Archive for the ‘performing dundee’ Category


Performance and recursivity: the desire line

December 12, 2007


We need to shift from formal accounts of the built environment to look at the question of how it is experienced. Hence subjectivity…

Lacan’s diagram of the drives traces what we might call a desire line. It alludes to the essential spatiality of desire. It might as well describe our affective relations to the city. Imagine tracing a line across your lover’s breast, and then repeating that on the city. Desire leaps the gap between the subjective world and objects. Our objects are not simply given to us, they are shaped by our signifiers, they are always symbolic objects. Look at the landscape of the body, how we differentiate it into objects. So too the city. [Otherwise a breast is a breast is a breast, a butcher’s cartography, no more no less.]

The drive is always a return journey, so says Lacan. The line circumvents the object (the ‘a’) and returns to the circle (the rim). My signifiers always circumvent what I desire, I am never in possession of it. [The lesson of Midas is that we never get what we desire or else we die; we go on desiring until we die.]

The rim is a place. It represents the site for my desire, even though my desire is always elsewhere. We make places by returning to them. I foray into the abyss in pursuit of my objects, and return safely to a place. Architecture is always involved in this dialogue between the foray out (abyss, danger), the return (safety, place). Spaces become places when we return to them. Hence the essentially recursive nature of place. It is a mistake to think that you might return without a ticket. Return engages all the mechanisms of remembering and reflecting and representing. Déjà vu (a new place that seems as if we have visited it before) and its twin sister derealisation (a place we visited before that seems as if it were new) are simply disruptions in the formation of place.

For Lacan’s diagram, cf. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis; for déjà vu cf. Freud, ‘The uncanny’; for derealisation cf. Freud, ‘A disturbance of memory on the Acropolis’.


I walk along a wall… I perform Dundee for you…

December 3, 2007


Ceres was the first
To split open the grassland with a ploughshare.

Ovid by way of Ted Hughes

If the built environment does not constitute a Beyond Text medium for the transmission of the collective knowledges and identities of its inhabitants, then what does? Our knowledge, our identities are literally inscribed in the land by stone walls, and field furrows, streets and lane markers, manhole covers, lamp posts, post boxes, box beams, bus shelters, bus routes (drawn on maps, worn into tarmac), taxi ranks, advertising bill boards, terraces, office blocks, car parks, entries, steps, decoys, detritus, views from hills, views from bedrooms, light falling across doorsills and police stations and museums…

And when I walk along that wall, I am literally performing and reforming Dundee. And I am performing it for you.

This project will be a close in look at Dundee and its regions through the multiple lenses of its interested disciplinary communities. It will use the Beyond Text agenda, as elaborated in its four themes, to rethink the multiple and varied relations of the built environment to its inhabitants. It will involve a mosaic of practice-led projects each with a different site focus agenda partners, but which collectively will add up to picture of Dundee and its regions.

If the Dundee landscape is Knowledge, how do we vouchsafe its intelligibility?
If this project creates a coherent picture, what does this say about how the Dundee landscape maintains its inhabitants in their Signifiers?

Where is Dundee?



co-ordinates 1: performing dundee

December 2, 2007

This project has to be about two things, and they must be intwined. It has to be about designing the city and experiencing the city. Philosophers of the city like Michel de Certeau speak about two views of the city, the view from on high and the view from the ground (the one essentially authoritarian, the other subversive), but he does not bring them together. These two aspects of the city can be brought together in the idea of performance. Performing the city. Performing Dundee. For performance involves motion of the body in space, notation, scripting, narrative, audience, staging, the framing or (stage) setting of a place. Think street theatre, except that street theatre is only the most literal form of performance in a city, and what we are concerned with is performance as a general category for understanding city form and fabric, civility, city life and experience.



co-ordinates 1: performing dundee

December 2, 2007

antonia-grove.jpg img_7116-small.jpg

I am searching for my co-ordinates.

This project has to be about two things. It has to be about designing the city and experiencing the city. The idea of performance brings these two things together: performing the city. Performance involves the movement of the body, an audience, planning, notation, the framing of a place, marking it out, staging it, the physical experienced locality of a place. When we perform, we project our aspirations to the world. (I googled this picture from god- knows-where (apologies, it is the Antonia Grove dance group) but we could imagine it to be between the playing fields and the Tay, between the bridge and the airport, in Magdallen Green.)