Monday, 28 May 2007

Ownership of Spaces: What makes a space a place? What makes a place a non-place?

Through my dance practice, I am currently investigating how Contact Improvisation Dance, or the self-regulatory movement discipline of Authentic Movement (or, indeed, any kind of 'formal' movement) may be sufficient or appropriate to the task of activating or temporarily at least, creating a sense of ownership which is missing from a given place - or 'non-place'.* (By 'ownership', I do not mean ownership in the legal sense. I mean ownership through energetic presence - in the space).

At this point I am engaging with small, subtle, yet not-everyday movements and filming public responses, in places which could be thought of as interfaces between places and non-places: service entrances at the back of supermarkets and on the edge of busy thoroughfares full of people; carparks, entrances and corners of shopping malls, inter-street linking passageways ... the Interislander ferry, airports ...

* 'Non-place': Marc Augé coined this term in 2000, in his definitive book, 'non-places. introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity'. He uses it to describe how our ability to 'be' fully present and 'be-long' in this kind of location in our world, atrophys or contracts when we are in locations - specifically, non-places, like supermarkets, airports, service stations and forecourts - places of transit, where we - some of us in particular - expend much of our time and energy displacing space in a cursory manner, without emotional investment.

I welcome all comments on this topic.

Augé, M. (2000). non-places introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity / Marc Augê translated by John Howe. Verso, London / New York.


nomads.hat said...

Critiquing of ‘Slow Roll’ Explorations, Jan/March/May ’07.

This relates to a series of movement/film sessions within my practice, begun in January 2007, exploring the device of rolling, very slowly across a selected space. My rationale for introducing this device is based on the following points:

Firstly, it is a ‘way in’ for me; even though my movement will not be limited to the action of rolling, it enables me to begin to discover how I might ‘act’ out my concepts – rolling becomes a vehicle for investigatively encountering the various territories with/in which I plan to occupy and carry out my movement work. Also, the dance-in-the-body itself, requires recognition and validity. It is, therefore, important for me that I engage with this activity holistically, in the sense that because I am using dance as a vehicle with which to investigate my concepts, I need to properly prepare my ‘self’ to do this by ‘arriving’ adequately, so that the dance is not just a means to an end.

The activity of slow-rolling relates to Nancy Stark-Smith`s ‘small dance’ within C.I. as a time of internal or somatic movement – a time of arriving with one`s body in a space; at first, there is often not very much evidence of outward movement at all. The ‘small dance’ relates to the inner body first – it is a manifestation of personal ownership - the process of acknowledging the layering of the body; cellular structure, internal organs, the bones and muscles, which, in the second phase expands outwards to touch the epidermal layers of skin, (at which point, movement becomes visible. Nancy calls this the ‘Skinsesphere), which in turn, travels beyond the confines of the body (in a sense this third or last phase includes/integrates the body with the surrounding space) to facilitate the body`s arrival within the space itself. It is a process of slowly emerging, centrifugal intention and subsequent movement, which equips the dancer to manage, interact with, articulate their presence in the wider space/place in which they find themselves. (This ‘articulation’ and subsequent description of ‘dance’, might be as minimal as the simple act of standing up and finding a place of stillness).

The act of rolling also allows one to ‘map’ a dimension of the space/place which would usually go unnoticed and provides the roller (and the camera view) with a unique perspective of the space. This perspective signifies for me a rolling, ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ aspect carried out by the body; the closing, a shutting out of the world, the opening, a ‘letting in of the world’. This opening or ‘letting in’ is reminiscent of Heidegger`s ‘being in the world’. My editing work in Final Cut Pro
of an overall monotone, indiscriminately blanketing everything is the signifier of the closure – the blanket of bland, sameness or neutrality encountered in non-places. (Of course, non-places are usually not like this – in my estimation they tend to project a feeling of ‘norm’ for us, through familiarity and it is only perhaps in retrospect that we are aware of the insidious lack of ‘belonging’ – the aloneness in a crowd in transit – the pragmatism of engaging in a task which catalyzes the contractuality in-situ). The nature and quality of the movement itself, is interventionist in the sense that it is unusual and perhaps unsettling. The body in a supine position, which has been inserted in an otherwise, vertically dominated, urban environment can be innocently at rest, but it is also associated with sickness, aberrant behaviour, or death.

Kinkaleri Dance Co (Perazzo, 2006) has used figures falling down in public places, (The Fall of the West, 2003), as political commentary to signify ways in which the western world is in decline, bringing degeneration and death. It also signifies that we betray a cavalier attitude toward our fellow humans in urban environments.

