In favour of touching

Image: Sara Popowa. Land into Light, 2012. Dancers Jennifer-Lynn Crawford and Charlotte Spencer. 

As I approach the birth of my first child I find myself in a time of radical change. My body changes noticeably from one day to the next, my sense of myself is in flux and I am all too aware of the precious time I have all to myself to sit and think in a way that will be abruptly forgotten once the wee one has arrived.

All the books I’ve been reading about preparing for child birth and the early days of parenting re-iterate one common necessity – touch. During labour, being touched by your partner, Doula, friend, mid-wife is invaluable for managing the physical and emotional intensity of contractions. Massage, hair brushing, hugging, stroking, reflexology, acupressure…whatever helps you relax, it’s all good. As soon as the baby is born, skin to skin contact is essential. It will make the baby feel calmer, safer. It will aid with bonding. It is instinctive from both mother and baby. And babies need to be held and touched a lot. If they aren’t then they simply don’t develop properly physically or emotionally. Indeed if babies and young children don’t receive regular loving touch in their first two years of life, then the damage that that causes is irreversible. They suffer from attachment disorders, cognitive delay, their growth is stunted, their digestive and immune systems don’t develop properly.

I am looking forward to giving birth. That might sound slightly strange, but I am. I am curious about the demand that it will place on me physically, mentally and emotionally. I am so curious about this other life that has been growing inside me these past almost 9 months. Who are you? I keep saying.

I am so relieved to be in the midst of a process that is so directly entangled with what it is to be alive, to be human, to be in and with my physical body. So much of life today seems to be removed from that – it is virtual, on-screen, brainy, insubstantial. I don’t think you can get much more real time, real life, real sensation than giving birth. It is full of all of the senses.

Until the past couple of weeks I didn’t engage much with buying stuff in preparation for this baby, but I have been quite busy being in touch, getting in touch, being touched. It doesn’t feel like new work but it does sometimes feel luxurious. I find myself repeatedly grateful for the dance training that I had, for all the years that I’ve spent working with my body. I feel better equipped somehow.

When I think back to it, those years of full time training were so particular – long days that were so physically and emotionally demanding. Endless sweating. Sitting in a heap at the end of the day on the benches in the changing room, gathering energy to shower and change. Falling asleep in the body conditioning studio. Crying, a lot. Friendships were intense, supportive, fierce. There were plenty of hugs and massages and arguments. We touched each other a lot. Formally and informally we learnt many ways of touching, of being in touch with ourselves and each other. Of giving and receiving. Of knowing where our edges were. Sometimes we were clumsy, unclear, unsure. Sometimes we got the touch wrong. But we practiced a lot.

It is now almost 15 years since I graduated and in those intervening years sometimes I’ve danced a lot. Sometimes very little. I definitely touch other people less than I did then. Somehow there is less opportunity. Do I miss it? Yes probably.

Over the past year I’ve worked intermittently on a farm that specialises in growing Japanese vegetables. I have appreciated having a job of little responsibility that is 10 mins cycle ride from where I live, is outdoors and is physical.

We’re a friendly bunch and our working environment is pretty informal. And still we don’t touch each other at all regularly. We don’t hug or shake hands at the beginning or the end of the day. I worked with the same colleagues from June til December last year and it wasn’t until we said goodnight after our Christmas get-together that I actually hugged any of my co-workers. I noticed the absence of any physical contact during those months of working together and I missed it, but somehow I also didn’t instigate any sort of change or shift. Like in dance projects, we also worked intimately. We started work anywhere between 2 and 4am, we worked hard physically and supported each other when we were beyond tired. We shared jokes and as we worked we shared little snippets of our lives. In many ways it’s a wonderful environment for work. Meditative, outdoors, working with the land, hands in the soil – the work itself is a deeply tactile experience. And the conversations, relationships that develop through that working environment have the potential to be deeper, more intimate, more open precisely because of the context and the nature of the work. And yet we never actually touched each other. No pats on the back, no light brush of the hand. Nothing. It’s normal. And something always felt at odds with that.

