Critical Spatial Practice

Yafei uses experimental film and situated testimony as a spatial practice, providing partial perspectives like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. She seeks to counter the crisis of neoliberalism by taking an interdisciplinary approach to scholarship and to the conservation of biodiversity in architectures and environments drawn from the theory and practice of visual arts, and anthropology, as well as architecture. 

Sara’s layered approach to arts and writing encompasses practice-led research, urbanism, and critical feminist studies. Through her writing and work, she aims to understand and expand the notion of the role of artists in urban communities, gentrification, and regeneration processes with an emphasis on lived experiences and storytelling. In her ongoing research, Sara looks at the layers of nostalgia, solastalgia, and belonging through the third, second, and first-generation Finnish Karelian immigrants’ experiences of longing for a place that no longer exists.

I work simultaneously at different scales, with various media and across perspectives as method to explore a project from multiple perspectives. A back-and-forth between media, factual fiction, and critical spatial practice. With the project Moonfuture: Migration, Images and the Geological Interior, I explore the visual research-essay as a performative work. Moonfuture investigates the spatial qualities of writing, driven by the specificity and intimate reading of each collage to build narrative and structure. The work mixes fiction and reality, image and text, with spatial display. Written from a non-human perspective, it offers us a glimpse into a deeper kinship, and a different perspective with our planet and contemporary anxieties. The work is one part of a trilogy of projects, which began with video 71:17 (2018), and the collages of Storied Spaces (2020).

In Christine’s practice, she aims to investigate a spatial approach through writing and designing which addresses larger societal changes such as changing value systems, the digitalisation of labour, and how the domestic is being redefined. Key to her practice is an exploration into how to bring in more perspectives, while at the same time, retaining awareness of one’s own blind spots.

In Sean’s practice, he aims to critique the sites and production of historical knowledges — archives, campaigns, heritage buildings, maps, museums, photographs, paintings, and textbooks. He draws on critical acts of writing, performance, and speculation to build on dominant knowledges, platform gaps and buried layers, and challenge existing pedagogies.

Looking into existing conditions to identify opportunities for repair, restoration, or intervention, we explore several methods to gather data that consists of archival research, collection of material, site mapping, and interviews with residents in the area. The project has worked towards a number of on-site activations and workshops that have provided more insights into the non-physical aspects of this analysis; it was also critical to engage with this site through various modes of artistic and research practice in the realm of both architecture and urbanism.

Sara Alissa, Nojoud Alsudairi

The website is a pedagogical tool to support listening as a critical spatial practice. It operates through structuring and bringing sounds and writing into adjacency in ways that amplify acts of care and enable us to recognise our interdependence and precarity. Each listening produces space anew; the arrival of the artefacts (and the process of their production), the affordances of the website, the contingent navigation of the visitor and their personal response, the sonic compositions, and the assembling of a library, contribute to the co-constitution of space. Site writing is produced through personal and collective listening that is responsive, intimate, and speculative, allowing co-dreaming.

Julia Udall, Jonathan Orlek, Alex De Little

My work is my path to understanding my position in the environmental movement. I am lucky that this work has taken me on the journey of understanding empathy and generosity, first shown to me by my mother and later reinforced by bell hooks, adrienne maree brown, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Suzi Gablik, Carol Gilligan, Joan Tronto, María de Jesús Patricio Martínez and many others. I humbly want to share what has been so kindly shown to me so that we continuously work towards strengthening our relationships as a form of activism.

Montserrat Gutiérrez Mesegué

The Milan Gender Atlas is conceived not so much as a complete and definitive mapping of spaces and subjects from a gendered perspective, but as an open and in-progress critical organism, ready to embrace the multiplicity of visions that are embodied in the space. Its main goal is to display a gender-related geography, while offering itself as a platform for dialogue and the collective construction of an imaginary still to be realised. With a female gaze that aims to disclose the power relations behind the way space is conceived, consistently the main aim of this research is not so much to provide answers, but to provide the tools to ask the right questions.

Florencia Andreola & Azzurra Muzzonigro

Sam Zheng is trying to establish a five-sided interdisciplinary methodological system including philosophy, anthropology, psychoanalysis, art and human geography, that tries to confront the complex discourses of modernity. Sam regards moving image writing as a spatial practice, one that discusses the diverse relationship between place and the moving image in anticipation of developing a post-human prophecy of place.

Site and spatial practice have been a continued aspect of my work and over the years I have collaborated with Jane Rendell and other architectural feminist theorists and practitioners on various projects, including being a member of ‘taking place’ feminist art and architecture group 2000–10.  See information about our most recent event remembering our dear friend, architect Julia Dwyer who died in 2019, and my contribution to a walk for Julia, here

Brigid McLeer

For many architects practice is about creating physical spaces. For me, the social consequence of practice is just as important as the physical manifestation of it. This means that we need to be flexible and adaptive to the context in which we work and embrace an inclusive design process that grants others authorship. Working this way requires incredible optimism and trust and an open mind about what constitutes architecture.

