What’s it all about?

Scientist Peter Higgs was finally proved right at Cern and now shares the Nobel Prize for theorising a sub-atomic particle that holds all matter in the universe together. Without the field created by the Higgs boson, you, me, this pamphlet, would all disintegrate at the speed of light. So this issue of YSOM is focussing on the city in terms of materiality.

The stuff of cities then, how it affects us, how our relationships with the material helps shape our relations with others and our views of ourselves. The idea that objects can offer some sort of consolation is not unfamiliar. In Daniel Miller’s brilliant study, ‘The Comfort of Things’, he maps how experiences ‘flow in and out of materiality, such as the relationship between listening to music and appreciating the CD cover, between the memory of a woman and her photograph, between a little pill and the dreams.’ However, urban dwelling constitutes not just the materiality we gather towards us but the more and less insistent onslaught of stuff we encounter on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. Plastic and steel, London sod, brickwork, paint, dogs, dust, discarded doughnuts… Allof this ‘talks’ to us, sometimes there is a particularity, a minute detail and we may register disgust or delight or something in between. More often than not though the city is cacophonous materiality and we have to unconsciously sensor, limit our awareness or exposure to preserve sanity.

That’s not to suggest everyone is as attuned to noting stuff in as profound a way as Miller does in his anthropological researches into material culture. Or can unpick and manifest both distinct elements and the multiplicities of an everyday cityscape as material scientist Mark Miodownik does in ‘Stuff Matters’. That such thoughtful attentiveness isn’t available to some of our cities’ inhabitants is not to say there isn’t still an affect, a result of rubbing along with stuff, how could there not be? We are such stuff, woven into further networks of matter. From various perspectives contributors to YSOM P3 visualise our relations to the material, our enmeshment in urban materiality.

One more thing, YSOM sponsored exhibitions may soon be appearing on a street near you. It is with some excitement that a new venture consisting of urban outdoor displays of work by established and emerging artists is about to ‘go live’, watch this space!