I read that we are in the midst of a crisis of touch. Adults don’t touch each other much. Increasingly adults aren’t allowed to touch children who aren’t their own. There have been too many stories of abuse, too many scandals and we’ve become a scared nation. In the attempt to empower young people in being able to assert their touch boundaries, I find myself wondering what has been lost and what is the cost of that loss? Have we forgotten what non-sexual loving touch can be? Have we lost the ability to be able to give and receive nuanced touch? If so, we are indeed in crisis. Touch is life-giving after all. It is essential.

There has been (and probably continues to be) so much abuse of touch – the proliferation of the #metoo campaign reveals this all too clearly. And that’s only just the start. It’s certainly thorny territory. I’m curious to see how we can develop healthy, honest touch experiences. Ones which make us feel safer, more confident, more connected to ourselves and to others, less fearful, more optimistic about the riches that touch can offer. And I wonder what the experience of dancing, dance training, dance performance has to offer here. I have a feeling it is quite a lot.

Image: Kimbal Bumstead. Embodied Drawing, 2012. Dancers Thomas Goodwin and Charlotte Spencer

Great review

Thank you to Rachel Blackman from Fringe Review for writing such a beautiful piece about Walking Stories in Brighton Festival. She gave it the ‘Outstanding Show’ stamp and her brief ‘low down’ looked like this:

“Contemplative and profound, Charlotte Spencer Project’s audio walk through woods in Stanmer Park draws you effortlessly into an experience of natural choreography. It is a choreography of groups and solitude; of the natural world and the rhythms and patterns that emerge from everyday living. It is one of the most calming, quietly beautiful and evocative outdoor pieces I have ever experienced.”

This together with unbelievably beautiful weather, and a collection of delightful audiences, meant we couldn’t have hoped for much more at Brighton Festival! To read the full review click me! Weekends like that make me feel so privileged to have the job I have…

And so the tour continues – we are back in Brittany, on the Rhys Penninsula next week and then Walpole Park in Ealing on 1st June before heading north to Leeds.

The walks in Ealing are FREE! 1pm and 3.30pm To reserve your place, please email Alys Hughes: HughesA@ealing.gov.uk

7th and 8th June, Leeds: If you’re looking for an opportunity to get a bit more deeply involved with Walking Stories, how we made it, and how you can become involved in some of the performances, we’re running a performance project workshop in Roundhay Park, Leeds. More information and Sign up here

Walking Stories will be in the same park on 14th and 15th June, with four shows per day. To find out more and to book your place click me!

Ok I think that’s enough plugging for now! Enjoy the bank holiday weekend…

Walking Stories.5

 

The Supper Room

It was a real pleasure to be invited by Greenwich Dance to curate the first in their new series of Supper Room evenings, and it provided us with the opportunity to share the experience of our project, Cycle Stories from 2013. Several people told me that The Supper Room at Greenwich Dance on 17th January felt like a wedding. I think that’s a good sign! I wanted to created an informal atmosphere of exchange, celebration and playfulness – I think weddings have many of those qualities. Lots of friendly familiar faces arrived mixed in with plenty of new ones, combined with delicious food, great music and a touch of the extraordinary. Little clues took people to different parts of the room to investigate, explore, perhaps discover something new.

Tristan, Tom and Bruno played live music all evening, Janine Harrington and Elodie Escarmelle did a remarkable job of keeping time throughout the evening with Janine’s human clock installation and Alex Moran served up close to 80 plates of food (without a kitchen!) with an army of serving helpers from Greenwich Dance. People looked like they were having a good time (but perhaps they were pretending!). We all watched Cycle Stories – the film, on a big screen, for the first time. I know that it was a little nerve-wracking for David (our filmmaker) – I guess a similar sensation to watching the first public performance of a new choreographic work – it’s surprisingly hard to watch and relax… But I, for one, watched it filled with happy memories and nostalgia for that wonderful, exhausting, crazy project that it was. That evening was the first time that all of the CSP team who worked on Cycle Stories were in the same room together again, and it reminded me how privileged I was to have had such a talented and committed group of artists working with me.