Jan Kattein Architects (Dr Jan Kattein, Gareth Marriott, Chandni Patel)

I’ve been looking at critical theory – discovering its complicity and then attempting to emprace a destituent approach: a way of practising and thinking about politics that radically breaks with the modern logic of sovereignty, linked to an idea of politics without foundation (a politics without arché). A destituent politics has a limited but precise task: to create the conditions, that is, a crack, so that another politics, the one that today seems impossible, can happen. A desitituent, minor project, one is where ‘fugitivity’ and ‘dwelling’ coexist and resist, a ‘project of care’ where inhabitation is less about fixed being, and more an affirmative potential to create life and its possibility.

Our approach is founded in two decades of conversation around the intertwining of architecture with contemporary political and economic conditions and questions around architecture’s role in perpetuating those conditions. As a teaching and writing collaboration that spans architecture and philosophy, we are interested particularly in the question of relationality – which occurs in philosophical thinking and political theory – and how it might inform and structure an approach to both the discipline and profession of architecture.

GRAB (Professors Andrew Benjamin and Gerard Reinmuth)

Prue Chiles is part of CE+CA, an architectural practice that has worked together for nearly 20 years. As teachers and practitioners we all try and embed the same ethics and care into our work and collaborations, whether a participatory neighbourhood plan, a small public building or a new or restored house. This is particularly important on site. As with all other projects, this was a collaborative effort, with particular thanks to all at CE+CA.

I work with an awareness of the ethical responsibility of critical spatial practice, as a practice that moves between, to heal through connection. In my work with texts and archives, I draw on ‘poetic bio-politics’ and the ‘healing motion’ of performance to activate crucial connections between cultures and ecologies of place. ‘Telling’ place ‘in the field’, through material practices, movement, poetry and song, in relation to other bodies, and landscape, I seek to engage the immediacy and accessibility of embodied knowledge/communication as a means to move ethically between institutions and the worldly spaces/communities to which they refer.

Zoë Quick and Kirsten McIver

Signifying an expertise that exceeds waged domestic labour itself, ‘home-making’ is life-sustaining for many migrant workers. We might consider it a critical spatial practice that aims to transform the world as well as inhabit it, through an everyday performance that is creative, embodied and collaboratively supported. It knits dwelling and travel together in the experience of home, and constitutes an enormous effort to make ‘hostile environments’ (in literal terms) hospitable. The Home-Makers soundwalks aim to make this expertise sensible, inviting the listener to enact a critical spatial practice herself in experiencing spaces with and through the voices of others.

Ella Parry-Davies and Ann

Many of the practices we employ attune the body to serve as a receptive organism that can both sense and activate spatial realities. We attune our bodies through song, movement, and service in order to facilitate experiences that open dialogues with place, history, and remembered inter-connection. Through site-specific movement practices and performance, we engage with energetic inscription — allowing ourselves to be changed by place, and to leave prayers and blessings through offering behind. Through personal story, narrative, and ancestral practices, we seek to affirm the presence(s) of the mythic, the architectural, and the spatial as interwoven expressions of a pluriverse of which we are continuously shaping and re-forming.

Through my practice I aim to critique the sites of our everyday urban environments, the economic algorithms scripting these settings and the performance of the human labour with(in) this set up. Developed as collaborations across disciplines, the practice aims to visualize and actively and politically disrupt the rigid boundaries built around disciplinary procedures to serve the dominant economic forces within society. With cross-pollination, new dialogues emerge which critique the relationship between commodity capitalism and spatial production to interrogate the conditions which produce inequality around us. Through this a space for critical engagement is created which pursues a less disproportionate society. 

I do not differentiate clearly between practice and thought. A differential exists, but the exact moment of transition is as unknowable as the moment of coalescence into form: awareness here is retrospective. Boundaries have their uses, but they are ultimately restrictive, especially when elevated to principles. So writing may evolve into painting, film, and so forth. These factors define for me Jane Rendell’s understanding of “site-specificity” within site-writing, which isn’t a matter of inter/cross-disciplinarity, but a rather generously expansive mode of exploration that enables both freedom and structure, because it is its own site, yet it is interconnected.

My work seeks to unearth lessons from the past to trigger a starting point for my practice based on the stories of others. I retrace their steps, try their methods, perform their ideas. These operations modify my perception and help me re-read historical accounts under a different light, which sparks a new cycle of practice. The cycles of history and practice repeat until I reach a saturation point. By collecting the experiences and reflections of people that came before me, my practice continues their work and becomes a collective project, a conversation between generations, where the wisdom of those cast aside engender new projects.

I understand critical spatial practice as an expanding and multidimensional mode of collective action that tries to reflect and rethink in relation to the past, present and futures of particular contexts, communities and territories. 

