Home Centre People Events Publications
Blogs Links Contact Search Sitemap
In this section:
spacer spacer
  Knowledge generation
ResCen 15 Years
G Boddington Symposium
E Wallen Symposium
Artists Open Doors
Emerging Voices
Artist Exchange
Navigating Process
Mapping Processes
Outside Looking In
 down arrow Making Space
Seminar transcript
Discussion forum
spacer spacer
Motivation: the artist and the psychoanalyst
the Motivation of the Artist
the Artist: working?…playing?
the Artist as Catalyst
Transformation and
the Artist
Intuition and the Artist
NtU Book Launch
Postgrad Seminars 01
Virtual Physical Bodies
spacer spacer
Making Space — seminar transcription
Presented by ResCenspaceronline forum

with guest Doreen Massey

Wednesday 12 January 2005

Wren Room, RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects)
66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD

Research Associates:
  Ghislaine Boddington
    Shobana Jeyasingh
    Richard Layzell
    Rosemary Lee
    Graeme Miller
    Errollyn Wallen
Guest Speaker :
  Doreen Massey
  Professor Christopher Bannerman
edited by:
  Jane Watt
photographs by:
  Vipul Sangoi

This seminar transcript can be downloaded in full
as an Adobe Acrobat pdf file (file size: 356 KB)

Introduction by Christopher Bannerman

Christopher BannermanGood evening friends. Welcome to this ResCen Seminar which is entitled ‘Making Space’. My name is Chris Bannerman and I’m Head of ResCen, the Centre for Research into Creation in the Performing Arts, at Middlesex University. I am very pleased to be here this evening and to be joined by our six Research Associates. Starting at this end we have Ghislaine Boddington, Richard Layzell, Rosemary Lee. We’re going to skip one special person in the middle (they’re all special people of course) and move on to Graeme Miller, Errollyn Wallen and Shobana Jeyasingh. We are delighted, of course, to be joined this evening by the special person in the middle, Doreen Massey.

As you may know, this is the third in our series of public seminars for this academic year, and we’re delighted that Doreen has joined us. Doreen is well known for her pioneering work on ‘space’. The range of her interests, her publications and the number of other contributions that she’s made over many years is impressive. She has another publication pending which will be with us in a matter of weeks, the book is entitled For Space and will be published by Sage in February. There are some information sheets available so please do pick one up. I’m sure that the book will generate great interest.

Doreen is currently Professor of Geography at the Open University, Milton Keynes. She has long term research interests in the theorisation of space and place. They range through: a critique of globalisation; regional uneven development; the re-conceptualisation of place; and from the philosophical, and largely conceptual, through to the directly political. She co-founded, and now co-edits Soundings – a journal of politics and culture, and has made a significant contribution to ‘the shape of the world’ and ‘understanding cities’, courses currently run in the Geography Department at the Open University.

So, as part of the preparation for this seminar, we met yesterday and enjoyed a lively and wide-ranging discussion. Tonight I believe that we’re going to focus on some key themes, which were drawn from yesterday’s discussions, but of course my expectation of what will emerge this evening may be overturned. Both the creative process of artists and the creative thinking of academics, such as Doreen, are open to the intervention of spontaneous inspiration and your presence enhances that of course. But I do know with some certainty that it’s going to be a stimulating and provocative evening. So, welcome to Doreen, and to all our Research Associates.

The format of the evening will be as follows: we will hear a short presentation from Doreen; we will hear responses from each of the six Research Associate artists (pithy and short responses this evening, please, because we have so many people here) and they’ll be drawing on their own expertise from their creative practice; then we’ll hear from you, the audience, so please be prepared to participate.

Now as you might imagine, I need to say some thanks. Thank you to all my ResCen colleagues: Research Associate Jane Watt for organising tonight’s seminar; Research Fellow Joshua Sofaer for his assistance; to the ResCen Administrator Natalie Daniel for managing the booking process and many other things as well. Thanks too, to Helen Ryan back in the office for managing the finances – very important. We have Yael Lowenstein to thank for videoing this evening’s proceedings and Vipul Sangoi who’s taking the photographs. In addition, a special thanks to our web designer Andrew Lang who has, along with the ResCen team, worked wonders on our website. We have some exciting new developments on that website, so please may I do a little advert? Check it out at www.rescen.net. And we need to say again a special thank you to our funders NESTA. This seminar is part of a NESTA funded project called Navigating the Unknown and the Creative Process. After this seminar I’m going to have another discussion with Doreen about navigation and mapping – slightly problematic terms perhaps. Thanks also to RIBA for offering us such an appropriate venue for tonight’s seminar and for being flexible in allowing us to move to a larger venue when we were deluged by e-mails asking for a place.

We’ve begun to gather feedback on our seminars, so please do find a questionnaire, and if you haven’t yet filled one out, please do fill one of those out and return it. The questionnaire is also available on our website that also features an online forum which is up and ready, waiting for your comments. It may emerge, either in this evening’s discussions, or you may, on reflection, find something more to say. So please do get onto the website and use the online forum.

The next and last seminar for this academic year will be in mid June, either the 14th or 15th, we’re not quite sure yet, but please make sure you’re on our mailing list and we will send you details of that seminar. And now, on with this evening’s event. Thank you all so very much for coming, and we begin with Doreen Massey.


spacer spacer spacer

back to top


Doreen Massey    Doreen MasseyAs Chris said, we had a whole day together yesterday, and a whole load of themes came out. One temptation is, of course, just to plunge straight back into those themes. But what we thought we really ought to do was to start with some of the basic points from which we started yesterday, and maybe they’ll go off in completely different directions today.

Chris is right. For years, I have been almost obsessed with thinking about space and place, but I don’t do it from the point of view of an artist, I do it very much from the point of view of a geographer. I also tend to get into worrying and thinking about it, and keeping on coming back to it, because something is nagging. There are two particular kinds of contexts for this. I want to talk about those to begin with, or to give you examples from them to begin with.

First of all it’s just in the daily things of life. I mean the way people express themselves maybe through spatial metaphors, or the way space is worked into a conversation and carries resonances, even though it wasn’t necessarily quite meant exactly like that. It necessarily begins to have implications for how more generally we think about space. I’m always getting into arguments where I don’t ‘win’, and I know it’s something to do with the way in which the thing is formulated rather than the fact that I’m wrong; you know that kind of thing! So I go back feeling a bit wounded and try and work out why the terms might have been different and if I’d only re-imagined it, it might have come out differently. In fact, re-imagination, re-thinking a political cosmology in which space and time are integral, is partly what I’m trying to do in this new book For Space. And it is where, in the end, I would like some of our discussion to go this evening.

The other context, apart from the everyday, is politics. I am an academic, a politically engaged academic I guess. So, a lot of the ways in which I feel annoyed about the way in which the word ‘space’ is mobilised, or the way in which people think about space and place, occur to me in the context of political statements, political discourses, political arguments. So those are the two kinds of directions from which I come at this issue. In spite of it being so different from the Research Associates, it didn’t seem to stop us being able to talk yesterday.

What I want to do to begin with is to take two examples to explain the kind of thing I’m on about when I talk about how we mobilise space in ways perhaps we don’t mean, but in ways which have social and political effects. (There are one or two people here who will just have to file their nails for a while because they will have heard at least one of the examples before.)

The first example is when we talk about other places, other peoples, other cultures in some way which implies that they’re rather behind where we are, or even rather advanced of where we are. We may call them developing countries rather than developed countries. In the past, there was a whole vocabulary which has now been banned about ‘primitive’ and ‘backward’ and all those words. The words have been banned, but my feeling is the imagination remains absolutely alive. I will go into that a little bit in a minute. But if you think about, for instance, the way in which we, or our political leaders in particular, talk about globalisation as the one inevitable future which is held out before us, and you ask “Yeah but what about Mali, what about Nicaragua, what about Mozambique?”And they will say “Don’t worry, they’ll catch up, they’re just behind”. So there is a notion, in a sense, of a historical queue. We’re at one point on it and other countries are either ahead of us maybe, or, more often in the conversation around globalisation as it’s carried in the US and the UK, other countries are behind.

