Blake is re-enacting all 54 walks to be found in the book.
This score is inspired by the practice of Walter Benjamin. As the score states: "Quotations in my works are like robbers by the roadside who make an armed attack and relieve an idler of his convictions." (Walter Benjamin from One Way Street).
Benjamin wandered around the shopping arcades of Paris, allowing the environment, people, objects to trigger thoughts, feelings and responses. As I am currently residing in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, I chose Ben Thanh Market for my own personal dérive. The following images and thought fragments came out of that walk.
My walk aimed to coincide with the walks by Blake, Sandra Cowen and the Loiterer's Resistance Movement taking place in the UK.
For direction, the score advises: 'As you walk along alight on the poor objects that illuminate the use and embodied history of a place; arrested by the thoughts conjured out of that object, material or surface, record that idea or you thought-feeling as a fragment of words'.
Ben Thanh Market
1. Mid-afternoon, Ben Thanh Market is open and should be thriving though many units facing to the exterior remain unused. The shutters that provide a link between the exterior and interior of the market are padlocked creating a fixed though decorative wall, leaving the gates of the market as the only breaks in the facade.
2. The Terra-cotta decorative screens on the exterior of the market were perhaps ventilation screens to keep the market interior a little cooler. If so, the screens have now been blocked from the inside. Has the space behind the screens become occupied and do the new tenants wish to keep their goods more secure?
3. The market entrance was once marked by the combination of stepped arches and iron lattice work, both painted in an attractive, contrasting colours. Nowadays, this grand decorative solution has given way to gaudy, plastic banners stretched haphazardly across the portal. This is the way to attract today's customers.
4. Hidden away above the entrance is the secret office, the windows barred. Night and day the low-wattage light tube flickers but no movement within can be discerned. Is the market management meeting still in progress? or did it ever commence?
5. The market in full swing, the walls and arches that have witnessed many sights over the years slowly crumble through lack of maintenance. The sales staff cannot maintain their concentration as they daydream and think of other things.
6. As the morning transitions into lunchtime, the fresh food area becomes a hive of activity. Customers and market staff alike order cà phê, phở, and/or bánh mì. *
The out-of-date cartoon plush toys will have to wait.
7. Over at the wet market section, there is a plentiful offering. Besides live crab, prawns and shellfish of every description, it is possible to buy fish either alive and struggling in the plastic bag or semi-dried and arranged in woven baskets. These milk-eyed fish lie still and do not stare back.
8. Very little is wasted and everything is presented without frills. As this is the final area to see, at the tail end of my visit (so to speak), I wonder if the market has shown me everything? I doubt it, I am sure there are many more tales to be told here...but that would be for another day.
*Vietnamese style coffee, soup noodles (usually with beef), sandwich made with crispy French style baguette.