Intercorporeal, Intersubjective, Imaginary and Rational Spatialities: Between Existence and Abstraction

Untitled © Denise Startin

“If a person feels inside a place, he or she is here rather than there, safe rather than threatened, enclosed rather than exposed, at ease rather than stressed. Relph suggests that the more profoundly inside a place a person feels, the stronger will be his or her identity with that place.”

‘Space is multiple. Such multiplicity is both the precondition for and the result of spatial practices. Spatiality and practicality ground one another. There are different ways of attempting to grasp this co-dependent multiplicity. For example,

“…Relph defines four sorts of space, or knowledge about space, produced by different relationships to places. At the first step ‘pragmatic’ spaces are organised by our bodily situation (left or right, up or down). Second is perceptual space, organised through our intentions and centred on us – what we focus upon, what we look at, thus tending to be centred on the observer. Existential space is informed by cultural structures as much as our perceptions – it is space full of social meaning. This space is defined in relationship to some human experience or task. Finally, cognitive space is how we abstractly model spatial relationships.” (Crang, 1998:110). While this is a valuable starting point, recent re-thinkings of the phenomenological heritage, within which Relph lies, may point to a slightly different classification, coordinating person-hood with place-hood. This schema is based on the intercorporeal (as embodied-situated interaction), the intersubjective (as symbolic, performative, narrative interaction), the imaginary (as fantasmal, intracorporeal, medial-virtual interaction) and rational (as geometric, logical, coded interaction), each with their different degrees of freedom. Each of these four dimensions may or may not be well integrated and may well be skewed in various different directions, such that, for example, one’s fantasmal imaginings may begin to dominate and render unsustainable one’s intercorporeal and intersubjective relations. Through integration of these dimensions, spatial practices coordinate, integrate and separate spatialities centred on the self, and its motivated engagement with the world, with the spatialities that derive from geometric and logical calculation and fabrication, the structures of the designed and manufactured world. This is to acknowledge, while re-articulating Heidegger’s focus on care:

“Heidegger does not talk about intentions so much as care. Since we are always engaged with the world, we must focus our attention on particular aspects at any given time. We thus have different types and levels of care for different things at different times. The world might then be seen as comprising different levels of care.” (Crang, 1998: 110). The conclusion that Crang draws from this passage above, in which Relph interprets Heidegger, is that (human) knowledge of the world is always em-placed. It starts from and continues to be based around places as centres of care about the world. Thus, notes Crang, employing this approach suggests that we make sense of the world through the materials at hand, not from abstract schemes.

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Subjects of dispersal

Hands:Holding by Rune T

‘Foucault uses the language of space to highlight the formative effects of discourse and the instability of the plane it constitutes. Foucault’s analytics and politics are inextricably linked to creating an alternative physics of space. His alternative spatial text-ure both represents itself as a more accurate depiction of the real work of power and shifts the paradigmatic grounds for conceiving power. Power has generally been conceived as a dichotomous structure pairing intent and result, cause and effect, oppressor and oppressed. But Foucault levels the dimensionality of the social edifice, making power, knowledge, and subjects alike the temporary internal effects of a dispersed, evanescent field. The subject loses its organic solidity to appear like a bubble within a perpetually plastic substance. Subjects appear ‘in-different’ neither casually prior to a power’s mechanism, not imaginative outside its perpetually [re]formative web: Continue reading