Misplacing Site

In the previous stop, the choice to transgress interior space centred around an expression of agency in the charged spatial relations of public/private sites, and social relations around legitimate/illegitimate use. Arguably there is a certain degree of ‘empowerment’ in grappling with, and overcoming risk. The next stop potentially diminishes this sense of agency. The participant is directed to enter the open space of Royal Park unaided by a light source, and make their way along the paths to the park’s outer edge. In the saturated dark of night, an experience of the uncanny is provoked through disorientation and its associated affects; unease, doubt and panic. The perceived and real obstacles imposed by night seemingly restrict the body’s capacity to negotiate the space effectively; the participant becomes vigilant about where they walk, what they are walking on, who else might be walking near them, and if they stray from the path, the night may occlude their return back. This highlights the extent to which our capacity to be in urban spaces is radically transformed when vision falters. While the park is physically the same, at a psychological level it signifies alterity.

Though the stop intentionally foregrounds an experience of disorientation, this strategy potentially risks re-enacting the vulnerability regularly felt by people in their daily lives, not just in the instance of a tour. There are strong parallels between the cultivated vulnerability here and the lived uncertainty for people occupying urban spaces at night, particularly women. Perhaps however, this can be a useful tool for embodying the experience of others. Disorientation allows participants (especially male) to come into contact with the affective field of the Other. In considering the idea of darkness and visibility as signifying differently for different groups, the uncanny is likewise shown to manifest in multivalent ways. There can be no one perception of what is ‘unfamiliar’ -and potentially uncanny- as the ‘familiar’ is always-already contingent upon subjective past experiences.