Performing Site

--- is an elective module at the School of Environment and Architecture, Mumbai.

In collaboration with architect and artist Shivani Shah, we co-designed and facilitated the elective module, Performing Site, on performance as a research tool for architecture students.

Through the week-long module we worked with students between the studio and a public market place to experiment with using the body as a research tool. We used the body as a methodology and way of engaging with a site, exploring Jacque Lecoq’s notion of the body being capable of knowing things that the mind is ignorant of. Gathering and borrowing specific gestures, rhythms and movements on site, we explored and questioned the power dynamics between bodies.

Within such a rapidly developing and shifting city, how we interact with the built environment is continually being distorted, reshaped and questioned. The complex conditions that produce a site shape how human life is organised. These conditions become embodied within our daily actions, our ways of moving, how we understand the spaces around us and how we interact with each other. With a curiosity to understand and question these conditions that shape our spaces and our lives, we experimented with an interdisciplinary approach to movement practice.

Students worked in groups to develop embodied readings of the market place, taking the form of four choreographies, creating sections through the site. They explored diverse themes and questions which intrigued them within the site, including gendered gestures and movements, the impact of climate on the body, the exchange of rhythms across bodies and the condition of rest on the site.

Just as architectural drawings can represent the site to us through lines and measurements, performance offers us a different medium to map and understand the site. Working in this way, we move away from the perspective from above and the plan view and instead towards a more embodied exploration of a place. This intimate mode of engagement allowed us to examine the lines between the self and the other and the implicated role of the architect.

The elective offered an alternative, playful and critical mode of understanding, inhabiting, drawing and engaging with a site. Through this movement practice we began to make visible and understand the situated and particular conditions of a site, provoking social debate, and offering tools for architecture students to evaluate and question their current practices.

In collaboration with SEA students from years 1-5: Tanisi Kammili, Astrid Fernandes, Kartiki Mahadik, Govinda Agrawa, Shriya Parab, Vinisha Kuckian, Aurea D’cruz, Hetvi Lapasia, Nikhil Ovhal, Ria Shah, Tejal Patil, Foram Desai, Radhika Rathi, Vibhavari Sarangan, Akash Vishwakarma.   

With thanks to Rupali Gupte and Sabaa Giradkar at SEA for helping us put together the workshop and providing the necessary materials and space.

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