I think that is plenty of gushing for now – it starts to sound like an emotional wedding speech, so I will stop and save that for a different moment! Thank you to Kat Bridge and everyone at Greenwich Dance for having us. I think I can let Alicia Clarke’s pictures tell the rest of the evening. Until next time…

Charlotte

Everything went quiet – what’s happening? Reflections on Cycle Stories

We’ve been quiet for a while, and it’s definitely time for an update. In short, after a hugely busy and fun summer season with Cycle Stories, I am hibernating.

The longer version is that I am currently in the hugely fortunate position of writing this from a small Spanish village in the foothills of the Pyrenees. I have taken a little bit of time out to reflect, to watch and assimilate my thoughts. Perhaps most importantly I have taken time out to be less busy with dashing from meeting to meeting, and fill my time more with a physical engagement of daily living – chopping wood, making fires, walking 3 hours to market, receiving small exchanges of friendliness and warmth from these tiny remote communities, watching birds and sitting amongst the land as the seasons change. I watch and listen a lot more. I am unused to having so much space, and I find myself treading uncertain territory – navigating the unknown and watching empty space. I am hesitant to rush into new ideas – to try and grab them before they’ve had time to settle. However some things into the future are clear and exciting and I’m happy to have them as landmarks that reach out towards the horizon and provide a little bit of structure.     

tree         leaves

Date for your diaries: 17 January 2014
We are delighted to be invited back by our friends at Greenwich Dance to curate their first Supper Room night. We love this new series which allows us to work across art forms to produce an informal, interactive and exciting (we hope) experience. What to expect? – there will be the first screening of our film, Cycle Stories; live music from our sound artists; a world of hidden clues and little surprises to explore; a human clock; things to listen to; things to add to; we’ll eat delicious food prepared by our very own chef – yes we have a chef! and then we’ll clear the hall for dancing.

So exactly what have I been reflecting on in my hibernation mode?

Cycle Stories and Walking Stories – reflections of each other
Cycle Stories was like delving into the unknown. It was ambitious, bold and ventured dance into unfamiliar territory both in terms of the process through which it was created and the formats of presentation it proposed.

It was perhaps a slightly surprising undertaking for a choreographer to decide to make a multi-stranded hour length audio walk, Walking Stories; to decide to make it through a series of creative residencies in England and France linked together by bicycle; and to make a documentary film at the same time. I’d never worked in this format before, I’d never written a script, I’d never made a film and I’d never done any cycle touring. It was an extraordinary, and wonderful experience, a huge learning curve and involved many months of not much sleep and lots of clambering around a long sheet of paper with all the scripts blue tac-ed to it calling out time codes to the sound artists at 3am and cycling 3000km! I was incredibly fortunate to have been supported by an exceptionally skilled, dedicated and enthusiastic artistic team; a hugely patient and practical tour manager (also cook, bike fixer, and website maker) and an amazing management team who calmly picked up all the slack, writing the necessary emails, contracts, paying people, invoicing, keeping the books etc whilst I was clambering around the sacred scripts…

Cycling and walking
I was asked repeatedly through the project why we were cycling all this way. Was it a separate project? What did it have to do with Walking Stories? For me the connection was always clear, but this constant questioning made me re-evaluate the connection and the necessity for it.

We set out to create a digital recipe for a participatory performance where the audience become the creators, performers and spectators of the choreographic experience we designed for them: an hour length audio walk, for city parks and green spaces for a group of people to do together. I wanted to make a work that was deeply choreographic but hugely accessible and inclusive. I wanted to dismantle the edge between performance and audience space/ stage and life, to invite our audience into a physical and tactile experience of the work almost without them noticing. And I decided that in order to be able to do this well, we the creators of that walk also needed to take a journey together. A long one. To remain in the landscape and feel the work seeping into us, not just think about it in a ‘brainy’ way from the bubble of a studio. We took our walk for a cycle, and together the artistic team travelled between each creative residency by bicycle. We remained in the landscape, close to the ground. A little community – camping, eating, sleeping and working together. It sounds idyllic and in many ways it was, but it was also exhausting and the relationship between the travelling and the work we created didn’t perhaps connect together in the ways we anticipated at the outset.