Now what I want to argue is that this is, essentially, turning geography into history. It’s turning space into time. It’s saying that the variations in the world’s geography are actually just places in a long historical queue. Mali isn’t geographically different from us now, it’s just got to catch up with where we are. Now that has a lot of effects, and I want to concentrate on just one or two of them. To me, the effect that seems to be most essential to how we might grasp the challenge of space is that in doing that to Mali, or Mozambique, or wherever, we are evading the real difference, the real co-existing simultaneity of their different existences with us now. It’s a way of diminishing that difference and saying, instead of the reality of that simultaneous actual difference from us (their doing something different now) all they are is behind us in the historical queue. In the end, it’s a form of belittlement I think. It’s a refusal to recognise what is called in anthropological literature, and probably in other literatures, a ‘co-evalness’ which is that ability to see others as standing in another place simultaneously with you and looking back at you equally. We cannot relegate them to the past, we cannot say “You’re just backward”. We can’t say “You will catch up”. We are here now and it is that inequality of being here now which needs explaining.

I think another effect of turning space into time is precisely that it enables us to evade explaining why the inequality exists today. Just to say “Oh you need to catch up” is to evade the fact that globalisation is producing the poverty; it’s producing the inequality; it’s producing the grotesque differentials that exist on this planet at this moment, as part of what’s happening now. It isn’t a question of a nice long linear single history which other people will follow behind on the path that we have chosen.

Another effect is precisely that there can only be one linear history. If we turn space into time, if we turn spatially contemporaneous difference into temporal sequence, into a historical queue, we’re saying there is only one possible history. That removes from Mozambique, from Nicaragua, from Mali, the space – literally – for them to think their own potentially different futures. Maybe they don’t want to follow the way in which the United States and the United Kingdom have led.

But the most important thing for me, for this conversation, is that I think the turning of space into time denies co-evalness, and that, I think, is a way in which we evade the challenge of space. In a funny way – I’m perhaps stretching it a bit here – it’s very hard to live in this world where we know the grotesqueness of the inequalities. It would be impossible to walk around in the world, all the time being aware of the kinds of inequalities and poverties upon which our lives depend, and certainly which just simply exist. One of the ways of handling that challenge is to create political cosmologies. For example, the one that says “Yes, it’s ghastly, I know it’s ghastly, it’s absolutely ghastly, but they will catch up, it will be alright”. And I think that is one of the ways in which we enable ourselves to live with it, playing with space and time in that particular way.

So the first characteristic of space that I would want to stress is that if we accept (and I would) that time is the dimension of change, it’s the dimension of forward movement, then space is the dimension of a simultaneous multiplicity of co-existing difference. There’s another way of thinking of it. One of the things that came up when we were talking yesterday, was the games we play when we are kids. I think this came up in talking to Graeme. When I was a kid, I had a globe and I also had an atlas. One of the things I used to do as a kid was sit and spin the globe, close my eyes and place my finger on it. If it landed on land I would try and imagine what the people in that place were doing right now. What kind of day is it? What season is it? What’s the culture like? What people might be doing there at this very moment. At this very moment, right now it’s 8pm. It’s still mid-afternoon in Central America. It’s becoming dawn again in some of the places where the tsunami happened. There, people are getting up to another day of wrecked life. Those things are happening now. In Sao Paolo, my friends have just finished lunch on another hot day in mid-summer.

What I’m trying to get at is an ability to live life in the knowledge that it is but one story among many. There’s a zillion other stories going on at the same time right now, always right now, and it’s that right-nowness of the simultaneity which I think is one of the things that space offers us. And it’s not just big politics. In fact, I spoke then about globalisation and big politics, but you read tourist brochures and they do it too: the timeless this, that and the other; the friendly people of so and so. It brackets the way in which those people are positioned as simple, happy people. It is another way of relegating their actually existing spatial difference to a temporal difference. But then there are also more awkward examples. The example I’ll give you struck me when George W. Bush was being re-elected in the United States. A lot of people like me – you know, Guardian reading, progressive people – needed to explain to ourselves the difficulty of what had happened in the United States – particularly the fact that a lot of what we would call working class people (but in the States they would call middle class) in the mid-West that voted for Bush seemed to hold sets of values which are totally different to my own. An enormous amount of the vocabulary that was used to express that, and to explain it to ourselves, was to put those people in the past: it was an archaic way of thinking; it was a backward way; how can people in the twenty-first century believe that…?

There are two things about that. First of all, in a quite serious way, I make that point because it’s not a group I particularly respect, but the attitude that I just described has a lack of respect, it is a dismissal to another era rather than recognising they have views. The mid-West Bush voters are not old fashioned in the sense that you can simply explain them in that way, their views are held now. The second thing is that it’s only by recognising that actuality that simultaneity the co-existing difference – which is what the dimension of space gives – that we can hope to have any political purchase on why they are thinking those things. Relating those views to the past, and denying ourselves access to them in an explanatory fashion is, therefore, to deny ourselves purchase upon it. So that’s one kind of way in which daily political language gets to me and I think “No, no, no, no!” There’s something going wrong here’. And actually, it’s to do with the way in which we think about space and time.

The second example I want to give is one I’ve written about a lot, but I want to take it a bit further today. It concerns place – the other word that was central to our agenda for these discussions. I began to worry about place years ago. It particularly became a problematical issue for me in the 1989 period with the break up of the Soviet Union, the break up of Yugoslavia, the emergence of nationalism in the Baltic States, in ex-Yugoslavia, in South West Soviet Union and Azerbaijan. For me as a geographer, what was going on there was, on the one hand, a violent defence of local specificity, a violent defence of place. Think of Serbia and all the stuff that had happened around that: the emergence of ethnic cleansing; a violent defence of local specificity. It entailed a definition of place as bounded, in terms of being exclusive, in terms of having properties that grow out of the soil and which would be eternally thus: this is Serbia for the Serbians; this is whatever for the whoevers. And obviously, politically, I found that really difficult. I was against it. On the other hand, one of the central reasons I became a geographer was the simple delight in local specificity and variability in that very fact of the difference of places, the wonder at it and a longing to get to grips with it, and think about it. It was because of on the one hand wanting to recognise a particularity, and on the other hand refusing to see particularity as something which must be construed and defended in that way, that I got into trying to rethink the notion of place away from something that is bounded, that is eternal, that is coherent, that is essentialist, which has its particularity in some sense growing out of the very soil, to a different notion of place. It is what I call the global sense of place, place as meeting place, place as the intersection of trajectories.

This was the example I first used years ago. I live in Kilburn right now. When I walk down Kilburn High Road I can see half of the British Empire, half of the planet gathered on Kilburn High Road. The particularity of it grows out of the particularity of the set of intersections and of what the people of Kilburn make of it. That also means that place is always to be negotiated. It isn’t that thing which grows out of the soil that John Major once evoked for us as a picture of cycling by the village green to the church, which is that calm, unified, coherent notion of a settled place. Place is always, in that sense, a challenge. If it is a meeting place then those meetings have to be negotiated in one way or another. In the book I talk about place as an event, but politically and more simply it is also just a challenge.

Now I’ve been wittering on about this, saying these things for a long, long time and this friend of mine who lives in North Wales said “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all that, but I live in Snowdonia and for me what makes this place is the mountains! And I thought “Grrr” as one does when you feel you’ve got something wrapped up and signed and sealed. For ages I didn’t know what to do with it, and I put it aside because geography’s got into this very difficult division between human geography and physical geography and so I thought I’m a human geographer. Then one weekend I went up with my sister to the Lake District. I was sitting in a café looking at the mountains outside of Keswick and a mountain called Skiddaw which is three thousand feet of really forbidding slate. I was sitting there thinking over all these intersections, all the negotiations of these trajectories over which Skiddaw has presided. We went back to the little hotel that night and I got to reading the local geology. I’m an anorak traveller who takes little local geology books around with me. Anyway, I read it and it wasn’t something that I didn’t know, but it’s nonetheless something that changed my imagination.

That mountain, Skiddaw, which is three thousand feet of an utterly eternal feeling, utterly solid is made of Ordovician slates that were laid down between 450 and 500 million years ago. But what really just somehow shifted my imagination was the recognition that when those slates were laid down, they were laid down in a sea, the Iapetus Sea, which was at that point a third of the way between the equator and the South Pole, and also a long way to the west of where the Lake District is now. What has happened since, is that those rocks have gradually moved up north, across the equator, been contorted, folded, and finally they rose above the surface to get to where they are now, 52 point something degrees north. I suddenly had this notion of the rocks, too, passing through this place. Me and my sister would leave on Monday night but the rocks, too, are moving on (well we know that the continents are moving at the moment). The continents are moving quite ordinarily at the rate our fingernails grow. Every year it takes a bit longer to fly to New York. What was nice for me was to be able to bring the non-human into that notion of meeting up. These rocks too are immigrant rocks.

