper with bows or ribbon wrapped around and the notes contained messages such as, ‘have nice day’. The photos below are the evidence.

Pretty Thing Pretty Thing

Pretty Things Place1

Place1 Postbox

Brick Handle

Water Bush

The following day I walked around Lincoln to see if my pretty messages had been taken, I could not find one. Did you find one?