Interestingly some of the collaborators working on the project didn’t feel the link and I think I start to understand why. Cycling between residencies, across France, camping and the physicality of that experience – its challenges, elations and discomforts had little in common with our mostly computerised experience of creating Walking Stories. Making Walking Stories was technical, theoretical, hypothetical, static. Meticulously crafting and designing an experience for others to take. Trying to imagine how unknown/variable groups of people MIGHT respond. It involved an imagined space, required a degree in psychology, accuracy and an eye for detail. It is very controlled, exact and known. But then when Walking Stories goes live, when we hand it over to an unknown, unpredictable audience, we simultaneously hand over our control. The individual experience is unpredictable, unexpected, unknown. It is this living Walking Stories (rather than the making of it) that mirrors our lived experience of Cycle Stories so fully. It was full of unknown, uncertainty, challenge, surprise and stretch. And sometimes that was unsettling.

When we were on the road, the exertion of cycling actually took up most of our time and energy and there was little remaining capacity to do more. Perhaps I had anticipated too much what this long journey might bring directly to the creativity of Walking Stories. The unsettling experience that it wasn’t bringing what I had hoped/expected was a good reminder that ‘creativity’ can’t be churned out on tap when requested, and is certainly not a linear entity. It is far messier and inter-related than that. Instead we gradually realised as we gathered the miles across France that this journey wasn’t so much about what Walking Stories would become (we were pretty clear already about what it was) but rather was the start of many new creative journeys that were yet to find their form. It was like the research and development, the fieldwork for the next things, still unknown.

If we look at the ‘Cycle Stories’ system more broadly, I think the correlation between the lived experience of Cycle Stories and the lived experience of Walking Stories have much in common. My logistical phase pre-trip was perhaps the equivalent of the computer driven experience of making Walking Stories for Tom and Tristan – I thought about all the components for a very long time, engineered them as precisely as I could so that the technology could withstand the possibilities of anything. I try to keep everyone together -not dissimilar from hand out headphones and mp3 players… instead I gave the artistic team bikes and jobs. We can replace walk with cycle; headphones with bikes; verbal communication with directive/prescriptive thinking.

The edge between our lives and this project became distinctly murky – the project was our life (and this didn’t come without it’s challenges). Is cycling across France not something of a holiday? Well, yes, it could be, but this felt exceptionally different from a holiday – something in my attention and focus; something about how every experience was framed within the context of the project and the journey that was unfolding; something about the responsibility that I held for ensuring that we arrived on time, with everyone together; the responsibility of it having been worthwhile. The edge between performance, performer, spectator, stage all get whirled up in Walking Stories. I don’t like boxes much, and Cycle Stories certainly dismantled the edges of many boxes which was both liberating and at times disorientating.

Walking Stories
I feel exceptionally satisfied by Walking Stories. It was a hugely complex piece of work to devise and the requirements of it were high – we wanted it to be accessible and appealing to a really broad range of people and for it to ‘do’ many things – to re-engage people with green spaces; to bring them into a closer relationship with themselves; to build community; to take them on a journey; to give space for listening and watching; to give space and opportunity for transformation; to allow excited and energetic people to run and equally allow others to be quiet and still; to encourage people to do things that perhaps they might not normally be comfortable doing, and then realise how lovely those activities are. We trusted that this chosen format could work, but it was fairly unknown and untested ground.

The feedback and responses we’ve received have been overwhelmingly positive. I find facilitating the walk endlessly fascinating and beautiful to witness. I watch people gradually sink into themselves, they leave refreshed, more present, more themselves. I love knowing that hundreds of people have clambered around inside this walk, each time making it their own.

