Trailing us like a shadow, our personal space is always present, but we are typically only aware of it when it has been compromised. We are perpetually occupying it, negotiating for it, or wresting it—if only temporarily— from the public realm and the larger environment. Our personal boundary is the first territorial line defining our relationship with our surroundings and others. This line expands and contracts as circumstances change and as we extend or scale back our willingness to engage with a given environment or body. How can this experience be physically simulated? Can we be made more aware of the impact of our personal space on others? And can people be empowered to create and manage the limits of the space they occupy?Clearing is a commission for a room-sized interactive space that invites visitors to investigate the politics of personal space. The room is nested into the gallery as elevated and independent. Participants enter and organize their own space as a tangible substance though the manipulation of a dense fibrous field of black elastomeric cables. Visitors use serrated acrylic discs to gather and arrange the cables like long black hair. More than 4,000 of these cables, which can stretch up to twice their original length, are strung into loops of varying density and attached across a grid of perforated metal sheets along a suspended ceiling and floor. The possible configurations are infinite. Over the four months that the installation was accessed to the public, it never ended the day looking the way it had that morning. Clearing highlights the interactive role of the individual in a crowd, and the potential of a crowd working collectively to create, sculpt, and manage space.
LATERAL OFFICE, founded in 2003 by Mason White and Lola Sheppard, is an experimental design practice that operates at the intersection of architecture, landscape, and urbanism. The studio describes its practice process as a commitment to “design as a research vehicle to pose and respond to complex, urgent questions in the built environment,” engaging in the “wider context and climate of a project– social, ecological, or political.”