Spacing matters: Alternative Thinking about the Nature of Space (2015)

Monica Raya

About this exposition

I would like to present my inter-textual reading of some theories concerning the nature of space and my reflections upon the materiality of it. I aim to open an alternative way to think about scenography. I would like to expose the theoretical process, the visual documentation and the artistic outcomes of a particular scenic event. So far, I have used my artistic practice as a method of inquiry and it is not my interest to offer an objective approach to the knowledge of space. In my process, I have found that reflective practice has been a central productive mode for my creativity. I intend to evaluate the unintended and unexpected findings in my work, and make them available for other practitioners. New interpretations of visual culture may contribute to the generation of extended knowledge. New insights about well-known concepts may provoke different outcomes, some of which may go beyond the basic concepts of the discipline of origin. I am interested in sensuality as an object of analysis and reconsideration of human experience. I am excited to engage with the visual, not simply as a mode of recording data or illustrating texts, but ‘as a medium through which new knowledge and critiques may be created’ (Pink 2007, 13). I propose to connect various sources of knowledge in a way that brings alternatives to think as an architect, as a scenographer, as performance designer and as a teacher. As much as I would like to situate the outcomes of my artistic research in the field of performance design, I hope my reflections may cross several disciplines.
typeresearch exposition
keywordsscenography, art, space design, theatre, architecture
last modified29/03/2015
affiliationAalto University
published inRuukku Studies in Artistic Research
portal issue3.
connected toRuukku Studies in Artistic Research

Ruukku portal comments: 2
Ikonen Liisa 26/03/2015 at 13:22

The exposition concerns space as living matter and approaches spatial performance from an alternative perspective. The exposition suggests that stage spatiality may perform as play without the input of scenic directors or deliberated designer actions. It suggests that “Representation of scenography may become a new spectacle on its own right and a vehicle to go beyond the theatrical borders."


The exposition is a clear presentation of spatial potentiality highlighting the relationship between a human being and the world. “Space is the primordial matter that houses our bodies and approaching space from an alternative perspective may produce new materials to engage with design and architectural issues.” The approach admits that the researcher-artist lives in the same world and in the same reality than the object of research and so this relationship addresses also to the basis of living space. Raya has approached both the human body and the space as material which belong together. “I would like to share my first, maybe precarious, approaches to understand the nature of space and how we can relate to the task of designing spaces, especially if we, ourselves, are in space, within space and made out of space(s).”


The value of this exposition is its straight relationship to the artistic practice. The research question has come in to being from deep within an artistic practice and it has also developed during experimental artistic work. The exposition is part of a broader and still ongoing artistic research. Raya`s intertextual form of presentation relates artistic experiments to the theoretical frame of reference. Raya uses the theoretical part to suggest, ponder and make visible but refuses to analyze the final outcomes. The research focus is in the process. The most impressive argumentation is in the documentation of the spatial performance presenting space as living matter. The theoretical discussion connects Raya`s practical experiments to her research question and provides aids to approach different forms of expression and to understand transformations of space.


Artistic practice is an essential part of this research. The research aims to understand the most familiar material of stage designer – space. Questioning this kind of self-evident phenomenon is a fruitful approach to search new things. When the researcher ‘invited the space to play’ she has given up all former rules, rights and obligations and opened herself up to unpredictable events and new sensual and tacit knowledge. Practical research has produced not only spatial performances but also documented visual text for the use of later research.


Significance of this question is quite high also in other disciplines. The exposition suggests a new approach to spatial performance. It is interested in what happens to other disciplines when space is not thought of as ready something and stage spatiality may perform on its own.


The exposition contains a clear and justified, yet very wide question; “what is the matter with space?” It provides the question of possibilities that arise for a new kind of scenographic performance when the actions of space as are allowed just to be themselves. The exposition shows very high evidence of innovation in practice and research issue is also contextualized in terms of philosophical and anthropological issues. The contextualizing is understandable and justified but theoretical discussion is not very wide. Philosophical quotations are essential to examine and understand artistic work but artistic outcomes are keys to theories as well. Spatial performances establish the authenticity of the theory of de Certau in practice. Stage movements really “orient space, situate it, temporalize it, and make it function”. Raya`s sensual sceneries seem to establish also anthropologist Victor Turne's thought, how novelty emerges from unprecedented combinations of familiar elements.


The strengths of this exposition are the research-oriented artistic experiments and excellent

illustrative documentation of breathtaking sceneries. Individual artistic approach and origin of research question has been brought out clearly as well. The value of this exposition is also in showing the as yet uncompleted research and in the shared experience of it. The theoretical frame of reference is valid and offers rich basis also for later analysis and investigation. In the future, the author could open and explain more some of the presented theoretical concepts and her own concepts. These concepts are primordiality (Nietzsche), the liminal and liminoid (Turner) and the flesh of the Universe (Raya)


Reija Hirvikoski 30/03/2015 at 13:46

This article and this field of research is very important for the whole theatre and performing industry – although at this point the article is still very narrow.


The exposition is more or less an opening to the topic. The writer has taken a very challenging approach to her subject - to define the meaning of space. References coming out of mathematics, astronomy and philosophy need to be articulated in such a way that they open up and promote the author's thoughts. The references need to be understood as true parts of this issue – in order to create a new way of thinking about space. At this point, the thinking is still very complicated when compared to the reality of the everyday work on the field.


Indeed, talking about the space is a main issue in designing a performance as a scenographer, but the reference material concerning the space is still very narrow: in this article there is a lack of whole area of phenomenological research done about arts and space – the embodied experience of the space. To deepen this research as a doctoral study the writer needs to add what contemporary directors, performance designers, architects and researchers on this field also write about space.


This research is still in an early stage. The writer's understanding of artistic research, writing about one’s own artistic work, analyzing one’s own artistic work and having references that collaborate with researchers knowledge of the field should be much clearer and analyzed to the reader.


It has always a special value that a practitioner from the field makes research – the writer is an architect and a scenographer, which creates deeper understanding to the field of theatre and performing designing. The writer is on her way to verbalize her knowledge and experience.


Artistic practice is in this research in a large role but the research methods and approaches are not clear yet. The writer has added her own design to this research – in order to ask if she has created a creature. To me the aesthetics of the design is very brilliant, but the question of the choreography and different lighting situations of the design – to be a new creature – is not clear to me. How is it different from a musical, a circus or a show with many moving scenes and scenery – other than its aesthetics?


The writer asks: Are architectural or performance spaces always ‘created’? Are spaces waiting to be found? Can spaces created for scenography perform with an alternative logic? Can I consider my artistic research as belonging to scenography? Can scenic spaces play free from representation?


I claim that every designer – even if she/he is designing many productions to the same performing space or the designer is different every time – looks the space with different attitude each time, trying to find the character of the space – to renew (not only with aesthetics) it through the eventual performance. I claim that every space is in this sense scenographic.


Reija Hirvikoski
Doctor of Arts (PhD)
Performance Designer


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