Site, Non-Site, Off-Site

Rendell, J. (2006) ‘Site, Non-Site, Off-Site’ in Rendell, J. Art and Architecture: A Place Between. 

Rendell explores the ideas behind site and non-site and off site. The writer examines the work of Robert Smithson who created the iconic artwork ‘Spiral Jetty’. The work itself focuses on going back to the origins of the object and the material. However there is a lack of connection to participant in this work as the only interaction is through photographs. Rendell presents this work as part of a movement of land artists, artists that make an intervention in the land itself.

Rendell goes on to explore the concept of the moving of site to different sites, Off-Site. An example of this is a gallery in which a site is transferred. Rendell also explores the idea that sites have ‘outer limits’ and ‘outer coordinates’ and non-sites have ‘closed limits’ and ‘inner coordinates’.  Rendell presents the idea of land art as a critique of gallery movements as they presented are as a commodity.

Critical Analysis

In relation to our own project the idea of the project not having an interaction from participation is interesting. However our project aims to engage the community as participants not spectators

This reading also looks at the dialogue between the indoor and outdoor. Our project takes place in both a site-specific and gallery setting, inside and outside. I was interested in whether the combination of these different mediums could create a performance that means that participants can take part and embed themselves into the site and influence it through their presence.


Arts Of Urban Exploration – Pinder

Pinder, D. (2005) ‘Arts of Urban Exploration’, Cultural Geographies, 12(4), pp. 383-411

This text examines the different way in which Art can be used to explore space and place. This is given the term Urban Exploration and can come in various forms such as walks, installations and most relevantly to our work mapping. It is argued throughout this journal that these mediums can be used a city intervention and even a way of citizens claiming back their city.

Pinder explores an incident in which a series of artists took part in a march with homemade instruments through the streets of New York city. This is a perfect example of an intervention and was claimed to be about public space and establishing what is public and what is private. This was questioned by NYPD officers who took a critical interest in the proceedings some even declaring that there is no such thing as a public space.

The reading then continues to explore an increase of frequency in such events. stating that their are issues with expressing the city through due to cultural diversity and subsequent cultural diversity. This concept was originally explored by practitioners who had the desire to blur the boundaries between art and the everyday perhaps this is most prominently presented by Richard Schechner. (Please find previous analysis of his work below)

The examination of the private place in terms of art is incredibly interesting and has been extensively examined by scholars and practitioners alike. Pinder places an emphasis on the significance of exploring cultural geographies within cities stating that the different artistic interpretations go a long way to claiming a city by its occupants as opposed to those who run it and authorities who dictate it.

Critical Reflection

This reading with regards to my own project poses certain ethical considerations.

London is not my home town does that mean I am appropriating a city?

Will the work that we do intervene or will it blend into everyday life?

I feel that the aim of our piece is to achieve the latter, create an internal reflection about what is observed in our city as opposed to claiming our city. I hope that our project settles itself comfortably in the public of the city while creating private musings and reflections. Through this combination of public and private we do not wish to create participation confusion but instead facilitate a relaxed atmosphere.

Schechner Reading

Schechner approaches the ever growing question that is “Performance” with an open mind offering many concepts and explanations throughout the reading. In the first instance the text explores performance as an everyday activity, introducing the theory that to exist we need to perform it is an essential part of everyday life. Human nature in many instances compels us to succeed and ultimately to impress. Schechner portrays the theory that in order to satisfy our need to excel we “Perform”, in an attempt to show-case talents and capabilities effectively,  influencing and impressing those around us and ultimately fulfilling the age old human desire to be accepted and achieve a “normal” status amongst everybody from our peers to parents. Within this idea Schechner identifies differences   between “Performing” in the Arts and “Performing” in everyday life through four key concepts; ‘Being’ (to be alive and that alone ‘Ultimate reality’) ‘Doing’ (to action while you exist) ‘Showing Doing’ (Performing through everyday actions) ‘Explaining Showing Doing’ (Performance within the Arts).

Schechner continues to look at “Performance” as a part of everyday life, presenting the idea of restored or twice-behaved behaviour. In the Arts this is the rehearsal process. Schechner writes about rehearsals in the context of everyday living, with the theory that childhood is life’s rehearsal period and adulthood is the “Performance”. When we reach the “Performance” stage, normally construed as the point at which one reaches adulthood, it is not definite but instead dependant on when we adapt to the life that we have been handed. Although many of our actions are repeated and therefore effectively rehearsed, the ways in which we repeat actions can and do alter according to mood; even in the Arts no two shows are ever exactly the same as they change according to the choices the performers make the audience reaction and the genre. The same concept is applied to performance in everyday life, as our actions alter according to whom is watching us and what mood we are in. Schechner goes on to highlight that just because most actions are repeated and not “new”, originality is available when one changes the context or the order of actions.

The exploration of “performance” continues throughout the passage with the author later discussing the various varieties and purposes of “performance”. He expresses the idea that the purpose of performance can alter according to the person’s needs or interest’s, different varieties of performance that ultimately have different purposes.

Finally Schechner examines the difference between ‘as’ and ‘is’ performance; ‘as’ performance allows one to examine any action or behaviour  thus encompassing a wide variety of notions and concepts under one umbrella term “performance”. ‘Is’ “performance” contains definite boundaries and is decided through more concrete ideas such as context and tradition. Despite highlighting the fundamental differences between the two approaches Schechner goes on to contextualise the idea stating that the boundaries between them are slowly disbanding due to Twenty-first century ideals that that include the desire to break down boundaries of all kinds.

