Academic journal article Spatial Practices

Introduction

Academic journal article Spatial Practices

Introduction

Article excerpt

The importance of this collection of essays lies less in the concept of place and more in the activity present in the title. Placing comes to take on a number of possible meanings, present coincidentally. The poem is actively placed in its context while it also produces the place it is in. Poetry is both kept in its place, as well as always challenging its inclusion and exclusion. It moves between different places through the process of translation, and shifts between contexts. The sedentary implications of place are replaced by the active intentions of "placing", an action that, while it suggests a "place" of rest, is always in movement. The volume therefore becomes more about movement, not stasis, and about the agency implied in doing things as well as in being, whether in the poetics of the public in the work of Kaia Sand or in the dynamics of the field in Harriet Tarlo's essay.

If it was the developing interest in spatial concepts through the 1980s and 90s that challenged ideas of place as a bounded entity developed over time, then it is an increasing interest in movement and mobility that is producing notions of places as existing in conditions of perpetual flow (and later on in this introduction I discuss a poem by George Oppen in order to draw out some of the implications of that change). The process of mapping, of fixing things within spatial coordinates, is replaced by identifying the movement of things and people; it's not the place they are in that explains things and people, but the movement between where they were and where they are going to. The emphasis shifts from things or people within places, and even from things or people in in-between places (the so called non-place of the motorway service station for example), to the act of movement itself. Places become characterized by change as much as stability, and by difference as much as homogeneity.

It was therefore the continuing conceptualization of space that destabilized the notion of place, just as it is the conceptualization of an active mobility that is destabilizing concepts of space. Spatial theory contains within itself the seeds of its own future growth, developing the very ideas that would question relationships between places and the spatial through concepts of mobility. Michel de Certeau's notion of the tactical, as a subversive process that countered the strategic power of an establishment, prioritized movements around cities that challenged the bureaucracies of those in power (de Certeau 1988). Henri Lefebvre's emphasis on space as produced by the moving body provides the possibility of rapid changes of perspective within an environment that is always changing (Lefebvre 1991). Deleuze and Guattari' s notion of the nomadic as producing a "smooth" space that runs counter to the "striated" space of state bureaucracies was reinforced by their metaphor of the rhizome, as a root system that could be broken into at any point, and within which the "nodes" were only temporary resting places (Deleuze and Guattari 1984, 1988).

The essays in this volume have been informed by these ideas, although in different ways and to different degrees. Doreen Massey's concept of place as that of constantly changing formations within communities has also been influential on a number of essays. For Massey the embodiment of the experience of place links spatial abstractions to the materiality of places and demonstrates that space is always gendered and, more generally, a product of difference as well as homogeneity (Massey 1994, 2005). Martin Heidegger's understanding of "being" as spatial as well as temporal, and his idea of the "world" of being as the spatial arrangement of objects within physical and conceptual reach (Heidegger 2008), is further developed by JeanLuc Nancy, who explores relationships between Heidegger's notion of the "world" and an idea of the "globe" (Nancy 2007). Through Nancy, ideas and processes of representation and questions about meaning that influence the materiality of place are foregrounded. …

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