Currently, my approach focuses on how my research can be linked to my activist practice with the struggles of mining-affected communities. This aims to contribute meaningfully to the movement’s processes by producing relevant information and materials, and also, to challenge the colonial logic of research by formulating a collective research strategy, that proposes the research question, methods and final products together towards the benefit of those directly involved. In addition, I want to explore how social movements in local struggles from different parts of the world connect among themselves to build an understanding of the same issues from different perspectives.

In describing critical spatial practice, Jane Rendell writes of ‘works [that] can be positioned in ways that make it possible to question the terms of engagement of the projects themselves.’ (1) My approach has sought to explore the critical, productive potential of such ambiguity. Revelling in the space of the weird, where everyday landscapes, practices and characters are recognisable, and yet amazingly strange, and through similarly unstable mediums – such as drawings that are developed and altered through people’s interaction with them, or props which demand interpretation to be put to use –  such that space is opened for hierarchies to be reconfigured, and for excluded groups to be brought to the fore.  A question I have been asking is what it means to situate ‘critical spatial practice’ itself, a concept developed in the United Kingdom, in relation to work in Zambia. In articulating ‘critical spatial practice’, Rendell points to her extension of the term ‘critical theory’ to include later theorists – among them the post-colonial - that she identifies seek to ‘transform rather than describe’ contexts towards social change. (2) Through ‘critical spatial practice’, Rendell further extends ‘critical theory’ to include the ‘critical practices’ through which these transformations might occur. (3) I think there are clues in this project, which speaks to acts of disrupting hierarchies of power and knowledge, and relations between bodies, bodies and matter, and bodies and the Earth, that are rooted in colonialism. Perhaps, as my and would-be-astronaut Nkoloso’s work suggests, a critical spatial practice which builds, and builds on, decolonial ambitions seeks to make transformations in these realms and relations. I look forward to continuing to think through the way a concept such as this travels – geographically, politically and, as a resulting, epistemically -  and the work it does, and is done to its original context, in the process.  (1) Jane Rendell, ‘Critical Spatial Practice’, Art Incorporated, Kunstmuseet Koge Skitsesamling, Denmark (2008)., 2 (2) Ibid., 3 (3) Ibid., 3

Mainstream urban place making is often a visual process designed to enhance the economic prospects of a place in order to sell it to desired investors, residents or tourists. In these visualisations ‘the future’ appear as a commodity that is fixed, controlled, and ready to be traded and exchanged for wealth creation. As an alternative to these place-making processes, this work explores ways of ‘place-listening’ - an immersive, embodied and multidirectional engagement with a place that adopts key tenets of critical spatial practice by challenging the view that alternative futures lie outside of the city’s reach or can only be produced by the so-called experts that plan and design it.

Cecilie Sachs Olsen
Cecilie Sachs Olsen / zURBS (

This exhibition emerges from Zaryadyology, a collaborative research project, carried out by anthropologist of architecture Michal Murawski together with a students and staff at the Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism. The research team carried out participant-observer research within and around Zaryadye Park; as well as organizing a series of Zaryadyological roundtables at several Moscow venues, including Triumph Gallery, the Higher School of Economics, the Dostoevsky Library and the Stalinist skyscraper on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment. Our methodology emerges from the concept of ‘ethnographic conceptualism’, as coined by Nikolai Ssorin-Chakov. Our curatorial work is intended to act as an ethnographic conceptualist portal between Zaryadyological research and art. Ethnographic conceptualism can be seen as one of the possible methodological paths towards ‘critical spatial practice’;  as well, as, in trans- or anti-disciplinary terms, towards a ‘critical area studies’.

Art and Architecture: A Place Between was published as I was completing my PhD and was a light-bulb moment. Jane Rendell’s definition of ‘critical spatial practices’ as creative practices in public space that are more contingent and socially engaged than public art, but less concerned with pragmatics, enabled me to theorise the way I had been working. It has been important for my teaching and creative work ever since. 

Working as a curator engaged predominantly in the public realm, my projects seek to balance critical theory and modes of practice. This balance, or relay, set forth by the concept of critical spatial practice, become malleable through various formats of knowledge production. The project described here, Silent Conversation, is such a playful format, seeking to undo normative conversational dynamics through restrictive parameters, a short and speedy time frame, and an open-ended approach to critical thinking.

The library that comprises Objects removed for study was produced in collaboration with members of the Iraqi community in London, while thinking through what Donna Haraway has called ‘epistemologies of location, positioning, and situating, where partiality and not universality is the condition’, (1) so creating a way of looking at artefacts that opposes the idea of a centralised narrative. (1) Donna Haraway, ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’, Feminist Studies, v.14, n.3, (1988). p. 589.