My intention, like that of ‘WEST’ is to ‘interrogate the formats of scenic presence and the limits of social constructions by taking the enquiry out of theatrical spaces, and placing it in the real world, in busy streets, squares and corners of big modern cities’, with the specific objective of targeting what I consider to be non-places using, what on a certain level, could be said to be, 'non-dance’.

Kinkaleri`s work can be read either as political statement or as formal experiment. Talking about the aesthetic rationale, they say: ‘as a formal sign, the fall is a change of physical position, from vertical to horizontal. Seeing this action in a context in which you don`t expect to see it modifies your perception of the space, your perspective vision. The image you have in front of you changes completely. Dropping to the ground the person swallows up all the rest and creates a sort of suspension where every little movement becomes important. It`s as if, by falling, the human figure revealed a hidden world, enabling the viewer to see things differently … so the person falls down dead and immediately a whole other life fills in the void (s)he left; people walking, cyclists speeding past, children playing, joggers running, tourists taking photographs, shoppers with their bags, business men in their suits, cars, motorbikes, trains, dogs,
pigeons …’ (Perazzo, D. 12:2006)

At this time, a line of investigation for me is to focus on that degree or description of ‘suspension’ which Kinkaleri mentions which is precipitated in the viewer by encountering a strange moment in their day. That moment of thrall to the incongruous, the way that when we are involuntarily moved out of our current perspective, we perceive the world, suddenly, in all its minutiae.

Erwin Wurm, in his ‘One minute sculptures’ (Graz, 2000, in Parachute 105, autofictions, 2002) inserts his body into niches in the public eye in ways which unsettle viewers or casual passers-by, just by the mere placing of himself in unusual positions in everyday places. Incongruity. Thus, he intervenes in the norms of the everyday, subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) draws attention to his performing body and illicits in the witness, questions with regard to what the ‘body’ is ‘doing’ in this way, in this place, at this time? So, my rolling goes. I am intrigued by the visual compositional dynamic tensions which may exist by my inserting myself and other dancers into an otherwise ‘de-activated’ non-place at the edge of ‘places’. I am intrigued by the ways in which my movement may create a dialogue between dancers and dancers and dancers and place, or dancers as ‘stranger’ identities and members of the public as ‘host’ identities (see my next blog: ‘hosts and strangers’) and of course, any items of street furniture in the place. I am intrigued by the questions which may be prompted by the nature of my movement. Questions are good. This is about questions which may provoke enquiry in the mind of the viewer and align themselves with that notion of peripheral views and snatched moments of, ‘What was that …?’

This question relates to my first blog under,
'In the Company of Strangers'.

Antony & Cynthia said...

The human need to analyze everything to within an inch of it's life has always fascinated and frightened me.I see many words here and still i feel nothing.The words are valid for your study but they do not belong in the world of authentic movement. They belong in the heads of intellects of which i am not. So bravo to you for taking on such rich and expanded text but i cannot comment on this. The next time you and Fiona dance live i will be there with my heart and then i will have something to say or maybe i will just cry.Guess i was the wrong person to ask.

nomads.hat said...

Thanks Antony and Cynthia, for your comment. Yes, two worlds - writing and motion, but each are 'texts' which contain rich narratives with the potential to complement the other. Do feel able to think-out-loud any time into this space. Thanks again.

idiom said...

Lots of words, yes. But they are descriptive of the process of arrival in the body in order to authentically move (or authentically anything). From this place of centred focus one can respond to the environment, self, other, space, body...

Non-places are the places where this 'centredness' is hardest to achieve as there is so much to draw you away from the self; the over bright and unnatural lighting, musac as opposed to music, 'shiny' packaging to distract (say in airports) or draw in (supermarkets or shopping malls/centres). This could be compared to the difference between meditation in a beautiful scenic natural setting and attempting the same state in a shopping mall or supermarket. The pursuit of 'centredness' (in a very real holistic sense: meaning body, mind, emotion, spirit in harmony - not a 'new age' kind of 'harmony' but something a little more informed and substantial) is something I do on an everyday basis and it is deeply engaging to spend time with it, pushing it, or pushing the boundaries of it: trying out a slow roll across a tar-seal footpath that might not be aesthetically appealing. Can I find the pure moment? There is a moment of beauty in all places be they non-places or not. In the movie Baraka there is a shot of a monk walking through a crowded city in a state of ritual focus ringing a bell. I wonder how many heard the bell, I wonder how much mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical effort that this kind of movement requires. I practice and pursue authentic states of focus in my dance as a dance artist and in my life as a human - being.