There was a poster that was produced by the Department of Immigration and Affairs (I think it was that but I may have got the title wrong) in Hamburg in the late nineties. It has a photograph of the River Elbe, on which Hamburg stands, and a big rock with a hole through the rock. The point is that this thumping great rock had been found by workers who were dredging the River Elbe at some point. It was huge and it was dragged out and it became a kind of site for people of Hamburg to go and see. Briefly, it became the symbol of Hamburg. It was their boulder. The point was, of course, that it is not a local boulder, this rock is not a local rock at all. The rock had been brought down during the Ice Age and left when the ice melted. At one point I think it was called Der Alte Schwede – the old Swede. What the official at the Immigration Department in Hamburg did was to use the rock to challenge the whole notion of what is local, to challenge the whole notion of what belongs. If nature itself also doesn’t simply belong here, then how can we deny the right of any people to belong here just because they’ve come here. It was a way of undermining the foundations of belonging in that sense of eternity.

One of the questions that came up for us yesterday – and this came out of discussions of identity which we could perhaps take up this evening – was that notion of how one can have security without there being foundations; what are the conditions of security without there being anything actually stable to stand on? The security that comes from a positioning within interdependence, a notion of self, therefore, which comes from interdependence within all those spatial relations. Just briefly, what I’m trying to do with the notion of place is to get away, on the one hand, from a romanticisation by the Right, which is about exclusivity – fortress Europe – which is saying we belong, and also on the other hand from what I think is a growing romanticisation of local place on the Left where there is a bit of a tendency to talk about local people as though they’re always good. They’re not, and I am trying to destabilise some of those terms. It’s like talking about spatial fetishism in geography. The spatial form itself doesn’t give you the political character. Local can be good or bad, global can be good or bad.

So let me finish, before the Research Associates here do their intervention, with the three propositions that I wanted to make. Let me re-summarise what I said about how I want to think about space.

First of all, most obviously, I want to think about space as the product of relation and practices, from the intimate – to the way in which we make this space by being here and how we’re interacting – through to finance capital to the cosmos. Space is a product and the relations of the practices and of the intersections and of the non-intersections.

Secondly, I want to propose that space is a sphere of multiplicity, without space we couldn’t have more than one, but also without multiplicity you couldn’t have space. So space and multiplicity are co-definitions in that sense. That means, as I said, space is the sphere of the possibility of difference, space is the sphere of the co-existence of others. So once again, if time is the dimension of change, space is the dimension of the social. And that poses the political question of how it is we are going to live together.

The third point is that space is always in production. If it really is a result of practices and of relations then it’s not some completed, already existing, surface. So when people on the Left and especially the New Age people talk of everything being connected to everything else, I think that’s quite a problematical holism. Actually, there are relations still to be made. There are connections still to be formed. There are relations that will never be made. Space is always in a process of production. So, instead of seeing space as some kind of already achieved surface – like it might appear on a map – rather, space is what I call a simultaneity of stories so far. It’s all those things happening now. So, in that sense, space is utterly imbued with time. Time and space aren’t opposites, they’re different dimensions through the real. Space isn’t an absence of time, and time requires space in order to be generated; they’re co-implicated.

I think I’ll stop there and see what you think of that. Thank you.



back to top


Ghislaine Boddington    Ghislaine BoddingtonHello. My name is Ghislaine Boddington. For me, this seminar has been quite amazing. It has linked into a lot of the thinking and work that I’ve done over the last twenty years. Some of you will know the work. Actually, several people here have been on some of the projects we’ve done.

I work with a group called shinkansen and our baseline work across the last fifteen years has been about how people exchange and the connectivity between people. So many of the concepts that Doreen has put on the table have made me see a lot of the work that I’ve been doing within groups in a slightly different way. We work in relationship to culturalism and also in relationship to the use of technology in connecting spaces that are remote from each other, so we are using telematics. I know there are several people in the audience who have experience in this too, so I hope the discussion can come back to the creation of virtual place.

My interest has been mainly about identity. I’ve spent twenty years working with identity and looking at the socio-political side of that: the right to connect; the right to explore difference and how we could do that between artists. Coming from a performing arts base, the concept of presence – the here, now, live presence – has obviously been forefront for me. So the use of technologies – the telematics technologies of real time and simultaneous presence – in creating those connections has become a kind of a way of creating new places for connectivity to happen from remote spaces.

Growing up in this inter-cultural world and doing many projects which have been about linking inter-cultural groups all over the world for the British Council, much of what Doreen said I’ve learnt the hard way but I learnt early on. One of the things that I’ve always kept with me is a quote from a very strong inter-cultural philosopher called Rostin Burundi. It is the concept that one has to always say inside oneself that everyone is somebody’s other. That means the recognition that everyone is different than you and is other to you, but you are also other to them. I think that is a very important place to put everybody, particularly when you’re in an equal group work situation.

The use of telematics, where you connect two, or three, or four remote spaces together using the internet, allows a simultaneous real time experience. It creates a new spatial place. I think it is a place rather than a space but that’s something I want to come back to. It is a place where different trajectories come together virtually, maybe it is an event place that happens. We’ve worked with many artists all over the world, often coming together physically but then needing to remain in contact after the project. We have created connections through the web both within the net but also through telematics audiovisual transference. By its nature, telematics is connecting two or more places. Therefore, it is basically a meeting of trajectories and a meeting of people. It can’t exist without the meeting of a minimum of two. So it is a space where people do cross over and interact and where people can explore difference.

We have been using dance in that context and obviously, our focus has been on gesture, on posture, on the way that we’re actually communicating, the way we’re getting a live presence across to each other. We’re exploring tele-presence and we’re exploring the intuitions that are growing through that area. In a way, you go through a shift in embodiment but that embodiment still exists even within virtual space. So in a theoretical debate there’s this discussion about disembodiment. We actually prefer to talk about it as a ‘hyper-embodiment’. It’s like a shift in embodiment where you exist within that space. I think with a wider thinking about new fluid environments – and within architectural thinking of liquid architecture and progressive habitats – I think we’re beginning within that virtual space to explore a place where people can share debate, explore difference, communicate even at distances. So coming together with your trajectories, and working together without taking into account miles of space, time becomes not directly relevant because it is automatically real time and simultaneous, that is the nature of real time virtual space.

I think our networking side has come from the physical gathering together of networks like Butterfly Network and Sound Work Exchange which were early 1990s projects that we did. They were really effected by the digital concept side. That led us into the technology sides of it. The technologies themselves aren’t really very important. We know they’re advancing and they will be far better in the future. What has actually been important to us has been allowing multiplicity of voices to come together and, in this case, bodies, bodies talking to each other not necessarily through spoken voice, but voice through the body. So this allows people to explore difference, to shift perceptions, to express themselves in a way and to develop new intuition in ways which are connected across distance.

The last thing I wanted to talk about was there are many people working in this area and I think that the exploration of identity and of self-hood within virtual space is a really interesting one to follow through. There is an artist called Jacov Sharir who’s been very important in my growth as an artist. He explores virtual space and has done for many years. He talks about the creation of virtual space as an architecture of being where you can express your self-hood in real time. Our work has been more about the development of the connectivity within that area and the crossover of ideas that happens there. So I’ll leave it there, there’s a lot more but I know we’ve got limited time. So it would be really great if we could come back to some of those technology questions later as I know there are quite a few people here who have worked in this area too and have maybe a slightly different view. It would be good to get some more comments on that it as a new space, a new place, and how we inhabit that event place which is created through virtual space.



back to top


Richard Layzell    Richard LayzellI’d like to talk about a very particular place that’s about the size of this room that we’re in. I was just noticing how superb these lights are as I was sitting there. They are hovering like dragonflies. You can tell this is in the home of architecture. That’s the sort of detail that I might be looking at with this place which is actually in Greece. It’s an island called Skyros and a particular place within that island, but I’ll come back to it in a moment.

