Thirdspace, Site, Hybridity, Y, Radical Opening

April 7, 2012

Inscribed journeys real and imagined

Last summer, I went to Ithaca to work with collaborator landscape architect, Margot Lystra. Our diachronic project, Withness: Researching Site through Dance and Design took the form of Shimmering Ithaca, in which we began to research the territories in the neighborhoods of Ithaca as a locus for our respective practices. Out of that time spent, we ended up writing a series of blog entries back and forth to one another on our investigations into Site. I thought it would be good to link up with those essays here, so heregoes:



Thirdspace and culminations that are really transitions

In addition, one of the ways I spent the residency was familiarizing myself more deeply with a subject of great interest, “thirdspace” that I had come across in research on the art project Y around 2009. If I had encountered it through my previous (academic) studies, I had forgotten (integrated?) the word. Thirdspace is a term which in part comes from Homi Bhaba’s discussions of hybridity in relation to Colonialism. He writes that the fixed nature of  the binarism Coloniser/Colonized reduces the interstitiality and interrelationships of things. Bhaba moves away from singularities in understanding cultural production, and goes on to describe a new kind of space, a more generative space, thirdspace, which is a recombinatorial and open perspective, as well as critical move.

Now, to read about this Move was a kind of revelation that I came upon during Y, which in my own practice comprised an experiential thirding, as seen right down to the writing of the letter as 3 branches: \ , / ,  and


below. My intent was to instantiate potentiality in space-time through my process and composing. All elements were brought in as attempt to experience coherency to what I had been reading/making out as the nature of Y-ness. I had to work with my own human measurement at every step to honor that intent. And yet the nature of what Y sought was opening from preconceived expectations, so there was a kind of being in the seat of the unknown that it required.  Y used my imagination and materialized alchemical thirding through dancing-drawing and speech. Y was developing longterm study in embodied languaging and inscriptions, areas of my investigatory focus. There is nothing like coming into theory that articulates the live experience, and to realize that this thing that I was uncovering in my own art practice – querying queerness and alchemy – indeed had a huge discourse in which it swam and perhaps somehow sprung! Indeed again I re-member permeability and that the imaginal space is a kind of site or territory in and of itself. Coming to well-written theory has a life force charge for me. I read something that poetically uncovered what I found seemingly in the a hermetic environment of my imagination and artistic development through a series of turns accumulated in what felt like a personal path. And then later came this word, or did it induce me unconsciously to  come to It? This term-finding yet again opened up the nature of the subject (Y), which somehow is what the research was trying to do, to open up, to branch, to find more and more space within what is present. Language can be music. And in movement, the inscriptions arise at times as beautiful tones.

There in Ithaca, I came to see asymptotic discussions collide (is this the very nature of thirdspacing?), of thirdspace being used in terms of site, such as in the work of Edward Soja, who introduces thirdspace in the spatiality of human life. He writes of the limitations of spatial dualism, and connects Lafebvre’s proposals of the production of space with thirding. He uses thirdspace broadly: “tentative and flexible term that attempts to capture what is actually a constantly shifting and changing milieu of ideas…”  And mentions:

Foucault called this “Other spaces” (des espaces autres)

Feminist geographers like Gillian Rose

Border ideas as a kind of spatializing in the work of Gloria Anzaldua, Maria Lugpones, Gayatri Spivak

Performances of  Guillermo Gomez Pena

Homi Bhaba as the progenitor of the term.

Trialectics as the thirding of the spatial imagination

all these helped to develop thirdspace.

(N.B.: What is its relation to a temporary autonomous zone?)

And with this further analysis, I was swooning. Somehow the thirdspace was informing me about the nature of my artistic projects, bringing space to them. Space Image Art Life Place. It’s a kind of obvious realization, that to read, to engage with discourse and text further broadens. In fact that realization is how Y started in the first place, in a place in time through a series of movements and then a kind of moment of an idea arising (thunder).

I bring this up now since thirdspace is so apt as a concept along with the re- and ongoing mobilizations of the Occupy movements, with hybridity in art and activisms, in the nature of somatics, and in decolonization practices, etc. I believe that this term could be theoretically useful as well as valuable in further opening up the imagination of those that encounter it, and as a way to recognize the radical openings that we are witness to and on a good day, a part of.

What exactly is it at a given moment to be in a process of radical opening?


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