PLAY IN THE CITY

laura.haylock

REFLECTIONS

+

STUDIES IN CONTEMPORARY

ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

THE CITY, ARCHITECTURE AND VIRTUAL PLAY

OPTION LEADER: DR HANNA CANNON



FOREWORD

This document is set out by a rhythm of reflections on weekly seminars,

led by Dr Hanna Cannon, which stemmed from the title, ‘The City,

Architecture and Virtual Play”. Dovetailing with this rhythm is

the form of an essay, which converses directly with 3 reflections in

particular. This collection of thinking is indebted to Hanna Cannon

and my fellow peers in her Seminars. The course and its colleagues

have provided much food for thought.

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CONTENTS

REFLECTIONS

ESSAY

3

5

9

13

21

_

23

26

28

30

33

35

00. The Street Party:

Thinking through a depiction of play in the city

01. Theorising Play

02. The Playful City

03. Theorising Space and Place

00. References

04. Approaches to Space and Technology

05. The City, Space and Technology

06. Simulation

07. Immersion

08.The Body

00. Afterword

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00. ESSAY

THE STREET PARTY

THINKING THROUGH A DEPICTION OF

PLAY IN THE CITY

THE STREET PARTY:

THINKING THROUGH A DEPICTION OF PLAY IN THE CITY

ABSTRACT:

As an event, the street party allows a collective and ephemeral act of

subversion to the existing space and order of the city. A notion of

playfulness creeps in through the activity’s inhabitation of a hereto

uninhabitable zone; A zone which is designed for mass circulation,

which opposes any pursuit of lingering or fun. The British street party,

however, summons an image of bunting, patriotic flags, a celebration

of the monarchy or an end to nation’s war. Herein lies the intriguing

situation which the street party presents; Can an act of play enforce the

authority of the day, or does it, in doing so, strip it of its playfulness?

This essay will focus on Lawrence Stephen Lowry’s depiction of the

British street party in his painting from 1945, entitled VE Day. This

piece will enable a conversation with key voices in critical theory, who

explore the themes of play, place, the festival and the carnival. This

conversation will bring to light layers through which we can read

Lowry’s work.

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Figure 1: Lowry, Laurence Stephen, VE Day, 1945, Oil on Canvas.



00.

VE day (Victory in Europe) marked the end of World War II, as

Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces claimed victory. 1 The

celebration which followed this news is shown as the subject of Lowry’s

Painting (Figure 1). Lowry’s art has grown in popularity over time;

it is distinct as few artists of his generation concentrated on ordinary

people going about their everyday lives. 2 His paintings sprung from his

life embedded in Manchester, Salford and other towns in the industrial

north of England in the mid-20th Century.

Lowry’s image frames a cityscape where spaces for working, living,

shopping, worshipping, and socialising are all arranged within spitting

distance of one another. In the foreground, we see terraced houses

and streets, which are punctuated by local amenities, such as the pub

(bottom right), or local shop (bottom left). Housing stretches into the

distance but is broken up by a large-scale town hall and public square.

Falling behind these headlines there is indication of church spires and

endless chimneys from factories, and further civic scale buildings. In

this image, on the instance of VE day, the city, as curated by Lowry,

becomes a canvas for playful activity. Here, the thresholds of play and

playful activity transgress the normally acknowledged use of the city

and its streets.

_

1. “VE, n.”, Oxford English Dictionary Online, Oxford University Press, Accessed 26th of March,

2018, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/221800?redirectedFrom=VE+Day ().

2. “VE Day, Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976)”, Art UK Online Public Catalogue, Accessed

2nd of April, 2018. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/ve-day-84993

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01. REFLECTION

THEORISING PLAY

WEEK 3: 30.01.18

In his seminal text Homo Ludens, Johan Huizinga presents his

observations on the thresholds of play. Play, he argues, is limited in

its dimensions of time but also space. Before play can commence, its

spatial territory – either physical or imagined – must be set out and

agreed on by all players. 3 Further to this, he posits that the conduct of

play, within this pocket of space and time, is tied together with a set of

‘special rules’;

Inside the play-ground an absolute and peculiar order reigns. Here

we come across another, very positive feature of play: it creates

order, is order. Into an imperfect world and into the confusion of

life it brings a temporary, a limited perfection. Play demands order

absolute and supreme. The least deviation from it ‘spoils the game’,

robs it of its character and makes it worthless. 4

This creation of rules can be, and often is, seen as a key element of

the play itself; the game evolves as it is played out. For Huizinga, the

keeping of order within the agreed window of play, in space and time,

is intrinsic to its value. When any boundary of the play is overstepped,

or the rules not adhered to, the play loses its worth; when the play’s

boundary is broken, its magic dissolves, and the fun is made un-fun.

This play order, within a framed space and time, is often referred to as

Huizinga’s ‘magic circle’ 5 .

Let us consider the thresholds of this ‘magic circle’ as a soap bubble.

Inside the bubble exists an un-replicable condition in space, time and

order. Like a bubble, the thresholds of play are almost imperceptible.

The boundaries exist as, at any one time, one is either within or out

with a perimeter of play. If, by any internal or external forces, the

bubble’s wall is breached, so then the bubble bursts. Although everyone

_

3. Johan Huizinga, “Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon”, in Homo Ludens:

A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. (Beacon Press, Boston, 1971), p. 10.

4. Huizinga, “Nature and Significance of Play”, p. 10.

5. “Theorising Play”, Discussion from Seminar, led by Dr. Hanna Cannon (Edinburgh, 30.01.2018).

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01.

who was within that capsule of play holds a memory of it, its exactitude

can never be reproduced as, the terms of the space, time and order

will never be the same. Multiple bubbles of play can fuse together, as

games and rules are incorporated. The walls of the bubble can stretch

or contract as the play evolves, however, once a force causes the walls

of the play to burst, it cannot be rebuilt.

