Heteropolis: redefining everyday objects for street signage

 

 Another fun piece in this collection of Heteropolis was a fascinating semiotic study by Patrice Loubier, "Se bricoler un signe et partir. Notes sur une série photographique de Martin Désilets." The author studies a then recent photographic series by Martin Désilets, who documented that peculiar habit we sometimes have of "reserving" street parking in front of our home with random objects from our house. I often think of this piece and Loubier's analysis: my uphill neighbors trade in junk, removing, reusing, reselling tons of junk, and they often load their trucks out front. A few years ago, while these luxury condos were being built, parking got tough, and the neighbors got cagey. I was annoyed, with the city especially, but with the neighbors mostly, and mostly daily. Whenever they set out objects out front to *reserve* their space, annoying me to no end, it reminded me of this piece, and elevated my neighbors, ever so slightly, in my mind. Little did they know they were semioticians, and deviating a sign's use function. Mostly, it reminded me that I had better fish to fry.​

 

​Seemingly trivial, this practice is definitely, at the micrologic scale of an individual in transit, a case of adapting household objects to the function of urban signage, and thereby an original “sentence” (to speak in terms of Certeau) uttered with regard to other users of traffic lanes. These objects find in this context an original meaning (distinct both from the planned urban furniture to the display of “garage sale” objects).

Apparemment anodine, cette pratique est pourtant bel et bien, à l’échelle micrologique de l’individu en transit, un cas d’adaptation d’objets domestiques à la fonction urbaine de signalisation, et par là une « phrase » originale (pour parler comme De Certeau) proférée à l’endroit des autres usagers des voies de circulation. Ces objets y trouvent un sens inédit (distinct aussi bien du mobilier urbain planifié que de la mise en vue d’objets de la « vente de garage »).

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