Participation cartography: performance, space, and subjectivity

  • Luis Carlos Sotelo Castro

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study presents the term Participation Cartography as an overarching category of analysis for a wide range of artistic practices that, in one way or another, enable participants to position themselves subjectively in relation to a given performed space. By re-defining cartography from a discipline concerned with the visual representation of the observable world into a performance praxis that requires audience participation, enabling participants to position themselves in relation to a given performed space, I expand the range of practices considered by previous literature. Further, I raise issues in relation to the connections of subjectivity, space, performance, and cartography. My argument is that Participation Cartography describes a type of practice in and through which the Subject who moves in space is both mapped and positioned. By linking Felix Guattari’s (1995) term ‘cartography of subjectivity’ with Deirdre Heddon’s (2008) investigation on autobiographical tours made by artists (‘autotopographies’), Participation Cartography locates the practices here under study within a terrain that blurs everyday life and art, autobiography and representation of subjects-in-movement. In so doing, Participation Cartography expands previous notions such as ‘psychogeography’ (Kanarinka, 2006, McDonough, 2002), ‘collaborative mapping’ (Sant, 2004), ‘locative media’ (Hemment, 2006) and ‘autotopography’ (Heddon, 2008). Participation Cartography describes a type of social activity or, in Allan Kaprow’s terms, a kind of ‘participation performance’ (Kaprow, 2003) that enables participants to present the self (Goffman, 1990) as a being-in-motion within the public arena of performance. Michel De Certeau’s (1984) ‘The Practice of Everyday Life’ is used as a theoretical model to analyse the tensions raised by Participation Cartography between the artists’ strategies, the participants’ performances, and the representations of those performances that remain. Positioning, as used within a field in social psychology called ‘Positioning Theory’ (Harre and Van Langenhove, 1999) is applied to the analysis of the practices here under study. Participation Cartography turns the spectator into a participant. More concretely, participants are turned into both producers and users of cartographies of the Subject they co-produce with others. As a self-reflexive practice that creates agency, it enables participants to fabricate interconnections between performance, space, and subjectivity, blurring the boundaries between art and therapy. Key practices that are discussed in this thesis include a locative media project by Jen Southern (UK) and Jen Hamilton (Canada) titled Running Stitch (2006), Untitled Action for the Arches (2005), a live art work by Kira O’Reilly (Ireland), and my own collaborative pieces, The Shoemakers’ Ball (2006) and We the Colombia National Team (2003)
Date of Award2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorVida Midgelow (Supervisor)

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