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knowing space

this is just a bit of stream-of-consciousness thinking about space at the moment, that has been cropping up lately. it mostly relates to a couple of projects i have lined up [especially in november], but you know, things crop up in the strangest of times.

as many of you will be aware, i'm interested in psychogeography, which is primarily the action of knowing ones place. slowing it all down, becoming aware and having an experience of a place which dictates its geography, as opposed to the maps, the signs, the images of it (thanks mr. debord for fucking up my mind on the images bit.)

well, as an adjunct to that, i'm doing a couple of projects that look at ways to know architectural space in the same way - cities can be walked or cycled through. but how do we have a humanist-psychological experience about the places we're in? one of the ways which we can measure space and know it in this way is through touch - through a more craft-based, hands-on approach. once you have traversed a corner, or the north-east wall with your hands, in some way, you know the space intimately. you see it as it really is, blemishes, scuffs, bits of plaster coming off where the blu-tack holding up that placemakers exhibition poster was.

i'm interested in this process for a couple of reasons. firstly, as an artist working primarily with space, site-specificity and installation, knowing a space is crucial to my understanding of it. and my understanding of the space is crucial to being able to create work that fits. i think most artists instinctively need to know the space their working on in this way. whether it's through painting the wall, measuring up to nail paintings to it, marking out a work on the floor, spending some time in the space, it's part of the process of coming to terms with the place.

for instance, i recently helped out with installation for the urban interior and as part of that work, we stencilled out the words URBAN INTERIOR across the length of the wall. we did this through projection and masking tape, which we 'drew' out the words - it was typography with masking tape and quite an odd feeling to kern a 2m high font from 2 cms away. anyway, in being so close to the wall, we got to know it - where part of it needed patching, you could see the history of the place in the coats of paint, and experience the ecosystem of dust mites and fluff balls that resided in the 9mm between the sheetrock and floorboards. interestingly, as we spent more time with the space, the easier the process of lettering got. i'd like to think it's because we started to really tune in with the nature of the place, our gestures became aligned with what was needed there. maybe we just 'got the hang of it'. either way, that process of feeling our way, hands on walls, up-close-and-personal was an important element of the installation process.

a couple of the projects i'm working on involve measuring and making a pattern for the space, in the same way that we measure and make a pattern for clothing. and when we measure and pattern a person in this way, we come to know them reasonably intimately. ever put a tape measure around someone's stomach and not felt how close together you're really standing? same rules apply.

and then, perhaps, once you know a place in this way - it becomes a particular kind of place. a place that perhaps you know and remember in a way that you can't make assumptions about. it becomes a private place, of sorts. and it becomes a different space. a space in which that knowledge dictates the true form of the place. the word inherent comes to mind.

as it becomes easier and easier to make assumptions about spaces, through technological advancement, how important is it to know a place? no, really know a place. like the back of your hand. is it as important as it is to really know people? i mean, i've never met some of my dearest friends. is it the same to have never been to my favourite places?


At 08 September, 2008 19:48, Blogger Nicky Fingers said...

Actually a very profound questions Ms Brown, which extends further than just space. Technology does make it possible to make assumptions, but it lacks Gestalt. it is merely a transferable fleeting impression based on one input. A tone, not the whole song.

So it is important to really know a space, otherwise it is a part missing other part to make the sum. It lacks for instants " Proust's madeline cookies effect" , where a smell or touch can take you to certain places. people need to feel it to believe it.

But on the bright side, I think there will be some serious money to be made in the field of haptic memories and touch, so you are in the right field. Internet is fine and all, but it does not compare to the feel of boobs, does it? And gen Y is now coming into money earning years so timing is perfect.

The comparision to people is the same. Memories and knowlegde of people are also dictated by context. So you have only a part of the picture. You do not have a piece of clothing that you wore to a meeting of friends that reminds you, a food that reminds, a touch that reminds. Once again, you can not miss what you do not know, but we as humans know the depth a physical bond with other humans can give a relationship.

Perhaps the work of the designer Kenya Hara on haptic memories and it's power could be usefull to you when further investigating the effect of touch on humans and space. Designing Desing is a great piece of work to read..

kind regards

At 09 September, 2008 00:02, Blogger lauren said...

"internet is fine, but it does not compare to the feeling of boobs, does it?". ha! i think that's my favourite comment ever. well done niko.

and thanks for the suggestion re: proust, kenya hara and designing design.

i think one of the crucial aspects to this kind of discussion is "you cannot miss what you cannot know" - will generations z, alpha and beta know spaces in the same way? will we be the only ones nostalgic about the feel of paint on plaster - or is it an inherent need to know space in this way? nature or nurture?

At 09 September, 2008 14:37, Blogger Nicky Fingers said...

may I ask if you could have some pointers about space and design and stuff to read for me? I noticed u mentioned debord? any good that?

At 10 September, 2008 02:39, Blogger Age said...

This sounds really interesting Lauren. With all this talk about the LHC experiment, I've been involved in a few conversations about matter and anti-matter etc (yep, we're reading news clippings and trying to sound like we're physicists) but what really interests me is this idea of dark matter, the space filled with nothingness - or is it? I dunno why, but to me, this post reminds me of this thought. The "emotional" distance between physical places. I don't know about physics and maybe I'm trippin, but this post just made me think about that.

At 10 September, 2008 09:11, Blogger lauren said...

age - "LHCb detects where the anti-matters gone..". i know that it's big news right now and i'm definitely interested, but at the same time, a little bit Y2K about the whole thing too.

it's interesting that you equate anti-matter or dark matter with the emotional distance between places. that LHC will discover emotion in an equation. interesting theory.

niko - oh man, you could read a tonne of books about space and design: guy debord is more about society in general, but then there's roland barthes, joseph beuys, walter benjamin, heidigger, lots of architectural theory, urban planning theory, an i'm reading an ace book about space, site and installation by Erika Suderburg.

At 10 September, 2008 16:03, Blogger Nicky Fingers said...

urban planning theory sounds like a good place.

thanks for the tip

At 11 September, 2008 06:05, Blogger Rob @ Cynic said...

I've just seen this - you total bloody sweetheart.

Making friends used to be based on physical location, now it's on philosophy or attitude - I'm glad or you might of passed me by.

At 11 September, 2008 12:57, Blogger lauren said...

right back at ya mr campbell :)


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