Does language make a place?

‘Gradually a thick blanket of moss and lichen coated its fabric in the resulting micro climate. And it took on symbolic significance: through the state-organized process of land requisition and afforestation, it became one of those places in Wales, along with reservoirs and military ranges and open-cast mines, where land disappeared, was ‘disappeared’, and with it too, by implication, language.’1

This wonderful quote by Pearson makes you question, what makes a place a place?

Language creates imagery when we give a place a name, as it can be a way of describing and remembering certain places we have visited or seen.

However, by naming a place do we lose something?

There is the idea that something with no name has more potential compared to a place or object connected to a name. By naming it, it knocks this air of potential down.
When does the linguistic tag knock it down?
By attaching a name it becomes something, even when there is only the skeleton of a place left, like in the initial Pearson quote, there can be no frame work left of a place but the historical context of that place is still alive. By giving a place a name it can differentiate what a place means to a person like a house/home it goes from a space to a place.

It’s not only language that can make you remember a place, your feelings and your senses can make you remember images and memories. This is your sensory, conceptional memory and it is a type of psychological memory/ geography; describing memories through psycho-geographic mapping that are born through lived experience.

Performances can ‘articulate exchanges between the work of art and the places in which its meanings are defined’2. However, ‘in such work place becomes an important element within the artistic encounter and there is recognition that a space is not empty but full of meaning’3.

Every person is different when it comes to memory, as everyone has different triggers that can make them remember an exact place or moment in their life and because of this a performance can give very different meanings to one audience. We must keep thinking back to how small things can effect a ‘site’ especially when in the library.

– We could perform in the Library in the same building but be in a ‘different place’.
– Do we follow the common trends/the traditional linear movements?
– Or do we resist it?
When discussing the observations we saw when on the 3rd floor of the library we liked the idea of stillness, but subvert it to the 1st floor creating the fantastical and extreme in the polar opposite. In the three floors of the library there are elements that people don’t notice like the varied levels of attention. This idea of watching for the performance and the reaction of the people makes the entire concept highly interesting. As it is making the audience question whether they witness the actual reading of a book or a performance of reading a book.

‘In site-specific performance involves an activity, an audience and a place, then creative opportunities reside in the multiple creative articulations of us and them and there.’4.

Ideas after reading Mike Pearson’s chapter on Models and Approaches:

– Urban space being a Non-place
– How space controls our actions and its importance – ideology/functional. (eg like the teacher sitting in the front of the class)
-Why is the library organised like that?
-Is it the most economical way to organise books? And why? (Social convention)
– Expectations and objects of site, the rules to operate with in and for others.
– How we can use the natural architecture of the building and the discovery of Frames.
– How we can develop on experience as it informs the performances, using different angles of perception?

Word count: 649

Works cited

Govan, E et al (2007). Making a performance. Routledge: London.

Kaye, Nick (2000) Site-Specific Art: Performance, Place and Documentation. Routledge, Great Britain.

Pearson, Mike (2010) Site- Specific Performance. Palgrave Macmillan, Great Britain.


  1. Pearson, 2010 p18-19 []
  2. Kaye, 2000 p1 []
  3. Govan, 2007 p121 []
  4. Pearson, 2010 p19 []
Posted: January 30th, 2013
Categories: Borges, Early Research, Les dames des livres, Video Research
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