Intervention for 2 persons with true vision

What senses you are manipulating and how does this change your sense of emotion or feeling in space?

When we think of manipulating sight we usually think of the extreme and taking sight away completely. Yet for many of us, the intermediate steps of blurr y vision are lived realities that our youth and corrective lenses help us forget. While blurry vision may not evoke the same sense of panic and disorientation while blind, they still bring intense discomfort and frustration especially for long periods of time. We take (clear) vision for granted. 

The mapped circle around two myopic people is smaller than that of two with “perfect vision”. While physical proximity does not translate to relational intimacy, I’d like to think that people are closer together when they occupy a shared field of their true vision; they are further sensitised to the differences in their eyesight and the need to communicate and accommodate each other to remain in each other’s field of vision.

The person with better eyesight has the benefit of greater comfort and security in the space drawn about the pair. As this person, I felt a sense of responsibility towards Yi Xue, and some discomfort in knowing we were unequal in this circle meant to enclose our shared field of vision. 

To share/make a space with another, awareness of the differences between two people is required – and by extension, accommodation from at least one of them. Dejan also raised a point about honesty being needed for the circle to be drawn true to its intention; mutual trust is also necessary. It was suggested that eyesight test cards could be used to verify positions of the two people at a certain distance to map more accurate distances, but even this in hindsight requires trust from both parties to respond honestly to the test cards.

re: The Poetics of Space – Nests, Gaston Bachelard

I found it interesting that the last line of the chapter presents space as the one changing with – or adapting to man, rather than the inverse:

“Mankind’s nest, like his world, is never finished. And imagination helps us to continue it.”

The popular conception of space as a larger static environment unresponsive to its occupants needs and interactions within it has lost its relevance. Design trends in modular furniture and dynamic, shifting environments capture this shift in our understanding of space.  

Normally we think of humans and living things being the ones to adapt to spaces, changing themselves to fit spaces. We are after all the smaller beings with adaptive capabilities, within larger “inanimate” spaces. However the reading foregrounds the inverse, exploring how spaces are the ones moulded instead to fit humans. Even in scenarios where a space is not intentionally designed to suit a particular person, he or she can still “own” the space and make its existing reality fit him or herself. It is an illusion that we have little influence on our surroundings as individuals, and even more so as a collective.

The chapter made me reflect on the concept of ergonomics and what it means to “possess” or “make” a space one’s own. I am reminded of concepts of place-making whereby the distinction between a space and a place lies in the people and memories engaged with them. While perhaps not moulding space directly with our bodies like birds, the body is still man’s primary tool for shaping space. Carrying forward the idea from Tuan’s essay on body relations and spatial values, our sensory engagements with space through our bodies define how we perceive and relate to space. We shape spaces through our personal encounters and lived experiences within them. One section of this chapter describes memories that “make” a space for a person through sensorial experiences: 

“It is as when a family, your neighbors, return to an empty house after a long absence, and you hear the cheerful hum of voices and the laughter of children, and see the smoke from the kitchen fire. The doors are thrown open, and children go screaming through the hall. So the flicker dashes through the aisles of the grove, throws up a window here and cackles out it, and then there, airing the house. It makes its voice ring up-stairs and down- stairs, and so, as it were, fits it for its habitation and ours, and takes possession.”

Our lived experiences in a space arguably have a greater effect in “moulding” it than its physical structure imposes limitations. Anything can become a nest (or home/place):

“A tree becomes a nest the moment a great dreamer hides in it.” 

The essay also presents the skill of building nests and making it fit their bodies as innate to birds by nature. This made me wonder if the same applied to humans and the extent to which human needs addressed in the formal study of ergonomics are likewise intuitive for us – how much of the conditions for making a space suit or fit man are about meeting primal needs? How much is derived instead from social constructs like our evolved definitions of well-being and quality of life? What in-built knowledge do we have on making spaces fit us?

re: Body, Personal Relations and Spatial Values

The essay explores space as a humanly construed concept, beyond the conventional understanding of space as a mere physical atmosphere or environment. It takes an anthropocentric view in explaining how people organise space differently – and similarly – with respect to their own living bodies. I appreciated how the essay drew a web of connections between different bodies (biological, cultural, social) and relations (people-people, people-space, people-time etc.) based on space. 

One thing that stood out for me was the primacy of vision in defining the living body’s experience of space and the spatial schema imposed on it by extension. To perceive and measure space in terms of height and proximity relations etc., sight plays a crucial role. It would be interesting however to explore how the schema and vocabularies of spatial organisation might be different, if man relied on non-visual stimuli and experiences from engaging other senses instead. If we could not see, how would we divide, measure and assign value to space through only hearing, smelling and/or feeling the world? If we closed our eyes and were completely still (but awake, upright and conscious), and relied predominantly on our sense of hearing to engage with space, would right and left be primary, and front and back secondary instead? Since our ears are designed at the sides of our heads, the degree of sound stimuli from circumambient space would vary most along that axis. Might we also move along a horizontal axis, led by hearing instead – side-stepping like crabs in space instead of walking forward and backward “normally”? Proximity relations might be informed by ambient sounds too, instead of distance and scale relations observed visually. While touch (and movement of our body to do this) might still allow us to identify the polarities and centres of a space without sight, how significant would these divisions be in influencing how we assign value to parts of a space? Where we still identify the centre and polarities of space based on touch alone, perhaps it is the ends of a space rather than its harder-to-pinpoint centre that gain greater importance for the sense of security and structure it offers a blind person. The position a blind person might value most might not be the centre of the world then but its ends. 

Space differs among different people because they measure and organise it with different bodies. But focusing on the living body as a “measuring tool” for space, space can also differ for the individual, if we augment the way we use our bodies to measure space.