This blog is part 2 of 2 of a paper entitled “YOU ARE WHAT YOU LIVE IN: Exploring Lawrence Halprin’s process, (a visual investigation by Katherine Wimble).”* In that paper, I imitated, in a sense, what I saw in Halprin’s published notebooks—the presence of Halprin’s handwriting throughout (including publication information, table of contents, etc.), a combination of words and graphics, diagrams, and flow-charts—not to copy what he did, but to understand the process by which they came to be. The reason that those notebooks came to be was because Halprin liked to record ideas so that he could get things out where he could see them… to make his own creative process visible and moreover to become a way of generating new ideas.
By writing this paper, my goal* was to understand Halprin’s process in light of the fact that many of the ideas expressed in his notebooks were directly translated into the landscapes he designed, the movements he scored, and the forms of, and means of, participation/performance he enabled. His notebook pages reveal what seem to be deeply-held beliefs—whole systems of knowing centered around movement, embodied understanding of space, and atavistic desires buried in the earth and in us. His belief system became an imperative of his designs: to make spaces people could be themselves in, move in freely, sense fully, create the world in the doing, and relate to the world outside. Such spaces could serve to alleviate stress people felt due to imposed restrictions that inhibited their participation in their own environment.
So how did he do it? What form did his ideas take? What did his spaces reveal? How can ideas about life-forces, movement, embodied understanding of space, atavistic desires BE MADE PERCEPTIBLE? How can we get it out there where we can sense it? Is the point to feel more, or something different, or what?
Not only did I want to know and understand how Halprin went from idea/observation to recording, to abstraction, and finally to design, but also what happened along the way? What actions did he take? What movements did he make? What ideas were lost? Neglected? Accumulated? What lens(es) filtered his understanding?
A bigger question that relates to all of these questions is, how did he account for his own subjectivities? Did Halprin believe that his own experiences could “stand in for” the experiences of others? Did that work? Did he want people to feel what he felt?
With those larger questions, I began a process of putting my scraps of understanding together, writing part 1 to ground myself in Halprin’s general philosophies, significant insights, and written work. Here are some alternative titles I considered which collectively touch on all the major themes I wrote about.
Note: I wrote this list as I thought of ideas but did not start at the top of the page; rather, I started somewhere randomly in the middle and then filled in ideas above and below. Therefore, they should not be read as/interpreted as a hierarchy. They are only aligned for clarity/legibility.
Modeling Halprin’s emphasis on the importance of participation, I wrote directly to the reader/participant in an introduction and invited participation throughout the process of reading. I think this was somewhat successful, based on this review:
Clearly, there were next steps.
And from my loving husband and most trusted first reader, Tyler Fox:
“Where is your insight that helps us as reader connect Halprin to other ideas, experience, people, disciplines? This is the only thing I would like to see something added. It could be added as an afterward, and doesn’t necessarily need to be in the text, but I would urge you to consider it. I think that it would make the whole project richer and deeper.”
So here is PART 2
The space of the blogosphere allows for a different kind of participation. Granted, it does not always function optimally. But in the best circumstances, blogs elicit reflection, stimulate a dialogue, and produce a rich set of comments each responding to each other: my own RSVP cycle. I hope you will comment – I am waiting to learn from you. Thank you for participating in this process with me.
* If you missed or would like to review Part 1, it is available here.