Saturday, 15 August 2009

July 2008

I first began this project as a means towards self-management, using the ground as a surface of reverberation in which a given moment could be taken notice of. This sourcing out of the ground was a practice of place and that practice, by its very nature accumulated from many given moments.

It was through contact with the ground that one directive was translated into another. I called that double movement a bounce; A means of contact and of turn-around that only ever occurs because of an impeding surface.

The interference becomes the point of exchange. The day to day progression of digging, cutting, planting, clearing and the placing of objects into patterns that extend like a web and are shaped in a piecemeal fashion that over time becomes a pacing mechanism; a situated practice.

In these placements a junction between movement and support, gesture and position is arranged. This may act as a tuning device; an exercise in alignment in terms of up and down, forwards and backwards.

It is not about making forms in a given space, but creating pivots around which these directives briefly turn before giving way to new pivots.

Body and ground became impressions of one another in this process of exchange.

Position becomes the negotiation of speeds that stop and balance one another; oppositional forces that allow for moments of stillness.


The decision to recruit members through Autistic publications was not immediate and in some ways felt problematic; like turning a glove inside out.
But the garden already enacted a kind of reversal; a double-take where the very “Thereness” of place was not a given but depended on an on-going activation of composite bodies; A space somewhere between memory and what was not yet in place; an atmosphere that was tuned in a co-witnessin; A simultaneous growth and a dying away.

Recruiting autistic members was a decision based on my own personal relationship with people on the autistic spectrum and a sense of needing to explore with them relatedness as a durational practice rather than as an immediate and singular compliciteness within a seemingly independent time-frame. That would be the time-frame of an image; of the immediacy and apparent aptness of a sense response; of the appropriateness of a comment, a leaning, a gesture or bodily position irrespective of ground, walls and ceiling. It was a shared and mutually held surface which I felt to be essential as a basis for any commonality.

Autistic people’s involvement in this project was important because of the incongruity between a diagnosis of apparent rigidity and fear of touch and an on-going practice that many people on the spectrum are involved with of haptic learning; a fascination with the details and responsive implications of given surfaces according to the method of approach. I felt that this project could become a pacing mechanism for points of contact that could then situate one another.

I wanted to ask, would a more overtly haptic learning environment alter in any way the paradigm of diagnosis and adjust in a similar way to the feedback variations of bounce against surfaces, the unseen conditions and background assumptions concerning the proper “use” of objects, furniture, day to day scheduling, that influence autistic behaviour and to an extent, compose the diagnostic criteria?

This might open up important pointers about how simple acts can become a schema for remembering a body as a multitude of contacts that crafts and is crafted by what is “to hand” or what is “under foot”. Conjoint soundings would be the echo that builds up between various contacts that amount to something not given or expressible in any single act or position.

Agency then is not designed through a singular kind of attention but only as a culmination of many small accidental and intentional acts that do not necessarily know or determine the wider influence that they take part in.

It may be that this kind of haptic “pressure-chamber” is a device for jumping into new areas of influence, understanding, cognition and emotion. Does it become porous and unworkable where attention is dissipated too soon within complex urban settings?

A controlled environment, for a certain length of time can act as a surrogate pressure chamber- a kind of cyborg landscape that filters back through by degrees a practice of haptic attunement. Details gradually fall into place in order to test out possible accommodations that then allow them to springboard into other areas. The web makes itself whether at a neurological or a geographical level according to these nodes of influence
Community would come to be understood under the tensile restrictions of this imposed pressure chamber as the possibility for synchronising specific gestures at certain intense moments.

Visibility is energised through these points of contact but must then complete the charge in the sparking and bouncing into a far more dispersive presence that completes and situates these moments of contact.
Autistic distance; their turning away into the peripheral edges of events could be an important aspect of this counter-flow, another phase in situated learning and as involved and central to the entire mechanism as is intimacy.

It is in the spaciousness of leanings that over time go first into one extreme and then into another that there are opportunities for a re- shuffle of what fits together with what; of how models of learning are bolted together anew at each instance. Only where the glue loosens can these shifts occur. These intervals may be central to thought as they are central also to physical dexterity.

Agency within this new paradigm becomes an active shaping of distance.
It cannot be contained within a body. It is always relational not in terms simply of the social, though this may play a part but in terms of oppositional forces. This can never be a tidy fit. Autistic and Social are two extremes of composite parts that fit more or less together by their very lack of fit.

What has gradually been worked out through tangible exercises in the Garden Project with autistic people is something occurring on many scales as populations shift and galvanise in refugee camps or in new towns, as invisible workers or as new entrepreneurs. Cities push out, dissipate into information networks that suddenly recompose into given forms as special interest groups or provisional cultural alliance. These “bodies” are no longer the starting point; they occur as co-ordinates much as the pivotal points in the garden designs are distilled and then reabsorbed back into the flow.

This short account is not the place to discuss these global scales. Indeed the intention of this piece of writing is to show a method of attention that begins at the local, personal, involved scale. It is at this scale of a haptic interface that the trigger response to other modalities is activated.
It is this initial situating which allows events to then propel out of that enclave; to roam and to make connections across otherwise isolated islands of knowledge or place.

Nothing stands outside this motility as a permanent context or background in which to see any kind of operation or movement. The movement is the plasticity that is both Place and Self. For it is always the operation itself that makes a provisional and useable home; “Home” is always inhabited.
It is grasped from within.

The on-going making of place is also the on-going act of a responsive individuation.

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