Urban Research Forum | Performance research

Project Space | towards motion | Exercises of Spatial Meditation

The research lab is specifically focused on the exploration of common expectations of space use, ways in which space is intended to be used; seeking to physically explore how are such codes enforced and what do such codes signify and how is this relatively obeyed and disobeyed? The following images document some of the explorations which the research lab has undertaken so far. 

The images generated through this research are both archival documents of process and more specifically documentation of the reaction of body in space to a specific and constant movement score, or visual evidence as to existing patterns of current spatial use. The context where by the image becomes the only surviving evidence of process lends each image a seminal function in the subsequent review and contextual placement of this research.

This research selected a series of sites ranging from total darkness of a black box studio to London bridge at rush hour, a delving as to how bodies are mobilising around cities; how can the codification of such mobilisation be observed and documented, moreover how can such patterns be deconstructed and re formed to make creative and interactive statements as to the nature and composition of space use.

This leads to the following areas of inquiry;

- the role of documentation of live performance/ research process to generate 'art work' and 'social document' 
- the ability of the still image to communicate social non verbal communication of landscape 
- how far can a photographic image or image series communicate explorations as to how the body can externalize relationships with land / city 
- how can particular images be shown together to generate studies as to how the body ( in multiple guises) can function as social and creative spatial apparatus.

- With a photographic focus on interaction, body contact, pace, regime, instruction, spatial obedience and disobedience, can the movement score presented in this research lab become a substantial enough document to communicate research intentions.

- How far can the photographic image expand and explore modalities in which people using their bodies to navigate, conduct, mobilize, exchange with the architectural patterning of public urban space.

- How far can site specific performance become a modality by which to critically evaluate spatial use?

- How far can modes of performance intervention deal effectively with issues of legacy management?

-How far can the body ‘successfully articulate emotional relationship to landscape and how far this reaction can be externalised to form a mode of universal non verbal communication?

- Can the document of the experience of the body reacting to space define in any concrete way a modality of the subjective experience of urban space

- How far can the photographic image ‘successfully’ communicate the essence of live performance?

- How can review of performance document actually generate conceptual framework with regards to landscape?


Such areas of inquiry are broad and have been specifically generated at this stage of research process to allow and enable a more general platform to nurture the foundations of a specific modality of spatial observation and enquiry. 

The performing body hidden; performs to mass.

Score performed in Turbine Hall at Tate in Ai Weiwei Sunflower seeds.

Interventions by Ivana Peranic, Nina Feldman, Anne-Gaelle Thiriot, Hulya Baytar.

With special thanks to Benjamin Bailey, Beatriz Veliz, Angelica Portioli. 


This was a particularly space intervention performed at the Tate in the Turbine Hall amongst the installation by Weiwei. The installation itself dramatically activated the space; the atmosphere of the gallery was relaxed and the traditional space use was desensitised with visitors lying on the floor, people playing in the seeds, burying themselves in the seeds, the atmosphere of the Turbine Hall was enlivened and relaxed.


Space Performed:: Brighton New Square: iiiiii

Daily performance by Linda Remahl and Tamar Daly


This was a playful and observant study in which two dancers took the Brighton new public square as exploration ground for their reactions to the score. With great attempt not to perform in a classical movement fashion; the two became socially active in the space, talking with members of the public, sitting and walking. Yet their was something notably subversive within their pedestrian movement response; elements of the theatrical, nuances of mischievous deviance; where by on note of the social codes and expectations of the landscape, they actively shifted them in their  actions, notably calling members of the public  to question their own use of the space. This dynamic questioning took the form of a two hour response to the score, fusing the quotidian and the spectacular to produce a thought provoking physicalisation of the patterns of the space which may have been previously overlooked. 

The ebb and flow: Tower Bridge Public Space.

Joanna Jadczak, Sarah Gray. Sophie Arstall, Ivana Peranic.