As Huizinga stresses, play can be seen to exist within any space; it is

not constrained purely to the physical. In the physical sense though,

at the scale of the city, there are efforts to contain the building of the

‘magic circle’. As space is organised by its use we see the designation

of the ‘play-ground’ and the ‘skate park’. By including play space in the

design of cities, we acknowledge this as a critical element of our social

practice; but, this action alone controls the critical playfulness of the

action and inadvertently impedes the playability of other city spaces.

_

SEMINAR READINGS: THEORISING PLAY

Huizinga, Johan “Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural

Phenomenon”, in Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in

Culture. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1971. pp. 1 - 27.

Jenkins, Henry. “Game Design as Narrative Architecture”, in Salen,

Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play

Anthology. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006, pp. 670 - 689.

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00. ESSAY

THE STREET PARTY

THINKING THROUGH A DEPICTION OF

PLAY IN THE CITY

Within the rigour of city planning, streets are not designated as

play place. The primary function of the street is to allow efficient,

unimpeded order and circulation of people and vehicles. Any deviation

from this designation can lead to chaos. We can see this in action, for

example, when a pedestrian decides to cross a road where not indicated

to to do so; their action syncopates, an otherwise uninterrupted, flow

of vehicular traffic. 6

Lowry shows a dance or game of ring-a-go-roses in the foreground of

his image. He depicts a freedom in the dancers’ movements as they spill

off the kerb and into the road itself. Within this clip of the image, you

see that the bubble of play has stretched to involve everyone within

view. The image illustrates the agreement of all players to collectively

disregard the usually enforced designation of the street and road. We

are reminded of the temporariness of this situation through the weight

of the lines representing the pavement. These lines mark out what is

usually observed as the ‘ordinary’ order of the scene. We are reminded

that the street is in a state of temporary suspension, a meanwhile state

of use; This, in turn, is inherent and imperative for the playful nature

of the act.

_

6. “The city, space and technology”, Discussion from Seminar, led by Dr. Hanna Cannon

(Edinburgh, 27.02.2018).

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02. REFLECTION

THE PLAYFUL CITY

WEEK 5, 13.02.2018

Ian Borden addressed the critical nature of the temporary within our

built environment as a means of arguing for “tactics for a playful city”.

In his essay he states:

We need architectures of an impermanent and temporary nature

that appear for a few weeks, days or even hours, that do whatever it

is that they need to do and then disappear without leaving a trace,

except that they remain in the minds of all those who witnessed

them. Architecture in this sense is like a seasonal flower, beautiful

in its very ephemerality and provisional presence and appreciated

not only for what it provides, but also in the knowledge that it will,

very soon, be gone. 7

Borden suggests that it is the place of the building, not only the

population, to occupy space in the city within a limited frame of

time. Borden’s analogy of the flower illustrates the potential value of

temporary architecture; the brief nature of the intervention makes it

special beyond its use, a kind of limited edition. As if part of a magic

trick, to be truly playful, the intervention must completely disappear,

leaving only the memory of its use and its beauty behind.

Borden’s argument for playful intervention in the city draws parallels

to how Charles Baudelaire read the crowd in Paris of the 19th

century. This is an element discussed by Walter Benjamin in On some

motifs in Baudelaire, who states, “What this sonnet [A une passante]

communicates is simply this: far from experiencing the crowd as an

opposed, antagonistic element, this very crowd brings to the city

dweller the figure that fascinates. The delight of the urban poet is

love – not at first sight, but at last sight.” 8 Benjamin acknowledges

the potential view the crowd as a divisive and hostile force within his

_

7. Ian Borden, “Tactics for a Playful City”, in Borries, Friedrich von, Steffen P. Walz, and Matthias

Böttger. Space Time Play: Computer Games, Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level, (Springer

Science & Business Media, 2007), p. 334.

8. Walter Benjamin, “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” and “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth

Century”, in Leach, Neil. Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory. (London: Routledge,

1997), p.27.

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02.

writing; its character, mood and motivation being unfixed. It is within

this context that Baudelaire pick out that which fascinates him as the

‘urban poet’; that one can find and loose love within an instance. This

implies that the temporality of the event increases its intrigue. With no

record of the love found, at last sight, one has only a memory which is

enriched further with the passing of time after the event.

As Benjamin tells us, Baudelaire views his city (Paris), through the

agitated veil of the crowd. 9 A shimmering homogeneous foreground to

the building and the operation of city space. Baudelaire’s fascination is

in the potential for the ‘veil’ to bring into view something, or someone,

which transcends the ordinary, but only for a fleeting moment.

Baudelaire is transfixed by the possibility of the extra-ordinary; that

which compels love or fascination. So here, much like Borden’s city, the

crowd brings forward fleeting experience, which blooms, but is fated

to disappear. Like Baudelaire, Borden is attracted to the temporary,

and the playfulness of the thing never known fully. We could consider

this antithetically; when the element of temporality is lost, do we leave

the world of play and become ground into the everyday?

_

SEMINAR READINGS: PLAYFUL CITY

Benjamin, Walter. “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” and “Paris, Capital

of the Nineteenth Century”, in Leach, Neil. Rethinking Architecture: A

Reader in Cultural Theory. London: Routledge, 1997, pp. 24 - 40.

Borden, Ian. “Tactics for a Playful City”, in Borries, Friedrich von, Steffen

P. Walz, and Matthias Böttger. Space Time Play: Computer Games,

Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level . Springer Science & Business

Media, 2007, pp. 332 - 334.