I’ve had an ongoing work called International Cleaning, which has been going on now for probably four or five years where I clean public places with deliberation, respect and being relatively invisible. I do it as a work of art for short periods of time. I’m not bothered if I’m seen or not, but I do record it on video. Last year I decided to clean this place in Skyros. I work in Skyros every year. I’ve been working there for more than twenty years, I’m a facilitator, I run workshops there. I’m not Greek, and it was really only last year that I acknowledged how strong my attachment was to the island. I felt that because my Greek is so poor and that I was mainly with English people when I was there, I wasn’t really there. But actually, I have been there in a quite a profound way all this time. I realise now. I’m declaring that today.

There is a square, it’s a square about this size [gestures] and it’s a key focal point on the island, it’s called Brooke Square, named after the First World War poet who died at sea off the island, he’s buried on the island and this square was built with a statue in the middle of it to represent his memory. I can’t remember exactly when it was built. Tourists go there because it’s where you go; it’s a great view, the sea is just down there [points]. You come in this way, you park your car here, you have your photograph taken along that wall just there because the sea is behind you. That’s where you would go, and you want the statue in the photo as well. Most people say the statue is of Rupert Brooke. It’s a naked man holding a scroll like this. And it’s really only through cleaning it last year – and it needed cleaning because it’s a bronze statue and it had been graffitied with a green, no, a purple spray. So I did a bit of research. I got a not too toxic cleaner. I had a bucket, I had my shorts on and I devoted quite a bit of time to cleaning it. It didn’t all come off but it made a difference. The key thing that happened was that I realised this is not Rupert Brooke, it’s the muse of poetry. There’s a plaque on the front of the statue which is like a relief of this refined boyish very English face, which I also cleaned. A lot of suds went over him. I suppose my invisibility in this act was very nourishing because I was English too. I was English cleaning something. I felt okay doing it in this Greek square, and people ignored me, they weren’t bothered because I was a cleaner, cleaners are invisible. That’s part of the point of doing it, as you might have guessed.

So that was last year. This year, more things have happened to me as a person. I have an interior voice called Tania. I’m not schizophrenic, but I do have an interior creative voice who I talk to, she’s a fellow artist, lives in London, doesn’t really exist but we have long conversations. You can read about it on the website. She’s called Tania Koswycz and I had a six day dialogue with her this summer. On the last day, I went back to Brooke Square. [Holds up a clear plastic bag] This is a Skyrian bag, it’s about the resonance of place, the fact that this bag is from Skyros is meaningful to me. This is the book that I read as I walked around the statue, it’s Sophocles, the Theban plays, and it’s in English. I retranslated it as I went because I didn’t think it was a great translation. I walked around the statue and largely I was ignored again. By now, I knew the qualities of the statue very well. Greece had just won Euro 2004 and there were these flyswats around. Tania said to me “Richard go further, go further. This is your square, you understand this square better than anybody. Hit the statue with the fly swat”. And I thought, I can’t do this, but she encouraged me, and I did, and it made a wonderful sound. This is what happened to the fly swat [takes a flyswat from the plastic bag].

So, that’s all I wanted to say. It sounds amusing, but for me, it’s actually very serious as well. It’s about resonance of place, leading to a certain relationship and understanding where I feel very connected in a way that probably nobody else does. I’ve done things that clearly no one else has done, and I’ve also been invisible even doing ridiculous things. I’ve been invisible and kind of inclusive. Thank you.

I think I have a photograph to show you. [Takes out a photograph.] There’s the square and you see I’m reading. There is the book.



back to top


Rosemary Lee    Rosemary LeeI hate following Richard! When Doreen was with us yesterday she talked about looking at the obvious in a different way. So I’m going to try and be brave enough to talk about what’s obvious to me. Looking around, I realise there are not many dancers in the audience, so it probably isn’t obvious to you. But I’m a choreographer, and I’m going to try to bring the notion of space, and the bigger idea of space, into a microcosm, a little like Richard did.

Imagine being in a workshop space with me. Maybe you can’t because you’ve not been there, but I’ll try and describe to you how I might prepare you for the next two hours of a workshop. I have a primary aim when I’m starting a workshop with anybody. I teach all ages, so let’s imagine it’s a real cross-generation workshop. I might have seven year olds, I might have seventy year olds in it, I may have people that have danced all their lives, I may have people that have never danced. So, I guess I’m looking for a state of mind in those people, I’m looking, in a way I’d say, for a place. Goodness knows how that fits with these definitions, but I’ll just go ahead and throw the words out as they would come out without worrying too much. I’m looking for a place where there is inter-connectivity but there is absolute recognition of difference. I’m not trying to say that the seventy year olds will move in the same way as the seven year olds, and I’m actually trying to celebrate the difference, but in order to do that I need to connect those people because if they feel completely separate it won’t work. So, somehow, I have to find a way where I feel connected to them, they feel connected to each other – and they’re total strangers – in quite an intimate way. I think somehow this must have something to do with the notion of space and place.

So the first thing I might be doing is focusing on them and their state of mind, which is also their being. I don’t want to say their bodies because that, to me, feels very separate from who they are. I’m talking about who they are. I’m trying to get them to feel very present, and to feel very present, you have to feel very present in the room and very present in the moment. If you feel very present in the moment, in the ‘now’, you’re therefore in the here and now. Do you see what I mean? So if you’re very present, you also have a very strong physical presence. To me, that feels very connected to space and to the here and now. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a sense of being present which means a very enriched presence. I would argue that the people you remember seeing as performers were very present when they were performing. You can be very un-present when you’re performing let me tell you, I’ve been there: you can be way ahead; you can way behind; you can be worrying; or you can be in the moment. When you’re in the moment you’re completely connected to the task you’re doing. Somehow, I think that must have something to do with space. It’s something about interior space connecting with exterior space as well. I’ll often be focusing a lot on people finding space within themselves because often (now this is going to sound terribly airy-fairy and New Age-y and believe me I’m not that) if you don’t feel quite spacious inside and almost empty in the way that you feel in your body, you will be quite blocked and won’t be able to move forward in space and in time. So there’s something about emptying the body out as well, and there’s a lot of focus. Certainly, for those of us who are movers, there is a huge amount of focus in a space. We never talked about that, but I think that’s quite interesting. So I’ll be trying to empty people of stuff that’s going to get in the way of moving forward together with our differences. So somehow that, to me, feels very much like trying to find that place of co-evalness. I can’t bear that word actually because it sounds so like ‘evil’, so just think E, V, A, L, evalness. I reckon that we’ve got to find a new word there, but anyway. It’s somehow about the equality.

When I was listening to Doreen yesterday, I was thinking that all I can talk about is my motivation being to reach wide audiences, to dance not to an elitist audience but to a wide one, to dance with lots of different shapes, sizes, backgrounds. All of that links in, but I think probably also fundamentally the practice of actually being a dancer links in with some of those concepts of space and presence. It is that link between time and space in the very moment of dancing.

The other thing I just wanted to say is that in that place where you are really present, you are both intensely solitary, intensely alone in the space and, intensely connected and in relation to the other people. There’s no point in feeling all mushy with somebody because then you don’t feel who you are, but there’s no point in feeling too hard and drawn in yourself because you’ll never be able to dance, or connect with other people.