This was the first collaboration between performers and town planners within public space that the score produced. Selecting a location which has been heavily geared as public space; this exploration took the shape similar to ethics of Total Theatre; exploring a large public space in an activating and enlivening way. The participants of this study and the general public acted in harmony; with participants developing a playful response to the space and enabling the area to become less generic and standardised.


The key success of this study was the conversations which emerged between the town planners and performers as to their observations of the existing spatial use and ways in which they would like to shift the spatial dynamic through physical action to enliven the potential for interaction with the space.


The National Gallery: Spatial patterning emergence and reintegration: an interactive performance experience. 

Nina Feldman, Camilla Mello, Anne-Gaelle Thirot. 


The score has been adapted to enable the participant to study observe and repeat patterns they note within the current land use schema and such observations are then formalised into a movement sequence which is set by the participant and repeated as a ‘performance’ within the site in which it was created.

The intention with this stage of the exercise is to enable the potential for surrounding space users to note the repeated pattern and this may enable them to become more attuned to how they are using their bodies within the space and enable the focus of the space become more dynamically attuned to movement methodology rather than basic spatial patterning.


This exercise becomes a spatial mediation for participants and space users; seeking to enable a notation of the spatial use schemas to become dynamically re-enacted in order for it to be more carefully considered.


Lee Valley Regional Park; Corpus campagne ii


This part of the study was developed as an initial framework to place the body in an external location removed from urban stimulus; intended as a ‘test’ for the score and to allow an exploration to form which was centred on minimal external stimulus; allowing the body to respond to score in a minimal fashion. 

 Body rest: la foret iii


A further extension of the Corpus campagne stimulus; striving in a more remote location to further clarify my own responses to the score; enabling myself to have firmly grasped my own intentions and observations as to the effect of the score. 

Deptford Docks: score expands iii

Study with Amy Spencer and Zaira.


This was the first exploration of the score with one sociology student and one non trained dancer in a derelict site in Deptford, London. Using a site under the main rail bridge which cannot be used for habitation or retail due to land use restrictions, the score became a way to animate the space. The participants developed an intuitive emotional response to the landscape which became more a process of self revelation due to the empty nature of the landscape. The space in some terms remains a social void, some scattered needles, remnants of stolen goods; a space of purpose for those avoid attention of the eye which shuns. This exploration highlighted how the score could become a point of personal reflection rather than spatial exploration; with the participants stating how they used the time to re-evaluate their use of their bodies in daily life. Although this was a useful response; the heavily self focused responses did not prove so useful to explore the actual space use The images gathered however reflected the fragility and vulnerable nature of the body in such a heavy architecture as the bridge which formed a dynamic contrast to the explorations in the area which were more focused on the weeds growing around the wasteland surrounding the bridge.


Key Issues to arise within this exploration


- accounting for personal psychological reactions arising from the request from asking non dancers to use their bodies

- emotion al interference within reactions to the score; making the participant rather than the landscape focus for the score

- the use of the non trained dancer to use the body as vehicle for spatial mediation.



 The institution for creative arts: The body resists: iiiii


This study was developed in Haringey Performance Centre; a centre which was developed as an ‘academy for performance.’ This site was heavily purpose built for the development of the performance arts within the curriculum. With high spec theatres and studios, corridors reeking of bleach, this centre provided the first initiation of the score in an institutional environment. Drawing inspiration from the non intentional spaces for performance in the centre; this study exploring the potential of the building to act as a totalising theatre. The reactions developed occurred in corridors and ‘in-between spaces’ of the location; examining preconceptions of space users as to where they were in performance mode and where they were in arrival or transitional mode. Drawing on concepts of the segregated and separated nature of performance from everyday life; this study was a deliberate play on performance zoning, seeking to allow users of the building to look beyond their traditional concepts of a ‘performance space’

We  exist in a world where performance has to become a player in the realm of extensive consumerism and commercialism, with abundance of technologies so that the human in its purest form is a rare enough spectacle and appreciation of the capabilities of the human form are rarely noted on anything  other than a critical or flirtatious level, there has to always be something extra, just a little bit more, of we are to appreciate, it seems. In reality, we could say that performance happens all around us all of the time, the act of life, where ‘All the worlds a stage and all the men are merely players,’ yet what allows such perception  to be given the space to unfold and develop.