_

9. Benjamin, “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire”, p.27

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00. ESSAY

THE STREET PARTY

THINKING THROUGH A DEPICTION OF

PLAY IN THE CITY

Baudelaire’s love at last sight depicts the potential of the crowd to present

a fragment of excitement, a glimmer of otherness. Lowry’s street party

scene can be seen to show a washing of the whole crowd in a collective

activity; it shows an event distinctly other to the ordinary proceeding of

things and, as we have considered, a playful use of city space. Huizinga

points to play as the notable deviation from the ordinary as he states,

“We find play present everywhere as a well-defined quality of action

which is different from ‘ordinary’ life.’ 10 However, as depicted in this

image, the scale of play has been dramatically expanded. A proliferation

of playful activity over-writes the normal order, within the city, and

now encompasses all corners of the frame.

At this point we can turn to the English language and interrogate

how we describe the event we seen in our critical object, an activity

of collective play. The word ‘Party’, our point departure, has myriad

readings; it describes a part of a whole, as well as a side in a battle,

or the oppositional configuration of government within in UK. Its

use is, in the social sense, not listed until the 13th use in the English

language in the Oxford English Dictionary. 11 Through its readings we

see evidence that the party can be a divisive term in language. The

word itself suggests that the activity of the party is not for everyone –

there is either a guest-list or a metaphysical limit to participation – at

some point a line is drawn.

We see further evidence of this in considering ‘street’ as a prefix to ‘party’.

The physical manifestation of street creates a divisive spatial threshold,

which is, as we have thought through previously, transgressed through

the act of play. We understand that ‘the streets’ serve anyone as a piece

of crucial shared city infrastructure, but ‘a street’ is associated to a

localised sense of ownership.

_

10. Huizinga, “Nature and Significance of Play”, p. 4.

11. “party, n.”. OED Online. March 2018. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/

Entry/138347?rskey=cQqvYC&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed March 30, 2018).

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00.

What then are we seeing in Lowry’s image? The scale of the celebration

depicted goes beyond a localised party; we see that the playful activity is

spilling into all city space on view. This consideration takes us to other

ways in which we understand events of collective playful activity. The

‘festival’, as looked at by Lefebvre, is a suitable conversation to turn to

at this point.

Figure 3: Detail View Lowry, L.S, VE Day.

12.


03. REFLECTION

THEORISING SPACE AND PLACE

WEEK 4, 06.02.18

In his seminal text, The Production of Space, Lefebrve draws a

comparison between the relationship of the festival and the everyday

to the relationship of the monument and the building. 12 Lefebvre

understands these relationships to both be dialectical in nature. We are

led to consider this situation by imagining the effect of the monument’s

absence in the city:

_

Turmoil is inevitable once a monument loses its prestige, or can only

retain it by means of admitted oppression and repression. When the

subject – a city or a people – suffers dispersal, the ‘building’ and its

functions come into their own; by the same token, ‘housing’ comes to

prevail over ‘residence’ within that city or amidst that people. The

building has its roots in warehouses, barracks, depots and rental

housing. Buildings have functions, forms and structures, but they

do not integrate the formal, functional and structural ‘moments’

of social practice. And inasmuch as sites, forms and functions

are no longer focused and appropriated by monuments, the city’s

contexture or fabric – its streets, its underground levels, its frontiers

– unravel, and generate not concord but violence. Indeed space as a

whole becomes prone to sudden eruptions of violence. 13

Within this extract, buildings can be appreciated for their utility alone;

that they serve a purpose in accommodating the basic functions of

society but not beyond necessity. Lefebvre notes the shift in use of

language from ‘residence’ to ‘housing’; this observation shows a shell

space for living privileged over a place to dwell on a long-term basis. 14

Lefebvre explains that it is this switch in feeling, for the building as a

space for utility, which shows its inability to accommodate ‘moments of

social practice’. Leferbrve’s description of the city is as a fabric, within

which the monument binds all other elements; the buildings, the roads

12. Henri Lefevbre, “The Production of Space (extracts)”, in Leach, Neil. Rethinking Architecture: A

Reader in Cultural Theory. (London: Routledge), 1997, p.141.

13. Lefevbre, “The Production of Space (extracts)”, pp. 140- 141.

14.”residence, n.1”. Oxford English Dictionary Online. March 2018. Oxford University Press.

http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/163559?rskey=nq8OXt&result=1&isAdvanced=false

(accessed March 20, 2018).

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03.

and other functional space. Social practice acts as a warp to the built

structure’s weft. The removal of one element causes the unravelling of

the other; when one exists without the other, it leaves behind disorder

and violence. In Lefebvre’s imagining the city, the monument – and

its order – can only be reinstated by cruel force. If it takes coercion

to re-instate the monument, it could be argued that it is enforcing a

tyrannical order.

By thinking through Lefebvre’s writing on monumentality, we can

begin to test a comparative understanding of the festival; if monument

is to building as festival is to everyday, can we say that monument

to festival as building is to everyday? In this analogy, the festival is

a binding agent for the everyday function of the city. By Leferbvre’s

logic, without the festival, the everyday would descend into violent

outburst. The everyday is a function of utility, but it is the festival

which punctuates, binds and enforces order with tyrannical strength.

_

SEMINAR READINGS: THEORISING SPACE AND PLACE

Lefevbre, Henri. “The Production of Space (extracts)”, in Leach, Neil.

Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory. London: Routledge,

1997, pp. 138 - 146.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “Exploring the World of Perception: Space”, in The

World of Perception. London ; New York: Routledge, 2004, pp. 47 - 56.

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00. ESSAY

THE STREET PARTY

THINKING THROUGH A DEPICTION OF

PLAY IN THE CITY

Further in his writing, Lefebvre covers the image of the city as a

fabric. We see him test this analogy and exploring the potential of the

monument to provide ‘texture’ both physical and metaphysical. He sees

texture as, “made up of a usually rather large space covered by networks

or webs; monuments constitute the strong points, nexuses or anchors

of such webs”. 15

Lowry’s depiction of the city places differing visual weight on elements

within the scene. He shows an emphasis on the local level, and the

residential street, by placing this in the foreground of his view. Beyond

this, emphasis is placed on the civic structure, which faces onto an

open square; it is unclear whether this building is a depiction of town

hall or factory. Beyond this still, the church spire is lifted in front of the

hazy backdrop. A repetition of this spatial distribution ad infinitum.