I’m going to keep it short because I know there are more people to come, but just for one other moment, one other thing I’d like to talk about is the connection with places in my childhood which I think are becoming much more relevant to my work today, or they seem to keep occurring there. Those are the coastline of East Anglia and also the salt marshes of East Anglia – the estuaries. They’ve occurred in many pieces, and in the last piece I made Remote Dancing… can I get away with not describing this? Well, very quickly, it is made of three corridors. You go into a corridor on your own. You’re in what’s called an immersive space in visual art terms, where it’s completely black so that you have no sense of where the lights are coming from. You almost can’t feel the ground beneath you, so you’re kind of lost in space. At the other end of the corridor there’s a virtual dancer on a screen. You meet six dancers as you go through this installation from an eight year old to a seventy plus year old. When you go along the corridor, the dancer on the screen dances towards you. When you stop, the dancer stops. When you go backwards, the dancer goes backwards. When you go forwards fast, they come forwards fast to you. When you go slowly, they go slowly. So you’re basically having what I would call an intimate pas de deux whether you’re dancing or just walking with your virtual partner. The dancer is also filmed in a black void, something I’ve never done, I’ve never not had a context. I usually want to go out and dance in site-specific places. But something about that void must have been to get the essentiality of that meeting, to make us focus on the meeting of those two people. After you’ve done that in the corridors, that person appears in a site. They’re filmed in East Anglia, and I think that that place not only has a nostalgic pull for me because of my personal history but also metaphorically. I think places have meaning for us in a bigger way. The coastline, for me, is the edge: it is the threshold; it’s death; it’s ever-changing. So, in terms of the rocks, the sea, every wave, is ever changing. So it’s something about being at the beach. For me, as a child, that was about instability. There is never a stable point. Maybe dancing gives me a security in a very unstable world and that security is to be present dancing.



back to top


Graeme Miller    Graeme MillerI’ll start working backwards from something that Rosemary was saying. Similarly, I’ve gone from being obsessed with place as a child and then being involved in theatre. I’ve been trying to sort of weld those two things together into a paying job and it’s everything except paying at the moment, but it’s a job and it suits me down to the ground. A lot of it is about the problems and the puzzle of place, the overwhelming sense in which it forms our lives. I’m just going to talk a bit about this idea of the dancer preparing themselves to negotiate external space with a kind of internal space, so the meeting of the two things. In practical terms, I have a real knowledge of how that works. It’s necessary that things will evolve completely differently with or without that preparation. So transferring that idea of preparing an inner space…

Some of the work I do is making work for cities, and however naively I might set about that, the idea is that the works are useful. They’re to do with my perception of what a city might need. A work I made last year in Vienna was in a tunnel beneath the city. It took a lot of searching. It wasn’t a deep tunnel, it was just immediately beneath the surface of the street. So you’d just go down twenty steps and open the door and there was a two hundred metre tunnel immediately beneath the equivalent of Oxford Street. It was a raw, concrete, dead space. This became the beginning and end point of a walk I made with eleven people who were following a double bass player through the city on a prescribed route. It was on one day, and the people varied from a seven year old carrying a guitar to a couple who were eighty-nine and ninety. They were nearly the downfall of the whole project because they would run out of steam, not surprisingly, and were unable to keep this even distance that was required. Everyone had a video camera, so the installation was a mixture of verbal recollections, something I call ‘reconstructions’. They had the words that people give to the impressions that the city thrusts upon their minds as they’re walking. The audio material was recorded and everyone had a little camera attached to them so they’d continually record the image of the person in front of them.

For the final installation that was in this long tunnel, every fifteen metres there was a screen with a video image projected on it. If you looked along the row of screens you you’d be in a corresponding position to one person and you’d see the image that they could see of the person in front. But through that screen you could see somebody who was two streets away. You could actually see what I now know is called co-eval existence. I’d spend a lot of time there just watching what it is like for different people to be existing with very, very different realities. There was an old man who had seen the Nazi gatherings in some of the streets that we walked through. There was a young man from Kurdistan who’d been in the city for about five weeks and was seeing things for the first time. So, it seemed to me there was a sort of mediation going on and everyone existed in the moment. The moment was a great leveller in this case.

The images on the monitors were strobed. As a kid I used to walk a certain number of paces with my eyes shut and then open them. I’d try and dare myself to increase the amount of darkness and to then try and piece together those single frames where I’d open my eyes. This installation conjured up some of these things because the video images were a series of juddering frozen images. Eleven people’s viewpoints is a lot. As anyone in any relationship will know, to consistently give credence to someone else’s point of view is difficult, you have to have it tattooed inside of your eyelids. But here was a space, I suppose where you actually looked at what the moment is. It becomes a very puzzling thing. The closer you get to the moment, obviously there isn’t a sort of Euro-standard moment but it’s a very thin slice, you can slice it again and slice it again and it will continue to exist. In this hotel I was staying in, a kid who’d probably been up worrying about this all night said to his dad at breakfast: “But when you say ‘now’ it’s really the past, because of the time that it takes to say, hear and think ‘now’”. This moment you get in the installation, walking through the street is actually the past, because the stimuli have been already sort of passed through the nerve, sent to sort of mission control, reordered with pre-existing knowledge. What Doreen maybe called the stories, the sum of the narrative so far. Certain elements, certain things will be passed by, some of those stimuli are left behind and the eye will fall upon other ones, an object, or rather the object seems to fall upon the eye. It’s heavily edited, a constant editing process and this all takes time. So, to some extent every waking moment, to be here now, when you say be here now you’re actually there then. It’s gone, it’s already gone, it’s in the human neurology, in some sense it’s in perception. The gap between stimulus and perception is a bit like the moment of this dark space, this blinking, empty space that underlies our consciousness. It’s inherent in our consciousness and how our consciousness works in a corporal sense. And I’m interested in how that also functions within a city, so this empty space beneath a city. The camera obscura is another civic device I really like, it’s an empty space but it has a kind of perforation in it in order to make the echo visible, a sort of mediation. It’s like if you look at a film, when a film is projected it is actually made up of as much darkness as light. And we seem to think it’s really happening, it’s happening in front of us, but you know, between every frame, half of every frame is actually projecting a moment of, a moment of darkness. As an artist I think I’m interested in, that darkness. I’m interested in using that darkness for similar reasons that I’m using the imagination to create senses of not just simultaneous presence but of past moments happening cheek by jowl with present moments. The whole thing seems to be an act of faith.

The last thing I’ll say is looking at telematics, the kind of wonderful thing about telematics is that it’s not really simultaneous but it’s an act of faith that it’s simultaneous because there’s a delay. It’s inevitable that similar nervous neural delay happens in electronic systems, it takes it a while to get down the wire. It becomes more and more clear to me that we rely on acts of faith, and I think that as an artist making art works, faith is one of the elements that we sort of trade in.



back to top


Errollyn Wallen    Errollyn WallenThree years ago I did a gig in New York. I’m a composer but sometimes I like to sing and play. Somebody was there who plays in Steve Wright’s band and she said to me “You know, it was a very good gig, but you just didn’t claim the space” and I’ve often thought I wonder what she meant. As a performer, I sort of do know what she means. She’s maybe talking about the thing that Rosemary talked about. In a way it suits me better to be a composer because I like the idea of disappearing, but also of claiming a space. So, in a way, confusion happens and histories can collide. The glory to me about being a composer is that in a way nobody can own music. I mean, you can write music and you do all sorts of things. You can write big chunky scores, but music begins and ends in the air. There can be all sorts of copyright laws, but I think music is, to me, one of those last sacred spaces.

The other thing about when you write music, or certainly when I write music, particularly at this time in history, is that I don’t think that you can assume anything. You can’t assume a space which in the past would have been a quartet sonata form, a symphony, a fugue, a mass, a cantata. I feel it’s the job of composers now to find out what form is, what space is, where the ideas exist, a particular form in the potential of the material. Does that sound confusing? But I feel that in not assuming anything, you have to sort of claw your way to an end point in a piece of music.

At the time I was studying music history I hated it because we were taught in exactly the way that Doreen hates. When people said ‘music’ they meant Western classical music from 1400 to, well, Elgar. There’s always this idea that you’re moving, or developing, towards this point. At that time music wasn’t the big thing it is now. As a composer, his or her job was to be avant-garde and at the pinnacle. I think of people like Stockhausen, Barry and Boulez as slightly fascist, in a way, because they were standing up and saying that this is the latest advance in music and in the whole of civilisation. Certainly that was the way that classical music history was taught until very recently. Music is one of those areas that’s at least fifteen to twenty years behind any developments in philosophy or theatre or dance. For me, as a composer, I felt that acutely and hence my last opera involved an African chant, a reference to Dido and Aeneus, and electronic music – we had an electric bass guitar. My job was to bring these things together out of the necessity of the drama and the story. The tremendous freedom of living now in the twenty-first century is that you can do these things. I didn’t sit down and think “I’m writing an opera”, I had to find the potential in the ideas, I had to create the particular form in music theatre. So the ideas of space and time are things that I have to grapple with daily I suppose.

I was born in Belize (which is in Central America) a country that I’m sure many people haven’t heard of. I came here when I was two, my parents live in New York, but you know I grew up in England. So I spend a lot of time thinking “How did I get here?” Then, when I’m in Belize, I think “How did I get here?” Because, the thing about Belize is it’s a tiny country. How big is it exactly, Doreen? Maybe 20,000 people live there, but there are five distinct nationalities. I’ve just come back from there and what I realise is that there is this big thing about Mayans being the native civilisation. But actually, like your rocks Doreen, everybody at some point has been an immigrant. So I came back from Belize just on Monday thinking “How did I get here from there?” All I know, is that maybe I got there from somewhere in Africa via Jamaica.

