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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P222)

Engaging space, performing place: 'making place' through expressive practice

Location Block 1, Piso 0, Room 6
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Anthony McCann (University of Ulster) email
Maria Krom (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) email
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Short Abstract

In this panel we would like to explore how people engage with space in performative and other expressive practices. We want to focus on how, in these practices, reflexive (sensory) experience is used to 'make' meaningful places, which can be imagined or real, public or private.

Long Abstract

In this panel we would like to explore how people engage with space in performative and other expressive practices. We want to focus on how, in these practices, reflexive (sensory) experience is used to 'make' meaningful places, which can be imagined or real, public or private.

We take as our starting point the notion that expressive/performative practices are embedded in and are contingent upon socio-cultural context, and that they are brought into being through, and are dependent on, the engagement of individuals/groups with their physical and social environment; in short, that they are em-placed and em-bodied expressions of 'being-in-the-world' (Csordas, 1999).

We would like to invite proposals for papers that reflect, theoretically and/or empirically, on current notions of space and place in a variety of disciplines - such as geographer Doreen Massey's (2005) perception of space as a 'spatio-temporal event', anthropologist Tim Ingold's (2008) notion of place as a 'meshwork of paths' 'occurring' through the movement of people and other organisms through space, or Paul Stoller's work on embodiment and sensuous scholarship - and that relate this reflection on space and place to the practice of expressive performance, stressing the relationship between bodies and minds and the materiality and sensoriality of place.

Panel format: 3/3/3

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Situating movement, mapping practices: space and place in an ambulatory perspective

Author: Manuela Tassan (Universita degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca)  email
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Short Abstract

Based on an ethnographic research conducted in a Brazilian community of Amazonian afro-descendents, this paper discusses the perspectives on space and place proposed by Tuan and De Certeau in the light of Ingold’s concept of “ambulatory knowing”.

Long Abstract

In this paper I deal with the "territorializating" practices of a community of Amazonian afro-descendents in order to discuss the role of walking as a sensory experience that permits to construct a peculiar mapping of the territory. Interweaving the concepts of space and place, I outline two different and complementary modalities of experiencing the territory by walking: one more ephemeral and subjective, the other more stable and shared by the community. On one side, I decode the references that organize the orientation and, therefore, the movement in the forest space. In fact, every individual, moving in the space along original trajectories, knows a peculiar forest that, in the bargain, contributes to modify through specific "territorializating" acts. On the other side, I consider the tie that joins socially shared practices and memories to specific forest areas that, for this reason, are recognized as places. From this perspective, the ephemeral signals impressed on vegetation by the individual created a subjective mapping of the territory that intersect with an enduring and social one.

Matam as a ritual and a space: exploring the spatiality of a Shi'i-Muslim ritual in Mumbai

Author: Reza Masoudi Nejad (SOAS, University of London)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores ritual as a spatial system, intertwining the notion of ritual and space. This idea is articulated around the notion of 'matam' in the Shi'i ritual of Muharram in Mumbai. The notion of matam is referred to flagellation rituals and space that is generated by the rituals.

Long Abstract

There are substantial preceding ritual studies in which rituals have been studied in association with space; this paper, however, approaches ritual as a profoundly spatial phenomenon. This idea is contextualised through exploring the notion of 'matam' in the Shi'i rituals of Muharram in Mumbai (India). Shi'a-Muslims carry the rituals of Muharram, named after the first month of Islamic-lunar calendar, to commemorate the tragedy of martyrdom of Hussein, the grand-son of the Prophet Mohammad. The event marked the division in Islam between Shi'a-Muslims and the majority Sunnis.

In the context of Mumbai, the term of matam simultaneously refers to a ritual practice and the space, generated through the ritual. In one hand matam refers to diverse form of flagellations. On the other hand, matam refers to the venue where flagellation is practised. Matam would be practised in particular religious places or through the procession. Therefore matam, as a space, would be manifested in a religious place like an Imambara, or in street while the flagellators are carrying the ritual through processions. No matter where matam is spatially manifested, it would be sacred and entering into it has its own custom. The ritual of matam within procession particularly illuminates ritual as spatial system, created without any physical/built implementation. Here, matam as a space and ritual not only linguistically, but also conceptually are intertwined, articulating the notion of ritual as a spatial system.

Sensory immersion and the creation of a critical space: maximizing dissemination for exhibition media

Author: Alessandra Mariani (Université du Québec à Montréal)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper aims to show which spatial, auditory, tactile, olfactory, visual and memory-based strategies can be used in a art/exhibition in order to engender a completely different and critical awareness and understanding of space.