 Reviewing normative movement: Human unguarded.

- Pedestrian performance: London Bridge: iiii

Photographic study of unknown persons and their daily movements along the bridge.Train station transition; Photographic observation of Liverpool Street Station, Oxford Street and London Bridge.


The purpose of the score at this point was removed. Deciding to focus on non interventional observational study in order to explore the existing movement patterns of the space; this enabled me to establish a point of similarity between all studies and enabled a sense of a medium by which any further studies could be judged and analysed against. 



- The score non performed: London Bridge to Tate.

Score adaptation by Sylvia Babke and Benjamin Bailey


Devoid of a traditional sense of purpose for spatial occupation this study was intended to generate to explore how the score would function in a well populated busy space in which the focus of the majority of space users is either to reach routes of transportation or a tourist to document their journeys. Working with two non dancers; the score functioned as a method to explore mobility and speed occurring on the bridge.


The following issues arose within this study:


- single body performing the score in a crowded location ( Documentation issues)

- confidence of the participant to execute the score in a busy location

- pre conditioned reactions of participants of normative social behaviours

- how does the score serve to highlight ‘normal’ and ‘performative action’

- does the score add anything  to external bodies to the process; for example does it encourage third parties to take more time and consideration as to their location and the position of their body commanding space, or is the participant simply seen as a social anomaly?

The transport disrupted:

Study at Stratford Station.

I performed the score in the late hours at Stratford station; this proved a useful way to highlight how performance in non traditional settings alarmed fellow passengers, casting the air of absurdity towards my actions rather than the potential for creative inquiry.


The Drawing Body.

Intervention at Jerwood Drawing Prize: obedience and disobedience; how this is perceived and rejected and how does such rejection manifest in social realm.

This study took place in the formal setting of the Jerwood Space Drawing Prize. Under the guise of creative and open space; the gallery upholds numerous social and movement codes of practice. In a space which is purposely built for the arts, I was keen to explore peoples reactions to non traditional movement in the space. This proved a little hazardous as the codes were deeply embedded in the ethos of the space. The formal nature of the site created a movement response which actively sought too loosen the preconceptions of the area and allowed a more playful exploration of the works on display to visitors.

Key issues to arise

- Exploring the uncomfortable and uninvited stage

- The gallery as strict social code for movement

The public space observed: Office Square: London Bridge: iiiiiii

Intervention and observation by Petra Soor and Darja Reznikova

This study enabled a relatively ‘dead’ space situated as a public plaza between two office buildings to become an active space for observation and interaction. The two performers began the score as a means to embody the existing pattern s in the area; there was little interaction or engagement with the landscape from passers by as it was a space which does not invite or beckon. The performers enabled the space to become more of an architectural playground; using their bodies to mimic the shapes they found around them. This allowed passers by to become attracted to the space for potential; sever al members of the public  subsequently entered the space and sat down.

Key issues:

- The nature of any performance to attract attention; thereby discrediting a little the intention of the action

- clarity needed in internationalism for out put of research; is the score designed to observe and collect spatial meditations or to animate public space; how far are these inextricably linked?

- How far can the score develop in a more neutral realm of observation and interaction; what is the intention for the score and how can the affects on the spaces in which it is performed be documented

- legacy management of spatial affects; such a modes of temporary intervention and observation does not facillate a wider schema for social activation of the location; how far does this impact on the validity of research? 

Black box: Corpus i

What remains

Our experience of architecture where the built environment through various negations and spatial conflicts becomes metaphorical for the complexities of the human condition. Spatial practices become a reflection of emotional states, their absurdities and their crises. This exploration revisited the movement score on a personal level; exploring traces and fragment of movement memories which have been developed through this research process