The surreal play of entwinement of the asphalt and the body

The arrival to a strange utilitarian Utopia. Meeting in an institute of unknown unfounded ideas of knowledge. The corridors smell of bleach and the receptionist spends a long time learning how to spell our names.

A name as an identity; somehow a title at times in which we conceal; I am Beatrice: simplicity and complexity; statement and concealment. 

On the bus ride there the bus fills with a thousand nations, London no longer has a common tongue and nothing here can be called universal. The bus collects, gathers and disperses us throughout one neighbourhood to the next, endless sprawl of leaning grey towers. Arriving to the shopping centre, eating a Colombian sausage and plantain and talking of the Crab man, journeys waiting to be taken and quick glimpses of lives being lived out. Walking then as conversation to the university.  Snatches glimpses moments sights textures.

Arriving. The rigmarole of the identification process and lengthily spelling of the names, softened by the fluttering eye lashes and potential sound scores.
Meeting. Brief explanations. The scores as maps, the red wool as marker; sights and sites, passages and promenades.

Walking first to the shopping centre. Sharing ideas of performance. To the centre of engaged architectural production, actually a rather bleak empty shop with strip lighting and shared with a mosaic workshop and some massage chairs. Architects plans hung side ways in small font and if one bends and contorts  ideas can be briefly explored.

Walking then to the heygate estate. A calm as we enter. Not silence but a diminuendo. The plastic bags which litter the trees seem almost as celebration, the newly laid pavement to this maze is littered with a map of a new pizza menu. Each direction the rows of empty flats play with the eyes.
The simple act of 7 of us taking a walk. A warm up.
Then in pairs taking turns to walk with our eyes closed.

Basic perhaps. yet so complex; the changing surfaces with closed eyes offer us a new place to explore.

This landscape is full of scenes; of poetry and concealed romance of asphalt. The small contours in the grass play land seem like mountains, the shifts from crunching leaves to soft tarmac, the sunlight as direction, sirens, noises, spaces filled with weight of construction.

Moving then to explore alone using the arrival of body and mind, presence and vision as tool, as ethnographer, anthropologist, archeologist, choreographer, artist, human we walk. So many details to absorb:

  • the dolls head on a stick in the allotment 
  • the knife left in the bed of fallen leaves
  • the writings around: scrawls, recipes, stories, anger, attempt.
  • The chair watching the ashes 
  •  the tea pot sat waiting for use
  • an odd slipper left 
  •  a leopard skin rugged sodden in the rain 
  •  sight lines of contrast 
People | space | shelter | control | power | the quotidian | bodies | the city as an object, a theory, a ballet, a muddle, a neatly ordered system, a corrupted metaphor for humanity’s growth and decline… The surreal play of entwinement of the asphalt and the body in moulded cement of the human form in concrete boxes.

All sites are duely recorded; stored; to become archive of our present. Losing sense of time and slowly regrouping.

“To make an interpretation of a Map
Of paths in the nearby subway with a large ball of red string around the estate. “

Our task is not simple. As 7 we begin. Lines cut out and open the space; hide; conceal; bind; reveal. The red twine forms sculpture; object.

Sight lines of place; space; moments of entanglement and performance; collisions and modes of encounter:

The tides of cement lap softly at my feet now, motions of joy in such respite as we have found in this strange haven; Fall as asphalt confetti on to the still green plane.

Departing this scene of strange bliss; a lingering exit; watching now as the herds amass again; the flux encroaches once more; the pavements more worn with the stories it holds; the shopping centreconsuming; people stand consuming quickly thin hamburgers rather than meat.


The air thickens as smog to the lungs of the disaffected, softly softly to the ground of the plastic tree. Moments blundering as years as we become what we were never intended. To whom go we thank for the new plazas which we walk through as robots in new shoes, the weight of the concrete heaves under new weight of un-needed industry. Returning to the city bustle after a brief glimpse to a land forgotten; imperfect but still sturdy. Our shoes still with a light dusting of fresh air and mud;  it seems estranged; needing some celebration.

There are few words needed go describe our tranistion. We depart. Each of us carrying fragments from such moments I hope in fondness.
Crammed into the small speeding compartments in the tunnels of the urban progress, characters blend now; the stage has expanded; the lady reads her bible next to the man who reads the financial times, flip flops walk next to glossy high heels, suitcases jam next to roll mats,

we all exist here still in our own little worlds but condensed, tighter and tighter, the space for expression more and more limited the closer to the city’s heart we arrive. Content to observe these clashes, somehow quite silent and sad the ribs now consume eagerly recycled air and the second breath.

This post is written in reflection of a Practising Space lab session in collaboration with LSBU students taking part in the Place, Performance and Social Use series in the Planning Department. Participants: Nina Feldman, Camila Mello, Rachel Champion, Amy Spencer, Beatrice Jarvis ( PS LAB) and James Chadwick, Deborah Durbac at LSBU. 

~ by beatricejarvis on February 18, 2012.

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