GOING VISITING workshop and research
Scéne Nationale de l'Essonne
Évry, December 2022
"Lying on my back, connecting to the layers of concrete beneath me. Sinking in. Thinking about the different times of the different bodies here: Cloud time, human time, stone/concrete time, moss time. Becoming a ball of moss to rest with the place from there. Looking at shards of broken glass, like boulders in the miniature moss-scape that is slowly spreading across a forgotten corner of concrete. The glass is trash, matter out of place according to the expectations of this particular material assembly. But in reality the glass is closely related to the stones and sand in the concrete. All of this here is matter out of place. Including me. And now all is here. In this place. This becoming a new way of being in place. What microbial entities inhabit this place whithout questioning its material origins? From the microbial perspective this landscape just is. They don’t question who made it or how. It’s just another material compilation that becomes a habitat, an origin. Who thrives here?
Following the green path in the cracked asphalt pavement to arrive to the tower of bricks. Getting intimate with the bricks, touching and stroking their surfaces, noticing details in their textures and colors. Listening to their story of origin; feeling the slow grinding journey of the ice, the resting into sediments, the power of the burn. Bonding and resonating with the patience of this material. Opening my eyes to witness the world and the people passing by from its perspective.
With mildness. Generous presences. Curious questions.
It’s almost as if they want to hold me. The relationship between our lifeforms is ancient. We rest/dwell well together. Being with bricks. Intimacy. They welcome me generously. We go well together, I almost cannot leave them. Perhaps we were meant for each other…?
Matter out of place.
All of us here are matter out of place. Through resting together in time, we find our places with each other. Come into place together."
For this residency I wanted to explore and read the modern Parisian cité of Évry as a geological event, to understand the place from a
materially embedded perspective. The Going Visiting workshop was prepared with this focus and conducted and documented in
collaboration with fellow artist in residence Eva Bubla.
We were living in the huge architect designed urban landscape called Les Pyramide. The nearest busstop was close to a complex consisting buildings and a basin called Les Mirroirs.
I decided to explore the (estranged) materials and inhabitants of this place through photographs, that would attempt to weave the human and more-than-human bodies together in something, that could be the beginning of a different sense of belonging to each other.
Excerpt from research notes:
What does it do to my body to be constantly lifted by constructions, hovering above the foundations of the landscape in this way? A kind of suspension. A lack of connection to the soil.
Today the sun shines through persistent blue-grey clouds. I could be anywhere in the world.
Maybe that’s what the suspension does - removes me from the geological/geographical origins of this place. Lifting me above it and into a world, which somehow denies og defies its connection to these origins.
I ask, who was involved in the construction of the place, if he knows of anyone who can tell me, where the concrete that build this new landscape came from.
Which mountains were ground to make the aggregate and cement? Where was it mixed?
He doesn’t know, and he doesn’t know anyone who knows.
The people who live here pass through. On average they only stay here 7 years before they move on. Most of them don’t chose to be here, and move on, up the socio-economical ladder as soon as they can. They are not historically or materially connected to the place. Only through their children, who link them to the school, the neighborhoods and the local communities. The children are the real inhabitants of this place.
But most of them move away when they grow up.
It’s like the city is suffering from a sort of amnesia.
The material origins have been forgotten. And the intersecting journeys of human and material stories seem somehow uprooted from its original materials and topographies, not grounded in a shared sense of identity of place, of belonging. Mental, material estrangement… lingering in a perpetuated suspension.
A sense of history-less-ness. Neither the materials nor the people have been here or stay here long enough to set roots that are long enough to connect to the soil beneath the layers of concrete.
Concrete consists of: Cement. Sand. Aggregate (gravel). Steel. Chemical admixtures.
Asphalt consists of: Aggregate (granite or other). Sand. Stone dust. Bitumen (byproduct from crude oil processing). It is 100% reusable with crushing and re-heating
Even if Evry was built again today, it would still be built in concrete.
The construction industry has developed very little towards sustainable building materials since the 70’s.
There are now lots of sustainable alternatives, Gatichanvre (?) locally produced sustainable materials.
The sustainable building materials of the future actually return to old techniques, using the materials of the land. The materials are both lighter and softer than the ones we use today.
The cities of the future will be lighter and softer...
It is a place of transit.
Materially and socially.
How to trace the origins of matter and flesh?
How to explore the genealogy of the city-body?
How to establish connections between flesh and matter, which root both here, now?
How to give agency back?
The method Going Visiting has been developed through my work in and with many different geographical places and types of land, drawing inspiration from new materialist and eco-feminist writers and thinkers including Donna J. Haraway, Karen Barad and Astrida Neimanis. The method is a framework for exploring and co-creating with a given area through physical encounters between the human body and the more-than-human bodies, phenomena and dynamics of this particular place. Through this work, new understandings emerge, immersive and performative situations and potentials arise, text is produced and shared aesthetic sensory mappings begin.
To conduct the workshop is valuable as part of my research as each participant brings with them their unique way of meeting, sensing and collaborating with a particular place. It makes sense to do the workshop with people, who already have an interest in the place in different ways or people, who are curious to explore other ways of creating in and with different types of land and their inherent dynamics.
“Visiting is not an easy practice; it demands the ability to find others actively interesting, even, or especially others most people already claim to know all too completely, to ask questions that one's interlocutors truly find interesting, to cultivate the wild virtue of curiosity, to attune one's ability to sense and respond - and to do all this politely! .... [This] sort of politeness does the energetic work of holding open the possibility that surprises are in store, that something interesting is about to happen, but only if one cultivates the virtue of letting those, one visits intra-actively shape what occurs. They are not who/what we expected to visit, and we are not who/what we anticipated either. Visiting is a subject- and object-making dance, and the choreographer is a trickster.”
(Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble - Making Kin in the Chthulucene)