For the Oxford English Dictionary place marks a square, street or room, but also ‘a space that can be occupied’ (hence ‘to make way, give way’). Originally the word could indicate space, a ‘continuous or unbounded extension in every direction, extension in space’, though this is now rare. Place can also indicate a ‘particular part or region of space; a physical locality, a locale; a spot, a location’; ‘the amount or quantity of space actually occupied by a person or thing; the position of a body in space, or in relation to other bodies; situation, location’.
In The Practice of Everyday Life Michel de Certeau positions place [lieu] in relation to space [espace]. For him place is “the order (of whatever kind) in accordance with which elements are distributed in relationships of coexistence”. Place is thus a map: a mental map. A space, on the other hand, “exists when one takes into consideration vectors of direction, velocities, and time variables”, so that one could conclude that “space is composed of intersections of mobile elements”. Space is where we ‘really’ are: “space is practiced place” (original emphasis).
In Art Maps, a number of spatial practices coexist. Users of Art Maps move through space, art mapping their journey whilst being mapped by art works located at Tate that have been geolocated in relation to the places they traverse. Let’s imagine that you were exploring Merrivale’s bronze age ceremonial complex on Dartmoor. An image of Richard Long’s A Hundred Mile Walk (1971-2), currently exhibited at Tate Britain, might come up on your Art Maps app. The work ‘documents’ a walk on Dartmoor made by the artist in 1971-2, following a circular route.
- How would you describe your sense of place in this context?
- Does seeing Long’s work extend your sense of place?
- Is your sense of place related to your sense of presence in the site you are in now?
- What’s the relationship between Long’s representation of this place and the space you are in?
- Would taking an image of where you are right now tell you anything more about what either you or Long may have experienced in relation to this space/place?
- Does mapping your place through Long’s work tell you more about your experience of where you are?
- Where are you?
Oxford English Dictionary, place, n.1 Third edition, June 2006; online version December 2011.; accessed 01 March 2012. An entry for this word was first included in New English Dictionary, 1907.
De Certeau, M. (1984) The Practice of Everyday Life, tr. by S. Rendall, Berkeley California: University of California Press. p117.