Lesson: Jan Rothuizen: Topophilia

  • Grade Level: High School (9-12 grade)
  • Subject Area: Art, Global Studies, Literature, Cartography, Geography
  • "The Last Tourist in Cairo," 2006-8."The Last Tourist in Cairo," 2006-8.
  • "The Last Tourist in Cairo," 2006-8."The Last Tourist in Cairo," 2006-8.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • "The Last Tourist in Cairo," 2006-8."The Last Tourist in Cairo," 2006-8.
  • "The Last Tourist in Cairo," 2006-8."The Last Tourist in Cairo," 2006-8.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.

Introduction

Written by Museum as Hub fellow Ayman Ramadan.
This lesson introduces the neighborhood of Antikhana in Cairo, Egypt and artist works exhibited in “Museum as Hub: Antikhana” presented by Townhouse Gallery. This lesson includes visual analysis, a neighborhood walk, and a thirty-minute drawing assignment inspired by maps made by the Dutch artist Jan Rothuizen. Rothuizen’s maps use image and text to document places where social encounters occur.

Objectives

  • Students will learn about the history of the avant-garde movement of the Situationist International and their theory of psychogeography.
  • Students will experience the practice of dérive/drifting through a neighborhood walk.
  • Students will apply both their knowledge and experience of dérive/drifting by mapping their observations and interactions with the people, places, and the social dynamic around them.

Vocabulary

Psychogeography is the study of effects produced by the environment, geography, and architecture on an individual’s psychology. Places and spaces determine social and behavioral norms through laws, functionality of space, and the dominant culture.
Dérive in psychogeography are acts of “drifting,” of letting oneself go to wander the terrain based on subjective interests and play. Dérive is an experiential interaction with the landscape that rejects the capital function of space for the sake of “real” experience and play.
Flâneur, in the simplest definition, is a pedestrian. The flâneur walks through the streets to gain a larger understanding of the world around them by observing modern life as it is revealed in the people and spaces that he/she encounters and the cultural exchanges that are possible within the rules inherent in various places.
Unitary Urbanism was a primary demand of the Situationist Intrnational for a new urban/town planning that reintegrates art back into everyday public life and humanist architectural design.
Situation is a constructed event that the Situationist believed had the potential for play to lead to a total revolution of life and society.
Topophilia is the love of place.

Materials

Jan Rothuizen’s images in the Digital Archives
Ayman Ramadan’s images in the Digital Archives
Paper, pencils, and clipboards.

Lesson Strategy

Discuss space and its social design.

  • What’s the difference between a park and a café?
  • What types of “public” are allowed in the park? In a café?
  • Compare the specific rules in each of these two social spaces.
  • How do these rules affect our behavior?

Introduce the Situationist International.
Define psychogeography, unitary urbanism, and situationism.

The Situationist International was made up of various factions such as the Situationist Bauhaus, Lettrist International and Socialisme ou Barbarie (Socialism or Barbarism) who together unified in 1957 in Europe. The Situationist called for a radical creation of situations, critique of societal spectacles (Guy Debord), and a demand for a transformation of the city towards unitary urbanism.

Guy Debord was one of the most prominent members of the Situationist who wrote extensively on the effects of capitalism on society and the social possibility for real “lived” experience. Capitalism produces spectacles: forms of information, advertising, and events that created a separation of life from “real” lived experience to one that is a construction of life reduced to images. Experience and social interaction/exchange is replaced with the consumption of products and its appearances, or what Guy Debord describes as “the obvious degradation of being into having.” Debord describes the spectacle’s capacity to create a separation of everyday life“ where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behavior.”

Open Discussion

  • What types of leisurely activities are available in the city?
  • What types of activities or behaviors are accepted in public? What are considered unacceptable?
  • What and where are there social opportunities to engage with people outside of you own social circle?
  • If you were an outsider, a tourist, name a few things you would do to interact in with people in new surroundings.

Introduce and discuss the cultural background of Antikhana and Townhouse Gallery.

  • The capital city of Cairo is literally translated as “The City Victorious” and “Mother of the World, and has a population of 17 million. Build after the model of Paris by Khedive Ismail, the western part of the city has classic wide boulevards, open gardens, and French-style architecture, contrasted by its eastern section, which houses Egypt’s ancient mosques, government buildings, and tenements.
  • In 1998 the Townhouse Gallery of Cairo, directed by William Wells, opened as a non-commercial contemporary art space. Egyptian “artists” in Cairo are ones that have a direct relationship to the Ministry of Culture where artists are legitimated and supported by the government. The works produced by the Ministry are either ancient and authentic Egyptian art or modernist abstraction. Therefore contemporary emerging artists whose works do not conform to these limited categories found themselves with very few channels and venues to showcase their work.

