Dancing About Architecture | Performance

A Performance After Georges Perec’s Species of Spaces

Dancing About Architecture: A Performance After Georges Perec’s Species of Spaces
December 18, 2018, 11 AM - Long Lounge – Room 7-429

Space/Dance is part of the Fall 2018 Experiments in Pedagogy organized on occasion of the 150th Anniversary of architecture education at MIT.

Performed by Marisa Waddle, Christopher Weaver, Alexandre Beaudouin-Mackay, Ben Hoyle with Special Guests, Neave Trio (Anna Williams, violinist, Mikhail Veselov, cellist, and Eri Nakamura, pianist)

Directed and Choreographed by Richard Colton in Collaboration with the Performers

Visual Design by Guy Bigland

Advisor: Professor Mark Jarzombek



Dancing About Architecture | Performance

Georges Perec (1936 –1982) was a French novelist, essayist and filmmaker whose linguistic talents ranged from fiction to crossword puzzles to authoring the longest palindrome ever written. Winner of the Prix Renaudot in 1965 for his first novel Things, and the Prix Medicis in 1978 for his most acclaimed novel Life A User’s Manual, Perec was also a member of Oulipo, a group of writers and mathematicians devoted to the discovery and use of constraints to encourage literary inspiration. One of their most famous products was Perec’s own novel, A Void, written entirely without the letter “e.” Born in Paris, Perec was the only son of Icek Judko and Cyrla (Schulewicz) Peretz, Polish Jews who had emigrated to France in the 1920s. His father died as a soldier early in the Second World War and his mother was murdered in the Holocaust, and many of his works deal with absence, loss, and identity, often through word play. Perec was taken into the care of his paternal aunt and uncle in 1942, and in 1945 he was formally adopted by them. Perec studied history and sociology at the Sorbonne. In 1958/59 he served in the army as a paratrooper and married Paulette Petras after being discharged. In 1961, Perec began working at the Neurophysiological Research Laboratory, a low-paid position which he retained until 1978. A few reviewers have noted that the daily handling of records and varied data may have had an influence on his literary style. He joined Oulipo in 1967, meeting Raymond Queneau, among others. Perec began working on a series of radio plays, less than a decade later, he was making films. Achieving some success, he became a writer in residence at the University of Queensland, Australia, in 1981, during which time he worked on 53 Jours (53 Days), which he would not finish. Shortly after his return from Australia, his health deteriorated. He died the following year. Many of Perec's novels and essays abound with experimental word play, lists and attempts at classification, and they are usually tinged with melancholy. He published Espèces d'espaces (Species of Spaces) in 1974. He was originally contracted to write it by a friend and collaborator trained in architecture, hence the subject of the book, which is urban and domestic space. In it, he contemplates the many ways in which we occupy the space around us, depicting the commonplace items with which we are familiar in a startling, engrossing way. A Perec admirer, author Paul Auster writes, “To read Georges Perec one must be ready to abandon oneself to a spirit of play. His books are studded with intellectual traps, allusions and secret systems, and they are prodigiously entertaining.” 

Richard Colton is Founder/Director of Summer Stages Dance @ The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. SSD@ICA is an artists’ residency that supports the development of collaborative work between contemporary dance makers, visual artists, writers and composers. Colton was a leading performer from 1972-89 with Twyla Tharp Dance, American Ballet Theater, Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project, and the City Center Joffrey Ballet. Colton’s early performing in the 60’s at Judson Memorial Church with the James Waring Dance Company was a formative experience, and his love for experimentation in the arts was born there. Colton is a four-time winner of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Outstanding Choreography Award. 

Since forming in 2010, Neave Trio has earned enormous praise for its engaging, cutting-­edge performances. hey perform internationally WQXR explains, "'Neave' is actually a Gaelic name meaning 'bright' and 'radiant', both of which certainly apply to this trio's music making." The Trio strives to champion new works by living composers and reach wider audiences through innovative concert presentations, regularly collaborating with artists of all mediums. Neave released their latest album, French Moments, on Chandos Records in June 2018.

Guy Bigland is a visual artist based in the UK. He is interested in relationships between language and that which it articulates, describes or interprets. His work examines the construction of meaning and the role language plays in seeing. Since graduating from Bath Spa University’s MFA course in 2014, he has exhibited widely and been awarded two public commissions. In 2015 Bigland’s book Things You Have Done won the Sheffield International Artists’ Book Prize. Another book, All the Paintings in the Museum, was named one of the the top ten Artists’ Books of 2015 by a-n (The Artists Information Company). His work is held in public and private collections internationally. []

Mark Jarzombek is a professor at MIT, where he has been teaching since 1995. He works on a range of topics in the field of the history and theory of architecture. Jarzombek works on a wide range of topics – both historical and theoretical. He is one of the country’s leading advocates for global history and has published several books and articles on that topic, including the ground-breaking textbook entitled A Global History of Architecture (Wiley Press, 2006) with co-author Vikramaditya Prakash and with the noted illustrator Francis D.K. Ching. Jarzombek's and Prakash's other joint venture is the Architecture (Un)certainty Lab [A(U)L], which is dedicated to challenging architecture's epistemological and design capacities and bring the conversation back into a world of immersive ambiguities. A(U)L is the pedagogical wing of O(U)R, [Office for (Un)certainty Research] the project-oriented studio that is also run by Jarzombek and Prakash. He is the sole author of Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective  (Wiley Press, 2013), which is a sensitive synthesis of first society architecture through time and includes custom-made drawings, maps and photographs. The book builds on the latest research in archeological and anthropological knowledge while at the same time challenging some of their received perspectives.  Jarzombek is currently working on a book that interrogates the digital/global imaginaries that shape our lives. A chapter from that book has recently been published. Digital Stockholm Syndrome in the Post-Ontological Age (University of Minnesota Press, 2016).