For the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have created, The City of Forking Paths (2014), a new commission that will continue to exist after the end of the exhibition as a permanent City of Sydney legacy artwork. Canadian artists Cardiff and Miller’s distinctive body of works has been concerned with multimedia audio installations and site-specific walks.
The work echoes Jorge Luis Borges’s short story The Garden of Forking Paths (El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan,1941) where a character, Ts’ui Pên, undertakes to write an immense and intricate novel, and to construct an equally vast labyrinth “in which all men would lose their way.” Ts’ui Pên’s novel was uncompleted although he managed to write a “contradictory jumble of irresolute drafts” that made no sense to the reader, and the labyrinth was believed not to exist. The denouement of the story reveals that the garden of forking paths was the novel, and that the forking occurred in time, not in space. Ts’ui Pên’s fictional world allows all possible consequences of an action to occur simultaneously, each creating a web of complex possibilities. This is opposed to the usual nature of fictions, where the character chooses a series of single actions, thus denying the possibility of other multiple scenarios.
The City of Forking Paths (2014), uses an iPod Touch to visually and aurally navigate a route from Customs House through The Rocks. The duration of the walk is just over 1 hour and the audience/spectator follows the audio and video on the screen previously recorded from the same location. The intimate voice of Cardiff leads the viewer up stairs, through laneways and between buildings, and against the backdrop of real streets, Cardiff and Miller invent scenarios, incidents and musical experiences to discover along the way.
In this physically cinematic experience, fiction melds with our immediate location. It is exciting, intriguing and, at times, confusing for participants to blend the two realities: the virtuality of the video component and the concreteness of the real world. We begin to imagine characters in our physical world aligning with the figures on the screen, and vice versa.
The City of Forking Paths will soon be available to download on Android and Apple devices.
The 19th Biennale of Sydney: You imagine What You Desire. 21 March-9 June 2014