Over the past few decades the contemporary city has been considered not as a physical object, but rather as a fluid, multi-layered entity crisscrossed by territorial, political and social processes. I refer to scholars of urban studies Michael Batty (2013), Mathieu Hélie (2009) and Bernard Tschumi (1994) and sociologist John Urry (2003) who consider the city as a complex and emergent system generated through dynamic relationships. As Tschumi (1994) suggested, urban spaces are continuously rebuilt whenever and wherever events interact. Scholars of critical cartography have noted that alternative modalities, new tools and methods to map the contemporary city proposed by ‘performers-as- radical-mapmakers’, have increasingly been used as tactics to explore, de-scale and re-appropriate urban space against dominant geographical knowledge (Crampton 2005; Dodge et al. 2009; Crampton & Krygier 2010; Wood 2003). In particular, dance practices and the use of body as a medium have offered fresh perspectives on urban mapping. Such practices have explored the city as unquantifiable, immaterial and embodied experiences (Perkins 2009). However, when such practices are translated into maps, the physical presence of the body is reduced to a disembodied visual display. In this research, I suggest that this modality is still related to traditional cartographic under- standing, specifically to visual and info-graphic culture. To date, the body has had limited use as a cartographic tool to embody and represent spatial data collected in urban space. I argue that, to fully capture and represent the complexity of urban space in the construction of maps, we need to reclaim the physical presence of the body, de-mediated as much as possible. The body has the capacity, in particular as used in performance art, to provide tools and methodologies that transform embodied experiences of urban spaces into maps. For example, in site-specific works, the performer is able to create a relationship, a mutual exchange, between space and body. Furthermore, these exchanges can be reconfigured into a choreographic gesture creation process leading to the construction of a performance. To address the limited use of the body to map urban spaces, I adapted methods from cartography for use by performance artists and developed a toolkit for performers to systematically map and represent the city with their body. My investigations explored the following questions: How can a body be a map? How can we use body practices (performance art and dance) to map the city? How can we adapt methods from cartography for use by performance artists? Which media are the most suitable for such mapping practices in, and representations of, the contemporary city? How can we develop a toolkit for performers, in response to the above questions, so that they can systematically map the city with their body? How can such corporeal maps best be represented? I addressed these questions by researching, designing and testing EM Tools for urban mapping for performers. The iterative design and testing emerged through case studies in Aarhus, Hong Kong and Malmö/Copenhagen as shown below.
Case Study#1 Aarhus – November 2014
Location: Kunsthal; Participatory IT/Department of Aesthetic of Communication, University of Aarhus; Media Architecture Biennale, Aarhus.
Case Study#2 Hong Kong – April 2015
Location: School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong; Shek Kip Mei, Hong Kong – the case study was hosted by FUSE: Artist-in-Residence Program @ Videotage.
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Case Study#3 Copenhagen/Malmö – June 2015
Location: Adaptive Environment Research Group/Intermedia Lab, ITU/University of Copenhagen, Living Archive Project K3/University of Malmö.