University of Tasmania
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Performing spatial labour : rendering sensible (in)visibilities around architectures of internment

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:58 authored by Weinstein, BM
This doctoral project correlates two seemingly separate conditions of invisibility currently at the forefront of architectural discourse. One is invisibility perpetuated through spaces of internment or detention. The other is hidden architectural labour shouldered by office interns and on-site building workers. Through a practice-based investigation, I ask how installations and performances employing architecture's instruments‚ÄövÑvÆdrawings, models and texts‚ÄövÑvÆcan make sensible, or knowable through the senses, the camp as a recurrent condition. Through this inquiry, practices producing oscillations between visibility and invisibility, including erasing and un/re-making, have emerged, contributing to a critical praxis that I call spatial labour. The research draws upon political philosophy's distinctions between labour, as ongoing process, and work, as produced object, and the centrality of performance as both the \doing and [the] thing done\" (Diamond 1996 p. 1). The research also questions the invisibility or hypervisibility of creative labour. Spatial and temporal partitioning of labour shape sensible or aesthetic experience and this \"distribution of the sensible\" as theorised by Jacques Ranci‚àö¬Ære is political (2004 p. 12). The ultimate spatial partitioning separating out those reduced to what Giorgio Agamben names \"bare life\" manifests under the \"state of exception\" as the camp (1998 pp. 8 174). As a spatial condition called forth through governmental performative utterances performance and architectural theories offer critical perspectives from which to spatially interrogate and performatively challenge these artefacts and their author(ity)s. The project is framed through two case studies of government-mandated and now-demolished camps. The first examines four World War II-era Assembly or Relocations Centres in the United States created through President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Orders #9066 and #9102 in which Japanese Americans were interned and contracted to weave camouflage netting for the US Army. These internment camps were Santa Anita and Manzanar (located in California) and Poston and Gila (in Arizona). The second case study investigates the Centre d'Identification de Vincennes (CIV) in Paris created in 1959 under France's State of Emergency Law to detain Algerians during their war of independence. Embodied situated and archival research revealed five protagonists: sites governments building professionals witnesses and the interned. It exposed internees' labour weaving camouflage moulding bricks and fabricating scale models in the United States and their being prevented from labouring and earning livelihood in France. Spaces traces atmospheres and protagonists' renditions of their experiences informed my iterative explorations. I conducted these through architectural drawing and erasing physical and digital (un)modelling and text-ile labour. I looked to precedents in visual and performance art practices of un-making maintaining and re-making space as well as erasing and other (dis)appearing acts as models of practice. I re-purposed architectural modes of representation forensically to uncover evidence at what Eyal Weizman calls the \"threshold of detectability\" (2017 p. 20). I shifted architectural practices away from making conclusive works and towards cyclically performed labours. The most significant performance-installation outcomes include Intern[ed] (2017) States of Exception (2018) and Palimpsest (2019). These explore subtle yet complex redacted erased palimpsestic and scarred US sites and the distinctly obfuscated conditions around the site in Paris made visible through forensic architectural methods. The resulting drawn photographic video and material traces of these performed spatial labours were installed in Hobart's Plimsoll Gallery to choreograph visitors' experiences. Through critical and performative spatial actions this research contributes to scholarship creative practice and activism implicating architecture in propagating invisible labour and exposing the ubiquity of internment and the role of built environments as a tool of oppression. Performing spatial labour enacts this critique by rendering these erasures sensible."


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Copyright 2020 the author Portions of the thesis appear to be the equivalent of a preprint version of an article This article has been accepted for publication in Performance research, published by Taylor & Francis.

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