Building and maintaining Community
Since the project finished I have noticed that all members of the core artistic team have been keen to put time and energy into ensuring that Walking Stories continues to tour next year. I have not asked for this, and certainly didn’t expect it, but this active engagement and energy demonstrates  the shared commitment that we all have to the project. I believe strongly that this arises from the feeling of togetherness and community that we built through the creation of Walking Stories. Walking Stories in this way is not ‘my’ work – it is co-owned and all of the contributors feel a sense of ownership towards the project because indeed they invested so much of themselves into its creation. When our audience finish Walking Stories they leave with a feeling of ownership of their experience and kinship with the others that they shared the walk with. Similarly the artists who lived and breathed Cycle Stories have a unique and shared experience. For all its intensity, it drew us closer together. The concrete outcomes of that can be seen in the programming of Walking Stories for 2014. The less concrete outcomes will continue to surface through the work and approach to work/life of the artistic team in the months and years to come – in how this experience perhaps changes Jennifer or David’s teaching methodologies; how it informs Tristan’s ways of making music; my thoughts about choreography and dance; our collective ideas about travel or time.

Film – finding a suitable framework
David McCormick has worked tirelessly and far beyond the call of duty on making a film for this project. A huge asset was his ninja like cycling ability to race ahead, whip out camera in time to capture us whizzing by, let us drift into the distance, then quickly pack up and race ahead again (good job he was the fittest of us all!) Not an easy job. He played a crucial role in quietly recording, listening, witnessing and questioning our process as it happened.

The challenge for us both when it came to crafting the film was to find a suitable structure that would both make the project clear for an audience unfamiliar with the project; and at the same time reflect the complexity and web like threads that wound around the project. I was keen that the film did not become a chronological archiving of the project and that it also drew its audience into a more tactile/physical experience of Cycle Stories – that the film would provide another medium for supporting our over-riding aims to increase connectivity to self, place and community. In the end we decided to write a script for the film – almost like a visual essay. I think it does a wonderful job in giving a flavour for the lived experience, a taste of the journey – its revelations and challenges and the narration manages to give a context to the over-arching and deeply interwoven ideas that the project as a whole, and Walking Stories in particular navigates. If nothing else it makes you want to get outside more – to take a long journey on a bicycle or a short one in the park. Seek out adventures to unknown destinations. They bring us to new and exciting places.

We are in the final throws of polishing and tweaking the film (or rather David and Tristan are!) and I contribute probably quite irritating notes/changes/demands every now and again. Our first screening is on 17 January as part of the Supper Room at Greenwich Dance. See you there. Oh, and if you ever have the chance to go and hibernate one winter – like really hibernate, then snap up the opportunity, I highly recommend it!

Dear UKBA – from Jennifer

Dated: Future-ly, 21.07.13

Dear UKBA, Home Secretary and minions of:

I have been a virtual traveller for the past 3.5 weeks.

I know that you have prohibited my travel outside the UK by ‘retaining’ (greedily keeping it for yourself, ahem… don’t you have enough passports in your collection yet?) my passport; however, I am pleased to announce that I have now mastered the art of astral projection and have been maintaining a steady presence through France these past three weeks.

Mainly, I have been taking up a very small amount of space in a camera. This is ideal, as I then don’t have to deal with the inevitable explanations regarding my lack of visibility in the images themselves. I am of course somewhat at the mercy of David’s curiosity, interest and skill (! really, he should stick to the poetry), which means that I miss the other’s perspectives – but perhaps everyone would have wanted to document the different spiders at close range. As well as the close-up with the cow… well. I had never imagined their breath would smell so sweetly!

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There are a few drawbacks: I’m afraid I don’t feel the same weight of work in my legs as the others… and given the tenuous position of my immigration status in this country, similar to finding myself on a tightrope stretched over an abyss, I do miss the earthiness and heaviness 6 hours of cycling brings. I feel I need heavy legs at the moment. Maybe if they get heavy enough, I’ll be earthbound forever… no plane will fly me and boats will sink under my tread, thus ensuring my continued residency in the UK.  But perhaps I need to be lighter, nimble  enough to dash across the rope to the other side… or back the way I’ve come (even though I don’t fancy my chances doing an about-turn on such a narrow platform, ballet school notwithstanding).

