> Research Findings

Research Findings


Site-integrity has framed a new way of thinking about relationships between site, device, artist and audience. This research is located in practice, but feeds back into the theoretical weavings of the study proposing the notion of 'site-integrity,' that opposes fixed representation through a performance of site. There are three forms of site specificity proposed by Miwon Kwon, each relating to the different means of inhabiting and interacting with the connotations of space, expressed as the following paradigms: phenomenological/experiential, social/institutional, and discursive. Within this content site-integrity expands Kwon’s paradigms by being a conduit for the phenomenological (the experience) via the social/institutional (the physical site and user) culminating in a forum for the discursive (as a form of dialogue).


Non-haptic, non-temporal ways of re-presenting place have come to dominate contemporary practice. Doreen Massey’s writing on space formed the foundations in thinking, at the same time as the practical investigations in this study concluded that space is un-representable as a separate entity. Massey’s relational argument, "a refusal to reduce our understanding of space to that of surface or container" (Massey, 2005, p.12) is extended by her three propositions:


First, that we recognise space as the product of interrelations; as constituted through interactions, from the immensity of the global to the intimately tiny… Second, that we understand space as the sphere of the possibility of existence of the multiplicity in the sense of contemporaneous plurality; as the sphere in which distinct trajectories co-exist; as the sphere therefore of coexisting heterogeneity… Third, that we recognise space as always under construction… it is never finished; never closed. Perhaps we could imagine space as a simultaneity of stories-so-far. (Massey, 2005, p.12)


Massey also draws on Deleuze–Guattarian philosophical influences in order to argue that a concept such as space, rather than operating as a de-temporalised essence, should "express an event, a happening" (Massey, 2005, p.28). In site-integral artworks the site of investigation is also the exhibition space. Each site-activation becomes both metaphor for wider social formations (the privileging of abstract space/representational time) and a physical apparatus that, momentarily at least, pushes the viewer in a different direction.


There is a sense in which the research travels with the evolving works that occur in situ with no fixed parameters. This does not mean a relinquished responsibility for, or rejection of agency in affecting change in the works as they emerge, but rather that these artworks are not made with the filmmaker as central subject. There is a sense of subject-hood that is formed in practice; that acts in practice. The artworks foregrounded in this research do not present an idea or image of what a site is or can be. Rather, they create opportunities for audiences to experience their own relationship and reading of them. It must be noted that the intention of site-integrity is to encourage new dialogues with space(s).


In order to critically assess the success of the research study, it is important to discuss how the work has answered the initial research questions:


•    How effective is the working methodology, and how do we evaluate it?


The working methodology attempts to avoid the fixed representation of space, providing an experience in situ rather than a removed representation. Each site is not a fixed object, but is continually in the process of being made through experience. Matt Webber a social anthropologist at University College London & SOAS, articulates this point in his peer review when he says:


Assembly should not be regarded as a representation of a space, and still less one of individual worshippers, but rather as an attempt to re-produce the mosque as it actually exists. Both the building and the community it forms part of are re-assembled each time the piece is displayed, each made and re-made in a relational process between audience, film, the worshippers, and building. (Matt Webber, Social Anthropologist at University College London & SOAS)


In site-integral artworks the device mediates between the body and the architectural site during the act of performance. The work ‘submits’ to the vagaries of space yet this gives it its power to call the space into question. Rather than simply recording a space and re-playing/re-presenting that to the viewer, the works activate the viewer within them. As one viewer states,


I became part of space and film through a machine that recorded the space in the past and acted in the present (through its motion and sound, and through the laser pointer and the synchronized projection). The space was not anymore a motionless entity that I could explore or passively inhabit, it became 'activated'. (Audience feedback)


The site-integral dual recording/playback device bridges the gap between device and audience, to straddle the worlds of the real and the recorded, to give a sense of place. Site-integrity proposes a new mode of practice where the artistic device is used to actively engage site and audience within the creation of the artworks. 

•    How do relationships to sites affect the making and reception of the work?  


Similar to Robert Smithson’s site/non-site dialectics, site-integrity aims to incorporate the relationship between site as content and as exhibition in its terms. Site-integrity proposes that it is possible to witness the making and unmaking simultaneously, process and film at once, without being reduced to either. Site-integrity forces the art experience to be rethought, or re-experienced, in terms of a changing live space, as Simon O’Sullivan describes it, “art is also an event in continual resistance to closure: art then is the name of the object of an encounter itself, and indeed of that which is produced by the encounter” (O’Sullivan, 2006, p.2).

