The Invisible Seminar: Space


Working… Photo: Brandon LaBelle

October 15th to 18th, 2012. Bergen, Norway.

Tutors: Rodrigo Tisi (UNIACC, Santiago de Chile), Rori Knudtson (School of Critical Engagement), and Brandon LaBelle (Bergen Academy)

The Invisible Seminar is an ongoing research project led by Professor Brandon LaBelle at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design in collaboration with Migrating Art Academies. It seeks to investigate the operations of visibility by highlighting the unseen, the camouflaged, the immaterial and the erased as particular aesthetic strategies. If the visual arts historically have relied upon the seeing subject as its partner, functioning to give representation to the imagination or world events, what forms of critique, protest and poetics have been developed by occupying the space of the invisible? How has visual culture studies, and what Camiel van Winkel terms the “regime of visibility”, contributed to the contemporary imperative to visualize and expose? Can notions of the invisible be used to deepen perspectives on the power dynamics of the gaze and image production? And importantly, how might invisibility contribute to rethinking modes of collectivity and politics?

For this edition, taught by Brandon LaBelle with Rodrigo Tisi (Santiago de Chile) and Rori Knudtson (Copenhagen), the Seminar focused specifically on questions of space and methods of spatial practice. Space is often understood as the rooms we move through and inhabit. In thinking space we imagine particular forms and envision concrete materiality. Yet space may also be understood as a volume of air hovering within and between rooms – as the immaterial and intangible matter that takes shape through architectural structure, and through daily use. Space can also be understood as a place for encounter often defined by unseen energies.

It was the aim of the seminar to further this alternative perspective by examining the issue of invisibility and how it might be seen (if we can say) to contribute to understandings of space. Legacies of spatial practice and spatial thinking sets the scene for probing such perspectives and experiences, appreciating these less material of architectural features: aspects of sound, light, texture, atmosphere and ambience were presented as no less important elements defining experiences of space, as well as contributing to strategies for spatial intervention and expanded artistic practices. In addition, space was considered as marked by invisible ideologies that influence form and how we occupy space. In this sense, the modes of behavior not only result from what space suggests, but what we may perceive and perform upon it.

The seminar was designed as an intensive three-day study where each day was led by a leading practitioner and explored a given question, methodology or debate. The seminar integrated theoretical study (on issues of spatial practice, architecture and room strategies) as well as material production by way of hands-on constructions that explore the invisibility of space. Students were engaged in each day’s investigation through collective discussion and collaboration, emphasizing the performative and relational parameters of what it means to be in space.