We live in a time where there is this great fascination with genealogy and tracing your roots. I’ve actually never been one of those people, because I think actually I’m not sure that it matters because I quite like the rootlessnes. It is what somehow keeps you alive. As a composer, and as an artist, you have to create your own now and place. Those things such as where you come from are not as interesting as being now and also disappearing. Thanks.



back to top


Shobana Jeyasingh    Shobane JeyasinghI’m the last of the Research Associate and it’s even more difficult to be the last person than to follow Richard. Just hearing Doreen talk, it set me thinking about all the geography teachers that I had in school. I was thinking that I haven’t actually met a geography teacher of any description for a very, very long time. Most of my favourite teachers at school were geography teachers. And I was wondering why that was. I think the reason was because, for me, geography was the nearest I came to science fiction, strange as it may seem. It was a kind of fantasy subject for me mainly because my primary education was in Sri Lanka and then my secondary education was in East Malaysia. One of the natures of colonial education is that geography is always studying about a country where you don’t actually live, which when you’re twelve was rather jolly. When I was in Sri Lanka I remember I had a very prim and proper geography teacher who was extremely organised and I still remember this brilliant lesson she gave about Spain. My school was near a beach, actually very near the beach that was devoured by the tsunami. Spain seemed incredibly comfortable and a rather beautiful place because I remember thinking about the shape of it and finding it very reassuring. It was a very firm structured kind of shape and not at all like the shape that Sri Lanka was which just looked a bit wobbly and like a tear shape.

Later on, I was at school in East Malaysia and, again, I was sitting next to a beach. We were studying about Edinburgh. I remember much, much later when I actually went to Edinburgh for the first time, the person I was with couldn’t understand why I was so excited as I was jumping up and down saying “crag and tail, crag and tail”. They actually thought I’d gone slightly mad, or perhaps eaten a bit too much haggis. But the reality was that my school geography teacher in East Malaysia was from Wigan (he was a VSO teacher). He spent a long time educating me about crag and tail. It’s too long for me to explain – Doreen might do it for you after this session – but the rock on which Edinburgh Castle sits is, apparently, the world’s best example of a crag and tail. So, as I said, geography and this idea of learning about geographical space was, for me, the nearest I got to science fiction.

As I grew up, I think I had a different concept of space; space being erased and mutated. I think that’s part of a kind of diasporic experience of space. I know that in Sri Lanka, because of what happened in the mid eighties, the house where I grew up, where my parents lived, was burnt down because of the civil war. In East Malaysia, the house that I lived in was right next to this beautiful bay called Likas Bay. My backyard was, in fact, this lovely, curvy, sandy bay which used to have an extinct volcano in the middle of it. Much later, after I finished university in Britain, I went back and I was really upset to find that the whole bay had been carved up by this huge road, and that the bay was turned into a backwater.

When you grow up with those very dramatic changes, you also realise that instead of the reassurance that you get from geography, from physical space, in some ways it’s much easier to have a science fiction idea of geography, learning about Edinburgh sitting in East Malaysia. So I think this idea of erasure and mutation of space was something that I just grew up with.

Later on in life I think there was a process that I would call a retrieval of space. I think that in real life it happened through phone calls, travel, e-mail, web-cam. You get into a different way of existing, at least that was the way for me. I felt that yes, it is possible to create your own geography, your own sense of place and time by retrieving through all these different means. Now it’s possible for me to visit my mother who lives in Bangalore. She can make a dish of fried aubergines for me which I can take and bring all the way and have for my dinner in East Finchley. I have a son, if he has a birthday party, within seconds, my mother can see the exact expression he had on his face when he blew the candles out on his cake. So I think, for me, that’s a kind of process of retrieval. In my choreography, in some ways, I think what I have tried to hang on to is that process of retrieval.

Certainly one of the very early pieces that I made for dance for camera was called Duets with Automobiles. It was made in three or four 1980s office blocks. Classical Indian dancers were dressed in an extremely traditional way and they took possession of the empty office buildings. But what really interested me about that film was that through the camera, one could actually recreate one whole imaginative building out of four completely different buildings in four different parts of London.

Much later on, about two years ago, I was reading an article about call centres in Bangalore and in Delhi. I was very struck by what one of the managers of the call centres said. He said that geography is history, which I thought was quite interesting. That started me thinking and a piece called [h]Interland came out of that. Looking back on it, I think it’s a kind of retrieval process because I think I really wanted to create the way I experience space and time as a diasporic person. For that it had to have certain elements. It was a site-specific piece at Greenwich Borough Hall. One of my dancers was in Bangalore at the time. I choreographed a dance for her which was actually done on a hotel terrace in Bangalore, but she had to be part of a performance that was happening at Greenwich Borough Hall at 7.30 on a Saturday night in Greenwich. So part of the performance included a live webcast of the dancer. It was absolutely fascinating to experience the logistics of doing that. For her of course it was midnight, and she was in a space where the noise of the traffic was deafening. As Graeme said, there is a small, but significant time lapse. We were in this hall in Greenwich, and we had to cue her through a mobile phone in real time, for her performance. She had a role to play within the choreography where she would make entrances and exits on a stage. But she actually made her entrances and exits in Bangalore. That’s the nearest I think I came towards capturing my own sort of personal experience of what it’s like to have roots in different countries and in different spaces.

The strange thing is that as I said while in my personal life my sense of space was very dispersed and fragmented, I was also learning classical Indian dance. Of course that’s a completely different education in what space is. I think whenever you learn any classical art forms, especially in something like dance, you’re asked to create a very perfect, centred kind of space where you’re completely and utterly in control. This whole feeling of being a classical dancer – especially as a soloist which is what India classical dance is about – is when you stand in any space you have an incredible sense of being in control, of commanding the space.

Part of another aspect of my experience of space and a change in my experience of space is bringing and performing that dance to Britain. I was put in this very strange situation, a strange juxtaposition of performing a very centre stage and establishment-type of dance, in very marginal spaces in Britain. I found that a very disorientating experience, very similar to sitting by a beach in Sri Lanka studying about Edinburgh. It’s very similar to doing Indian classical dance in the Town Hall in Accrington, which is what happened to me.

So I think in these kind of ways my experience of space has really influenced the way I make my choreography. One of the things that I felt quite strongly about is that if I was going to be in a theatre space in Britain, I was very aware of the politics of the theatre space. In fact, my whole presence there as a diasporic person prevented me from actually going into that space. Using it in the accepted way, because you know in any theatre space the most powerful place is the centre, you have a very set hierarchy of upstage and downstage and centre stage. I felt, and I have always felt, that as a choreographer, I wanted to subvert that. So often I find it quite difficult to place anything centre stage. I’m always very drawn to that space very near the wings because I think, for me as a kind of marginal person, I feel that I need to empower that marginal space. So I often have to explain to dancers that I work with that. I put them near the wings, not because I don’t like what they do but because I think that’s a very interesting place to be. Thank you.


  Chris Bannerman      Alright my friends, we come to that part of the evening I warned you about, when we invite responses and start the questions from you, I’ll let you begin.


  Audience Member    Doreen’s reference to her childhood globe reminded me of an experience which I had some years ago. I found a globe in a shop in the form of a Rubik cube and I bought it, and that gave me an idea for my students who were bored with designing hospitals. The history of architecture is very linear. It starts with primitive huts and ends in today’s iconic buildings... I find it rather boring, so I got my students to design two Rubik cubes in the traditional six sided form. One had the architecture of different countries on each side. On the other Rubik cube there was the architecture of the same country but different styles. Then they just started moving them and try to find out how they co-exist, like your idea of co-existing and simultaneity. It was fascinating, they enjoyed it much more than designing a shopping centre.


  Doreen Massey    I was once on a programme with Melvyn Bragg, and there was Peter Hall who had just written a book called Civilisation in the Cities and they were all cities in the West, apart from Tokyo. Melvyn Bragg asked what is the city of the future? He had this notion of the linear history of the cities from Athens to Los Angeles. So where does Samarband or Calcutta fit in?