Experiencing the artwork within the actual site dramatically affects the reception and reading of the piece. The site itself is as much the work as the artwork and influences our understanding and engagement of the piece. As one viewer describes, 


I not only felt like I became the machine by the power of filmic illusion (when looking at the iPad I felt as I was moving with the rig), I was also becoming incredibly aware of my existence and position within the room, and within the filmic space depicted in the screen. (Audience feedback)


Site-integrity actively responds to the politics and ethics of material enquiries into site, which are socially, politically, historically and geographically entwined. The site-integral artworks remain passive in what they are, but alive in what they narrate – the device becomes the mediator. The site-integral works introduce many elements to the viewer such as mechanised rigs, projected content and the sites themselves (loaded with their own wealth of cultural and historic associations). The works also invite viewers to relate themselves to these stimuli; to become more aware of themselves physically – in a sensory, phenomenological capacity. In navigating these diverse stimuli, the work suspends the viewer in infinite possible readings.


 •    Did the artworks have a positive effect on the site communities?

Site-integrity acts like an ethnographer – a kind of catalyst, who initiates conversations, and in eliciting views and opinions confronts people with their boundaries and their sense of belonging. As each project developed over time, so did the relationships to site and community. This level of engagement questioned both artistic identity and authorship through an exchange and process of 'working together' with each community. Although all the site-integral performances were made with and for each specific community, Assembly focused more upon this collaborative relationship due to the social/religious/political nature of the site. The research opened a genuine dialogue between members of the congregation allowing men and women to experience their sacred spaces in a different and unique way,


Not only is the footage specific to Brick Lane Mosque but also the individuals who enter the prayer space jump from the surface of the projection, particularly in the women’s prayer space where there are significantly fewer participants. We witness the fluidity of the congregation and can appreciate the uniqueness of the people who make up the group. (Audience feedback)


Jamaat allowed the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid community to fulfill their mission "to work closely with the community, members of different faiths and non-faith and create mutual respect, value and tolerance within the diverse community’ (Brick Lane Jamme Masjid, n.d.) by opening the work and site up to a public audience and local schools. As Imam Kamal Hussain from Brick Lane Mosque discusses,


The project is very unique and special and I’m happy to be part of it. It’s a new way for non-Muslims to come and see how we Muslims pray and congregate together. It is a visual and audio experience and opportunity to learn and understand Islam, through dialogue, discussion and social interaction. I’m sure people will get a moving experience out of it. (Imam Kamal Hussain, Brick Lane Mosque).


The Inclusive Mosque Initiative were project advisors on Assembly. This initiative 

was launched in 2012 with the aims of creating places of worship for marginalised Muslim communities, creating opportunities for spiritual practice and the promotion of inclusive Islamic principles. The Inclusive Mosque Initiative’s contribution to the discussion of Assembly allowed them to build links and create a sense of solidarity with a traditional mosque such as Brick Lane.


If Jamaat were to be shown in a gallery, it would take on an entirely different meaning, one we wouldn’t be comfortable with. However, the bird’s eye view used to create the footage – fittingly called the 'God-shot' in the film industry  shows us ourselves in a unique and unfamiliar way that’s worth experiencing. Site-integrity attempts to avoid fixed representation and with Jamaat, it succeeds. (Naima Khan, Inclusive Mosque Initiative).



AssemblyScreen Space and Moving Site / Sight refuse to define a location or time for the viewer to isolate, reduce to meaning, and thus ‘employ’. It is problematic to critically engage with the work by trying to contour how its material productions of self-machine-place ‘challenge’ hegemonic representations but it seems worth reiterating that by definition, the moving re-presentation calls into question how fidelity to a representation, sacred or otherwise, necessarily entails its subjective restaging. As a practice that uses non-sites as subject and exhibition, this offers great opportunities to welcome new audiences that would not necessarily go to a 'white cube' gallery. Due to the nature of the sites used the artworks often become work made with and for the local community or residents of that site.

The research findings have subsequently been shared internationally at conferences within the field of arts and religion, arts and society, site-specific practice and artist fieldwork. The work presented in this exposition works as in an example of a site-integrity practice, as a practice that integrates a site through a specific device. But site-integrity, is not limited to these examples, it is a larger concept that could incorporate many different methods.