New website: Practising Space

Posted: November 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Please see website for further information.
This blog will continue as project space.

This exercise becomes a spatial mediation for participants and space users; seeking to enable a notation of the spatial use schemas to become dynamically re-enacted in order for it to be more carefully considered.

Practising Space has now taken place in numerous locations; in some locations it was received well, for this I will define such reception not as a performative intervention, rather as a social tool which actively enabled people to interact with each other and the landscape; this raised the question as to; How do certain architectures facillate or hinder the presence of the human voice . Sennett espouses through detailed observation the spaces in ancient Athens which were constructed with the particular notion to allow space for certain citizens voices which enable certain voices to be heard in way which will enable other citizens to hear them more clearly and places them in a socio-architectural stance which facillates better understanding of their presence. If we are to take such notions into modern spatial planning and architectural develop as instruction to locate the human at the centre of the out put of the design process, this may lead to principles of ‘embodied’ place.

‘The space thus sustained a single voice, its words unfolding; the sound form focused the councillors attention upon that sound. The space which concentrated attention on the voice also created a regime of visual surveillance; because of the raked seating, councillors could clearly be identified as to how they voted.’ ( Sennett)

Within this research, Sennett explores how the body, reviewed as functioning social and political apparatus, is considered as a key consideration within construction; to the extent the architecture becomes further tool to highlight the body as social function.

‘Could the shaping of stones provide men some control over the heat of their flesh? Could the power to reason be built in the city?’ ( Sennett)

In this sense the design of urban space becomes mechanism for the exploration of the social position of the body in space, the dynamic interrelation between space and user and the subsequent affects which the body may have on the space and the space may have on the body. Sennett places a great deal of weight between the divide between the body and space; and how far the relationship emphasis has shifted and changed between the two, this debate remains critical to the essence of Practising Space, as it seeks to place the space user’s body, routine and interaction as a frontal consideration, not so much to observe the affects of architecture, rather to learn as to how space use codes can in some way become universal.

‘In the modern era we often think of the mind-body spilt as a matter of arid mental constructs repressing the sensate life of the body. But at the opening of civilisation the problem was reversed; the body ruled the world, and estranged men’s power to live rationally through the unity of word and deed which Perikles celebrated in the Funeral Oration. The heat of the body, as expressed in democratic rhetoric, led people to lose rational control in argument; led people to lose rational control in argument; the heat of words in politics lacked as well as the narrative logic which it possessed in the theatre.’

The city remains my canvas and my studio for my research; cities in their diverse and complex make up; the body becomes muse; for this enquiry the action of the body as it passes through urban space becomes complex dialogical form; the routes the human follows and creates; the paths which the human may take great pleasure to follow; the paths which the human may avoid for fear of action which they interpret the space to manifest. The body places an overlay on to the city; the city becomes personified through the human experiences of its terrain.

To attempt to form generalisations as to how people are moving through and using space; to impress upon daily motions a choreography which in reality may be a subjective projection towards daily routine allows a language of representation to form which may in turn disappear as soon as it comes into fruition. In this sense to make a choreographic language based upon these naturalistic habitual patterns is to archive modern movement. Gathering and collating actions and reactions through dynamic physical and photographic documentation which can be stored, in time used for drawing parallels and on the wider schema of progress to develop a movement archive for the city as it exists in the particular time and space from whence the movement language was derived from. Here the seminal importance of the documentation alerts, for the memory of the performer may decline; the body may change, decay or die; hence the evidence of such observation survives thus only through the image. The image becomes thus an in this context an object of anthropological functionalism; as although the body may in turn remember what the mind forgets; the image can stand as evidence and testimony to the fruit of such observation.

Here lies the opening to the failure of dance and performance as undocumented pure expression to create a historical archive of historical action; creating momentary insights as to potentially profound social observations which are existent only in the moments they are created and then left as fragmented pieces of unresolved memory in the minds of those who witnessed their fruition and decline. This raises the question; how far does performance rely on documentation and review to create a social legacy? Can the sheer intensity of viewing a ‘profound’ performance actually generate a series of appropriate social changes and impacts?

Questions: ( asked to the participants of Practising Space)
-How far does your body become spectacle within this exercise?
-How far can this exercise be pedestrian or performance? Can you play with the boundaries between these two?
-what the space necessitate you to do? How far are you ‘happy’ to obey the social codes which the space emits; how far can you actively dismiss them?
-how far can you engage passers by in what you are doing? How far can this communication develop into physical dialog?
– explore how far you can take this exercise as a social performance task or an architectural intervention task?

