Week 2: First steps into our own invisible cities

Our second session involved the telling of memories and stories, particularly of cities in our case, and why that particular memory has such meaning with us. We did this by passing a ball of wool around from person to person as they shared their particular memory of a place. We created a web of memories and it showed that it is very easy to make emotional attachments to places; however, these sites have multiple meanings to different people.


Meaning is the key point here as it encouraged us to think what a place means and why. We explored Carl Lavery’s ‘25 Instructions for performance in cities’ and chose a few exercises he suggested to give to students as a preparation before attempting said ’25 instructions’ to perform around Lincoln. Tasks like “ask a friend to guide you through the city via instructions given on a mobile phone, alternatively; sketch out smell maps, taste maps, audio maps, affective maps and geological maps of the city, or return to the same spot every day for a week and witness what happens there.” (Lavery, 2005, p. 233)


Following this study we began to walk around Lincoln, attempting these tasks and modifying a couple for our own experiment. We began by nominating one of our group to give a blindfolded person a set of instructions to guide them through the city so that they could get a feel for the city on a different level; through sound, smell, touch, taste rather than seeing a place which they would already be very familiar with. This allowed us to then document the city on a whole new level and start to acknowledge new layers and fragments to a place that we thought we knew. Lavery expressed that these instructions allowed students “reflect on and share their insights and experiences through performative lectures [or even create] monologues about the place” (Lavery, 2005, p. 233). The information gathered is then used as a source and allows students to see performance as “something that resists categorization, something that is not theatre, not art, not dance, not film. Something, in other words, that allows you to do what you want.” (Lavery, 2005, pp. 233-4).


We then investigated the concept of “place” in more detail; documenting what Lincoln Guildhall and Stonebow  meant to the public with results such as; shelter for the homeless, a meeting point, a beautiful piece of architecture, a piece of history and locals commenting that they hadn’t ever really noticed them in detail before as it was just another part of Lincoln. When asking questions about the arches it became clear that sometimes you have to look beyond what is at surface value, every site will have some hidden truths and by exposing these secrets it allows us to see the city or site in a way that we would never have considered before. This links to Italo Calvino’s concept of Invisible cities and might be worth deeper consideration when beginning our search for a site.


Lavery, C. (2005), ‘Teaching Performance Studies: 25 instructions for performance in cities’, Studies in Theatre and Performance 25: 3

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