Unit 1- Research Paper

Within the Lines of the Walls

Unit 1 Research Paper

Camberwell College of Arts

MA Visual Arts Course 2009-11

By

Christalla Kyriacou

christallakyriacou@cytanet.com.cy

KYR09280164

Course Leader: Jonathan Kearney

Course Advisor: Andrew Stiff

Dec 1 2010

Abstract

The main objective of my research paper is to explore interior architectural spaces as significant conductors of both physical and emotional behavior in humans. Various variables of interior spaces affect and shape our thoughts and memories as we live, grow and experience within the limits of constructed space, whether it being a public or private space. We often walk through spaces without taking notice that they may have some kind of influence on us in anyway, or even how they may affect our senses and or emotions. The recent installation by Zigelbaum & Coelho for the W Hotels Designers of the Future, embarks on the “lobby as a living room” (Appendix A), this is a good example of direct human interaction to space, in this case human interaction shapes the space and gives a clear indication how participation directly and instantly is the key ingredient of this installation. Allowing a participant to play a direct role in the installation leads to the allowing of not only a unique experience for the anonymous participant but the shaping of a space that is ordinary into a space that is personalized. The installation taps into the realization of how human interaction is the purpose of the actual installation. The paper will explore through aspects that I feel are important to understand why and how spaces affect our daily behavior. Through the momentous ways of how we structure our personal space explained through Gaston Bachelard and the acute research of Marc Auge on the social significance of spaces such as supermarkets, airports and hotels. Nicolas Bourriaud’s book on Relational Aesthetics will conduct the understanding of art and human interaction. Such artist as Dan Flavin will also be explored in how the use of light and colour also provokes our senses and guidance through spaces (Appendix B,C). Modern architect such as Tadao Ando will be one of many defining light and art within space that posses the ability to direct within constructed interior spaces.

My research paper will attempt to answer the importance of how interior spaces once considered only mathematical equations have turned into areas where memories are kept and made in each one of us.

Key words: Interactions, Transitions, Light, Spaces, Memories and Senses

Introduction

“Intimate values of inside space, provided of course, that we take in both its unity and its complexity, and endeavor to integrate all the special values in one fundamental value” (Bachelard, 1994, p.3)

Spaces could be considered by some as types of boundaries. Creating restrictions and feelings of confinement, but thinking of it this way would never allow you to enter any gallery, shopping mall or airport. Consider spaces an adaptation of the human element, they are created by us on paper, built by our hands and then occupied by us, whether for a short or long period. When we occupy space for however long we each individually create sub worlds, we attach our personalities that are a combination of elements to exist within the space.  Knowing that we are important to the developing the character of space, we must consider how spaces can develop or characters as well.  What draws us into a space that we may have never entered before, surely we enter and exit our homes several times a day, they are created by us and everything inside was chosen by us, its our safe place our truly personalized space.

We all enter, exit, live in, spend time and pass through other spaces besides our homes on a daily basis, what moves us through these spaces or even moves us away from spaces are both equally relevant. Does the constant inhabitation of space affect us in anyway, do feelings of comfort or isolation embody us at times?  What makes us move and direct us to pass through some spaces and what makes us sit and stay longer in others? I will closely examine my chosen key words that had been declared in my abstract that being the senses, interaction, memories, transitions, manipulation (of space), and light whether natural or fabricated. Through analysis of the keywords, I hope to come to a conclusion to the importance of how the walls around us play a key role in our daily existence whether it is psychological or physical.

INteraction

Is it that our lives are just moving too fast or is it that we no longer live within a society that wishes to participate with each other unless its through an electronic device. How have electronic devices appear within a sentence that speaks of interaction, the computer has just fused itself into a game that involves humans as the players. Whatever happened to simply just getting together and having long chats that could easily provoke new experiences and thoughts?  This sounds a little outdated if suggested to a teenager at the moment. Is there any point of leaving the comforts of your own home when you can easily video chat with your friend that may live a couple of doors down.  There is a huge rise in social behavioral problems amongst all ages, and it’s clearly the result of the less interactive activity in our lives. We live in a world of billions but yet we seek comfort only within our own surroundings, when written here it sounds all a little strange and obscure that we have replaced our once pleasurable grocery shopping chore to ordering them over the internet and having them delivered.  Is it because we have no time to interact or is it because we choose not to spend time doing things so petty, seeing as it can be done for us, Lazy or not?