Long Abstract

Experiments carried out by science museums over the last twenty years have made it possible to immerse visitors in specific environments with the aim of helping them better understand phenomena and scientific mechanisms and have thus paved the way to the development of "situation scenario" techniques. Installations of this kind, have accustomed the wider public to performance and to heightened interactivity. New strategies, informed by a growing theoretical framework, came forward. Immersion, however, complicates the work of exhibition designers as it does not in any way provide simple solutions to the dissemination of increasingly intangible content, as designing exhibits of this kind is very similar to designing art installations. Academics (Crary 2003, Fiers 2003, Oliveira, 2007) agree that the notion of sensory experience developed along parallel lines in both the worlds of science and of art - each world feeding the creativity of the other. Our hyper-objective world is also responsible: studies on polysensory experience (Synott 1993, Varela 1994, Fiers 2003, Howes 2006) have shown, the search for the multisemous and polysemous dimensions of our environment has only spurred that process. An excellent illustration of sensory mechanism was displayed in Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Blur Building. This paper aims to show which spatial, auditory, tactile, olfactory, visual and memory-based strategies were used in this art/exhibition production in order to engender a completely different and critical awareness and understanding of space and its challenges.

Liverpool 08 and the performance of the city

Author: Louise Platt (Liverpool John Moores University)  email
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Short Abstract

An exploration into how events that were part of Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008 engendered a performance of place. The participation of people, or the spect-actors, in these events create the city. The balance between playful expression and restrictions of the city space is interrogated.

Long Abstract

This paper will draw on research undertaken in 2008 in Liverpool as the city celebrated its year as European Capital of Culture. Using data gathered by participant observation at 'La Princesse' a spectacular street performance, 'Liverpool Cityscape' an exhibition of work by Ben Johnson, and aboard the Beatles themed 'The Magical Mystery Tour' the paper will be explore the performance of the city of Liverpool. Considering the participants as spect-actors (Boal, 2000), the paper looks at how interaction with the fabric of the city allows a re-imagining of the space. Large-scale and public creativity and more intimate personal reimagining will be explored. The paper considers the balance between playful interaction and the potential that this has on improvisation and experimentation with identity, and the constraints of the city, both perceived and real. The paper concludes that chaos and ludic excess whilst seeming exciting and appealing, make way for structure and certainty in the case of Liverpool during these events. The work comes from a PhD project which explored the performance and performativity of local identities in Liverpool as facilitated by the Capital of Culture award.

Boal, A., (2000). Theatre of the Oppressed (Third ed). London: Pluto Press.

Wayfares of imagination, planescapes of performance: the making of selves and places among roleplaying gamers

Author: Ana Letícia Fiori (University of São Paulo)  email
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Short Abstract

Between game, oral narratives and theatre, RPGs are a collective exploration of imagined places and selves. Braiding anthropology of performance and post-dramatic theatre to understand how settings and characters are inhabited by gamers, simultaneously actors, players, storytellers and spectators.

Long Abstract

On the fringe between game, oral narratives and theatre, roleplaying games are a collective exploration of imagined places and selves. Imaginary entertainment environments are accessed by players and game masters (referees), in order to create attractive scapes, characters and plots that are performatively explored and inhabited. The present paper is part of a collective research conducted by the Center of Anthropology, Performance and Drama (NAPEDRA) of the University of São Paulo. The research was carried out with gamers from São Paulo and online forums, the analysis braids anthropology of performance and post-dramatic theatre, in order to understand how scenarios and characters are created and inhabited by the bodies and interaction among gamers, who are simultaneously actors, players, storytellers and spectators. The several juxtaposed planes of presence and representation, physical and virtual stages and places, binds players and fiction in subjunctive forms of sociality, perceptions and senses. The flow connects gamers' memories, aspirations and references to the "game setting" books and manuals, and the plot proposed by the game master. Through roleplaying and recollecting, a common background of belongingness is threaded. The scenarios created by collective narrative are transformed by the course of events decided by the choices of the players, the game rules, the dice results and the game master mediations, configuring what Ingold (2008) calls a meshwork of paths. The text created is not only a dramatic text, for it is not only a figurative speech, but acquires an autonomous theatricality composed by different linguistic surfaces.

Scoping theatre's 3rd space

Author: Carrie Klewin (University of San Diego)  email
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Short Abstract

Using a Dah Theatre (Serbia) production, I explore the modern theatre as a democratic forum, where space is a catalyst existing between audience and performers. The ritualized and multi-layered space of theatre creates a micro-society that facilitates cultural exchange.

Long Abstract

Using a Dah Theatre (Serbia) production, I explore the modern theatre as a democratic forum, where space is a catalyst existing between audience and performers. The ritualized and multi-layered space of theatre creates a micro-society that facilitates cultural exchange. Three layers of space are engaged in this theory; the architecture of the "theater", the "world" of the performance, and the communal relationship between performers and audience. The unique relationship created by the multiple elements becomes a transitory object carried forth in the bodies of the participants (micro-society) as a sensory experience. If a performance creates a fluid space between audience and performers, how can the style and form of that performance be crafted to allow for more effective transformation? Looking at Doreen Massey's studies of postmodernism and political place, Janinka Greenwood's writing on "emergent space between cultures", and David Crouch's "Flirting with Space", I evaluate the elements of the Dah production of "Crossing the Line", to discover scope of the spatial relationships. I conclude that realistic theatre results in a narrower or limited space, and abstract or layered forms(postmodern) create an expansive and undefined third space, and are therefore more appropriate as a democratic forum. With regards to theatrical performance, understanding this transitional space is essential to effecting social change.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.