Random Cartographies Experiment #2

Working title: Reflections on making, unmaking and remaking space in Alexandria

Experiment #1 explored how Alexandria is folded space: layered, scrunched, flattened, stitched, stacked, unravelled, and continually metamorphosed through place-making processes and flows. Experiment #2 explores the folding of space in Alexandria through different metamorphic processes: reflection and refraction. Moreover, if space is unravelling, unstitching and unfolding in Alexandria, this experiment speculates on how to put it back together - how to reassemble the folds and flows of space - through image-making. The experiment uses metamorphic artefacts found on site: it uses shattered sheets double-laminated glass as devices for reflection and refraction ... and re-assemblage through the manipulation of light and perspective. Reflection can be seen as a form of folding space using refracted light. This experiment also directly responds to the materiality and idea of Alexandria-as-folded-space by using artefacts found on site and conducting image-making activities about reflection/folding on site.

What is reflected in the glass is the entanglement of relations that construct place - relations between buildings, ground, objects, atmosphere and, later in the experiment, bodies too. Entangling is another form of folding that produces space. Entanglements of entities, objects and ideas shift over time, re-folding space. In relation to the deindustrialisation of Alexandria and the deterioration of the Dunlop-Slazenger Factory building, I am also using reflection to explore how spatial entanglements, in their relationship to temporal entanglements, can flow and (un)fold backwards as well as forwards. In short, I am thinking about how to use to reflection to reassemble and remake the architecture of the building, even as the structure unfolds and deteriorates. This means also leaving the cracks and gaps in time and space through which folding and (re)stitching take place.

The approach to this experiment, while prompted by finding shattered double-laminated glass on site, is also informed by the photographic work of Jorma Puranen. In series such as Icy Prospects (2005) and Sixteen Steps to Paradise (2008), Puranen photographed landscapes as reflected in black-gloss-painted wood. He did this to explore how the reflection of light acts as a mediator of images, obscures access to them, and adds layers of uncertainty about specific historical and geographical realities. We don't 'see' the world mimetically, but always reflected through our vision and our understandings of time and space, past and present. Puranen's reflected light is an agent, method and metaphor for how we understand and approach the transformation of landscape. This pushed me to attempt a similar experiment here, but using materials of a different sort found on site, and thus already part of the changing landscape.

Stage #1

The experiment was conducted in two stages (I am hoping for a third stage - I've been waiting for the weather to clear! If it doesn't, I nevertheless feel there is significant work here in speculating about how to interrogate folded space and spatial entanglements through reflection). The idea of using reflection was impelled by discovering a pile of shattered double-laminated glass in a dumpsite in the car park adjacent to the abandoned factory building. On the evening of 21 January I decided to take one of the more 'intact' pieces of glass and position it on the ground adjacent to the building (on the street footpath) in order to reflect and fold the elements of the site together onto the glass. In this way, the building, the atmosphere, the trees, etc, are folded into the glass on the footpath.

Here is a series of images from that first experiment, moving along the footpath next to the building to capture its process of folding at different transects:

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Stage #2

The second stage of the experiment was conducted on the afternoon of 22 January. Initially, following Paul's advice, this experiment was more focused towards the process of trying to reassemble the factory building through reflection; bringing it back together in an entanglement of glass even while it unfolded and deteriorated. To do this I used not just one piece of glass, but a number of pieces, laid out adjacent to the building in order to attempt to both (1) reassemble the shattered glass and (2) reassemble the building through folding it into the shattered glass on the ground. Thus, there was two layers of reassembling through entanglement. In a sense, it is the reverse of Gordon Matta-Clark's Splitting (1974), in which he cut through, dissected, split apart a suburban house to prompt reflection on the objects and practices of daily suburban life. The breach, the tear, the gap, symbolises the rending and unfolding of space. In my experiment, the reassembled shattered glass necessarily contains a number of gaps and breaches, even while I use it to attempt to reflect (on) the reassembling of the factory building. For me, this signifies the continuous and recursive nature of spatial entanglements - there are always cracks, fractures and gaps, even in the process of making and remaking, which could be seen as the tension points through which further unmaking and unfolding occur. The construction of space involves a range of processes operating in tension at the same time - folding, unfolding, stitching, unstitching, tearing, repairing.

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But while working through the process of this experiment on site, I became aware of further elements, entities and entanglements coming into play in the process of remaking this site through reflection and refraction. The experiment was conducted during the afternoon, with the sun shining directly on the building. To produce a shadow on the ground and capture the reflection of the building, I had to use my own body to cast a shadow in order to refract the light through the glass. Thus I realised my body was part of the experiment, part of the entangling of space, and part of the folded landscape of Alexandria on this site at this time of day. This was very interesting, and extended the idea of folded space - the body itself is folded into the production of space - their is a relation between body, atmosphere, building, ground, object, shadow and light in the production of space. Roni Horn made similar visual claims in her work Becoming a Landscape (1999-2001), in which she paired close ups of Icelandic thermal springs and the faces of young people to comment on the relationship between body and landscape. Here, though, rather than pairing, I directly fold the body and the landscape together. As well as signifying - indeed reflecting and demonstrating - the role of the body in the production of space, through the use of my own body this experiment also signifies the role of the artist in the production of image-making, and that the body itself is a tool (or can be a tool) in this process.

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As I continued to use my body in the production of the experiment and the space (and the space of the experiment!), I further noted the folding of the exterior of the building onto the skin of my body. Their was a direct alignment, a merging, of the fabric/skin of the building and the fabric/skin of my body. Body and building were entwined together as interrelated modes of corporeal space (since the body itself is a folded space too). I decided to try to move my body around in order to try to make the building appear as if it was the very clothing I was wearing (although imperfect and torn). If space is a folding between different entities, I sought to 'wear' the building's exterior in an effort to explore, through experimentation, how intimate the folding of space can be. I was thinking about how space folds against the body and becomes a second skin.

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Applying notions of folding, tearing and repairing, and using processes of reflection and refraction, this experiment explores how the entanglement of buildings, ground, object, body and atmosphere are suffused in the production of space. Entanglement - ingredients - is part of producing space. Mixing ingredients reveals the recursive process of making, unmaking and remaking space.