From Lowry’s representation, we can infer a hierarchy in the spatial

and social order he would like us to understand. The elements of civic,

industrial and spiritual space can, in this arrangement, be seen to create

a spatial texture.

The centre of our attention is this essay, is the place and nature of play

in this context; so where, in Lefebvre’s analogy of the city, can we see

a place for play? In Lowry’s composition, as a reflection of an event he

witnessed, the city can be seen to serve as a canvas for playful activity.

The texture of the city, created by the interweaving of monument and

building, provides a tangible base for a splash colour. If we should

consider how Lowry’s painting can be read as a festival – a collective

break from the everyday – it can still be seen as part of the fabric of the

city. It is less a colour applied to the surface than a colour woven into

the fabric itself.

_

15. Lefevbre, “The Production of Space (extracts)”, p. 140.

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Let us return to Huizinga and play, in its fundamentals. Huizinga

contributes this thought, as his first condition for the nature of play,

he declares:

_

all play is a voluntary activity. Play to order is no longer play:

it could at best be but a forcible intimidation of it. By this quality

of freedom alone, play marks itself off from the course of natural

process. It is something added thereto and spread out over it like a

flowering, an ornament, a garment. 16

The non-coercible element of play, as Huizinga observes it, seems

to stand in direct conflict with our interpretation of Lefebvre’s

comment on the festival and its integrity to the order of the everyday.

With Huizinga’s logic, as soon as the festival is forced it ceases to be

a playful activity. We can enjoy Huizinga’s suggestion of play which

blooms like a flower or is worn like a garment. This reminds us also,

of the language, of Ian Borden and Walter Benjamin; these metaphors

highlight, again, play’s temporary nature. Where the analogy of colour

to canvas starts to fall down is it suggests a permanent change of state.

We can find further holes in the extension of this as flowers can be

wild or can be cultivated; the application of colour to canvas suggests

an author of the activity which, Huizinga points out, reduces play a

‘forcible intimidation’ of itself.

At this point we can turn the conversation to Mikhail Bakhtin; his

thinking on the carnival, and the layer of the official and non-official,

can further deepen our enquiry. Bakhtin’s indirectly points at the

nature of the carnival, or carnivalesque, through his thesis on François

Rabelais’ writing. Despite his subject, Rabelais, writing in the 16th

century about world of the medieval, it is suggested that Bakhtin is to

be “read as a hidden polemic against the regime’s [Soviet Russia under

Stalin] cultural politics”. 17

16. Huizinga, “Nature and Significance of Play”, p. 10.

17. Simon Denith, Bakhtinian thought: An introductory reader, (London, New York: Routledge,

1995). p.71

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Through Bakhtin’s exploration of Rabelais, we can begin to view the

carnival as an antiauthoritarian act of collective play:

Carnival celebrated temporary liberation from the prevailing truth

and from the established order; it marked the suspension of all

hierarchical rank, privileges, norms and prohibitions… All were

considered equal during the carnival … The utopian ideal of the

realistic merged in the carnival experience, unique of its kind. 18

If we look back to Huizinga’s conditions of play – a bubble of space and

time in which new order can exist – we see the parallels to Bakhtin’s

observations of the carnival; a space in time, within which the accepted

social systems and hierarchies, are cast aside. Carnival becomes a

platform within which the playing field of life is flattened. Its inherent

playfulness further exaggerated in its temporality, in which it is simple

a “suspension” of normal rules as opposed to a re-writing of them.

The critical aspect of Bakhtin’s inquiry appears as the appearance of the

carnival as a controlled explosion of normal order, within a proscribed

window of time. This situation is referred to as ‘carnival disorder’ and

has been argued to work as a licensed safety-valve for social disruption,

allowing the preservation of authority. 19 In his introduction to

Bakhtin’s writing, Simon Denith draws a parallel between Bakhtin’s

ideas to the thinking of Lunacharvsky, who wrote about laughter as a

controlled devise of relieving social tension. 20 This situation is apparent

when we consider the designation of festivals and holidays within the

annual calendar. In the UK today, we collectively acknowledge the

‘bank holiday’ as a break to the ordinary order of things; the ruling

order is this could be acknowledged as the bank and the market.

_

18. Mikhail Bakhtin, “Rebelais and His World, 1965 (extracts translated H Iswolsky, Indiana

University Press, 1984)” in Pam Morris, The Bakhtin Reader: Selected writings of Bakhtin, Medveedev,

Voloshinov, (Newyork: Bloomsbury, 1997), p. 199.

19. Pam Morris, The Bakhtin Reader: Selected writings of Bakhtin, Medveedev, Voloshinov, (New York:

Bloomsbury, 1997), p. 22.

20. Denith, Bakhtinian Thought: An introductory Reader, p. 71.

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Carnival, in particular, has a strong connection to the Christian

calendar, as it occupies the days which occurred in the run up to lent.

So, despite carnival creating an opportunity to ‘celebrate a temporary

liberation from the prevailing truth’, the fact it is controlled to a frame

of time, undermines its ability to liberate.

Bakhtin also turns, within his polemic, to the medieval feast through

which he explores the layer of the official and unofficial. Of the unofficial

feast, found in medieval folk culture, he writes:

They offered a completely different, non-official, extra-ecclesiastical

and extra-political aspect of the world and a second life outside

officialdom, a world in which all medieval people participated in

more or less. 21

And of the official he states:

The link with time became formal; changes and moments of crisis

were relegated to the past. Actually, the official feast looked back

at the past and used the past to consecrate the present. Unlike the

earlier and purer feast, the official feast asserted that all was

stable, unchanging, and perennial: the existing hierarchy, existing

religious, political, and moral values and norms, and prohibitions. 22

Where the designation between the official and the un-official can

further our thinking of the feast is that it gives us a framework in which

to identify the coercive element of the event. Both events, official and

unofficial, create an altered space in time, and time in space. They are

differentiated by whether they act to further the prevailing ordinary

order, or whether it act to go against it. By this, one could understand

the unofficial as a play event which starts and finishes beyond the

ordinary; the official starts and finishes within the ordinary.

