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defining space


"Through the Looking Glass" was produced as part of Exhibition Defining Space: International Interdisciplinary Conference (2007). The exhibition was based on the premise of questioning architecture's role as one predicated on a need to define the limits of a project, to organise and control space. This is because the made spaces of our built environment are themselves defined and controlled by limits, be they physical, material, social, economic etc. Such limits can be physical or abstract, real or apparent, implicit or explicit. We wonder if architecture and the process that produces it, have the potential to explore and inhabit the terrain that exists on both sides of such limits.

The exhibition element that was developed in response to this, sought to (re)consider the space of the actual exhibition by a series of mappings that uncovered latent geometries and spatial forms in the space of  Newman House and in the host Exhibition table. These mappings sought to describe how one might foreground processes of speculation within architecture itself, as well as searching for clues as to how best to (re)present this architecture at the scale of a table insertion (420x594mm).


In order to do this, we used texts by Lewis Carroll in a para-tactical way and produced a physical elements that embodied the distortion’s/ scaling’s/ bodily movements within and around the installation space. We looked to several composition methods used in the works of Lewis Carroll, where the creative process derives from 'both sides' of traditional limits, and from within the work itself.  In particular, the genesis of 'Sylvie & Bruno' and the processes which generated 'Through the Looking Glass' were examined.


For example, 'Sylvie & Bruno' was extrapolated from two previously completed works 'Fairy Sylvie' and 'Bruno’s Revenge', the result of two separate creative processes in their own right.  With the mathematical mind of Carroll as catalyst, each was deconstructed, and their constituent fragments remapped and reconstructed into a third and entirely new work.'Through the Looking Glass' (an interpretation of a game of chess where each move denotes a translation or transformation in Alice and/or her surroundings, as she moves around the 'chess board'.  We look to the elements within Newman Hall to establish the mapping of the moves for the table and the definition of distortion’s /scaling’s / bodily movements within and around the installation/top, bottom/left to right of the room and from the inside to outside and so on.


Process: The Exhibition Table is taken through a series of ‘moves’ based on elements of Newman Hall (e.g. Arch = Rotation, etc).  Thus, two separate compositions react creating a third.  Furthermore, each contributor’s plot is extracted at the end of the mapping game. The premise is that throughout Carroll’s work, questions concerning the position of the body in relation to its surroundings— the possibility for one to forge a sense of place—are recurrent; one is constantly reminded that one’s perception of space, as well as one’s understanding of where one stands, are phenomena. In order to make sense of such situating, we established a game-board out of the elements of wood to be cut from the exhibition table (not literally), and establish a matrix within the Hallway of Newman House that initially allows for the exploration of new trajectories and geometries within the Hallway itself, whilst then forming a physical construct to sit within/on top of/below the allocated opening of the table itself.


Lead Designers : Jason O'Shaughnessy (Architecture 53seven)

Design Team: Laura Williams, Patrick Dunne

Special Thanks to: Emmett Scanlon and Sarah Cremin (Curators),

Organisers: UCD Humanities Institute of Ireland.

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