Species of Spaces

5 July to 4 August 2002 


Alice's pillow-books: adventures in immanence  

Georges is most well known for his predilection for inventing the world through lists, but he also desired 'space as invention' which leads me not towards a taxonomy of matter in space, but a story of girlish and material spaces far away from his Underwood Street ....

So, take a leap from Georges' bed into the 'fresh horizons' that are to be discovered in the pillow-books of Alice.  In the oneiric space between Alice's head and her pillow a continuum of other worlds, empirical and imagined states of difference are to be found.  These figures of invention exist in the passage 'from science to dream and back again'.... led by 'an imagination which traverses domains, orders and levels, knocking down partitions, an imagination coextensive with the world'.


The Canopy 

A figure can be seen travelling at high speed, leaping through the deep, dense but capacious canopy of the forest.  Feral and agile, this singing figure calls out her way as she traverses between the precarious uppermost plane of this canopy, gradually spiralling her way down into the deeper topology of trees...  Drawn down by a sniff of a scent of saturated colour and luscious hue that she'd lost sense of yesterday, she comes to rest astride an unusually spacious and large oak tree.  Here, in this reality the scent takes on a different potential in comparison to the domestic familiarity left behind in the walled garden.  There, the senses are designed into useful spaces of cultivated order in which the sensory qualities of fruit are sealed into mensurated units of produce...  Here, however, the smell is saturated with life that reveals not so much the productive qualities of the host, but the complexity of a world in which scent and sense cannot be reduced to a classifiable tree of identifiable origins.  But despite the seeming unfamiliarity of such a reality, Alice actually feels rather concrete and intelligble in this envelope of verdant light, as she folds multiple worlds of extra-sensory space-time, imagination and relationships into her travels.

Circling high above the canopy, between the emergent layer and the mist, the Kite has watched Alice settle and now she guides herself gently down on the thermals to alight in a slender White Poplar nearby.  'The canopy extends further than the eye can see,' she calls down.  'But I can show you its hollows and depths....'  Alice had heard of kite-riding, derived from the practice of securing a human (man/boy) to the frame of a kite to ride the winds.  A way to become an embodied bit of sky, between the Gods and the secular world, but also used to predict the fortunes of the winds for sea-faring trades and, reportedly, used by Kublai Khan, as a secret weapon in his military conquests of the yellow earth.

Minutes later, on the back of the kite she understands the meaning of the mixture of magic and technology that this raptor constitutes as they rise up through the canopy and which, to her surprise, seems impossible to leave.... they have been flying for some time, and still they are immersed within the iridescent patina of the canopy.  Finally, however, she realises that this space is not empty air, but a mist of dense vapours and light, so highly reflective of the vibrant plateau that it sustains the qualities of the canopy - the reflective surface of the foliage that maximises photosynthesis to the innermost depths of the forest - so that Echo's words now make sense to Alice; for the kite inhabits this world which does not merely imitate the potential of the physical canopy as a mist-shadow but is itself a space of light suspended between water droplets in which shadows and figures become quite different kinds of bodies....Humming to herself as they descend Alice realises that into this rapturous state of affairs there is another sense of space emerging, another kind of refrain... not particularly distinctive yet, but becoming increasingly clear.... 


The Hollow

They descend into the midst of the forest, and Echo lands lightly onto the boughs of a small Pomegranate tree to find that the sonorous voice which emanated through the foliage belongs to an earwig, Persephone, whose affinity for sound is registered in the homophony between her mythical name and 'pierce-orielle,' the ear-piercer.  Persephone's singing accompanies her construction of a space that is neither inside or outside - a hollow - which leads to further passages, canals and burrows through which they will travel beyond the divide of the upper and lower worlds...  This hollow, at the centre of the tree, becomes a den, lined with moss that will allow them to emerge as if from a fur-lined sleeping bag suspended between the trees.  Later, Alice is still covered in bits of moss, having rolled around in the giving greeness until it has hollowed out a reflection of her girlishness that yesterday seemed unremarkable, but today gives her a flexibility that makes negotiating the space between the canopy and the ground so much easier.

Thirsty from her labour, she leaves Echo and Persephone to find a fit for their bodies in the hollow, to search for something to drink.  A little way off the branch of a maple has created a shelf from which she can scoop water from the singing river, and from which she can observe shyly, the fascinating figure on the other side, who is able to hold her position in the flow with no apparent means...


The Estuary

Mid-stream, Villanelle, whose appearance disguises her digital webbedness that enables her special relationship between the surface and depth of the water, one that is not only a surface understanding but also allows her to get to the depths of things (love is her favourite, but that is another story...). In addition to her propensity for couplets and shape-shifting she also has a passion for dancing.  Gliding up under Alice, whose sense of these immersive worlds is becoming greater, Villanelle invites her into the broad base of her boat to go in search of another guide whose colourful dance is at its most imperceptible on the margins of curves and bows of land and sea.

Refreshed by the water Alice feels she has already begun to take on a different state as Villanelle propels them out to where the transitory nature of the estuary is found, where the fresh meets the salt and where there is a dark eight-limbed shadow beneath the edge that produces an undulating horizon of colour, pigmentation changing from black, yellow, brown, sand....

Not sure how to begin, Alice takes to the water to follow the octopus's shifting, chimeric movements as she negotiates her way through the shallow depths.  Ariadne's intelligence doesn't just stretch to the imitation of predators - sea snakes, sole and lion-fish - but gives her the possibility of continuous invention within the diverse ecology of the estuary... Gradually, however, Alice finds that the waves feel less resistant to her movements and become a continuous envelope of the pulsing ebb and flow that she creates until she is unclear of the boundary between her body and the materiality of the sea....

So, Alice and her companions have become an immanent plane of sentient states that, for the time being, are imperceptible in these multiple 're-enchanted' worlds. But neither are we lost; rather the canopy, the hollow and the estuary have given us a sense of irreducible horizons to carry away with us...

'I make, remake and unmake my concepts along a moving horizon, from an always decentred centre, from an always displaced periphery which displaces and differentiates them.' 


2002 Peg Rawes


Peg Rawes teaches History and Theory at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL and Critical Studies in the Visual Arts Department, Goldsmiths University of London.  Philosophical and critical theory inform her research into the aesthetics of modern art and architecture.  She is researching a Ph.D. into philosophical concepts of geometry and modernist art practice at Goldsmiths.