Dorita Hannah

New Zealand (residence) °1961

Dr Dorita Hannah is an architect and trans-disciplinary practitioner-scholar who collaborates with performers, artists, designers & communities to co-conceive, design and direct events, installations, exhibits, objects and spaces as well as the creation of cultural environments, particularly architecture for the visual and performing arts. She also focuses on interdisciplinary postgraduate research centered on public space, performance practices and sociopolitical design, particularly through the concept of ‘event-space’: demonstrating via design work and scholarly publications that the built environment housing an event or performance is itself an event and an integral driver of experience.

Her creative work has gained NZIA and DINZ awards as well as a UNESCO Laureate (1999) and World Stage Design medals (2009). She publishes on practices that negotiate between art, architecture and performance, including co-editing an anthology on Performance Design and the themed issue on Performance/Architecture for the JAE (Journal of Architectural Education). Dr Hannah is a director of PSi (Performance Studies International) and the Chair of OISTAT's Research Commission (International Organization for Scenographers, Theatre Architects & Technicians).


Exposition: Innerground_ an Exploration of a Disused Mine Through the Memories of Former Miners (01/01/2013) by Carolina Goradesky
Dorita Hannah 22/06/2013 at 17:44

This project, which focuses on “virtual space readings”, is an extremely interesting one, especially in relation to patrimony and oral history as well as spatial recollections and sound. The site, located above abandoned mines, is well selected and highly relevant as it connects to an underground world cut off from the lived world and sonically re-experienced by the public through a ‘telling’ or ‘re-sounding’. This would have been elucidated through a visual mapping of the physical context and location/description of the embedded sound installation. Most interesting is the sociocultural and political nature of the selected site in relation to memories that are – literally and figuratively – deeply buried and in danger of being irretrievably forgotten.


For this reviewer, the strength of the project lies in the short video interviews with the long-retired miners, which provide fascinating and extremely relevant material: distilling and re-presenting particular memories from a particular community with its particular histories and physical environment. The author re-collects (through interviewing and editing) complex aural events, once experienced underground and now embedded in the memory (excellently described by those interviewed): exposing how past experiences are ‘submerged’, ‘sedimented’, and deeply ‘situated’. More successful than the resulting sound installation, these videos constitute a creative mining of sonic memory (digging deep to withdraw the essence of something) and present auditory experiences at the coalface (linking sound with the realities of the space of labour). A consideration of how the interviews (as word descriptions) and soundscapes (as aural atmospheres) cohere within the installation as a spatiotemporal event would help construct a richer inner-ground experience for the over-ground visitors.


Innerground’s title, topic, site and human participants promise an original and valuable research project into cultural/communal and individual/private memories and their relationship to spatial, artistic and social practices, particularly as they pertain to sensorial experience and unearthing long buried histories and experiences. The thought provoking theoretical underpinnings can be further adopted and adapted by the author in order to formulate a highly original
conceptual basis for re-locating, re-placing and re-imagining the past within the present.


Finally, a clearer articulation of how the author creatively develops and applies the notion of “virtual space readings” will clarify a valuable contribution to artistic practice, not only in relation to this project specifically but to a more general, creative analysis of space and place as a complex layering of multiple timeframes and human histories, which, re-membered, are both virtual and real, present and absent, fact and fiction.