The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Narrative Space Day Three - Post One

'Bits, Bodies and Buildings' Johnathan Hale

As technology becomes smaller and smaller, and more embedded in our buildings, it alters the human relationship with the environment. For Johnathan Hale, this leads to the question of augemented realities, and how they alter our experience of architecture.

His guiding principles are that perception is related to action, space is experienced through movement and objects and experienced through materiality. But this raises a number of questions. How do we curate buildings? What kind of stories do buildings tell, and what language do these buildings speak? How can new technologies allow us to access the stories which are embedded within the buildings, and allow those stories to emerge that come from our emboddied experience in space?

Buildings have both a semiotic and phenomenological language. The first is a disembodied visual and textual, the second more tactile and visceral. He doesn't think that the two are antagonistic, though, that they can work together. Historically, buildings have had a semiotic language, acting as a book, and on a phenomenological level Dr. Hale enjoys Louis Khan's Kimbleworth Art Museum and the H2O Expo Pavillion. There has been a shift, he argues, from storytelling to poetry. With poetry we are in the realm of the fragment

If there is a poetry of architecture, what is it about? It is about the encounter between people and things, the entanglement of matter and meaning. There is a link between the mind and world through the body. Buildings are a class of equipment through which we experience the world.

Heidegger also wrote about the body mind world relationship is Being in Time. Speaking about 'ready to hand', the notion that we pick something up and use it as an extension of the self, he notes how we forget we are using it when we are using it well. But when the tool breaks down, it jumps back into our perception. It becomes part of that world which we encounter in a more semiotic sense. Sterlarc's third hand projects show how the idea of extending the body is not a new idea in art. We have often been frightened of this, as a threat to the sense of who we are, but we need not be.

But the process is not just one way. The world 'pushes back'. There is a circular causality, we are engaged in a 'dance of agency', and through the way it resists our action feeds information back to us. To be extended into the world is not an alien condition, but rather fundamental to our sense of who we are. It is, he says, taking from Dewey, only with this resistance that we become aware of ourselves.

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