In the age of the internet when so many of us barely leave our screens, it's easy to forget that we are embodied. But we take up space, and the question of how our bodies engage with the spaces they inhabit is at the heart of this week's Mind into Matter: Bodies and Space symposium based out of the Dalhousie Faculty of Architecture and Planning.
Architecture professor and symposium organizer Sarah Bonnemaison is inviting academics, dancers, engineers and curators to come to Halifax and engage in an interdisciplinary feast of ideas. She sees this as an opportunity for thinkers to connect in new and meaningful ways. "Each of the people who are coming are very deep in to what they're doing," she says. "The computer people have never talked to dancers, you know? So I think it will be really good for them, and I think they will share a million things and get really excited."
With session topics like "Working remotely together in responsive environments" and "Designing through our imagined bodies," there's a lot to be excited about. The event will take attendees to the cutting edge of this intersection between bodies and space in a digital age.
Beyond the speaker events, the symposium will also be hosting an interactive exhibition, My Mother's Kitchen, centred around Bonnemaison's research into the history of kitchen design. "The whole thing started because my mother moved in Marseille to an apartment that was designed by Charlotte Perriand," she says.
Perriand, a famous French designer, adapted kitchens in Marseille to fit the average woman's body. Bonnemaison's interest led to wider research about the role women played in designing modern kitchens.
"Women designers were brought into it because the assumption was that they knew more about it," she says. "Being good architects, they studied how people lived and then they tried to design modern kitchens, and really it's the story of the kitchen we have today."
For the exhibition, Bonnemaison has built a recreation of her mother's kitchen as well as two other kitchens designed by women. These spaces will be animated by a performance from Mocean Dance. Clare French is choreographing the dance and she explains that it will not be a theatrical or historic re-enactment. "My way into the work is through the designers themselves," says French, "and through Sarah's research as a designer, and also thinking about dance and dancers being designers themselves."
Each kitchen will elicit a different performance that will reflect the different functionalities of those spaces. "I'm interested in bringing abstract conceptual ideas of dance to this idea of bodies relating in space," says French.
Parallel to this exhibition and performance, Peter Dykhuis, curator of the Dalhousie Art Gallery, has put together a show of art videos dealing with these shared themes of kitchen design and domesticity. He wanted to enhance the symposium experience without adding too many more layers.
"The entire symposium has so many layers to it," he says. "The motion, the dance, the movement through the space, and then there's just everything to do with the architecture of the kitchen, then there's that whole layer of the ethnographic use of the kitchen from different points of view and different abilities and different economies."
To keep it simple, he returned to a classic piece of feminist video art by Martha Rosler, The Semiotics of the Kitchen, and is contrasting this with a newer work by Viennese artist Moira Zoitl, Küchen Torso.
Together all these elements of the symposium will bring new perspectives to the question, "How does the body move in space?"
Mind into Matter: Bodies and Space
Performance begins Thursday, May 8
Symposium runs Friday, May 9 to Saturday, May 10
Exhibitions run Friday, May 9 to Sunday, May 11
To register see here