Distorting spaces I

“public space, politics and event” workshop With lucy gunning

Workshop notes:

  • What does ‘politics’ mean? Politics of the world, a country, a space. Politics = news, rules, systems put in place by those with power. Politics = the way things are, the everyday. Politics of life vs politics of politics/government.
  • Restriction. Virginia Woolf “A Room of One’s Own” — inspired Lucy Gunning’s piece for “Planned and Unplanned” exhibition. Ownership of space (e.g uni / museum quad) – reading Virginia Woolf in quad.
  • Spectacle or lack of. Merge with everyday life rather than causing a scene. Not a hired space, rest of the space continuing as usual.
  • “Text mapped on to an environment, that you were moving through”
  • Participants also the audience
  • Event in relation to exhibition: exhib a way to advertise event (not pre filmed etc as something to present in an exhibition)
  • Carrying dancer down the street; acknowledgement of audience; subtle, short, fitting into everyday.
  • Mirrors in Lake district; can only witness by being part of it; Noone can witness the whole thing
  • Posters/stickers – integrating with public space

References:

  • DAVID HAMMONS: Selling snowballs on the street, documentation only exists because a photographer (unhired) took photos
  • FRANCIS ALYS: Recording. If the work is made up of experiences is there any value in filming etc
  • OLAFUR ELIASSON: “Green River”. Unannounced. Starts a fear/buzz/rumour. Wakes people up to their environment.
  • MEIRELES: Working with the circulation of things, e.g recycled coca cola bottles, editing the labels etc then returning them, go undetected and back into the system. E.g instructions on how to make a molotov cocktail; no control over what happens to them/no control over the audience; also with money “yankees go home”
  • VALIE EXPORT: Working with her body in public; posters; performance; “street cinema” – but its her boobs! Questioning the male gaze by confronting them with her as a human.
  • Always relates back to capitalism / control / boundaries. Capitalism as a network/map/web. Boundaries as a system.

For me , this workshop became more about the politics of space; how do we use spaces? I was thinking about the formal rules that dictate our use of spaces as well as the informal rules that influence how we move around, behave in and interact with spaces.

I was thinking about this in relation to Perec’s “Species of Spaces”. As well as talking about Spaces, he sets what he refers to as ‘exercises’, for example, listing sitting in one places and listing everything you see, without prioritising the out-of-the-ordinary over the mundane. This forces the participant to look more carefully at their surroundings and to notice things. 

I did this for the Chelsea College Parade Ground. I think the Parade Ground is an interesting space as it sits somewhere between poublic and private; it is owned by the college, yet is open for the public to pass through. I think of the Parade Ground as a kind of transitionary space – it is used to get from one place to another. My main interest lies in how people use spaces, so I focused my recordings on the entrances/exits and the people who pass through them:

This kind of written ‘map’ of activity prompted me to think about other ways of mapping/tracking how people interact with the space. Because of limited time, I focused on the area outside the Triangle space, at the bottom of the ramp. This area is one that has to be walked on in order for people to get to the Parade Ground from the main building, the workshops and the Triangle Space, as well as being the only route in between the three.

Despite this, once i started laying down the newspaper, people were extremely reluctant to walk there (even though there is literally no other option). I tried to make extend the edges, forcing people to walk across, rather than jump over. By laying water around the edges of the newspaper I could see exactly where people were walking, and all the stains were around the very edges.

It is interesting how a small change made people so aware of themselves and of the space. Ordinarily, you wouldn’t think twice about walking on a newspaper on the ground, however here, where it was clearly more deliberate, everyone was reluctant to. They either skirted round the edges, or walked in a funny ‘minimal contact’ kind of way, hesitating before crossing.

My intention for this experiment was to simply see how people moved in a space, however, it became about me as the artist changing the space and preventing the people from using the space how they usually would. This relates back to my earlier work exploring my power as artist. I have made a space that’s only purpose is to be walked across, completely useless.

 

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