Imagined Space

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Handbook on the living meeting

Text of Imagined Space

  • Imagined Space

  • Colophone

    Matylda RasmussenSarah Bodil Hansenmail@imagined-space.dkBlog: Web: Font: Garamond

  • Contents

    Before Greenland Theoretical approachMethodsTheory and praxisRendering the recordingsConclusionInspiration



  • Apartment block in Nuuk, Greenland

  • Before Greenland and our final thesis

    This project is a pilot project before we go to Greenland, for our final MA thesis work in the autumn. We have in this project, practised work-ing with sound as our main method with the living meeting. In our program we have explained the living meeting this way:(...) when we enter the meeting, we will not be in a static position, from where we can collect life stories, like they were scientific data in a petri dish. We are go-ing to shape it with our own imagined space, while the inhabitants in our project might also have their own expectations of who we are and why we are etc. Program p. 6:2011

    We wanted to create an intimate space for our informants, where we could talk about the past, present and the imagined space, as well as considering our own role in the meeting. We might have shaped the conversation just by being present with our own stories and expecta-tions of who they are before entering their homes. Gaston Bachelard and his thoughts about the intimate space, as being not only the pres-ent, but as much the past and the imagined space, has been quite in-spirational.

    We have also been inspired by the French writer George Perec and his experimental novel Species of Spaces and Other Pieces The writing style is very playful in a down to earth kind of way. We thought this could be an interesting perspective in the project and we have particularly been inspired by his pragmatic and detailed way of listing objects. We saw this way of working as a possibility to start the conversations with our informants. Instead of asking questions about their dreams, hopes and past memories, we have asked them to talk about their objects of the home. In this way we wanted to create a gateway into their lives without asking in an overwhelming manner.

    It has been important for us to work with these everyday life stories, in order to somehow practise the meetings in Nuuk. We hope to show an honest and perhaps different side to the lived life of the apartment


  • block. It has many depressing stories, - or myths, surrounding it with its grey iconic concrete walls. We wish to break down these walls, for the people living there to tell their own life stories and to give them a voice in our project.

    Problem Statement

    How can we create a tool box, with focus on sound, that will help us to rehearse and capture the following: Staging the living meeting with the inhabitants, in order to explore the idea of everyday life as the imagined space: the present, the past and of the daydream.And to:render this living meeting to interested listeners, without letting the intimate space we have created along with the inhabitants, appear flat or two dimensional.

    We wish to focus on the dialectic relation between ourselves as designers and the inhabitants of our field study, during the work with this tool box.

    We have tried to focus on this statement during the work with our proj-ect. The next sections will elaborate further on our reflections within: the interviews and working with sound; the use of theory in the project and we will furthermore set out perspectives relating to the final thesis in Nuuk and whether our work can contribute to the design anthropologi-cal practices.


  • Theoretical approach

    Here we will present a short overview of the theoretical material that we found inspirational and explain why we have chosen to focus on them. We will reference to it during the report and comment on the theory more thoroughly inTheory and praxis.

    George Perec

    From the beginning to the end Species of Spaces and Other Pieces was a very inspirational novel which contains Perecs pragmatic observations in Paris, starting from a blank page, his bed, his room to the city and the countryside. Throughout the book he offers various exercises to how one can observe a defined space in the most detailed manner. It is the ordi-nary and the things we encounter in our daily lives which are in focus, and nothing should be left out in observations of the space one occupies.

    It is a very personal account and a free play with words, which could be interesting in our own approach. Not necessarily as a written account but we would like to transform some of this playfulness into sound and images, which could perhaps describe the intimate space in a new and hopefully honest way that is not limited by a set of academic framework or by a strictly anthropological approach. Program p. 9:2011

    Gaston Bachelard

    An entire past comes to dwell in a new house. Bachelard p.5:1974

    When discussing which approach to take in our project we knew that we wanted to capture some of the unspoken sides of doing fieldwork.We want-ed to somehow capture the soul of the homely and look into the shadows


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  • behind the obvious daily rituals. We did not want to avoid the daily life but see it as a gateway into the poetic and oneiric thoughts of our informants.

    The house is, according to the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, where we feel secure and where we have our most intimate space. It is the start-ing point of our existence in the world and the place where we connect the experiences of the past, present and of the daydream. In the combination of the three the imagined space comes to life. This imagined space contains the subjectively perceived reality of the inhabitants and of our selves as de-signers. The idea of life as the imagined space is not only based on actions or thoughts of the current, but it is as much the past and the space of day-dreams. Program pp. 3-4:2011

    It was relevant for us to focus on life within that space, as we want to base our study on the lived life in a home. In order to gain personal stories and meaningful experiences, we have concentrated on how we could create an intimate meeting where the inhabitants would open up and, together with us, create an intimate space where these stories could unfold. With inspiration from Perec we wanted to take our departure in the pragmatic description of objects and how they are placed in the house, and Bachelard has been helpful to take it a step further and ask about which feelings and dreams the informants connect with their objects or the rooms of their home, both in relation to the past, present and the future. Bachelards theory on how the past reverberates into the now and into our dreams of the future, where his point is that these memories of the past will never have the same tonality as one is think-ing about them in relation to the future, one must create an oneiric space to be able to put oneself in the exact same situation and experi-ence the exact same feeling once again. This is where our challenge in rendering the sound will be.

    All I ought to say about my childhood home is just barely enough to place me, myself, in an oneiric situation, to set me on the threshold of a daydream in which I shall find repose in the past. Then I may hope that my page will possess a sonority that will ring true - a voice so remote within me, that it will be the voice we all hear [...] Bachelard p. 13:1974


  • Michel de Certeau

    Every story is a travel story - a spatial practice. de Certeau p.115:1984

    To make a distinction between Perecs pragmatic description of places and Bachelards phenomenological description of spaces we have been inspired by de Certeaus division of the two in his examination of daily practices. He makes a distinction between space and place, where a place is where every-thing has its proper location in a defined stable location. Whereas space is a practiced place and is defined by actions that are executed in a defined place. There are two general ways in which people describe their own home as the example below shows:

    In a very precise analysis of descriptions New York residents gave of their apart-ments, C. Linde and W. Labov recognize two distinct types, which they call the map and the tour. The first is of the type: The girls room is next to the kitchen. The second: You turn right and come into the living room. de Certeau p. 119:1984

    The map is a description which relies on an outsider knowing where the rooms are in relation to each other, in another way describing what is seen where the tour takes the listeners by the hand and guides them through the apartment in an action of movement. de Certeau argues that when telling a story one gives references to different elements that mark the place and space and excludes all other non-mentioned elements in leaving them out of the story.In our project we have been very aware of how the inhabitants have told their stories, and have tried to make them describe their home in different ways to see where the personal stories might be situated in the rooms and in their objects.

    [...] the story plays a decisive role. It describes, to be sure. But every descrip-tion is more than a fixation, it is a culturally creative act. It even has distrib-utive power and performative force (it does what it says) when an ensemble of circumstances is brought together. Then it found space Bachelard, p.123: 1974


  • Methods

    The purpose of this project was to examine and explore the possibilities of working with sound during the meetings with our informants.

    We imagine sound as our main working method. It might give us a three dimensional view into the homely space