“Art is made in a Gallery just as  “ Thought is made in the mouth “(Bourriaud, 2002, p.40) this marks the start of understanding interaction on a whole new level. Recording movements, thoughts, exchange of words, reactions and expressions within a space could possibly be considered art. Artist such as Julia Scher, her installations work with the medium of surveillance cameras provoking the visitor of the installation to become a part of the installation itself. So Julia’s work actually needs the interaction of the visitor with the surveillance camera to actually define the whole point of her work, but at the same point inducing the visitor to feel a bit paranoid, asking themselves questions why and who is watching me, should I smile, laugh, cry, walk fast? This type of interaction makes the visitor feel odd and having to become instantly aware of their movements, in contrast to interacting with machines. Interacting with your own self, redefining your inner thoughts and feelings because you have been summoned to.   At this point I must define how interaction plays a key role in how it connects with the question at hand on the exploration of interior architectural space and how it affects and shapes our thoughts and memories.  It seems like the current problem we face with interaction is that we are doing less of it, we are slowly but steadily replacing human interaction with automation, gone are the days where “opportunities for exchanges of pleasure and squabbling, as remarked by Nicolas Bourriaud ( Bourriaud 2002)  ( appendix D). Most of the time we feel like lab rats when we come up against having to replace the human interaction with machine interaction, it makes us nervous to have to interact with something that just mimics our language and thoughts but yet has no face for us to smile back to. Interacting with machines just makes us feel a bit foolish.  So two issues or problems as we can say arise, one if we interact with machines we become isolated and remove ourselves from human interaction and the opportunity to express and learn new things, and the second when machines interact with us we feel paranoid! The latter also gives a podium of discussion on job replacement by machines, So what should it be, do we conclude in abandoning the outside world that now has a rise in population with the regards of automated devices or do we learn ways to use them on a level that is comfortable and still humane. We need to reintroduce ourselves to people to reconnect with what makes us work, we need to share and squabble more, reopen our pallets and start painting a life that includes the copies but not loose the originals. Interacting allows for experiences whether they are of positive or negative nature, they all shape our personalities and provide us all to be unique in matter.

Light as a day definer

Light for necessary use in comparison to light being the director of emotion within the confines of a specific space (structural space)…True light as known to us as sunlight lets say is the light source that stands as the default variable (Appendix E). It’s our biggest denominator as a light source and one that is available to all of us. The sun besides all its truly wonderful qualities, the one that holds a great deal of interest are how light acts as our daily time keeper, its identification of truthful exposure. We could easily compare it the example of a dimming switch, on is for the first light of the day, dimming all through the day and off is for the night.  Besides the first light and it being our on, it is also the starting point of our day and when the sun becomes absent at night it marks the ending of our day. This somewhat all loosely expressed, the day does become night when we take into consideration the lights at night, these lights of course only concentrate on certain entities and are controlled unlike the sun. The sun as timekeeper puts us on a daily schedule and manipulating our time without pressuring us into knowing that it does this. After glorifying the sun and embracing it we also need to regard it a sensor trigger as well, the way it moves within spaces that unintentionally block it out, or try to control its rays.  Overexposing with the use of lights starts to take on negative attributes of the revealing of truths and imperfections of both internal space structures and of our own mental being, seeing too much is knowing too much.

A necessity by all means and not arguable in any way of its importance, whether being artificial or in its purest form of the sun, best defined by Henri Lefebvre’ “A further necessity is that space, natural and social, practical and symbolic should come into be inhabited by a “higher” reality –by light for instance” (Lefebvre, 1991, p 34). Light as a higher reality a necessity that we depend on every minute of the day (Appendix F).  The absence of light must also be taken into consideration just as much as its presence one doesn’t exist without the other. The sun the moon and the stars and the shadows of the day or night carry the abilities to shape our senses and feelings. Darkness brings on the emotional downfall of the day, and their fore when within the darkness of a space our energy levels begin to drop, or for some may see it as a beginning of another chapter of the day, night life for the nocturnal creatures among us!  The simple events of the night are nonetheless different than the ones that would happen during the day, a simple example that even our choice of entrée changes at night, you wouldn’t cook a steak at 6 am! The absence of light allows for truths and life to be swept under the stars and wait the next day to reveal itself. The birds stop chirping, we draw the curtains to the outside world and continue the day within our sun cloned self controlled rooms.