_

21. Bakhtin, “Rebelais and His World, 1965”, p. 199.

22. Bakhtin, “Rebelais and His World, 1965”, p. 199.

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This is supported through the event’s connection to the play of power

in time. Bakhtin acknowledges the spontaneity of the unofficial feast,

often triggered by an unforecastable victory in battle or return from a

successful hunt. 23 He contrasts this with the official feast in which, by

looking backwards, the keeping of time becomes ordered; the principle

of playing with time itself was taken away. While there is logic to this,

by taking the structure away from time, you delete the constraints play

reacts to.

This dual aspect is further the object of Bakhtin intrigue as he explores

the concept of comic grandeur within Rabelais’ writing. Characters

within Rabelais’ work are notable through the exaggeration in the

physical characteristics in appearance and movement. This device in

language and narrative has several juxtaposing repercussions as Pam

Morris, commenting on this, tells us, it “ridicules and celebrates,

crowns and de-crowns, elevates and debases” 24 .

If we return to our starting point, Lowry’s painting, we can begin to

uncover aspects of comic realism’s duality in the representation of VE

day celebration. In the light of the vivid festivities, the city as a backdrop

appears comparatively tonally drained. The homes and factories puff

smoke from their chimney, as if simultaneously belching and cheering.

With our attention on the fires, driving the plumes of smoke, we

see them both warming the city and choking the city. Within this

too, the factories are employing, but also using the people. All these

observations point to a state of merriment within an environment of

control.

_

23. Bakhtin, “Rebelais and His World, 1965”, p. 210.

24. Morris, The Bakhtin Reader, p. 21.

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Lefebvre guided us to think that this duality is part and parcel of the

fabric of the city, the order of the everyday and social stability. It is

perhaps this multiplicity of dichotomous readings which make Lowry’s

image so captivating. In reading Lowry’s image, it is fair to say we have

asked more questions than we have answered. This however is just the

predicament Huizinga would have pointed us to, were we to ask him,

“The attempt to assess the play content in the confusion of modern life

is bound to lead us to contradictory conclusions.” 25

The chronotopic nature of play – as a free and ephemeral bubble of

activity – makes, it in many senses, unquantifiable. We have explored

the scales at which play appears within the frame of Lowry’s painting

but in closing, it is important to observe the presence of characters

who are not participation in the collective celebration. Their presence

remind us how extraordinary the depicted event is, within the context

of the ordinary.

_

25. Johan Huizinga, “Play-element in Contemporary Civilisation”, in Homo Ludens: A Study of the

Play-Element in Culture. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), p. 199.

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FIGURE:

Lowry, Laurence Stephen, VE Day, 1945, Oil on Canvas. Glasgow

Museums: Art UK Art Foundation. https://artuk.org/discover/

artworks/ve-day-84993

_

REFERENCES:

Art UK Online Public Catalogue. “VE Day, Laurence Stephen Lowry”,

Accessed 2nd of April, 2018. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/

ve-day- 84993

Bakhtin, Mikhail. “Rebelais and His World, 1965” , extracts (translated

H. Iswolsky, Indiana University Press, 1984), in The Bakhtin Reader:

Selected writings of Bakhtin, Medveedev, Voloshinov, Edited by Pam

Morris New York: Bloomsbury, 1997, pp. 194 - 244.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Bakhtin Reader: Selected writings of Bakhtin,

Medveedev, Voloshinov, Edited by Pam Morris New York:

Bloomsbury, 1997.

Benjamin, Walter. “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” and “Paris, Capital of the

Nineteenth Century”, in Leach, Neil. Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in

Cultural Theory. London: Routledge, 1997, pp. 24 - 40.

Denith, Simon. Bakhtinian Thought: An Introductory Reader, London,

New York: Routledge, 1995.

Huizinga, Johan. “Play-element in Contemporary Civilisation”, in

Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. Beacon Press,

Boston, 1971 pp. 195- 213.

Huizinga, Johan. “Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural

Phenomenon”, in Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture.

Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1971. pp. 1 - 27.

Lefevbre, Henri. “The Production of Space (extracts)”, in Leach,

Neil. Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory. London:

Routledge, 1997, pp. 138 - 146.

Oxford English Dictionary Online, Oxford University Press, Continually

updated at http://www.oed.com/


Figure 1: Tarvy Bridge Social Club, 1978. “Thamesmead all stages SE28”, https://www.facebook.com/groups/ThamesmeadSE28/


04. REFLECTION

APPROACHES TO SPACE AND TECHNOLOGY

WEEK 2, 23.01.18

SEMINAR READINGS

Graham, Stephen. “The End of Geography or the Explosion of Place?

Conceptualizing Space, Place and Information Technology.” In Progress

in Human Geography 22, no. 2: 1998, pp. 165 - 185.

Wertheim, Margaret. “Internet Dreaming: A Utopia for All Seasons”, in Tofts,

Darren. Prefiguring Cyberculture: An Intellectual History. New Ed edition.

Cambridge, Mass.; Sydney: MIT Press, 2004, pp. 216 - 226.