Rafael Guendelman Hales

In the process of archiving, of building up a lexicon or a canon, we have to address the limits of any classificatory or selective operation as conventional and exclusive. We refer to Jorge Luis Borges to develop the logic by which we try to (self-)critically choose projects, things, or events. In his renowned essay on The Analytical Language of John Wilkins he introduces a system of classification that:  “doctor Franz Kuhn attributes to a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled 'Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge'. In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.” [Jorge Luis Borges: The Analytical Language of John Wilkins, in: 'Other inquisitions 1937-1952' (University of Texas Press, 1993)]

At the core of my practice is an idea of working in collaboration with a place, listening to and sounding out a kind of relay of call and response across physical and temporal boundaries. There is a consistent empathy and solidarity with overlooked sites, materials, people and processes and an impetus to salvage, glean, assemble and illuminate the hidden in new, revealing constellations. Poetics and politics combine in varied ways and with increasing urgency.  This approach has its origins in early readings of Schumacher and a world ecology, via an MA in Scenography where space was never just a backdrop to events played out in front of static, passive scenery but the event itself, through Walter Benjamin to the mentorship of Jane Rendell and Ben Campkin. Elements of montage and film theory intertwine in an understanding of space and/as time and a layered, archaeological reading of the city and its ruptures. 

Along the Lines finds its home in between art and architecture. The railway employees are connected to professionals interested in disused spaces along the train tracks. Through public talks, Along the Lines creates an intangible space for discussions about the potential of the railway architecture, the roles of Deutsche Bahn and artists in our societies. The art installations have activated disused interlocking towers, and in so doing they have highlighted the potential of otherwise empty spaces, through a silent critique. Transformed into art spaces, the former towers not only gain a new life through their adaptive reuse, but they cater as such to a new art audience, the railway travelers. The vision of Along the Lines can be understood as a critical spatial practice, implemented through space-making, and the ‘architecture‘ made out of my cooperation with the Deutsche Bahn, exhibitions, discussions, and university classes.

Natalia Irina Roman, Tick Tack, Berlin (2019). Photographer: Natalia Irina Roman
Natalia Irina Roman

In my critical spatial practice, duration, often in long periods, is employed as a transformative factor in establishing relationships with place, weather, and seemingly inanimate materials. My works develop with reference to context and with the aim to amplify the material’s agency amongst an ecology of contingent forces. Subjectivity, emotions and bodily gesture and posture are key markers of a critical consciousness practice. I apply the same principles and values to my writing such that the act of writing and orality of reading are infused with spatial immediacy and often test the conventions of voice, tone, and format of what academic writing has been.

In my work I try to juxtapose and merge approaches and techniques from the fields of art, architecture and anthropology. I do this in order to investigate and critically engage with spatial realities from different perspectives and on various levels. In the process of making the work I strive to move back and forth between theory and practice, between the archive and the field, between the political and the poetic, and between found situations and their transformation into cultural signs. In so doing, I’m interested in what is revealed through this transformation and what kind of agency arises from it.

Michael Hirschbichler

The project aims to reveal the configuration of engaging in a labouring condition, and how it models workers’ behavior, raising, in Giorgio Agamben’s terms, the notion of the apparatus. At the same time, the approach which the project adopted addressed the nuanced space between anthropological field work, performance art, and architectural site documentation.

Subtraction is directed against the logic of continuous growth and addition. It is a vitalist, not a negative, form: the operation of elimination activates ‘potentialities of becoming.’ It is capable of creating spaces of independence and autonomy from the dominant laws of the situation. n-1 has the potential to open up a gap in ‘the history we live, the history that has been imposed on us, [that] is nothing other than the result of the other histories that this very history had to oust in order to affirm itself.’ (Carmelo Bene)

Mona Mahall and Asli Serbest

In this text, I focus on how spaces and institutions are both contested and re-assembled in result of withdrawal of artistic labour. In contrast to advocates of the business-as-usual, who are in favour of reproducing existing institutional or spatial forms, I concur that occupations or strikes are productive, also in a sense of producing spaces, where collective struggles are waged, and where new forms of being-together are engendered and tested.

Direct Urbanism involves art and artistic strategies in a durational process in urban development - on an equal level to conventional planning strategies: _for a socially engaged and process orientated urban development  _for addressing current urban issues as complex societal issues  _emphasizing public space as space for appropriation by the inhabitants/ users/  consumers (see Michel de Certeau) Direct Urbanism is a new method of planning beyond ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’. Direct Urbanism relates to direct action (Emma Goldman): It produces ‘situations’ for direct engagement and action, returning responsibility to people on site (see: ‘Silent Activism’/ Barbara Holub). For direct urbanism we have developed a number of tools and artistic-urbanistic strategies (see our publications Direct Urbanism and Planning Unplanned). Critical spatial practice connects all our projects, directly concerning ‘direct urbanism’, as well as other projects in between art, architecture and urban intervention, between theory and practice.  Our projects are characterized by our societal engagement aiming at a collective production of space and producing a specific aesthetic related to the context. 

transparadiso (Barbara Holub/Paul Rajakovics)

‘Critical spatial practice’ (Jane Rendell, 2006, 2011) has been a source of inspiration for our feminist research practices, in various collaborations (i.e. within the group FATALE and together with the collective MYCKET). Our work engages in expanding possibilities of research in architecture through collective actions together with audiences. For this purpose we have adopted methods from theatre and performance studies such as Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre and borrowed formats from contemporary history studies such as the witness seminar. A critical spatial practice means for us an ethical practice which is inclusive and respectful.