Space Control

Lets consider interior spaces for how they begin, simple lines on a page (Appendix G), just mathematical equation that serve either a domestic or public purpose. “And the general feeling was that the concept of space was ultimately a mathematical one “    (Lefebvre, 1991, p.1). The concept of space may once have been just considered a numerical representation, as we know it is has evolved and embraced its space to contain the most relevant information of life today. Space houses our inner thoughts, our most inner expressions and as we see in today’s most modern spaces architecture embraces art into its structure.  It is no longer just about the lines it’s about how the lines turn into works of structural art, “logico-epistemological space, the space of social practice, the space occupied by sensory phenomena, including the products of the imagination such as projects and projections, symbols and utopias” ( Lefebvre,  1991, p.12).  Architectural plans consist of lines coming together to represent a space; numbers represents height, length and width whether it is to represent the walls or the land of which the space occupies. Lets just say it’s complicated!  Consider how Henri Lefebvre puts it “ space has no “reality” without the energy that is deployed within it “  (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 13) so without space being occupied in anyway without human interaction to it then it really doesn’t exist nor serve any more purpose than how it originated from, a mathematical equation. We can easily argue that spaces are premeditated by designers or architects, surely there is thought on how spaces will be once they are filled with several components, and of course human intervention, but can they be premeditated to the point of affecting us in the way of emotions. I do not think that you can predict what will occur when humans enter, exit or inhabit space at the same time, they uniqueness of each individual differs so greatly that no architect could design to the point of accuracy, having the ability to predict the use of space for so many different individuals. By chance those whom come close maybe the ones that are considered good architects, but that’s another story in its self. There is marginal affect on how  space is designed and how it can primarily affect us, in hopes in a positive way rather than a negative one, it is story within the walls that is made by us that leaves a mark within the walls.

I believe architects such as Tadao Ando even though are of a minimilstic design that some may criticize as cold and stark. Ando uses mass of amounts of exposed concrete, a great example of a raw material, back to the basic we can say, his strongest element is the way he allows for the sun to enter the cold walls allowing the body to only embrace the sun and forget about the concrete walls (Appendix H). The sun as a “higher reality” as put by Henri Lefebvre and its abundant of positive properties is the essence of life, life without sun is not possible, design of space that considers the sun its core rule in construction are the spaces which allow for the notion of not feeling that walls are confined spaces. The example given in my abstract about the installation piece by Zigelbaum&Celho for the W Hotels is a result of human interaction within a space that does not deal with the light of the sun but with artificial light. The fact being that the visitor of the lobby of the hotel clearly personalized the space by rearranging the modules of light on the wall, creating their own windows of light while they temporarily leave their mark in the defined as well as confined space called a hotel lobby. The reason that this installation works is because it evokes what is already present in human behavior, daily life with anxieties protrude within spaces, like rearranging, cleaning, throwing out things. So immediately we have the urge to take part in the installation as it embarks on personal protocol, the response to feel part of something.

Again we return to the question whether space is a mathematical equation or is it what it is when it’s interacted with human beings.  French philosopher Henri Bergson writes an interesting take on memory and touches upon that the human body as a center of action and how it receives and returns movement, so within spaces each individual is an object that is destined to move other objects as well through their personal understanding and experiences. In short spaces only breathe and serve purpose once they have been occupied by a heartbeat that belongs within the walls of our own bodies.

Sense of Memory

“ Memory as I have tried to prove is not the faculty for classifying recollections in a drawer or writing them in a register, neither register nor drawer exists…” (Bachelard, 1994, p. 75). As long as we have a brain that is in tact we have the magical power to remember in short we have a memory.  Memory works in the following way, it encodes, it stores and then retrieves, and it categorizes itself into types such as sensory, short term and long term, Memory through experience is called Episodic memory, it is the last to develop and the first to start deteriorate as we get older.  So since we live with it for only a short time we are sure to try to overload it with as many possible experiences as we can, in the simplest of terms the more we experience the more we know and therefore the more we are equipped to live a life of better understanding and success.  I often refer to our memory as our personal library, book after book with a history of our experiences.  Our memories are made and then stored on a basis of time, some forgotten until something triggers them and the memories come back either informing us of something pleasant or not.