_

The compression of space and time through the development of

telecommunication technologies has led to an ever growing single

integrated ‘global’ community. The consequence of this phenomena

and the implications this has on the local is considered by Graham

in the “The End of Geography or the Explosion of Place?” He argues

that the digital realm, since its inception, and physical space have and

continue to co-evolve. To support the case for co-evolution Graham

looks to the research of Greg Staple:

[Staple] believes that the Internet and other communications

technologies, far from simply collapsing spatial barriers, actually

have a dialectic effect, helping to compress time and space barriers

while, concurrently, supporting localising, fragmenting logic of

‘tribalisation’. Far from unifying all within a single cyberspace,

the Internet, he argues, may actually enhance the commitment of

different social and cultural interest groups to particular material

places and electronic spaces, thus constituting a ‘geographical

explosion of place’. 1

_

1. Stephen Graham, “The End of Geography or the Explosion of Place? Conceptualizing Space,

Place and Information Technology.” in Progress in Human Geography 22, no. 2 (1998). p. 174.

23


04.

We can understand place to be distinct from space by virtue of its

imbedded social value. By this logic we could interpret the ‘geographical

explosion of place’ as where the realm of the social is no longer solely

rooted in physical locations; it exists in, and is also distributed on, digital

platforms. In this stance the internet’s ability to co-locate communities,

bound by special interest or common identity, does not re-place the

value of physical places have but enrich them. Digital ‘spaces’ provide

alternate place for social connection without superseding the physical.

Let us consider where social activity is physically displaced. An example

of such social displacement can be seen as a repercussion of the current

re-generation of the London Suburb of Thamesmead. The estates on

Thamesmead were designed in with spaces for social practice, such as

the Social club at Tarvy Bridge (Figure 1).

_

24


Figure 2: Tarvy Bridge rubble, “Thamesmead all stages SE28”, https://www.facebook.com/

groups/ThamesmeadSE28/


Figure 3: “Thamesmead all stages SE28”, https://www.facebook.com/groups/Thamesmead-

SE28/


04.

The arrival of Crossrail to near-by abbey wood station has lead to the

planned mass re-development of the area, leading to the removal of

many of these existing places of local discourse and social capital (figure

2). In this case, the residents of Thamesmead use digital spaces, such as

closed and highly active Facebook groups. The Thamesmead all stages

SE28 group - which describes itself as ‘a place for all your photo’s,

memories, adverts for local services, fun days etc’ 2 (figure 3) - allows

local people voices and opinion to gather and organise themselves to

face the private powers purchasing and changing their local area.

In this scenario the digital space has grown from, and is dependent

on, a common physical place: the digital has been forced to act as a

substitute for the lost physical space. The energy of the Thamesmead

all stages SE28 group is focused on preserving and re-instating local

place. In this instance, the community has found a safe digital place on

the internet to exercise a certain level of agency and autonomy.

_

2. “Thamesmead all stages SE28”, Facebook, January 30, 2018. https://www.facebook.com/

groups/ThamesmeadSE28/

25


05. REFLECTION

THE CITY, SPACE AND TECHNOLOGY

WEEK 6, 27.03.18

SEMINAR READINGS

Aarseth, Espen. “Allegories of Space”, in Borries, Friedrich von, Steffen P.

Walz, and Matthias Böttger. Space Time Play: Computer Games, Architecture

and Urbanism: The Next Level . Springer Science & Business Media, 2007,

pp. 44 - 47.

Boyer, Christine. “Imaging the City in the Age of Electronic

Communication”, in Cybercities , New York: Princeton Architectural

Press, 1996, pp. 137 - 182.

_

Christine Boyer, in her essay Imaging the City in the Age of Electronic

Communication, sets out conditions which she sees coming into

conflict in the contemporary city, that of the physical city and the

image and imageability of the city:

_

1. Christine Boyer. “Imaging the City in the Age of Electronic Communication”, in Cybercities,

(New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996), p.151

2. “The City, Space and Technology”, Discussion from Seminar, led by Dr. Hanna Cannon

(Edinburgh, 30.01.2018)

26

In the end, this flood of images of the city fails to offer the

spectator a stable sense of physical reality, because public space

appears impermeant and nondescript within the persistent flow of

information. Thus perception of the physical city begins to shift. We

divert our eyes to protect ourselves from the tyranny of constant

visualisation. Our sense of sight is dulled by this hyper-imageability

that makes everything appear familiar and already known. And

the reliance on stereotypical images erases the complexity and

nuances of the physical form of the lived city. Escape into the visual

excess that images can provide also distorts or disguises traumatic

material that the public may wish to deny. 1

Boyer points out the peculiar situation which is created when the image

eclipses our reading of physical space of the city. 2 She notes that we rely

on fixed way-markers in space in order to orientate and navigate space

in the city . Our familiarity with the way-markers of the city is


05.

reliant on their relative unchanging, in an otherwise evolving, space.

Boyer observes that the image obfuscates these fixed points, replacing

them with a representation of themselves. The image in the age of

‘electronic communication’, and more contemporarily ‘the digital’, can

morph and change with increasing rapidity. The city, and image of the

city, is constantly in flux; where stability in our society is associated

with relative permanence, can we consider this condition to generate

a situation of contflict?

Boyer points us towards conflict, as it implies the point at which

forces, acting against one another, meet. She sees this relationship as a

‘tyranny of constant visualisation’; where the image in the city/of the

city assaults the participant by a war of attrition. The participant finds

their own senses and memory to be the battle ground this ‘war’. Our

sensitivity to the image is worn down by constant overstimulation.

The image acts as a layer of visual noise, but in a situation, as Boyer

points out, were each voice has the same point of view. The louder the

image, or the multiplicity of the image, shouts, the quieter the voice

of the physical setting be heard comparatively. It is a layer which also

acts to re-write the memory. We are made familiar to the presence

of the visualisation but, where the constantly changing is showing no

real difference, we are dulled in to a place of passivity. In this sense we

could consider ourselves as the site of contestation, but a situation of

fatigue.