  Audience Member    All the speakers have really emphasised the need to talk about difference, and we recognise difference. I’d like to ask them what do you actually do if you don’t agree, if you have differences of opinion where you don’t like some particular artwork. Do you just accept? Or do you agree to disagree? Or do you say “No I think this is rubbish”? In terms of political disagreement, what do you actually do? Do you think you should challenge those disagreements or should you just accept what they say? Or should you say “I’m right and you’re wrong”?


  Errollyn Wallen    I just was thinking of a quote by Gore Vidal that it’s not enough to succeed, others must fail.


  Doreen Massey    When we talk about space as being a dimension in which difference could exist, I’m really only talking about heterogeneity. It’s not difference in class or difference with any given moral or political or ethical overtones. But it is indeed heterogeneity. It does not imply any evaluative stance in that sense. So, for instance at the moment there’s, José – the French peasant farmer who dismantled a McDonalds a while back. The French immediately took it up as a great nationalistic thing. Of course, they’re against American food. They call it malbouffe - junk food. Now given our argument about space and place you couldn’t be anti-American on that basis because French foods are already hybrid. Given that, how can one possibly reject this new immigrant? It’s there that the politics, the relations through which that immigration, that mixity, that difference is constructed. That’s where the politics is. So the reason you object to McDonalds, and this is where Bové and Dufour are absolutely clear about this, is because of the nature of multi-national mono-culture, agriculture and the domination of world trade organisations, etc., etc., etc. It is not because you’re saying ‘no’ to difference. It is the terms in which that difference is constructed and what it wishes to do with it that are the issues. And it is in those new relations and the relationality of space, that the politics lies. The proposition about space and multiplicity doesn’t mean you have to value everything just because it is different.


  Ghislaine Boddington    A really practical answer which I’m sure many people here use already is that in our group work situations and in the context of this debate, we are able to say “Yes, I believe that”, or “No, I don’t believe that”, but we also are able to have a central place which is the ‘maybe’ space. When I’m working with inter-cultural groups, I’m thinking of one workshop I did in Germany there was a huge relief about the maybe space where we are allowed to say “Well maybe, I’m not sure quite what I feel about that, whether I like that or not, whether that difference is okay to me or not”. It allows you to have thinking time to not have to come through with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ immediately but you’re allowed to shift or not change your mind. So I think there are very difficult points sometimes in groups, in multiplicity. I remember I did a workshop in Munich with a group of Taiwanese, as well as people from many other countries. There was a point when their nationalist stance was very, very important, and that was a difficult space because there were many others there who were obviously working against that kind of thing. But the maybe space was imperative within that because of exactly what you said. At the time the Taiwanese Nationalist stance, was in relationship to other points in their history and their time and it was imperative for them to have that. So I think the maybe space is how I deal with that.


  Chris Bannerman    …We have here a group of people who represent a range of multiplicity of style and one of the things that I think is fascinating, is that over the course of the years that we have been together, somehow there is an allowance for that and an understanding of that. That’s not to say that there aren’t times when there are profound disagreements, nonetheless we have found a way in which we can negotiate something. It’s not always easy, and there will be more of those to come, no doubt, as we move into a different phase where we will be writing more together, we look forward to seeing how we continue together. But it is one of the joys about having a group that have been together for some time and that’s often not the case in the arts.


  Audience Member    I’m a geography student from the University of Nottingham. I thought I’d just back the side of the geographers! But I’ve also got a keen interest in theatre and what struck me today is that the majority of the examples used by the speakers, is that in order for you to understand space, it seems that you need to do this through technology, either film, or the internet. How can we theorise space without the use of technology? For instance with space today, you said time space compression. I don’t know whether it’s an essence of space, but how can we understand it without thinking globally?


  Richard Layzell    Well, I’d say just looking at you there as you’re standing you’re defining space. From where I’m standing you’re of a certain age, a certain quality, you spoke in a certain way. For me, that’s all about definition of space, and it’s very live. Doreen referred to ‘the moment’ and we’re in one right now. It’s almost like we’re having a theatrical moment. If I stand up now then our relationship changes. Suddenly am I performing? You’re still standing, and I’m very glad you are. The resonance of this building… I commented about these lights because I know a bit about lighting, these are exceptional lights, I’m not just saying that, they are exceptional. I don’t know what they cost but they don’t come any better than this. So why are they put in this room, because it’s the RIBA. Why I spoke about that square in Greece was that the dimensions of reality of meaning there are endless. The thing I didn’t mention was that most of those tourists were Greek, they’re not English or French. So I guess I’m not wanting to define space but to experience it sculpturally and multi-dimensional, and the multi-meaning of it. For me, Doreen’s visit to us has been the most meaningful of all the guests from different disciplines that we’ve had as part of this project. And part of that was the recognition of someone talking about space, and place, and location, and the highly complex nature of that, who wasn’t an artist, who wasn’t a sculptor, who wasn’t a theatre maker. It was fantastic for me to hear that, so I wondered if geography would have been my other direction had I thought differently. I think there are very interesting parallels and I don’t think we can necessarily make all the connections. It doesn’t matter to make the connections obvious, but I think there have been a lot of bells ringing in some ways.


  Rosemary Lee    Were you asking about the fact that we didn’t really talk about the stage? Shobana did a bit. Were you sort of getting at the point that we didn’t really talk about the stage as a space and you were surprised by that?


  Audience Member    Yes.


  Rosemary Lee    I think I consciously didn’t because in dance terms, there’s a very famous book written by Doris Humphries which is all about space and what’s a powerful space on the stage. And I don’t want to because I kind of agree with her and in this context, I feel it might be old fashioned and then I go onto my timeline and all of that… But with my choreographic training I look at an empty space and then place people in it to make that space meaningful to me and to an audience, and someone standing in that corner is totally different to someone standing in that one. I hate people standing in that corner, I wouldn’t put anyone in that corner. So there’s an aesthetic notion. Where that’s come from I can’t say. And I’m not sure it’s universal, it’s probably Western. I don’t know about Shobana, but I would never put anyone in the centre either. The area I certainly wouldn’t put them in to start a piece would be the ring around the centre, that’s kind of no man’s land. It’s either the edge or the corners. The horizontal line, vertical line, diagonal are very strong, but that ring around the centre … So I’ve got a theory of it but that feels very personal and very you know choreographic.


  Audience Member    But surely the only way that you can understand the space is from outside the space?


  Rosemary Lee    In my discipline, yes, if I was being the choreographer but then if I’m the dancer I’ve got a whole other reaction to being in the space.


  Audience Member    Do you use Peter Brook’s theory where you need one person to be observing and you need one person to be in that space?


  Chris Bannerman    I think that’s about performance being a vibration between performer and spectator but I take your point entirely, the spectator may be the person who perceives or even creates the emptiness.


  Doreen Massey    But there is a real question about if one believes that space is relational can there be such thing as an empty space?


  Audience Member    My point is about institutional space. Isn’t the set up in this room so institutional? I’ve been picking on you, Chris, ever since the beginning of these seminars because of the fact that you have continued with your model as you have. I’ve asked you to change that model of the line of the academics because you know it all and, and, and all of us listening in rows and that does not encourage anyone to talk which is crucial to everything that is happening this evening. And the fact that I can’t see anything…


  Chris Bannerman    In response to that, I do want to say that the next seminar, although we haven’t qualified the space or place, will be more along the lines of a big circle…


  Audience Member    Well you can wrestle with me in it!


  Chris Bannerman    Thank you so much.


  Audience Member    I was very interested in, in the idea of people’s different perceptions of the same space. I just want to give two examples from my life history. I live in Hackney in East London, I’ve lived there for many years and in the late 1970s when I met my husband, I was used to seeing the immediate streets around where I lived in a certain particular kind of way. I felt I knew the architecture, the buildings, what happened there. My husband is from the Caribbean and we started to go to Blues dances. Now the experience of going to Blues dances completely transformed my experience and perception of what I considered to be my space, my locality. The Blues dances popped up at the weekends in basements, in empty buildings. The network was an aural network: “where are the Blues going to be tonight?” So all these spaces that I thought I knew suddenly had a completely different occupancy and a completely different relationship. I had a completely different relationship then to my locality. The reversal of that is me who grew up in the countryside. I love the countryside, the English countryside. Going there with my husband has made me re-perceive what the relationships of race, in relation to the perception of the countryside, are through experiencing how he experiences going into what he calls the White Highlands. He still refers to it in that way because things have not changed that much in relation to how people who are not white and English are perceived in certain countryside areas. So I’m interested in how you kind of deal with contested perceptions of space?