As said by Joe Bousquet “ No one sees me changing, But who sees me? I am my own hiding place.” (Bachelard, 1994, p.88). We are a capsule of complexities, levels and layers, but they are all stored within our memory, we move within the masses of people and spaces carrying a multitude of information.  How we use this information to interact is different for all of us, but most importantly how do we gain the knowledge and retain.  In Dr Daniel Freeman & Jason Freeman’s book “Use Your Head”…memory it seems is diverse rather than unitary (Freeman & Freeman, 2010, p.58). Not being able to appropriate memory within a structure, means that memory can be almost like a dream, containing bits and pieces of reality and fairy tale experience. Depending how the memory is made is a direct outcome to how you can relate within the structure of spaces that surround you on a daily basis. At times memory can serve us wrong, remembering fears from the past can divert your attention or divert your body not to enter certain places, resulting in your intensifying of the fear. Elements within spaces that embark on your memory in a more positive way allow you enter a space that you may not have found yourself in the first place. The smallest link to your memory can make all the difference how you may feel when you are within closed quarters.  The brain is our keepsake box, individual, unique and non transparent.

In or Out: A Conclusion of None

I conclude with the phrase we often here, “if these walls could talk”, the collection of experiences that one room could record would be endless and make for a remarkable study of the human species. The walls cannot talk, and maybe that’s why the most interesting of things occur behind closed doors. The paper in no way tries to persecute in any which way modern ways of behavior of the digital world, nonetheless it tries to find a way for it to co-exist. Whether it is within the concrete walls of buildings or within the confines of our own home.  So I conclude with trying to make sense of all the variables I have introduced, how do we relate to one another and then co-exist within spaces of unknown character and produced through mathematical equations. How do we enter and exit within airports, shopping malls, and museums at ease with strangers amongst us that we would never let into our house but yet they are present while we create new memories and live new moments of the day. Its actually really absurd and almost surreal to think that we have no strict restrictions with others when we come together in common spaces, we share without boundaries because we have no real authority to do otherwise. Once we enter domains that we feel have some kind of more personal attachment to us we become defensive and even possessive, we expect that others that share the space treat it with respect and the understanding that we have to have for it. We have the higher reality of light dictating the events of the day and guiding us through one hour to the next.  All these elements put together plus our own personal library that allows for us to either enjoy happenings or reject them. We enter we exit, its on and off, plus and minus, open and closed, with every action there is a reaction.

Bibliography

Ando, T., Pare, R.& Heneghan, T. (2000) The colours of light. London: Phaidon Press Limited.

Auge¢, M. (2008) Non-Places: an introduction to supermodernity. 2nd ed. London: Verso.

Bachelard, G. (1994) The poetics of space. Boston: Beacon Press.

Bergson, H. (2007) Matter and Memory. New York: The MacMillan Co.

Bourriaud, N. (2002)  Relational Aesthetics. France: .Les presses du re¢el

Brooks, K. (2009 November/December). Design Annual, Communication Arts, Volume 51, 5 p. 47-48

Elkins, J. (2003)  Visual studies. London: Taylor & Francis Group.

Evans, R. (1998) 1984: Front lines that leave nothing behind. In: Hayes, K.M. Architecture theory since 1968. The MIT Press.

Flavin, D. (2004) Rooms of light. Milano: Fondo Per L’Ambiente Italiano.

Freeman, D& Freeman, J. (2010) Use your head: the inside track on the way we think. London: John Murray.

Johnson, K. (2002) Art in review; Julia Scheer ‘Security by Julia XLV: Security landscapes. The New York Times, 20 Sept

LeFebvre, H. (1991) The production of space. Blackwell Publishing

Yoon, K. (2010 September). Sustainable from traditional motive. C3 Magazine,313, p 44-45

Zigelbaum & Coelho (2010) Six-Forty by Four-Eighty [on-line image]. Available at:

http://www.zigelbaumcoelho.com [accessed 29 November 2010].

Appendix

Appendix A

retrieved from www.zigelbaumcoelho.com (accessed 29/11/2010)

Appendix B

(Flavin. D ,2004,  Rooms Of Light ,p 18)

Appendix C

(Flavin, D, 2004, Rooms of Light, p22)

Appendix D

(Brooks, K, 2009, Communication Arts, Design Manual, p 46)

Appendix E

(Ando, T, 2000, The Colours of Light, p79)

Appendix F

(Brooks, K, 2009, Communication Arts, Design Manual, p48)

Appendix G

(Ban Shigeru Architects 2010, C3 Magazine, p 44-45)

Appendix H

(Ando, T, 2000, The Colours of Light, p164-165)

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~ by id09 on December 1, 2010.

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