Action Archive (Meike Schalk, Sara Brolund de Carvalho, Helena Mattsson + Beatrice Stude)

The work prioritizes ways to be responsive, adaptive, and to challenge normative spatial expectations, identities, and relations. Seeking to make visible often invisible or ignored conditions, the work more broadly works as a critique to the boundaries of the architectural discipline, always with the expectation to expand the potentials for design to become more critically relevant and politically engaged.  

a place called … evolved into my next urban design intervention, Words upon a Place, where I used interactive benches to tell stories from different places in a city. The benches gace voice to citizens who normally have less of a voice in society and let them tell their story about their place. The benches are located in Skovparken, a deprived housing neighbourhood in Kolding, Denmark and in the Library park in the centre of the city of Kolding, Denmark The intervention is also part of my Ph.D.

As a European architect practicing within the ‘development’ environments of Sub-Saharan Africa I struggle to find a neutral-objective voice. Development is fraught with civilizing pathologies of colonialism that are obscured by neo-liberal discourses of humanitarianism and prosperity. Through critical spatial practices, my work has been able to find a distance between my traditional role as designer of buildings in these contexts and this voice, but within close proximity to understand the relations between ‘development’ built environments and colonial histories, discourses and sites of exploitation. Working with a film-maker from behind the lens, voice is given creative space to reflect and manoeuvre.

Killian Doherty (in collaboration with Edward Lawrenson)

When I was looking for meaningful ways to describe what I was trying to do –and intentionally setting out some distance from other descriptions I felt partial or insufficient- I vividly remember stumbling into the concept of ‘critical spatial practice’ sometimes in the early 00s, by way of bridging other writings on social aspects of the city and non-gallery based approaches to art. The convergence of those three words (critique/space/practice), joined into a specificity of place, meaning of approach and purposeful action seemed to mean all that I couldn’t figure out from the word ‘art’ or any other art genres vocabulary that kept being wrapped around my intentions. The possibilities opened up by that encounter with language at its most generative level summoned courage and a willingness to exist in a tradition of work that suddenly became visible and productive and still propel my practice in all its aspects. Thanks Jane, that was you and still you are.

My work explores the idea that certain forms of play can also be critical.  Drawing from the concept of critical spatial practice I have coined the term critical play, which I understand as a relational situated process that is both highly engaging while allowing the distance for self-reflexive criticality. I see in the practice of critical play a useful methodology for dealing with contexts of social and urban conflict, or as a tool for enhancing our perception and relation with the built environment. 

Catalina Pollak Williamson / Public Interventions

My work, encompassing writing for text or performance, visual and embodied material, falls in between my positions as an artist and a psychoanalysis reader and patient. My writing stages theoretical questions with rhetorical strategies. It is site-writing, ficto-critical, a form of resistance, a way to make and to critique simultaneously. The spaces of the encounter with the work of art are often remembered, dreamed or imagined as a matter of two, viewer and work. Thus, the issue of positioning, of where we stand when we create knowledge, is questioned in the writing itself, through both internal (psychic) and external spatial qualities.

While live performance and other creative art forms tend to frame the truth through fiction – sanctioned by a mutual agreement to suspend disbelief – an increasing onslaught of media images makes it difficult to separate theatricality from socio-political reality outside the arts arena. Such complexity could be understood through performance design, which, as an extended notion of scenography, provides a critical practice for acknowledging and commenting on the inundation of events – historical, aesthetic and quotidian – played out in a highly mediated world of unfolding global performances. Through participatory embodied witnessing, my installations, exhibitions and performances aim to operate ‘a/part’ – inviting the observer to be both a part of (bodily immersed) and apart from (critically distanced) the work. This deliberately oscillates between the intensive experience of Antonin Artaud advocated in his ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ and the socio-political engagement demanded by Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Theatre of Alienation’. As an intertwining of imagination and reality, it is always haunted by Lacan’s notion of the unrepresentable Real.

Dorita Hannah (with Sean Coyle)

I like to think that critical spatial practice was a significant discovery (but not in the usual colonialist sense—no room for further elaboration here). I dare to suppose that my work shares in the fruits of that discovery, as I try to show how critical spatial practice is evident in all kinds of works, places, and biographies, past and present. I understand it as potentially counter-hegemonic, and as a spatial counter-point, for instance, to Raymond Williams’ proposal for a study of ‘structures of feeling’.

