February 03, 2014

The Sense of presence: Making, Configuring, Conjuring

© Institute of Making, UCL
© Institute of Making, UCL

How is the sense of presence, so important in performing well onstage, felt, seen, or created in the city? George Balanchine’s definition of presence was make people feel “right here, right now!” How can that liveness be achieved in a city? Much current architecture and planning creates life-less and inert environments; artists and culture makers have to struggle to rouse people from such environments. We want to explore Balanchine’s command in terms of four dimensions: when, how, what, and where — in other words, time, knowledge, materials, and place. We are mindful that “presence” is not politically innocent: a looming crowd evokes the feeling of being present at something important, and, in another dimension, presence and liveness can be repressed by the authorities or by the sanctions of tenancy and ownership.

The material is as thick as it is thin, as opaque as it is transparent, as present as it is absent. Thinking materiality across the disciplines of urbanism, architecture and the performing arts allows us to think the plural forms of materiality from the object, to light, to the performative and the imaginary. What is the relationship between the material and the immaterial? Do materials perform of an agency all their own? Is light a material itself, or simply an enabler of the materialiy of others? How can we think the materiality of objects conjured by an actor on an empty stage? How does the ‘time’ of the object, of its materiality differ on stage, or in the city? And what can this tell us about our conceptions of architecture and the city as materials we stub our toes on?

Openings by:

Zoe Loughlin, Creative Director & Curator of Materials, Institute of Making, UCL

Zoe will lead a short tour of the Institute of Making, our host for the salon. Her particular areas of interest are currently The Sound of Materials, The Taste of Materials and The Performativity of Matter.

Don Slater, Associate Professor of Sociology, LSE

Don Slater is the principal investigator on the new ESRC funded project Configuring Light. He will help open the converstaion by discussing the project that starts from the idea that light is a material through which we organize social space; light is the infrastructure of everyday life.

David Lan, Artistic Director, Young Vic

David Lan is the Artistic Director of the Young Vic Theathre in London, but also an anthropologist, and a former magician. He speaks to the conjuring acts of materials, on stage and in the city. 

This salon is free and open to the public but will be kept deliberately small in order to focus conversation. To register your interest please email: info@theatrum-mundi.org