This simple research exercise is an example of passive activism. The participant of Practising Space becomes a fluid body, a vessel in which the codes of the space can be carried, repeated and learnt. The movement vocabulary which the participant learnt from the locations were remarkably simplistic, as explored in Part two of this paper, the body executes simple movements of sitting, standing, walking, minimal gesture and avoidance of unknown interaction. The participants in this exercise acted as a muse, for others to contemplate how the space is used by their bodies and by the repetition and staging of the ‘routine’ which the participants learnt from the space and how the space users were acting, the simple pedestrian performance they executed became a further vehicle for contemplation.


The body in the context of my current investigations was ‘tested’ as spatial tool, instigator, apparatus and stimulus for potential action paths and the research in Practising Space part i was centred around the potential of the body to articulate patterns and reactions to landscape revolving around personal emotional ability to disseminate spatial codes; rather than delivering a particular reflection on the existing use of the site; although this did expand through the process; working in locations in which the participants became a tool of playful spatial animation; there was some concern raised by Professor Spier ( Architect’s Project Review) that you cannot undermine purpose design space use if it is effective. With this review came the further concern that the participants were using the score to articulate their own emotional response to the landscape; which was that results generated from the score should evolve into a potential stimulus for appreciation and understanding of landscape rather than portrait of participants’ reaction to space.

This line of concern raises the question ; why should people become attuned to how their using space; and if a research process is seeking to enable this; what are the potential benefits and can these be considerered as socially valid. Can the benefit of such ‘attunement’ be clearly defined and investigated and how might this then generate qualative research data?

Does Practising Space function as a tool to enable people to become more attuned and alert to their surroundings? Can such a tool be perceived as useful when the affects are so subjective? Can these affects be monitored and returned as critical discourse which can be relocated back to the site of impetus in effort and attempt to lay roads for new departures and potential shifts in space use. Can the body become apparatus in this context for regeneration? Is the term regeneration to grand; to strip this down; this project becomes a desire to explore heightened spatial potential using the body as apparatus and the modes of subsequent documentation to bring such explorations to critical departure frameworks. The differentiation in pathways to the modalities of this research can be seen as the function of this task to generate a mode of self observation; with the wider research objectives simply seeking to produce photographic documentation as to the naturalistic choreography of every day life or the more interventional focus of this research can be to develop modes of spatial activation.


The body as research; a physical and experimental means to navigate the social code of the city; the rise of the city flow and ebb, the body resists, allows, admits occasionally defeated;


Walking slowly with the expectation of space; holding in grace the demands which the body presumes it to allow. The body in this context is a silent witness to mass command, a mocking of its own potential. The body falls silently in line with the spatial flux, holding in caution to its demands. The body does not move in a way other than the fashion in which it sees and perceives; formed so closely to the demands and expectations which the space emits.


But does space emit such message? Do we not project on to space a construction of reality which we have allowed to form as our own reality? The architecture of space allows in form a response; it generates a modality in which it can encounter space as functional resource to move without conflict from one space to another


The nature and form of reflection


A slow walk that allows the body to become accustomed to space. The sensation of air touching every surface of the body. A motion of weight and certainty as to wear it falls and rises, the sensation of texture of the surface of which the foot encroaches. A determination in stride; a focus both internal and external that allows rhythm to be noted and forgotten, the memory of the last step does not consume.


A figure alone in the mists of dawn which stands alone and awaits the sun to activate shadowy climbs. A pause and an activation of great momentum of perspective. A clarity of intention. Stillness is simply without large activation of gestural form. An internal state of flux which can only be felt in the beating a the heart, a notation of the heart beat that rises and climbs faster; breath that expands every space in the body; filling every crevasse with life and energy


Suspension of all activity; pause from life; momentary death; deprivation of all life and sensation as a search for a non existent void which cannot exist within life force. A pulse which gathers force and will not allow such sensation to exist. Admit defeat from such quest and allow action.


To allow breath to fill each crevasse that is vacant. The lungs expand; bigger and bigger; a growing seething mass; then a decision is made to vacate; the air is quickly dislodged; pushed out; rejected. The body can feel anything; cleansed; empty; nothing; something; who can decide. To decide to breathe in; to decide to exhale; the movement of the body; the solitude of such decision.


To dive into space; hurling; hurtling; heathing; a space vacant; waiting to be filled; consumed.


Calling for a space to allow us to enter; calling for a space to allow it be become empty; to allow it to become full again of a weight. Calling to an abstract through the body; calling sorrow or remorse through aching limbs and heavy heart.


To not allow the force of continuum to consume; to instead allow so


To run and to collapse. To try to rise. To seep into a mound; to be aware that the weight of the earth will effortlessly seep you in. To allow. To fight and struggle to saunter and allow the unexpected; as this will be the total sum of the fight. To fall, to fight; to struggle; to purposefully seek the discontent of the allowance of the upright.

A choreographic forum

Posted: September 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

This forum is a resource for choreographers, architects, planners, artists, theatre makers and designers to explore relationships of the body in space.