Having not felt like eating, but eaten, I sat down to eat / tea … on one hand gives an account of the self as a site of contestation, its form given by the multiple negotiations between what we as human beings can know, and what we can imagine. One the other, the work offers multiple sites in which the self is produced, that is an offering of a terrain in which the minute perceptions of linguistic, material, social and psychic,al propensities and affordances draw forth the otherness always already within any conception we have of (our)selves. The work is a site of perdurance – relationalities of perseverance and resistance – ontologically productive to all life.

As enactors of the FCLC project we take inspiration from recent writings on contemporary performance, spatial and material practices that ask us to consider how the field of scenography has expanded (McKinney and Palmer, 2017), or moves ‘beyond scenography’ (Hann, 2019), in relation to writings on feminist spatial practices (muf 2001; Rendell 2003; Schalk et al 2017).

Slow Research Lab initiates interdisciplinary projects that interrogate and respond to unique contexts and/or conditions of the human-built environment. Those ‘in-situ dialogues’ consider the broader ecology and evolving nature of a given site: including continuous unfoldings of material expression, visible and invisible webs of relationship (human/nonhuman, living/nonliving), sensorial and synaesthetic experiences that the site affords, and more. Within such temporary communities of practice, individual and collective desires give way to objects, spatial constructs, performance, sonic intervention, readings, writings, gestures, and actions – valuable not as ends to themselves, but as traces of process and portals to new levels of (mutual) understanding.

Slow Research Lab

My practice fluctuates between installations of objects and videos that are situated within gallery spaces, and projects such as ASSET ARREST that intervene in the commercial spaces that my work and research is concerned with. I view such interventions as a form of critical spatial practice in that they appropriate private and exclusive space for other uses by finding an opening to exploit. In the case of ASSET ARREST, I call the strategy employed ungating, and this is a term I apply to various projects and practices that utilise openings in seemingly closed-off spatial constructs towards imagining and making something else. 

My work has tended to begin with a text/texts, found or otherwise, and works with them in relation to a certain site/sites. The site-specific nature of each piece of work evolves from a process of re-reading and movement in relation to the texts, histories, spaces, practices and politics of each site; layering and shifting them in relation to one another to understand them from a different point of view. This close looking at everyday – or even ‘banal’ – architectures and landscapes, in conjunction with an experimental means of dissemination, invites a broad public to engage with the work with the eye of a critical tourist. 

Interested in what things do rather than what they are, this project draws on New Materialist thinking, feminist writing practices, photographic documentation, drawing and dance scores to create a practice of ‘sitting in’ or an archaeology of the present which responds to the material of the body, materiality of the site and affective relations between the two, as well as the writings of Kathleen Stewart to create a language thick with intimate resonances of everyday details near and far.  

Critical spatial practice is a major reference point for my work (and especially for transparadiso’s method of direct urbanism). My work as an artist oscillates between public space and art institutions, engaging in how to address diverse publics (also in corporate companies) by fostering ‘situations’ for engagement – for returning responsibility to the ‘consumer’ (Michel de Certeau), and how to translate the experience of projects in the urban/public realm into the exhibition space. This is what I call ‘silent activism’: I want to encourage the audience/ participants to explore their personal potential of engaging in societal issues – investigating the role of art in society as an ongoing parallel level. 

Barbara Holub (realized with Marie Christine Rissinger, Elisabeth Stephan & Julian Verocai)

The work prioritizes ways to be responsive, adaptive, and to challenge normative spatial expectations, identities, and relations. Seeking to make visible often invisible or ignored conditions, the work more broadly works as a critique to the boundaries of the architectural discipline, always with the expectation to expand the potentials for design to become more critically relevant and politically engaged. 

Lori A. Brown and ArchiteXX Design Action

When starting a project, I know there will be a set of variables inherent to the topic being explored. These variables give physical manifestation to the work even though the perceived outcome might be a combination of physical and ephemeral. Variables are taken through a set of exercises, almost gymnastic in nature in order to let go of preconceptions, such as gravity. The goal is to generate alternative forms that are inherent to the design project but could not have been envisioned at the onset. The outcome seeks to establish a design strategy where the outcome is not known until multiple variables intersect. – Lois Weinthal

Design Team (Jordan Evans, Evan Jerry, Ryla (Jakelski) Gutbier, and Lois Weinthal)

Jhono’s work as strategic director and co-founder of 1to1 has focused on leading his organisation to systemically address spatial inequality in South Africa through the support and capacitation of residents of informal neighbourhoods. He has done so through tactically linking elements of national government, the private sector of the building industry and universities in South Africa via self-developed initiatives that have seen the development of situated methods of neighbourhood building, designing and facilitation that focus on designing process support tools and approaches. These tacitly designed tools play a crucial role in his advocacy work that aims to dissolve ingrained negative perceptions of grass-roots value in city-making processes in post-colonial and post-apartheid cities of Southern Africa.

