Proxemics is a term coined by Edward T. Hall describing the study of the “personal bubble” or the amount of space that people feel necessary to set between themselves and others.  Hall felt this study was not only valuable in interpersonal communication but directly connected “the organization of space in [their] houses and buildings, and ultimately the layout of [their] towns”.  Hall was especially interested in identifying cultural differences in relation to personal space.  He used biometric concepts (smell, touch, temperature, etc) to organize and explore the ways people interacted in space and invented a pictorial and numerical system to note variations in interaction.  The video below gives a brief overview of his work in proxemics.

Interestingly, I was first introduced to the concept of proxemics through a book on improvisational choreography titled The Intimate Act of Choreography by Lynne Anne Blom and L. Tarin Chaplin.  In the book, Blom and Chaplin cover many ways to consider space including stage space, geometry, environment, floor pattern, personal space, and many others.  They write about considering space an active participant within the choreography and also address how choreography can violate dancer’s sense of personal space by forcing other dancers into closer proximity than they would allow outside of the studio.

See also:  

Hall, Edward T. (October 1963). “A System for the Notation of Proxemic Behavior”. American Anthropologist65 (5): 1003–1026. doi:10.1525/aa.1963.65.5.02a00020

Hall, Edward T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Anchor Books.

“Grass is Greener” Syndrome

The “Grass is Greener” Syndrome is a very fitting way to describe the constant nagging feeling that there is always something better somewhere else.  Rather than feeling safe and secure in the current space, a person experiencing the syndrome feels that there is more and better in every other space and place around, the anxiety of making the wrong choice to stay put, fears of compromise and commitment turning to oppressive sacrifice.  When experiencing this, the perception is that another space, another place will provide everything wanted, needed, valued, and all the issues that currently plague will fade away.

What’s interesting to me in light of site-specific performance is the transformative power of fantasy and perception.  The space itself doesn’t change .  Perception can be rooted in perfectionism and idealizations that will never be met.   The projection of fantasy image onto a space becomes more prevalent than reality.  Never being able to live up to the standards set, the space always disheartens and disappoints.  How do you view something you already think you know with fresh eyes, letting it be exactly what it is?

As a note “Grass is Greener” Syndrome is a close relative of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out),  which is a newer term added to the dictionary in 2013.  It’s defined as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’’.  More specifically, it refers to people who obsessively check social media so they don’t feel out of the loop.  “It drives you to keep running around the digital hamster wheel to feel okay with yourself.”

One way to combat both “Grass is Greener” and FOMO?  Gratitude.

Sources: Psych Central, Time, Coppes

Photo credit and other ways to overcome both: The Balanced Life

Detroit City FC

-c48351d0c8fda0e7.jpgI attended my first Detroit City FC (DCFC) game last night and was blown away by the performance of the fans with their relentless chanting and enthusiasm throughout the whole match.   Watch one of Northern Guard Supporter’s chants below.  Not present is the red and gold smoke released when DCFC scored, covering the field and noticeably obstructing the players’ and officials’ view.  I kept wondering what the purpose of all the chanting was since it didn’t seem to aid the players in any way except on an energetic level that I think both teams benefitted from.  It’s definitely a way of community building and blowing off steam but also adds exclusivity, an us vs. them among the fans.  The aggressiveness and threats are off putting as that’s always been a critique of mine within the sports atmosphere (long history of sports officiating) since I’ve seen talks of violence turn physical.    But for the majority, it’s just talk and I’m always impressed by the coordination of large groups of people performing in sync.

Special Relativity, History, and Detroit

I’m marking this in the to read fully later category: Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which concludes that space and time are relative (i.e., they depend on the motion of the observer who measures them) and light is more fundamental than either.  To take this a step further, studies have shown that people don’t evaluate the past and future in the same way.  Everything that is behind a person (time/object) is perceived as further away than what’s in front of that person even if the distance is measured to be exactly the same.

The link between space and time is fascinating especially when I think about many of the conversations that I’ve had about the city of Detroit so far this summer.  What does the past tell us about the present?  What if this past is so far away that many of the people who once inhabited the space no longer do; claiming the space and its history for a new generation.  Most people want to talk about the past: the history of a specific building, the back entrance of the stadium their grandpa always used, the events that took place there, and especially the Riots of ’67 (also called 12th Street Riots).  There’s no doubt that the 12th Street Riots marked the tipping point in race relations in Detroit and shaped many of views of the city during its steady decline.  In August, a film based on the story of the riots by Kathryn Bigelow called “Detroit” will make its premiere.  I wonder what the goal of the film is and can’t wait to find out.  Like many, I’m curious about the public image that this will bring about a city that is still in the midst of recovering.




