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Performing spatial labour : rendering sensible (in)visibilities around architectures of internment

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Weinstein, BM ORCID: 0000-0002-6326-4957 2020 , 'Performing spatial labour : rendering sensible (in)visibilities around architectures of internment', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This doctoral project correlates two seemingly separate conditions of invisibility currently at the forefront of architectural discourse. One is invisibility perpetuated through spaces of internment or detention. The other is hidden architectural labour shouldered by office interns and on-site building workers. Through a practice-based investigation, I ask how installations and performances employing architecture's instruments—drawings, models and texts—can make sensible, or knowable through the senses, the camp as a recurrent condition. Through this inquiry, practices producing oscillations between visibility and invisibility, including erasing and un/re-making, have emerged, contributing to a critical praxis that I call spatial labour.
The research draws upon political philosophy's distinctions between labour, as ongoing process, and work, as produced object, and the centrality of performance as both the "doing and [the] thing done" (Diamond 1996, p. 1). The research also questions the invisibility or hypervisibility of creative labour. Spatial and temporal partitioning of labour shape sensible, or aesthetic, experience, and this "distribution of the sensible", as theorised by Jacques Rancière, is political (2004, p. 12). The ultimate spatial partitioning, separating out those reduced to what Giorgio Agamben names "bare life", manifests under the "state of exception" as the camp (1998, pp. 8, 174). As a spatial condition called forth through governmental, performative utterances, performance and architectural theories offer critical perspectives from which to spatially interrogate and performatively challenge these artefacts and their author(ity)s.
The project is framed through two case studies of government-mandated and now-demolished camps. The first examines four World War II-era Assembly or Relocations Centres in the United States, created through President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Orders #9066 and #9102, in which Japanese Americans were interned and contracted to weave camouflage netting for the US Army. These internment camps were Santa Anita and Manzanar (located in California), and Poston and Gila (in Arizona). The second case study investigates the Centre d'Identification de Vincennes (CIV) in Paris created in 1959, under France's State of Emergency Law, to detain Algerians during their war of independence.
Embodied, situated and archival research revealed five protagonists: sites, governments, building professionals, witnesses, and the interned. It exposed internees' labour, weaving camouflage, moulding bricks and fabricating scale models in the United States, and their being prevented from labouring and earning livelihood in France. Spaces, traces, atmospheres, and protagonists' renditions of their experiences informed my iterative explorations. I conducted these through architectural drawing and erasing, physical and digital (un)modelling and text-ile labour. I looked to precedents in visual and performance art practices of un-making, maintaining, and re-making space, as well as erasing and other (dis)appearing acts, as models of practice. I re-purposed architectural modes of representation forensically to uncover evidence at what Eyal Weizman calls the "threshold of detectability" (2017, p. 20). I shifted architectural practices away from making conclusive works and towards cyclically performed labours. The most significant performance-installation outcomes include Intern[ed] (2017), States of Exception (2018) and Palimpsest (2019). These explore subtle yet complex redacted, erased, palimpsestic, and scarred US sites, and the distinctly obfuscated conditions around the site in Paris, made visible through forensic architectural methods. The resulting drawn, photographic, video and material traces of these performed spatial labours were installed in Hobart's Plimsoll Gallery to choreograph visitors' experiences.
Through critical and performative spatial actions, this research contributes to scholarship, creative practice and activism implicating architecture in propagating invisible labour and exposing the ubiquity of internment and the role of built environments as a tool of oppression. Performing spatial labour enacts this critique by rendering these erasures sensible.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Weinstein, BM
Keywords: performance and installation (art), erasure, invisibility, internment camps, architecture, critical practice, labour
DOI / ID Number: 10.25959/100.00034786
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2020 the author

Additional Information:

Portions of the thesis appear to be the equivalent of a preprint version of an article This article has been accepted for publication in Performance research, published by Taylor & Francis.

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