Production of Space

Between October and December 2003 I worked on a site-specific project as part of the module “MEDA324 Production of Space”. As a group students were introduced to a site from which we were expected to develop and individual project.

My research this year has been around social navigation. Social navigation, simply put, is about taking clues from other users of the environment and, using these clues, whether they be gestures, exclamations or the routes they take users navigate thier own way through a space. [Munro et al. 1999: 2]

I approached the site project with social navigation of space in mind. I decided that I would ask my colleagues to record when and where they spoke to other people about the project/visit. I created and distributed a simple form.

Social navigation data form

I realised, fairly quickly, during the site visit that the amount of inaccuracy in the recording made by the group would result in such disparities that the data set would be relatively meaningless.

Data recording failure


I recorded video whilst at the site and reviewed this afterwards. A striking interaction between two people sparked an idea whilst reviewing the video footage.

Nathan Shedroff has formulated and written extensively on a data-wisdom “understanding continuum”. He classes data as untranslated and relatively meaningless, information has a context but still needs to be referenced,knoweldge is information that you understand, can apply and articulate without reference and wisdom is second nature, knowledge that you have become expert in.

Nathan Shedroff's understanding continuum

I realised that I didn’t want to operate on the level of data with this project, I wanted to operate at the level of social navigation, at the knowledgelevel.

Nathan Shedroff's understanding continuum - Knowledge

I reviewed the video footage I had recorded at the site and was fascinated by the interactions I observed. Such intimate recording of everyday life put me in mind of the work of the video artist Bill Viola and the photographer Jeff Wall. Both artists, Viola particularly, have been influenced by religious imagery.

Bill Viola's Going Forth by DayJeff Wall

Religious imagery is full of rules, its based on rules that are designed to enable the depict the divine, to bring the most holy and significant moments before a congregation. The meticulous staging of the most important religious events became the accepted view of how these events actually happened. The perfectly formed highly designed versions of the last supper and the crucifixion re-wrote our, western Christian, epistemologies. The rules in these paintings have given us a concept of sacred geometry, the idea that certain proportions reveal the divine.

A famous and well-studied example is Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. You can see the various interactions happening across the painting within a wider context as the lines of sight and speech form shapes on which the painting is based.

Da Vinci's Last Supper


In approaching the documentation I took of the site I am asking whether we can apply such geometries to innocuous ‘found’ spaces. Viola and Wall have both made reference to religious imagery having its basis in everyday life. Perhaps we should be able to apply these rules to our everyday lives.

I am interested, in this case, in mapping what I see as knowledge transfer, which to a degree we take part in everyday by discussing information we have sorted and sifted from our environment to expand our personal knowledge base. Conversation is an important part of our accumulation and processing of knowledge. Speech intelligibility research suggests that the average length of a word in spontaneously produced speech patterns – conversation – is around six phonemes, which take just over a second to form. I have taken one word to represent a minimum indicative unit of knowledge transfer.

In the final piece I have slowed down time by a third to enhance the ability to discern the delicacies of interaction taking place. I also have appreciated the detail this has brought to Bill Viola’s work.

The two screens of the finished piece serve to show a comparison and contrast between life and its ‘sacred’ measurements. By studying the piece the viewer comes to understand that the strict rules of the, highly staged, imagery of the divine break down in the reality of our environment. I hope this gives the viewer cause to re-evaluate their own ideas of their relationships in space.

The final pieceThe final piece

The two screens would be projected on to a wall in a darkened gallery space facing the entrance/exit. Stereo speakers in the corners of the projection wall would play the sound.

Posted by Sam at January 16, 2004 04:09 PM

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