_

27


06. REFLECTION

SIMULATION

WEEK 8, 13.03.18

SEMINAR READINGS:

Baudrillard, Jean. “Simulacra and Simulations”, in Jean Baudrillard: Selected

Writings. Edited by Mark Poster. Translated by Jacques Mourrain. 2nd

Revised edition. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2002, pp.

169 - 187.

Hovestadt, Ludger. “Why Games for Architecture?”, in Borries, Friedrich von,

Steffen P.Walz, and Matthias Böttger. Space Time Play: Computer Games,

Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level . Springer Science & Business

Media, 2007, pp. 335 - 339.

ADDITIONAL READING:

Itzkoff, Dave. “A Strange City Called Home.” The New York Times, May 4,

2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/ 04/nyregion/thecity/04gran.

html .

_

The Florida Project is a 2017 film (directed by Sean Barker), which

follows the life of a young girl and her mother, living through a

summer in a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, just beyond the gates of Walt

Disney World. 1 Their struggles are presented through the perspective

of Moonee, 6, as her mother, Halley, goes to extreme lengths to keep

them in stable, if fundamentally impermanent, home. The film closes

as Monnee is threatened with removal from her mother and, in a lastditch

effort, makes a break for it. In a dream like sequence Moonee

makes it into Disney land, having only ever seen its silhouette on the

skyline in the distance before. The film is very engaging in its portrayal

of the struggle of living in the shadow of, Disney Land, a place famous

for its the make-believe.

Baudrillard takes us to Disneyland in his writing on simulation in

Simulcra and Simulation:

_

1. Sean Barker, dir. The Florida Project. (New York: A24 Films, 2017).

28


Figure 1: Promotional Poster image, The Florida Project. Sean Barker, dir. (New York: A24 Films,

2017).


Figure 2: Film still showing Moonee and her mother Halley, The Florida Project. Sean Barker, dir.

(New York: A24 Films, 2017).


06.

Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe

that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and America

surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyper-real

and of simulation. It is no longer a question of false representation

of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no

longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle. 2

The Florida project stresses the dream like situation with the walls

of Disneyland; which in turn makes us more aware of the contrast of

the ‘real’ gritty of life just beyond its walls. Baudrillard’s posits that we

enjoy and exacerbate the physical thresholds to places like Disney land.

We control these imaginary places, so they can be seen to be divorced

from the rest of the ‘real’ world. Baudrillard suggests that we do this

to distract ourselves of the simulated or ‘hyper-real’ nature of the

world beyond its walls. In this sense, it could be understood as a kind

of ‘hyper’-escapism. Baudrillard asks us to consider to the ‘hyper-real’

as the conflated layers by which we perceive information; simulation

displaces its origins, as ‘simulacra’. 3 As a new truth replaces an old

truth, we loose our footing on what came first. Within our current

context, anyone can be a storyteller, and the story is able to stray as far

from the ‘truth’ as it wants to.

If we return to the emphasis of the Florida Project, this story suggests

that society imposes restrictions on the participation in designated

zones for the imaginary. We could say that the ability to escape to the

make-believe is a luxury only afforded by privilege. This, as Baudrillard

would point out, is an observation made on the back of a piece of

simulated media; we do not have a stable footing on reality to begin

with.

_

2. Jean Baudrillard. “Simulacra and Simulations”, in Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings. Edited by

Mark Poster. Translated by Jacques Mourrain. 2nd Revised edition. (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford

University Press, 2002), p. 175.

3. Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations”, p. 169.

29


07. REFLECTION

IMMERSION

WEEK 9, 20.03.18.

SEMINAR READINGS:

Galloway, Alexander R. “Origins of the First Person Shooter”, in Gaming:

Essays on Algorithmic Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 2006,

pp. 39 - 69.

Murray, Janet H. “Immersion”, in Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of

Narrative in Cyberspace. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1998, pp. 97 - 125.

_

Let us consider the interpretation of participation in games through

the mask as explored in Janet Murray’s essay on “Immersion”:

_

participation in the spectacular event begins with ordinary people,

rather than professional entertainers, donning costume or mask.

The mask sets off the participants from the nonparticipants and

reinforced the special nature of the shared reality. It creates the

boundary of the immersive reality and signals that we are roleplaying

rather than acting as ourselves. The mask is a threshold

marker, like Harold’s moon or the Jurassic Park boat. It gives us our

entry into the artificial world and also keeps some part of ourselves

outside it. 1

Murry highlight’s the mask’s importance by way of its levelling effect.

Murray observes how social/physical does not dictate the ‘mask’ a

player will choose to adopt in a game. Further to this, the mask acts as a

marker of participation; who is within the game and who is beyond it. It

is in this argument, Murray sees the mask as a threshold of immersion.

Within the analogy of the mask – as a way of seeing participation in

the game – we can consider the role of the mirror. This thought has

been drawn from a parallel reading of Alexander Galloway’s essay on

“Origins of the First-Person Shooter”. Galloway discusses, in part, the

role of the Point-of-view (POV) shot as a filmic device. Galloway looks

1. Janet Murray, “Immersion”, in Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace.

(Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1998), p. 133.

30


07.

at moments of Lady in the Lake, 2 directed by Robert Montgomery,

1947. Where the viewer is made aware of their position within the

body of the film’s protagonist (Marlowe, as played by Humphrey

Bogart), Galloway states, “Each time Marlowe’s body is also shown on

the screen – in a mirror, when smoking, , when crawling, being kissed,

and so on – the illusion of the subjective shot is broken, and the viewer

is reminded of the camera lens’s failure to merge fully with Marlowe’s

own optics.” 3 .

Figure 1: A hand appears

Figure 2: Film still, Lady in the Lake. Robert Montgomery, dir.

(California: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1947).

