Space is in a constant state of reproduction, issues of space and the spacialization of social relations and conventions of epistemology within this sphere are in constant flux. Henri Lefebvre in The Production of Space argues this, and Wednesday’s rehearsal in Dundee’s Botanic Gardens exemplified it beautifully.
The public places chosen as venue for the past two rehearsals, the city square and the botanic gardens are public places with socially assigned functions, this being the nature of the notion of Place. They are also social spaces, which by the nature of Space, allows for a constant reconfiguration of use and an exploration of the knowledge gained from that process.
The Botanic Gardens was the most striking example of this when we consider the reaction of the public. The members of the public, who did not attend specifically to see the event, appeared to have stumbled upon the process in a very different way to the public at the city square rehearsal. In the square the viewer encountered the rehearsal passing through the space. Stopping if they wished, continuing on with their way with ease in an open space which is frequently reassigned different functions. A Live Art event does not happen often but is not inconsiderable within a city square.
Within the context of the Botanic Gardens, the resulting feeling was altogether different. Most of the public were there for a specific reason, to see the plants, their encounter with the rehearsal was met with surprise, intrigue, and on one occasion I witnessed annoyance. (One gentleman was ‘just there to see the coniferous plants, not this shit’...I quote) Those that stayed cut statuesque silhouette, motionless with their heads peering out from behind trees, becoming parts of the artwork unbeknownst to themselves. We were moved by the musicality of the space and the artist interaction to it. However there was a feeling of peering in, of being uninvited, creating a strange tension within the viewer participant.
Perhaps this is due to location? This event being in a public place with a strongly defined function, is it that when the functionality of a place is subverted, uncomfortably we must rethink? The space is also extremely enclosed, closely defining the route of movement, prohibiting the agency of the public. The artists were intruding into a public place yet the public felt it was the one intruding.
End of the first act of the rehearsal. Clapping. Exit choir, and the insularity of the rehearsal becomes even more apparent. The artists move to a different mode of action as the second process of the work is employed, the artists working with their environment and props to create a more contrived aesthetic for future development away from this space. The public is not required here, silence is needed. The feeling of intrusion prevails. Perhaps the disordered new function of this place could have been more clearly defined, but is that possible in a work that does not wish to be defined and where the artist is striving for, in the words of Bruce McLean, unintentional intentionality?
The culminating performance returns to the Cooper Gallery on Friday, this time differing from Monday’s events with the addition of the public. It will be interesting to see how the notions of place, space and public agency, develops within the very specific context of the gallery. Shall we all feel more comfortable?