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?