I am invested in how architectural knowledge changes when it is reconsidered from the perspective of an affective encounter. Affect – the relational intensity connecting things, people and space – reframes how architecture is perceived and understood. Affective evidence – premised on site-specific encounters – may unpack architecture and spatial narratives particularly where there are obstacles including war, conflict, governmental embargoes, and censorship. One major strand of my research focuses on domesticity, an analytical category that differentiates itself from ‘housing’ and ‘home.’ My work explores how a representation of home that pays attention to domesticity’s granular evidence and gendered routines may politicize its discourse.

Lilian Chee

Jane Rendell’s seminal work on ‘critical spatial practice’ continues to inspire my interest in critique as engagement with public and private, entwined and co-productive. I have been fortunate to benefit from Jane’s research leadership at the UCL which facilitated invaluable feminist approaches to the specific ethical dilemmas in academic work. Although thematic focus of my research is not always explicitly feminist, building my practice in the direction of ‘feeling with(in) thinking’ has been greatly influenced and encouraged by Katie Lloyd Thomas and her feminist theory and practice of ‘building while being in it’.

Tijana Stevanović (with contributions from Jan van Duppen; includes work of late Miodrag Stevanović)

‘Site-writing’ and making is the fundamental basis of my practice as it draws from fieldwork and site works in landscapes and interiors. ‘Deep mapping’ practices that require investigating everything you might want to know about a place inform the collection. Travelling and practising with others is the other necessary ingredient in the archive of experience and material gathered over time that enriches my practice, which is really just an ongoing experiment, now focused on the criticality of water in culture. 

The game is an ‘event score’ that is transformed by the voices of the players reading the stories, which take on a different accent and performative quality. In part it is a piece of site-writing, which connects the sites it is performed in, and uses methodologies derived from Jane Rendell’s work on site-writing and critical spatial practice.  The game acts as a form of détoured critical spatial practice, bringing something new into relation with the Brixton narratives each time it is played.

Through my work I try to challenge conventional historical approaches in order to acknowledge characters, tendencies and ways of understanding or interpreting which have been excluded or overlooked. I mostly work through writing or exhibition curating and design. I approach architecture from a multidisciplinary perspective interrogating its role in culture and society, locally and globally. I consider my work as part of a critical spatial practice in the sense that its ultimate aim is to try to broaden the scope of architecture through a contamination from other more inclusive fields such as art and fashion.

Ana Araujo (in the collaboration with Catalina Mejia Moreno)

I have developed socio-spatial production of the tour as a form of critical spatial practice. This has involved affecting shifts in thinking from site as fixed location to a context for learning, from the institutional preservation of buildings to everyday user activation and from consumer product to socially produced tour to evolve learner-centred approaches to touring as a process.  Making ‘insertions’ into existing locations, exploring relations between immediate reactions and reverberations over time, linking concentration with contemplation in making critical responses has evolved a particular understanding of participation - in which people use the mediating capacities of geo-located data, audio narratives or annotated maps as cues to action in seemingly controlled spaces.

David Roberts collaborates with community groups to re-enact and reactivate emancipatory spaces and ideals, drawing on critical acts of writing and performance as a mode of design, as a method of engagement, and a means of activism. On site, he gathers residents around their radical social, political and architectural histories to open a social, discursive and imaginative space from which to build collective knowledge and experiences and share this publicly through artworks, interventions and campaigns. This critical spatial practice brings site writing in dialogue with dramaturgy and devising to raise questions and amplify voices.

Ridley’s was open to the public for three weeks, with an intricate programme of events organised in collaboration with other people. The building of the structure of the restaurant was collaborative, with simple construction techniques requiring little construction knowledge. Inserted in a public space, Ridley’s was a critical spatial project because it critiqued standardized strategies for market renovation while imagining and enacting an alternative possibility. It put forward an exchange system that was hopeful of creating social change, performing non-monetary exchanges of goods and affect, while at the same time stimulating trade in an economically deprived context. 

The Decorators + Atelier Chan Chan

My practice is situated in between disciplines; in between art and architecture, sociology and urban studies … It is an interdisciplinary practice concerned with space, location, situation that emphasises my personal involvement and subjective observations utilising and transforming methods from these fields along with inventing new tools and strategies. Through my practice I’m always questioning the relationship between contemporary art production and the urban regeneration process, the potential of a critical position that the artist occupies when becoming involved in the process of urban regeneration, and through this experience, a knowledge contribution to the critical spatial practice produced within contemporary art discourse.

