Saturday, October 22, 2005


Fall Semester ‘04

Maryam Kaykavoosi

When you see the earth from the moon, you don’t see any divisions there of nations or states. This might be the symbol for the new mythology to come (that is the country that we are going to be celebrating and those are the people that we are one with).

Bill Moyer

Bill Moyer communicates this blurring of boundaries through the metaphor of distance. I chose to study blurring the boundaries through the use of light and shadow to develop the sense of embodiment rather than the customary way that we carry the image of ourselves and our place in a space.

To move through demarcation that the distinction of the line as object and its shadow becomes blurry was achieved through threading 18 eye hooks which was the number of the participants through the West, North, and East side of the studio and having a total darkness. Using two candles the participants moved through the spaces between the lines creating the shadows. I was interested to explore living architecture through the ideas of participants activating the space as a tactile experience. The premise was feeling is seeing. When I developed this project, I was thinking of the act of people getting together as a community to co-create pre-architectural demarcation of space. The seed of the architecture is the inhabitation of the space by the act of the embodiment of the space. So, I chose to have participants go through a vessel type space (somewhat like a birthing vessel) following a prescribed process.

The vessel that I created was made of recycled 2x4 wooden boards also used in my first project at the Forum Gallery. The structure was completely dark except for one very dim light source. There were a series of elastic bands which formed patterns that would facilitate the movement of the hand pulling the participant through the space. Each participant was asked to sit on the edge of the vessel and to lie down head first facing up and horizontally and to glide on a conveyer belt using the bands to pull them to the other end of the vessel. (This position creates a feeling of vulnerability in animals and in humans and trust can be an issue.)

My wish for the project was to blur boundaries by using architecture to instill a sense of unity and embodiment. By embodiment, I mean the participant experiences the space not only intellectually and mentally, but also in a tactile physical way of feeling through the space in order to move. The visual sensory becomes subdued as a result of the darkened space. The position of the body was also shifted from vertical standing or sitting to a horizontal position and the participant feels their way through the space, increasing the tactile sensory contact and furthering their sense of embodiment.

I was very interested in breaking down the ideas of the boundaries that we have and to show that usual perceptions of objects are not something to rely upon as objective truth of reality because in fact in the dim light of the vessel and outside of it, participants were not able to distinguish between the shadow of the thing and the thing itself and were prompted to shift to tactile means of seeing the space through feeling it.

This experiment made people very uncomfortable going through that darkened space; however they enjoyed the active co-creation of moving with the candles to explore the demarcation outside the vessel before entering the vessel. There was not enough light at the end of the journey through the vessel to provide the sense of celebration of arrival into a welcoming space. This experience could have been altered, however, if other participants had acted as a community and welcomed each other as each participant had gone through the dark difficult space and entered a welcoming community of people with shared experiences.

The experiment failed because one cannot create a welcoming shift of proximity among people by prescribing it. This experimental way of prescribing shared experience in order to create shared embodiment of space and resulting unity in architecture was not effective. It was like prescribing a rite of passage when the participants did not know or desire to become part of an unknown ritual. Even though the experiment did not achieve the desired results of unity and embodiment, it did demonstrate the power of architecture to create moods and behavior. For example, one participant described the experience like

being on an airplane and you had to remain in your seat. Another participant said it was like being in a shadow puppet theater from


. Another person said they felt angry being told what to do and having to go through the vessel.

Thoughts for a future experiment might be to create the space and let people roam through it and become curious and voluntarily coalesce to activate or embody the space, meanwhile creating their own rituals.

I am still interested in creating a sense of awe and unity so I would like to make a project that unites the earth and the sky by mapping the celestial movements and making demarcations that correlate to the Spring Equinox. I like to work with the effect of light and shadow and creating spatial embodiment that manifests cosmic unity.