I had tried to mirror the efforts of the group from afar, cycling from London to Cambridge (68 miles) and Cambridge to Peterborough (39 miles). This was very successful in creating shared space in different places, via SMS – but also, simply trusting that we were each doing what the other was from afar – a potent psychological space. For reasons specific to my situation (that of not-knowing my fate and wanting to be available should I need to access the many documents necessary to help determine it), I took the train from Peterborough to Leeds to be physically present with the tightrope, keeping tension on the line.

I feel a certain fragmentation: this is clearly part of the astral projection, but also to do with my projection into the camera. I am not privy to the whole of the landscape, its integrity, the roundness of 360… the aperture here is made up of 90 degree angles. I wonder if you can relate to this in your roles as caretakers (cartographers) of immigration? How do you feel about the aperture of ILR Form Set(O) as a way to understand my desire to remain in the UK? Does it give you enough scope? I fear it might be flat, in the way two-dimensional things are. I fear it fails to account for the roundness of my existence here. I fear it fails to address the roundness this country is for me.

I suppose this notice of refusal shows that it has failed; hence I will plead my case in the full three-dimensions. Hopefully, when we see each other face to face, rather than through these 90 degree angles, we’ll be able to reach an understanding.

Video from The Point

A little video edit made by the team at The Point, Eastleigh – quick glance at the project so far – what’s been happening… Cycle Stories and Walking Stories in process! Take a peak

 

Cycling, maps, uncertainty – Jennifer-Lynn Crawford

Cycling, Maps and Uncertainty.

I have a particular flair for getting lost. I have many ideas about why this is, or comes to be, but they mostly consist of self-justifications for what is a skill highly under-rated in densely populated and constructed cities. How can I get lost around the corner from where I am staying in London despite staying in the same neck of the woods on every visit for the past 6 years? I know London is a big place – but I am not built like a goldfish. I do remember streets, houses, landmarks; just not, it would seem, in the same order as they appear on maps.

Doing more cycling in less familiar places has only increased my ability to get lost… I can now get lost very quickly. Because of a general reluctance to stop cycling once I am in motion, I tend to keep going, which means I increase the length of time it will take to ‘find out’ where I am. It also means I avoid consulting the map. Hence I get lost quickly and increasingly thoroughly when I’m not with anyone else. Another curiosity is that I tend to speed up if I feel very lost (rather than medium lost, or just plain lost) – probably out of a desire to find something that seems familiar (even if it isn’t).

Cycling with people that I feel to be both fairly skilled map readers and more experienced cyclists has been odd for me. There is always someone who knows where we are going. This in itself is a radically different way of being on a bike. There is also usually someone who knows where we are, according to a map, and occasionally, there are several people who have slightly different ideas about where we are/going.

I’ve been grateful for the fact that others understand how important arrival at a pre-decided final destination is and that they have hold of the map and not me. Particularly after mile 40.

Orientation is a question mark for me (it would seem); I enjoy not knowing where I am and/or having an ambiguous destination. This is definitely a useful thing, as I seem to have some internal scrambling device that activates whenever I get near a map. Or, another way to put it: my experiential map (how getting to a place feels/felt as physically sensed) and my 2-d map don’t communicate with a common language.

Lost

Language indicates ‘lost’ is a state, or a quality of a thing… an activity, a status, and also, refers to something past/no longer

“I got lost”
“I am lost”
“I will get lost”
“Lost and Found”
“Lost time”
“Lost in thought”
“I lost my head/temper/heart”
“A losing battle”

Lost is also gone – I lost something means that I no longer have it. To be lost in thought is to be absorbed (into something else). Maybe a base metaphor is that lost is not to hand? It is beyond my grasp, my knowing. Lost is taken (away) and lost is not-knowing. Lost is a state/quality defined by negation, as the absence of clarity or knowing. Lost is also a metaphor for death, the most permanent kind of absence. There are also, of course, winners and losers… ‘Loser’ being the preferred insult of my 10 year old self, if memory serves. Losing is less desirable than winning if not strategic in terms of games, arguments, money/possessions and vitality. But losing is hugely desirable if joining the body-commodification movement.