Apolonija Šušteršič

This project explores Rendell’s ideas of critical spatial practice, where various historic layers are re-interpreted through ritual, and myth making. It reflects upon Hill’s ideas of immaterial architectures, where sounds from the site, voice and instrumentation create acoustic layerings that alter experience of site.i It examines Böhme’s notions of atmospheres, how the experience of site is not just informed by the architecture, or the known history, but also by what each of the practitioners and audience members brings to the project. Where they have been and what they have done is seen as contributory in the process of meaning making, and experience of site. i Jonathan Hill, Immaterial Architecture, (London; New York: Routledge, 2006). ii Jane Rendell, ‘Site-Writing: Critical Spatial Practice,’ in Expanded Spatial Practices: A symposium exploring the conditions and possibilities for cross-disciplinary approaches to spatial practice ed. Linda Walker and John Barbour (South Australia: UniSA, 2009). iii Gernot Böhme, ‘Fundamental Concept of a New Aesthetics,’ Thesis Eleven 36, no. 1 (1993).

Sarah Breen Lovett (with WeiZen Ho, Alan Schacher, Honi Ryan, Ben Denham, Monika Books & Clare Cooper)

The definition put by Jane Rendell of ‘critical spatial practice’ as a practice that operates between disciplines and spaces, and offers alternatives to binary thinking; has helped structure my research method navigating through the multiplicity of border conditions. This method of bordering has been particularly relevant within situations of civil conflict where the notion of division is more complex than simply two separate sides, of us and them, and requires one to think through the border as an activity and a living condition. It also considers the artist/researcher’s position to be inseparable from the politics of the borders that are being investigated. The resultant is the production of new narratives that operate across people, spaces, times, media and representations, and have the potential to expose the construction of certain dominant narratives and question their hegemony.

Since the 1960s, interdisciplinary crossovers amongst art, cinema, performance and architecture have been referred to as ‘expanded.’ Thus, the title of this exhibition series, Expanded Architecture, was developed within the lineage of such practices as expanded art, expanded cinema, expanded field, and expanded spatial practice. In each of these practices, the term expanded was first used in very specific ways, but then was broadly employed in a less-defined manner as the terminology became adopted, morphed and adapted to suit various interpretations.  Despite the unarguable expansive connotations of the term expanded, when used in association with interdisciplinary practices, it does not refer to an indefinite expansion into other disciplines. Rather, here it is used to refer to an internal interrogation of one’s own discipline through the lens of other disciplines, that is, expanded architecture questions what the parameters of architecture are and how they can be examined through other practices, such as installation, performance, moving image, sound art, and so on. It is an eternal expansion of depth into the unknown that can be considered infinitely richer than expanding in all directions. It is hoped that if expanded, and expanded architecture continues to be used as a term, it will shed new light on architecture, opening up new cracks in the wall to reveal and reconstruct our spatial, material, sensorial, mental, social, cultural, and metaphysical relationships to it in built form and as a discipline. Expanded Architecture also reflects upon reflective of Rendell’s discussion around expanded spatial practice and critical spatial practice, because of its implied relationship to the spectator and situated-ness within various contexts. Rendell coined the term ‘expanded spatial practice’ in 2009 as ‘an expanded consciousness of space: thinking and practicing space in an expanded sense might then place emphasis on interior spaces of the psyche as well as those external landscapes, but also on what it means to operate spatially . . . establishing a relation between the two.’ (1) An expanded spatial practice could also be considered less politically and socially motivated than Rendell’s other term, ‘critical spatial practice’, which she describes as work that has ‘spatial, temporal and social considerations.’ (2) In Rendell’s definition of critical spatial practice, there is arguably a fine line between art that evokes an effect and art that critically engages with its disciplinary context. (3) Also of relevance is Rendell’s description of critical spatial practice that is ‘at the edge of between and across different disciplines, … adopting methods that call into question disciplinary procedures.’ (4) That is, the expanded nature of the inquiry is done specifically to interrogate the parameters of one’s own discipline. (1) Rendell, "Site-Writing," p. 7. (2) Rendell, Art and Architecture, p. 2. (3) Rendell, Art and Architecture, p. 101. (4) ibid., p. 43. 

Sarah Breen Lovett (with co-curators Claudia Perren, Lee Stickells & Yvette Hamilton)

Jane Rendell distinguishes between spatial practices and critical spatial practices by pointing out to their respective descriptive and transformative approaches. My definition of traditional topographical practices and critical topographical practices is derived from Rendell’s distinction. Critical topographical practices refer to practices that regard place as multiple, subjective and open, whereas traditional topographical practices seek to define place as a determinable and quantitatively fixed whole, which indicates a closed system and certain set of elements located within this. This definition sets out rules of engagement, which position the surveyor and the viewer outside the place, looking at it from a fixed and often dominating point of view. Critical topographical practices, on the other hand, offer an ‘experimentation’, rather than an ‘imitation’ of a place that performs a place rather than reproduces it. 

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