This project has been made possible by a grant from the Creative Arts Council of Brown University.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Some key ideas

I want to lay out a few of the ideas running around in my head as I embark on this project, and that I consider key in my approach to this site-specific work:

The material and non-material: The interplay between the material and the non-material is important for what I am trying to explore. I use “material” to refer to the materiality of the site—the stuff, objects, buildings, things, physical components that make up the site. I use “non-material” to refer to more abstract aspects of the site, such as its meaning, symbolic importance, emotional effect, imaginative potential. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive; the relationship between them is multi-faceted, complex, and unstable.
Presences and absences: How has the materiality of the site changed? What is present that used to be absent? Absent that used to present? I am interested in exploring past presences and present absences on both a material and non-material level.
Place: Considering place as distinct from space- whereas space is abstract and rational, place is subjective, it has value invested in it, it is lived in. Considering place as something that is created through movement and embodied practices (“embodied practice” is used here quite literally, to refer to practices of the [human] body). The concept of place that I am employing is drawn from ideas of space and place explored by thinkers such as Edward Casey and Yi-Fu Tuan.
For Casey in particular, the body plays a pivotal role in our experience of place; he writes that, the body 
bears the traces of the places it has known. These traces are continually laid down in the body, being sedimented there, and thus becoming formative of its specific somatography...placial incorporation.1
Places stay with us, are embedded in us, and this process is reciprocal.
Memory: What is the relationship of memory to the material site? To material presences and absences? What role do memories of the site play in its present identities? How do others’ memories of the site inform and change our understandings of the site?
Non-linear time: Considering the ways in which the pasts of the site (material and non-material) are present through our engagements with them (as William Faulker wrote in Requiem for a Nun, “the past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past”). Considering the role of memory in blurring the conception of time as linear, where time is an absolute entity that progresses from past to present to future.
Dance:  Approaching the idea of dance as kinetic, embodied exploration of and engagement with what it means to be human.
Site-specific dance: Approaching the site-specific dance as a kinetic, embodied exploration of and engagement with what it means to be human in a place.
Flux: I like to subscribe to the idea that places are not static; they are constantly changing. This can apply both on the material and non-material level, with the instability of the meanings, conceptions, and perceptions of places existing in a complex interplay with the material changes occurring at a site.
Performance and performativity: Considering the creation of urban space as a performative act- designating certain sites as historic, or off-limits, or endangered are some examples of performative acts that shape and define urban spaces and the way that people use and think about them. If we consider city-making as a performance, what happens when a performance in the more conventional sense (i.e. a performing arts event) is inserted into this performative space?

1 Casey, Edward S. 2000. “Body, Self, and Landscape: A Geophilosophical Inquiry into the Place-World.” In Textures of Place: Exploring humanist geographies, edited by Paul C. Adams, Stephen Hoelscher and Karen E. Till, 403-425. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 414.

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