The figures 1and 2 you see are snapshots of a scene, as it is played out,

at 2 points in which we are reminded of our position within Marlowe’s

Point of view 4 . Although these shots do not fall into Galloway’s

category of the ‘masked POV Shot’ – where the “edge of the frame is

obfuscated with a curved, black masking” 5 – we could say that within

these shots, Marlowe’s body is a ‘mask’ through which we participate

in the film.

_

2. Robert Montgomery, dir. Lady in the Lake. (California: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1947).

3. Alexander Galloway. “Origins of the First Person Shooter”, in Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic

Culture. (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), p. 44.

4. “Immersion”, Discussion from Seminar, led by Dr. Hanna Cannon (Edinburgh, 20.03.2018)

5. Galloway, “Origins of the First Person Shooter”, p. 42.

31


07.

Galloway criticises Montgomery’s execution of the POV shot within

the film, marking it as a ‘failed formal experiment’, because it creates

points in which the audience out of their state of immersion.

While this may be true of immersion within film, the mirror could

be considered as an important way of understanding the threshold

of immersion within a game. The mirror, literal or not is a point of

reflection; a chance to view the body which we are connected to. We

could view the mask, as furthered by the mirror, as a device which

allows you to keep your foot in the door of ‘reality’. It is a point which

stops you from losing yourself fully. The mirror serves as a reminder

of the self you are portraying, within the game.

32


08. REFLECTION

THE BODY

WEEK 7, 06.03.18

SEMINAR READINGS:

Mitchell, William J. “Boundaries/Networks”, in Me++: The Cyborg Self and the

Networked City . MIT Press, 2004, pp. 7 - 18.

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto”, in Kennedy, Barbara M., and

David Bell, eds. The Cybercultures Reader. London: New York: Routledge,

2000, pp. 291 - 324.

ADDITIONAL READING:

“VR: A New Dimension in Learning?” Times Higher Education (THE),

January 5, 2017. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/vrnew-dimension-learning

.

_

The informatics of domination is a concept set out by Donna Haraway

in “A Cyborg Manifesto”; It is set as the new opposing force against

the ‘old hierarchical dominations’ of White capitalism patriarchy. 1

Harraway explores the dichotomous relationship between these 2

forces as a synopsis of a more systematic shifting in social/political

focus. She represents this systematic dichotomy with the context of

a chart (Figure 1: overleaf). She suggests that the right-hand column

cannot collectively be described as ‘natural’, however in making that

observation the pretence in which the left-hand column is deemed

natural begins to unravel. It is here then that we can start to sense

Harraway’s trepidation in this move, from one ultimate to another,

in a series of dichotomous states or as she describes ‘from all work to

all play, a deadly game’ 2 . Harraway’s argument for the ‘Cyborg’ is one

which moves away from this these fundamentals ends of a sliding scale,

as embodied in the case of gender she states, “It’s not just that ‘god’ is

dead; so is the ‘goddess’.” 3 The presence of the cyborg can be seen to act

as a centripetal force within these essentials.

_

1. Donna Haraway. “A Cyborg Manifesto”, in Kennedy, Barbara M., and David Bell, eds. The

Cybercultures Reader. London: New York: Routledge, 2000, p. 300.

2. Harraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”, p. 301.

3. Harraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”, p. 300.

33


08.

Representation

Bourgeouis novel, realism

Organism

Depth, integrity

Heat

Biology as clinical practice

Physiology

Small group

Perfection

Eugenics

Decedance, Magic Mountain

Hygiene

Microbiology, tuberculosis

Organic division of labour

Functional Specialisation

Reproduction

Organic sex role specialisation

Biologic determinism

Community ecology

Racial chain of being

Scientific management

in home/factory

Family/Market/Factory

Family wage

Public/Private

Nature/culture

Cooperation

Freud

Sex

Mind

Second world war

White capitalism patriarchy

Simulation

Science fiction, postmodernism

Biotic component

Surface, boundary

Noise

Biology as inscription

Communications engineering

Sub system

Optimisation

Population control

Obsolexcence, Future Shock

Stress Management

Immunology, AIDS

Ergonomics/cybernetics of labour

Modular construction

Replication

optimal genetic strategies

Envolutionary Inertia, constraints

Ecosystem

Neo-imperalsim, United Nations

humanism

Global factory/ electronic cottage

Women in the integrated circuit

Comparable worth

cyborg citizenship

Fields of difference

Communications enhancement

Lacan

Genetic Engineering

Robotics

Star wars

Informatics of domination.

Figure 1: Donna Haraway. “A Cyborg Manifesto”, in Kennedy, Barbara M., and David Bell,

eds. The Cybercultures Reader. London: New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 300 - 301

34


08. REFLECTION

Buildings

Everyday Life

Products

Concrete

Space

Global

Whole

Crowd

Integration

Physical

Lived Experience

Ordinary

Monuments

Festival

Works

Stone

Place

Local

Fragment

Individual

Autonomy

Digital

Perceived Experience

Extraordinary

AFTERWORD:

I have enjoyed considering the relationship between opposing forces

throughout this body of thoughts. I have gathered some of these as

Harraway did (Figure 1). Lefebvre identified this phenomena as the

dialectical Process, and he is not alone in identifying this. Walter

Benjamin suggested that our thinking through these opposing states

was the way in which we move forward;

_

Figure 2: Chart in style of Donna Haraway, By Author.

From each epoch stem the arcades and interiors, the exhibitions

and panoramas. They are residues of a dream world. For this

reason, dialectical thinking is the organ of historical awakening.

Each epoch not only dreams the next, but also, in dreaming, strives

toward the moment of waking. 4

Play, being a unifying theme of this work, escapes categorisation

within this table of dialectical situations. Unlike the cyborg, Play is

not a means of centrifuging these fundamental, but exists as a mean of

subverting them; of escaping them.

4. Walter Benjamin, “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” and “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth

Century”, in Leach, Neil. Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory. (London: Routledge,

1997), p.40.

35.

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