The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and of ourselves.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Space & Place - Action & Movement

I came across a concise and well-written book by Tim Creswell - Place: A Short Introduction - a text that introduces the fundamental concept of place, marrying everyday uses of the term with the complex theoretical debates. It traces the development of the concept of place from 1950s through its subsequent appropriation by cultural geography and the linking of the place to politics. Below I listed out some of the key thoughts that could become useful for developing my own perceptions of space and its use. If you know any inspirational sources, list them in the comment box!

* Tuan defines space as an open arena of action and movement while place is about stopping and resting and becoming involved. He argues that through human perception and experience we get to know the world through places. The term 'topophilia' was developed to refer to the 'affective bond between people and places' (Tuan in Topophilia, 1974).

* "To live is to live locally, and know is the first of all to know the place one is in" (Casey, 1996). 

* To say a place is socially constructed is to say that it is not natural and given that human forces made a place then human forces can equally importantly undo it. To say something is socially constructed is to say that it is within human power to change it - to change meaning and materiality (Creswell on Harvey).

* Thirdspace is lived space and it interrupts a distinction between perceived places and spatial practices. Thirdspace is practised and lived rather than simply being material (conceived) or mental (perceived).  In these terms places are never established but produced and producing. (Soja, 1999)

* "To be inside a place is to belong to it and identify with it, and the more profoundly inside you are the stronger is the identity of the place" (Relph on placelessness - where someone goes is less important than the act and style of going...) 


  1. Hi Monika. I've been enjoying your blog posts since you first started. You certainly are prolific with your ideas on the space/place debate, obviously a very hot topic these days, but of course one that sees no easy finality as you've illustrated. I too lately was looking Tuan's descriptions of 'Topophilia'. Such a fantastic word isn't it.

    I actually came across an interesting book which draws parallel to Tuan's ideas- basically started as a conversation between artist Tacita Dean and writer/curator Jeremy Millar. The title is aptly called 'Space' and it covers themes on space/place as mediated by solid examples of site-specific installation art. Dean's main thought on the overall subject...

    "...the artist can evoke a place that will always only exist as a memory of another place in the mind of the viewer, because I think you need to have visited a place before you can really know it, and then only will you know it in that way. That is why place is so personal and intangible..."

    The artist creating in space for place is its own huge debate of course, but the book does well to invite questioning. I'll pass it along when I see you again. Look for a particularly interesting recalling of Tarkovsky's Stalker at the very beginning of the book, also akin to Tuan. Speaking about the Zone, "our moods, our thoughts, our feelings can bring about change any moment it is exactly as we devise it, in our consciousness... everything that happens here depends on us, not on the Zone." Interesting to place human existence and behavior as the defining mechanism of space.

    Well have a looksy into that. and keep it up!


  2. Silly me. Fitting and confusing as the debate itself, the book is 'Place' by Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar.

    all apologies