Liberty’s Secret Soundtrack

Good news!  Liberty’s Secret Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is out now on iTunes, Amazon, and “wherever fine lesbian-political-musical-comedy soundtracks are sold”.  The music was composed by Andy Kirshner (the film’s writer, director, and producer) and features stars Jacléne Wilk, Cara AnnMarie, and many others!

Sadly, Andy did not ask me to sing for the album, but since I was behind the scenes for almost all of the film (spot my cameo), I guess that makes sense.

Check out behind the scenes during recording of “I Dare Not Speak Your Name” with Jacléne Wilk.  via Facebook



Robert Morris “Untitled”

Since I have been named Towson U’s unofficial “minimalist advisor”, I would be remiss not to at least briefly mention how the Minimalist movement of the 60s started to provide ground work for many future explorations in site-specificity.  This can be most clearly seen in Robert Morris work “Untitled“, pictured below.  The work consisted of four mirrored cubes that the audience walked around.   In this piece Morris was drawing attention to the audience’s body in relation to the work and space, how each interacted with the objects and surroundings.  He hoped to “…confuse the interior space of a work with the exterior circumstances of their presentation.”  In other words, he wanted to create a sense of feeling both inside and outside of the geometric object being presented to bring into question how audience interaction and awareness of one’s own body influences interpretation and experience.  Of this Morris states his goal as “…amplifying the viewers’ continually shifting position while redefining his perception of ‘real space’.”

I wonder if fun house carnival mirror rooms came before or after this.  Untitled 1965, reconstructed 1971 by Robert Morris born 1931

GPS Doodles

Artist and bike enthusiast Stephen Lund uses GPS technology (Strava) to map his bike rides into “GPS drawings”.   To decide on his route, he labors over maps of the city finding opportunities to create continuous line drawings in shapes that “pop out” at him.  While Lund is not the only artist to use GPS to draw, his work has some parallels to Richard Long’s walks in that they both arrive at documentation of solitary pursuits within a specific place.    In addition, they both “draw” over the landscape: Long with manipulation of physical space and Lund with manipulation of mapping space.  They also each heavily use repetition with every new iteration resembling closely the one that came before in technique and concept.  What fascinates me is seeing the space tell a story independent of its ancient history.

stephen-lund-52__700.jpg stephenlund-04.jpggps3.jpg


GM Plaza

Watch the water dance.  No, actually don’t watch it.  Listen to the water dance.  Imagine that the wind is not blowing the hardest it has been all week.  Imagine each molecule has its own purpose explained as it hits the pavement with a slap.  The kids, the visitors supply the background, the context, for the journey from river to stream to this stream.  This stream.  This stream of variation, variant energy, multiplicity of reason, action and reaction and release down the drain, down the tubes, down below, downtown where fear is there even as it is being remade into promise.

The Fountain at GM Plaza

A short study I filmed as part of research about site-specific performance and urban environments.

Richard Long

I’ve been thinking lately about the performative possibilities of walks, especially in the form of tours, as a way to heighten awareness of the seemingly mundane and uncover the true nature of space and place.  Artist Richard Long provides an interesting starting point for this.  Several of Richard Long’s works are based around his response to environments that he has walked in.  Often times, his sculptures are made from found materials taken directly from those environments or by deliberately changing the landscape.   A Line Made by Walking is one of his formative pieces beginning to answer questions of impermanence, motion, and relativity that much of his work is concerned with.  In a field near his daily commute, he walked forwards and backwards along a line until it became visible adding a performative element to his land art and veering from his usual sculptural works.  Richard Long went on to make a series of many, many more walks, which were always made according to some structure such as a geometrical plan, mileage, number of days or something else.  He wasn’t responding to historical aspect of place and the structures for the walks he created were arbitrary, creating empty rituals.  He would return to the gallery and exhibit photographs, maps, and sculptural works based on these walks, which makes me wonder who was the intended audience and if the performance was end goal or documentation.  I’m leaving this link of some criticism of his work because for me it brings up questions of productivity and purpose.  Should an artist’s career be dedicated to constantly pushing boundaries or can one hyper-focus on variations of a familiar theme?  Is there something to be gained from habitual repetition?  The article still brings me back to questions of who these works are intended for as the experience would be much different if he created a line by walking with a group of people.  The individuality of the pursuit is a very intriguing aspect.


If you’re in Detroit, you can see his work Stone Line, which is currently exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the Contemporary wing.