An Overview by Sylvia G. Borda
For this body of work I’ve examined Tokyo and
London’s transportation lines. For the Japanese segment I focus
on the Yamanote (green - circle) line that connects various boroughs
in the heart of Tokyo. This line is popular amongst a cross-section
of users and, similar to the Docklands line in London, was constructed
to connect transit users from outlying areas to the heart of the
city center in an effort to optimise efficiency and promote new socio-economic
These seemingly unlike areas share cross cultural histories undetected
perhaps by site but well documented in print. During the Meiji period
the Emperor commissioned English and German engineers to construct
a rail system for Tokyo. Hence the past and current rail systems
within Japan are based on a European model of transportation and
architectural structure. Ironically the Docklands area was the first
to be powered with steam engines and cranes. Shipments being deployed
from this dock were often comprised of steel and iron going to the
Orient. Materials that originated from Docklands during the 1880s
may have become part of Japan’s transportation grids.
The photographs are arranged in grids with limited labeling to identify
the places from which they originate. While the grids appear to form
typological systems, viewers are left to examine minute details within
the image plane in order to identify location. Markers and signifiers
are reduced wherever possible to limited icons so that location becomes
irrelevant and the viewer consumes the image on a more immediate
(and even mundane) level, similar to the rapid scanning attention
of someone on a daily commute.
The level of ambiguity left within the image aids in framing a discourse
about social migration and supermodernist architecture where these
temporary holding spaces for the working/commuter classes become
universal and non-descript. Each of these concepts questions one's
position within the grid of a modern transportation system and, likewise,
within an urban city scheme that symbolizes a new gentrification
of subcultural zones.
Ironically cross cultural hybridization can reverse through history.
For instance, the new Docklands rail and plazas like the 'Excel'
are an indirect import from the East; the Excel complex was designed
by Malyasian architects. The engineering for the Docklands rail,
in fact, comes from Japanese models.
All of these influences become cross-hybridized and re-hybridized
at their points of origin. In this way through both the architectural
form or through the physical gathering of commuters, it becomes impossible
to guess form from location. Is a Japanese man waiting for a train
on a British rail platform or is he in Japan? What does cross globalization
mean in terms of identity, and how does global architecture, transportation
As a Canadian photographer creating works abroad I too have a relationship
to the places I visit. For example, I am intrigued by the superimposition
of names throughout the Docklands sites that refer to Canada Place
and related Canadian iconography. My works are a reflection of social –economics;
Canada Place and related buildings are direct results of a revitalization
program brought to the area by the Montreal’s Bronfman family.
In depicting Docklands I am not only reflecting on Japanese and British
cultural cross-pollination, but on Canadian roots, as well.