Return Journey to Paris

2013-08-29 21.17.57

I have moved to a new flat in London. Behind the flat is a train line, and a few times an hour I am aware of four or five seconds of muffled whoosh – a great metal snake slithering past, its belly full of people to be deposited in other parts of the country. On the other side of the house I sit at a desk and look out the window at the path of airplanes approaching London City Airport. A place surrounded by lines of flight seems as good a place as any to contemplate travel.

For the last two years the bulk of my research has been about travel and leisure theory – how we confront new places, what we expect from the contemporary travel experience, how places present themselves to people not from there. It’s a collection of ideas that is a tangle of paradoxes and deep metaphors.

This research conveniently dovetailed with a phenomenon I have been experiencing for a few years, which I call the Ticket Thing. Since about 2009 I have been finding Paris metro tickets in various cities – mostly in London, but also in Berlin, Belfast, Lisbon, Barcelona and Leipzig. I have a huge collection.

I love these tickets – they’re a beautiful little size and a pleasing rectangular shape with a brown magnetic strip bisecting the white back, like a runway. I’ve found them in bushes, in puddles, baking in the sun, but always in cities far away from France. The only explanation for their existence is that they have travelled to the spot I found them by human means, on someone’s person, and then were discarded – tossed on the ground, fluttered out of someone’s pocket, dropped out of a wallet.

The tickets are part of the quiet urban debris that tells a story – each ticket is a journey, has made its own way to wherever I found it, when our trajectories intersected. Our paths became tangled, and, since I pick up the tickets their journey continues, their vector extends alongside mine, dozens of journeys intertwined together.

I have come to feel responsible for their destiny. They were lost, but I’m not providing them any final resting place. I thought for a long time about returning all these tickets back to Paris, but couldn’t hit on the right method. It’s true that a masters degree did get in the way, but the real issue is that I didn’t know what to do with the collection and I wanted to return them in a way that felt right.

I’ve finally come up with it – I’m going to cut them into confetti. Mingle together all those discarded tickets and their separate journeys, make a merry mess out of the things that travelled so far and managed to live on, and flutter them off a bridge into the Seine, a proper journey home, a proper burial. Spring 2014: Return Journey to Paris.