Just a final point is that I’m a carnivalist, and there is a very contentious debate about Notting Hill and Notting Hill Carnival. Is it going to be able to stay in Notting Hill, which has been owned and contested and fought for by the Carnival over the years? Or will the current residents of Notting Hill, who are the people we saw in the film Notting Hill, going to succeed in their demand to get it taken out of the streets, out of their area, thinking it doesn’t belong there and it should go into Hyde Park? So I want to know how do we deal with these issues of different perceptions of the same space where there is a contest around how people perceive and want to use that space?


  Doreen Massey    There is quite a lot of literature about the perceptions of the same space and I think I’ll just mention two points, because this could go on for ever and ever, and I can’t particularly talk about Notting Hill.

(Shall I stand up? Originally it was going to be quite a small seminar and I do apologise for this layout.) Those different perceptions will come up as part of what I mean by the negotiation of place. Quite often, indeed, these different perceptions are not even of the place now; rather they concern the past. Totally different histories will be mobilised and totally different pasts will be mobilised in order to justify a future. The other thing though is I don’t only want to think about space in terms of our experience of it – experientially. I also want to go beyond thinking of space, or landscape as text, or experience, or as discourse and to think about the actual materiality of it, the real production of that thing. So I would want to see place in that sense as being a combination of the utterly material (the rocks, the building) the discursive, the emotional, and the narrated by various parties. It’s all those things together that produce the constellation of trajectories that makes up place. One of the other things we talked about yesterday was the different demands that get put on places. How much more difficult it is to negotiate the clashes that have come from London’s positioning in globalisation, for example, if you happen to live in the Isle of Dogs than if you happen to live in Kew. The demands put on the negotiation of place, the things that people are thrust up against as a result of the insertion of London within its particular post-colonial positioning, within globalisation, are far more difficult in one place than another. So the very requirements and dimensions of that negotiation will vary from place to place. It’s all those things, it’s the discursive, it’s perceptual, but it’s also the utterly material.


  Shobana Jeyasingh    In a way, I suppose there is no resolution. One consistently finds the same space contested by different groups of people. My personal experience is from Sri Lanka, and that’s an ongoing thing. There are a group of people who came there five thousand years ago, and other groups of people still think that they’re newcomers. I mean it’s a very difficult situation. On a much smaller scale you find this happens in a London city with Carnival and Notting Hill. I don’t know how long people can claim to be in Notting Hill Gate, and that is a kind of microcosm...

But, my personal thing as an artist is that all you can try and do is to find and use that as a metaphor to talk about it. In a practical way, I feel that when people are given the chance to understand the history by which this argument came about, then I think that’s the first step forward. Because I think that usually understanding comes through education. It’s not just education because people don’t want to be educated, but because they’ve been given the access to information. I think if a generosity is encouraged and is forthcoming then people have the inclination. Take a place like Liverpool, there is one way of thinking if you grow up studying English history, you always think somebody who’s not white has somehow come to claim Liverpool. Whereas if you studied history in a very different way and you realise, in fact, the wealth of Liverpool has come from a particular input by different groups. Then, I think your view about different cultures living within an area is definitely going to be different. I think it’s when you don’t have the information given to you in your education system, that’s when any potential conflict arise.


  Chris Bannerman    My friends I think we are on to the last comments of the evening because of course there is wine, and more of a chance to talk informally, to follow. I know there were a couple of people waiting to comment.


  Audience Member    I’d like to talk a bit about theatre because I work with theatre. Peter Brook, as a matter of interest subscribes to a very hierarchical theatrical form which we see reflected in this room right now, and I don’t think he’s the right person to quote when you’re looking at what the actual quality of theatre is. Like a lot of theatre practice, for example like Grotowski, he has access to that mystery which transforms the heart of theatre. It insists on metaphor and transformation as it works. I am very cautious and I try not to use the word ‘theatre’ frivolously. I do think that something transforming needs to take place.

Theatre has its own geography, an empty room can become anywhere and anything, and I’ve been working a lot recently. For example, I’m working with people who use mental health services to enable them to tell the people in the mental health service to tell them what they think of it. The way that we’ve been doing that is to create a space in which they walk in through a door which enables the development of theatre. They can take the stage, inhabit that space and invert all the power-relations. I think power is really important in this discussion. They do that not in a prosaic, consequential narrative way, but in a way that requires leaps and bounds. It can be created by use of structures and notions which can totally invert the ordinary relation, a kind of heterotopia sets in, where people can say and do things. That’s not just for the oppressed, but is for the oppressors as well. We’ve found they are enormously relieved at the end of the day to be told firmly by the people who they normally see as living separately and not co-eval at all, who are usually considered almost invisible, difficult, problematic entities whose lives are profoundly difficult, that they are told by those people exactly what they like, what they want and what they don’t want. They see various films of performance going on, all of which are exemplary and all improvised. This process allows people to think, and to see themselves in their own processes. I think this is based, very much, in the transformation creativity of theatre. It is not just something they look at from the outside, but a space that can be inhabited and taken. They can take over the stage, or the power points of society for a little while and then use that experience to reconsider and re-understand it.


  Audience Member    Thank you, I’m not a theatre practitioner or an artist of any variety. My name is Charlie Kronick and I work for Greenpeace in the UK and I have done for the last twenty years. I just happened to make a couple of observations about my experience this evening. The first is that is a reflection of my experience in time and space. I was born in Minnesota in the mid 1950s and I probably represent a reasonable facsimile of an educated American. Just an observation, nobody was taught geography at all, there was no such thing as a geography teacher where I grew up, or when I grew up. Secondly, another observation, all the fantastic and interesting contributions tonight have been in terms of human experience of space. That’s no surprise, we’re all humans. Environmentalists are often accused of not being interested in humans, in space, and therefore, in place. The great transformation that is taking place in the politics of environmentalism is whether it’s about people or about the place and the environment: the thing that surrounds people; or the people in that place. It’s not surprising that many of the people with whom we are co-eval in parts of the world that Doreen was talking about, in Sri Lanka, Mali, or Malawi, are not perceived to be players in the environmental debate at all, in terms of the politics of it, not in terms of living in it. This is because there’s no debate about it, they do live in it. And then finally one last observation straight from my world which you can do with what you like in your world. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the issue of genetic modification and one of the big issues about the relationship of technology to the environment is that as long as there has been technology, people have tried to adapt that technology to the world that they live in. For the first time, we’re in a generation that actually wants to change the world that they live in to make it more congenial to the technologies that are convenient to them. I’d be interested to hear what people thought about that.


  Doreen Massey    Well first of all I absolutely do want to talk about the ‘non human’ in space. That is why I spoke of Skiddaw. The negotiation of place and the negotiation of space and the meeting of trajectories is not only of human trajectories. The negotiation is not only with humans either. Space is not only experiential and it includes that which is not only experiential. One of the things that came up today, and also yesterday, was the discussion of the here and the now, and people being very troubled by it in relation to life and performance. I want to ask: if everything is moving, the planets are moving, the earth is moving, etc., etc., where is ‘here’? I think ‘here’ is potentially that meeting up. We made a here this evening, in that sense. I think some of the choreography that Rosemary talked about with the notion of presence really, really picks up on that, and also what you were talking about Ghislaine, about virtual technologies. So I’d like you just to think that there is another type of responsibility, the responsibility for making heres and nows. And once it is no longer now, here will no longer be the same. So I go from Liverpool to Manchester and I go back at night to Liverpool, and Liverpool is a different place. In that sense of really thinking about trajectories, you can’t go back in space anymore than you can in time. The place will have moved on, other things will have happened. What we’re talking about is creating the heres and nows because there isn’t anything else.


  Chris Bannerman    Thank you very much for coming.  
spacer spacer spacer spacer
    Adobe pdf icon
 download this transcript as an Adobe Acrobat pdf file
(file size: 356 KB)


back to top  
online forum
If you have comments to make about this discussion, or would like to join in with others who have responded, click on this link.
spacer spacer spacer spacer

spacer spacer
Bookmark and Share