Relational Geographies

Susan Leen, Life Between Streets 1, 2013

Susan Leen, Life Between Streets 1, 2013

‘The spaces through which we go daily are provided for by locations; their nature is grounded in things of the type of buildings. If we pay heed to these relations between locations and spaces, between spaces and space, we get a due to help us in thinking of the relation of man and space.’ (Martin Heidegger, ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’, 1951)

Over the last fifty years there’s been a turn in geographical thinking towards a mode of comprehending space as closely entangled with social and political processes. The meaning of space extends far beyond geography alone and represents a fundamental concept in almost every domain, interesting our way of moving, interacting, communicating and ultimately our whole lives. Thinkers such as Foucault and Lefebvre have speculated on the inextricability of space and the socio-political, stressing the character of the ‘relational’ approach to space. Since this approach became predominant, in geography and related disciplines ‘space appears as a swirl of flows, networks, and trajectories, as a chaotic ordering that locates and dislocates, as an effect of social process that is itself spatially dispersed and distributed.’ (Jeff Malpas, ‘Putting Space in Place: Philosophical Topography and Relational Geography’, in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, volume 30(2) pages 226 – 242, 2012)

Within this concept of ‘spatial formations of continuously changing composition, character and reach…made through the spatiality of flow, juxtaposition, porosity and relational connectivity’(Ash Amin, ‘Regions Unbound: Towards a New Politics of Place’, in Geographiska Annaler, 86B, 2004), physical and socio-political boundaries, division and conflict take on an uncertain status.

The exhibition Relational Geographies aims to explore spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and emotional.

In her spatial installation Vice Versa Lucie Beauvert takes a knitted garment and an architectural volume into an equation of reciprocity. Through a live gesture, the artist unfolds the trajectory from one to the other, transforming what was an individual shelter into a fragile collective dwelling. Layla CurtisIndex Drawing series uses index of street names to design an alternative geography. By deleting any spatial references and appropriating names and cultural signifiers, the artist plays with and subverts the purpose of a map, placing us within a new and unexpected relational space. Similarly unexpected, and apparently uncontrolled, are the Circadian Maps by Karel Doing. Interested in residual material, Karel experiments with 35mm filmstrip exposed to different kind of treatments, creating parallel universes.

Sylvia Law’s sonic intervention flows in between planes of both visible and invisible realms. Her sound work Departure Point sculpts a journey through relational geography into separate dimensions and spaces, where we come into contact with the things we do not see but feel present. The notion of the sphere of human interactions and how space operates as a social construct is at the core of Susan Leen’s work. Tracing the cartography of emotions in the ever-changing urban landscape, Life Between Streets represents part of an on-going exploration of mapping and community produced during the artist’s residency at La Villa Belleville, in eastern Paris.

Engaging with the inhabitants of Baengnyeongdo, one of South Korean islands closest to North Korea, Hanae Utamura based her performative video When a line becomes a circle on the people’s memories. Here the population felt that the effect on their island after North Korea’s threat was similar to the one that the earthquake had on Japan and the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This work offers a reflection on the idea of ‘borders’ and measure, drawing lines and circles as dividing and unifying forms.

Taking the visitor on an intimate, fluid and emotional journey through inner and outer spaces, the exhibition offers a space to rethink and understand the relationship between us and our environment.

Relational Geographies is showing between 13 July – 18 October 2015 at the UAL Showroom.

Exhibition curated by Camilla Palestra.

A series of events runs in conjunction with the exhibition including a creative digital collage workshop run by CSF Zoe Norton (22 September), and an interactive walk around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (10 October). Full information and booking can be found through UAL events.