Oxford, English Gothic architecture and the old university have attracted students and tourists for centuries, and the city has recently gained fame as a setting for the Harry potter series of films. But what is it like to live in such a picturesque and historically rich place?
Arturo Soto A certain logic of expectations (the Eriskay connection) is a sharply observed, decidedly less scenic view of Oxford. In the book, Soto’s photos record the city’s less distinguished public spaces, while his short texts reflect his encounters with Oxford’s unique traditions and social norms. Created over the course of four years while the Mexican photographer and writer was studying in the graduate program at the Ruskin School of Art, A certain logic of expectations escapes, in Soto’s words, “the obvious charms of Oxford.” Instead, the book offers a critical but personal study of the organization of the city and Soto’s place in it.
People are expressly absent from Soto’s images, which focus on what the artist calls the city’s ânon-placesâ – makeshift shelters, graffiti walls, and cramped apartment buildings – that âcome outâ. the ethic of ‘intellectualism’ that most people associate with the city, âthe artist wrote in a recent email to Hyperallergic. The photos appear to have been taken spontaneously, perhaps on daily walks, and capture secluded streets and cluttered storefronts in dark, close-up detail. âOxford has a complex social divide which tends to be overlooked,â he said. His decaying vernacular subjects challenge Oxford’s mythical proportions, but they also convey a sense of similarity and even isolation tied to the artist’s own experience.
âI’m interested in cities because they are the environment most of us live in, the stage in which our daily lives take place,â Soto wrote. “As such, we are compelled to develop feelings towards them, and I am interested in capturing those feelings.”
The author’s feelings are most evident in his writing. Soto’s short texts bring together his impressions of townspeople, academics and acquaintances as Brexit tensions and Oxford’s long-standing divisions between ‘city and dress’ simmer in the background. Soto’s measured writing is also tinged with humor and frankness that echoes influences like RamÃ³n GÃ³mez de la Serna, Georges Perec and Augusto Monterroso. Of a busy evening at the city’s McDonald’s, he observes, “this is the only truly democratic place in Oxford, where young and old, rich and poor, city and dress, share a space in a relative harmony “.
Soto’s writings cover many topics: the urban experience, forgotten stories, social behaviors and, in softer moments, the desire for an inaccessible person or place. His voice is diaristic, analytical and exploratory. âThe question of whether I could say something meaningful about a city with such a rich history was on my mind,â Soto said via email. “This is, after all, the place where many great writers were educated and then wrote about the city or included it in their books.” Now Soto’s work provides a glimpse of Oxford through an alternate lens.
A certain logic of expectations by Arturo Soto is published by Eriskay Connection and is available online.
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