Potlatch, Psychogeography, Dérive and Détourement

Ford, S. (2005) ‘Potlatch, Psychogeography, Dérive and Détourement’, in The Situationist International: A User’s Guide. London: Black Dog Publishing, pp. 33-37.

This reading examines the different relationships that individuals have with sites. It states three main areas Psychogeography,Dérives, Détourement. It is claimed within the journal that these terms were discovered based on the act of Urban Living.

Psychogeography involves the relationships that individuals have with space, in terms of memory and claim on the place in which you are currently inhabiting, this can be a journey. This is addressed by the act of a Dérive which describes the intentional act of loosing yourself in a space in order to discover it and understand it from multiple perspectives. Finally the term  Détourement pays reference to the idea of using the everyday acts within a space to create artistic content.

Critical Analysis

This reading is useful with regards to our own project as it presents the individuals influence on site and relationship to it. The concept that each person has a different interpretation of a space and different stories to tell is something that is prevalent to our project. We want individuals to explore their own experiences of the project through and the area through a silent walk and individual reflections on their own walk. Because of my interest in the idea that individuals can affect site I found a further reading that addresses the concept of Psychogeography. (Find the link below)

An interesting element of this reading is the distinguishing between the term space and place. Place referring to the geography of the area and Space referring to human attachment to a place. This concept has been explore by multiple practitioners below is a series of point regarding a reading that I have previously studied by Lucy Lippard;

Place in connection to belonging (interesting as theatre communities offer a place in which people belong)

  • Cultural connections to place.
  • Places defined by memory (when does a place stop being a place when nobody can recall the memories associated with the place in question?)
  • Can the importance/significance of a place be diminished in modern day life? What happens when dictated history is not enough to place the importance of a place?
  • Preservation of cultures crucial to questions about the relationships between the people and the land.
  • Land having connections to the emotional and Aesthetic.
  • Land giving us identities
  • Land marks out in place in order to bring us back to ourselves and give ourselves identity
  • Art practice that reveals meaning to a place for those who live there
  • Reinstate the mythical and cultural experiences in order for the public to witness
  • Post-Modernism
  • The difference between using a place for main stream Art and telling a story of the place for all the public to see.

Critical Analysis

In relation to our own project this issue of what the difference between place and space is and what can and should be performed in the public is important. Because our project is presented by people who are not from the area we don’t want to appropriate the area and create a piece of art that is just performed in a public space instead we want to imbed it into the area as a result we have taken roles a facilitators as opposed to performers.

Site Specific Performance – Mike Pearson

Pearson, M. (2010) Site-Specific Performance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian

Pearson focuses his work on the different approaches that one can take to Site-Specific performance. Pearson suggests that in order to explore a ‘Site’ fully you must ask questions and put yourself in different situations in order to fully appreciate it and locate ‘Hidden Histories’ within it. Pearson believes that physical land should be merged with the community who live on it and from it.

Pearson offers a practical approach called the 11th week approach that explains different ways in which artists can practically engage with a site in order to understand it more fully and gain different perspectives on the area.

Bubbling Tom

I have previously studied some practical work that Pearson has presented ‘Bubbling Tom’ please find an explanation of this below;

Pearson, M. (2006) ‘Bubbling Tom’, in In Comes I. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, pp. 21-29.

Bubbling Tom is a site specific solo performance by Pearson, it tells the story of his childhood through a guided tour. He visits 10 locations and tells of his past, he tries to emphasise the importance of place when it comes to memory through the use of multiple locations.

He uses archaeology in order to represent his experiences, he uses photographs and maps of how the areas used to be in order to bring the past into the present. He even uses scars on his body.

Pearson states that he was drawn to Site specific performance and solo performance because of the emphasis it places on voice, the importance of the teller (tone, speed pitch) and the way in which the teller engages with the audience as a direct result of speech be that of learned text or simply conversation.

Pearson and our project

Pearson’s work is interesting in the development of our own project as we are looking at taking our participants on a walk. As a result of this reading I desire our project to keep a strong connection to the land that it takes place on. Subsequently I feel that research in to the histories of various landmarks will give participants an aim while still giving them freedom to roam. It will also allow them to consider the area for what it was and get a sense of both past and present.


Performing Site-Specific Theatre

Tompkins, J. (ed.) (2012) ‘The ‘Place’ and Practice of site-Specific Theatre and Performance’, in Birch, A. (ed.) Performance Site-Specific Theatre: Politics, Place, Practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Main Points;

  • Deconstruction of sites
  • It is not necessarily what you can see but what you cant see
  • Take information and reconfigure it

This chapter is used to introduce the concept of Site-Specific theatre. He explores the idea that site-specific theatre can be interpreted in many different ways and there are multiple blurred lines regarding it overall meaning. However he does inform the reader categorically that the practice involves communication between place, performer and participant.

Tompkins spends this introductory chapter to define various terms, firstly he looks at that definition of ‘place’ In order to do this he examines different contexts in which a ‘place’ can be examined. Firstly he looks at Geography stating that this allows us to recognise and acknowledge the physical changes of an area. He also then goes and looks at social and historical contexts of a ‘place’ because it cannot simply be defined by its physical being.

This introductory chapter observes the questions prevalent in performing site specific theatre by looking beyond the fundamental difficulties behind addressing a site into the different ways that a space can be interpreted.

Critical evaluation

This introductory chapter was very intriguing and got me thinking about the creation of a project in Hackney. The main point that I have taken away is that it is important to be aware of my surroundings and allow them to influence my project without dictating its content.