In being lost, I have lost my way – even if I don’t follow the map, I have a ‘way’, something that is mine. When lost to or in something, I am absorbed by the something to the degree that it becomes my compass. To existentialist-leaning sorts (like myself), this signals some shift in ontology, or how we ‘are’; there is less attempt at owning a situation and greater permeability to perceived elements in/making up the situation.

This is articulated in improvisation practices by Kent De Spain as ‘non-centred/de-centred intentionality’:

“…if I am commingled with the elements of the moment so that I do not sense or even care where the ideas and actions are coming from, I can go for a joyride, instead of carrying the car on my back.”

(feel free to replace ‘car’ with transport mode of choice)… but it is mostly the same phenomenon when lost-on-bike. Regardless, it is very hard to ‘lose’ this metaphor of purpose as destination and both as desirable. They indicate knowing.

Maps

Journeys make paths or follow them – paths are specific surfaces inscribed on the land. Paths are knowledge in that they tell us someone was here before – human or not, another creature has gone this way. In making a path from scratch, we make a statement to other pathway-takers that there is something going on. Obstacles are things or events that prevent us from following the path easily, possibly blocking it entirely. This is an easy relationship to draw across to our bodies and movement habits as well – those habits, those neural paths that we work daily (tooth-brushing, hand-writing, garlic-chopping) are pretty well-maintained paths. They are knowledge, knowing in moving towards destinations such as clean teeth and notes and a meal. We sense obstacles here when we cannot access our habitual way (such as using the same hand).

In my case, I am very skilled at becoming my own ‘obstacle’ when I have hold of a map – or I am very skilled at finding ways to avoid my destination. I’m not sure which it is yet. It might depend whether I think I’m going somewhere or nowhere. I seem to prefer the ‘joyride’ over carrying the bike on my back (i.e., aiming at the landscape from the map) and have difficulty negotiating the difference in ontology proposed by finding my way, rather than a-way (lost).

Maps emerge from the landscape… and then we paste them back on. This rests on our understanding of space as somehow structural – time flows, but space… endures. It remains. I reckon the land itself, as well as any creature blessed with any kind of perceptual system, would beg to differ that it remains the same. Space changes; space is always contingent and inhabited. Even if we refuse to annex space in terms of time, space shifts. Where does the notion of static space come from? A desire to get hold of something perhaps; to centre our knowing and make it portable within ourselves, or at least, something we can carry with us.

The notion of space as structure and thus inherently fixed is a particular Western/Euro metaphor. Attempts to address difficulties within this perspective go all the way back to Heraclitus and the river that we can’t step into twice. They move all the way forwards through Einstein’s Relativity to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and a choice to know about either a particle’s momentum or its location, but not both simultaneously. It goes past that through the popular acceptance of various versions of chaos theory, systems-based approaches, post-post frameworks… and where does it land in this work we are working on now?

Questions:

How do we practice space – or practice with space? How do we space a practice?

These are two questions I keep re-arriving at from various activities over the past several years. To some degree, I’m still lost here. But of course, these are not the sorts of questions that prompt arrival at destinations.

At the moment, they propose that we need to consider location as un-fixed – as interactive or better, something that we are implicated in/by – which is a clear follow-on from any kind of environmental concern, yet one that isn’t made nearly explicit enough in current social/political climes. It seems that we spend a good deal of time trying to forget that spaces are not fixed – or trying to ‘fix’ them into staying. To know that we are affected by space (think cave vs. mountain top) is also to know that we affect space (think empty stadium vs full). How is it then ‘forgotten’ that if we don’t steward our spaces ‘well’ (perhaps in some kind of sustainable, or even more mindful, practice), our spaces will no longer be? In order to work with space, even just to take care of it, we need to acknowledge that space changes. Space is not fixed. Even leaving space as it is, it moves, it rearranges itself, displaces itself, as much as time – this might also offer some explanation of Western philosophy’s favouring of time.

I suppose I wonder what we look at when we are looking at maps. And if we are we looking at flat versions of space, what does that tell us about our feeling for space?

To be continued….