Look at Jan Rothuizen’s Last Tourist in Cairo.

  • What do you see?
  • What are some recognizable elements do you see in this drawing?
  • What types of information are made available?
  • Based on your observation, how would you identify this drawing?
  • How would you compare this drawing to other maps?
  • What types of information do you think is most important for the artist?
  • What do you think this map is recording?

After reviewing artist page in related documents, define the flâneur.
The main critique of Baudrillard’s concept of the flâneur is his male, dandy, and bourgeois background. The flâneur is seen as a distant observer, a voyeur, and a tourist.

  • After defining the term of the flâneur and psychogeography, how do you relate Jan Rothuizen’s work to modern day tourism? Is he self-conscious of his position as a western observer?
  • How does he engage with others?
  • Is this work about Antikhana or is a portrait of himself as a traveler, a tourist?

Look at Ayman Ramadan’s Downtown Street.

  • Describe the space you are seeing.
  • What objects do you recognize in the space?
  • How would you describe the objects themselves?
  • What are the figures in the installation doing?
  • Where do you think these are objects are from?
  • How would you interpret the displacement of these objects that are usually seen outside and that were placed in the gallery?

Ayman Ramadan excavated cars from the streets, took shops and services available in the streets, and placed them inside the gallery. He created metal-silhouette portraits of the workers who provide these services in the alleys of Antikhana, such as shoe shiners, mechanics, juice, seed, and sweet potato vendors.
When discussing the installation the artist Ayman Ramadan described the opening night as a festive evening well-attended by both gallery goers and workers from the alleys, that somehow the installation bridged a social gap. In the month that the installation was on view, workers frequented the galley more often and that some workers moved into the gallery to perform their daily work, situating themselves next to the portraits Ramadan made of them.

  • What role do you think the artist is playing?
  • We understand that museums, as part of the Enlightenment, have a social responsibility for educating the public. Do galleries have this social responsibility? If so, what can they be?
  • Based on our discussion about the Situationist International, how would you interpret Ayman Ramadan’s work? What Situationist terms would you use to describe Rothuizen’s work?

Homework

Neighborhood Walk and Drawing Activity

  • Students will depart from the main door of the New Museum, using it as a point of departure recording on the map, then take a neighborhood walk, starting at the Bowery. They will create maps from their own personal perspective and use text and images of surrounding buildings, brief statements, events, and time of their occurrences.
  • Students may go in any direction they choose but ideally not identify or write the name of the street as it appears on a street sign but identify their locations rather by what they see on that street to make a new identification.
  • Example: A drawing of many kitchen appliances at the top of Prince Street and what they think the shop does rather than actually asking someone who might know. Is it a shop that sells kitchen equipment to the public or does it rent? Or just take orders? There are many shops selling the same thing. Make a name for the street that has to do with what happens on the street instead of using its name. Ask people for directions for a place to buy something unusual and write their response. Look at the people standing, walking or working in the street and write it on the map. All people are interesting; do they look homeless or just waiting for someone?
  • Look for objects, signs, ordinary markings, or directions. When describing people think about their clothes, how they move their arms, or what they are carrying, all possibilities that give a different description of the streets.
  • Each student should make his/her own map even if another student is taking the same direction. They should not discuss what they are writing down with each other.

Assessment

Students will be assessed on their ability to observe and analyze the work of Jan Rothuizen.
Students are evaluated based on the completion of their mapping/drawing project.
Students are expected to participate in discussions and to use new language introduced in class.

Extending the Lesson

Continue this lesson with a more focused study of the Situationist International, including their work on Society of the Spectacle and Situationist City.

Extend this lesson with an introduction to and visual analysis of other of Egyptian contemporary art presented in the exhibition “Museum as Hub: Antikhana”:http://museumashub.org/neighborhood/townhouse-gallery presented by the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo.

Additional Resources

Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life”
Jan Rothuizen’s Web site www.janrothuizen.nl
Last Tourist trip.submarinechannel.com/lasttouristcairo/
Situationist International online
Tarek Zaki’s Web site www.tarekzaki.net
Susan Hefuna’s Web site www.susanhefuna.com

Lesson Plan: Jan Rothuizen: Topophilia