When I started working at Manchester Met I met up with some friends of mine who are theatre makers. We had a great conversation about our shared interests in communities and how people use spaces. We all got busy and whilst the ideas were still bubbling under, we never took anything forward. Fast forward to December 2016…we decided to play with some of those ideas further.
Over the past two months we have been having conversations about how we could develop collaborative work – bring theory and creative practice together – how might that look? By this point I was well into my obsessions with processions so we talked about the spaces that processions moved through and we came to the conclusion that there was one street in the city of Manchester that has probably seen more processions than any others! From this we started then to think about people who process through this street on a day to day basis – to work or to shop. We had found some common ground.
We then started to walk this street together…
As we walked we realised how much of the character and the history of the city that this one street captured and how people moved through this space – creating the present and future.
We then began designing our project……..
For my part – I wanted to start theorising the movement of bodies through spaces and as a starting point I have develop a sort of ‘abstract’ of what I am thinking….
This work will focus on a spatial ethnography of one street. Deansgate in Manchester, UK, is a one-mile straight stretch of road in the heart of the commercial and shopping district of this large metropolitan city. Utilising Ingold’s dwelling perspective (1993) as a starting point, I want to examine the walkers that use the street from religious processions and secular parades, to those who process through on their way to work in order to understand the affective embodied encounters with place. In walking through the space and observing the walking of others, I will seek to ‘map’ the performative nature of this street, a street in which the historical evolution of the city is embedded and always in process, yet bounded by its own history and physical dimensions.
As Ingold (1993) explains, dwelling is not just about inhabiting a space, but also can be viewed as a processual becoming with the space. However, by bringing literature from dance and performance studies into the fold, the analysis will shift the emphasis from conceptualising place solely as a socially constructed entity but, as Schiller and Rubidge (2014) term it, ‘the kinesthetic as topological’ – a perspective which folds the moving body into the dimensions of the physical street (Massumi, 2002) alongside the history of the street. Therefore, by taking this performance framework, the work is employing an active epistemology, which offers a chance to ‘re-perform’ a public space which is pre-constituted socially, politically and geographically.
I seek to understand layers of dwelling practice through engaging with the re-performance of the street over and over by multiple agents. By walking the space with others, engaging with historical documents and observing the processions of daily users and organised parades, I will contest that we need to capture the nature of places by paying attention to the past, present and possible futures.