SENSUOUS GEOGRAPHIES (2003)

 

 

 

 

As an immersive space Sensuous Geographies can only be experienced to its fullest extent from within. The sonic environment and resulting 'performative' event are generated by participants as they respond to the sonic and haptic textures that permeate the active space in the centre of the installation. Marked by a floor covering, under which are placed a variety of textures such as bark, soft-toy stuffing, sand, and other substances (creating a haptic topography of the central area), the (inter)active space is surrounded by an architecture of transparent screens, which serve both as a navigation aid for the (temporary) 'watchers', and as a surface for projections that reflect the activities taking place within the installation.

Before entering the space participants don richly coloured robes and hats, made of raw silk, which completely immerse the participant. They are then given blindfolds to obscure their sight, and redirect their perceptual apprehension of the space to other senses, such as the aural and the kinaesthetic . As they enter the space a sound strand enters with them. This initially simply 'follows' their trajectories as they move through the space (thus spatialising the sound according to the trajectories of the movement). Later the participants are able to modulate the textures of the sound using granular synthesis responding to various parameters such as velocity of motion and proximity to others. The semi-opaque mask over their eyes obscures their vision, and requires them to rely on their sense of hearing and a sensed proximity to others in the space as the means of navigating their way through the geography of the installation environment. Without sight the participants become immersed in the environment, and are able to 'sense' their way through the installation space, by being aware both of the pathway of their own sounds and of those generated by other participants. Sonically the interweaving textures and spatial choreography of the sound generate a complex emergent electroacoustic composition, the costumed participants appearing to perform an intricate group dance as they move towards, away and around each other within the space. Many participants focus on the way they can contribute to the creation of such a composition, however, the sound the installation also draws participants' attention to the subtle effects different types of sound have on the body itself, and from there to the geography of physical sensation which permeates their existence as human beings. For many it is their physiological responses to the vibrations generated by the sound within their bodies, which take place below the level of reflective consciousness, that guide their movement behaviours, and generate the enjoyment in the installation experience. Finally, the installation also develops implicit group, or collective interactivity as it is the combination of the behaviour of all participants that creates the detail and texture of the sonic environment generated in the installation. The latter concomitantly affects the behaviours of the participants as their group composition emerges.

 

Participants Responses:

“With the mysterious environment I listened and opened an ear to my body.”

“Intriguing, elemental, absorbing experience - not to be missed.”

"An intense audio and visual experience for both audience and participants. Also fantastic fun."

"I suddenly got ears and feet again...and nw thoughts about consciousness"

 

Sensuous Geographies reveals the impact of Deleuze and Guattari's thinking has had on my artistic work, particularly concerning the structures of complex open-ended environments, whether they be scientific notions of complex systems or human environments (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, A Thousand Plateaus) and Deleuze's notion of 'sensation' (Deleuze, 2003, Frances Bacon,The Logic of Sensation).

 

References to Sensuous Geographies can be found in

Broadhurst, Susan (ed.), 2007, Performance and Technology, Practices of Virtual Embodiment and Interactivity. pub. Palgrave (Macmillan)

Dixon Steve and Barry Smith, 2007, Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theatre, Dance, Performance Art and Installation MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Butterworth, Joanne & Liesbeth Wildschut (eds.) 2007/8 Choreography in Contexts, pub. Routledge, London (Forthcoming)

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