Rationale of the Straight-Line Residency Project:
A ready-made model for the Straight-Line Residency (SLR) project is provided by the account of travel between the zero, one, two and three dimensional spaces of Pointland, Lineland, Flatland and Spaceland by Edwin A. Abbot (1838-1926).(1) In this account, the dimensions are distinguished by the limits of their spatial paradigms more than by any notion of different objective realities. Consequently, the reason that, as Spacelanders, we cannot occupy Abbott's Pointland, Lineland or Flatland is not because we occupy a different physical space necessarily, but because we occupy a different paradigm and thus lack the spatial frameworks of the other dimensions. This is because, as Spacelanders, we 'have higher views of things' and thus insufficient faith in the mysteries that are unexplained by other dimensional paradigms and that are reflected in their scientific theories and even their social values (though some of the latter sound horribly familiar).
Our purpose in encouraging straight-line visits to Spaceland is not to promote Spaceland paradigms to other dimensions so much as to experiment with interdimensional travel to see what straight-lines look like once situated within the three-dimensional forms provided by the SLR hosts. Our main interest is how our observation of Linelanders' and Flatlanders' responses to Spaceland prompts us see our own familiar space with new eyes. We want to see how straight-lines bend and curve over the forms that wrap around us as we inhabit them.
Abbott's account is written in 1884 for mathematicians, but the idea of interdimensional travel can be seen in art practices that experiment with the 'merging of art and life' and that attempt to escape the spatially autonomous art object. The work of Helena Almeida is a good model for the SLR project because it suggests the possibility of recognition and movement between the spaces of artworks and the places in which they are located, rather than their merging. This is especially so in her Inhabited Drawings in which actions crossing the picture planes that separate the virtual space of images and the literal space of their locations, suggest that each space is valued equally rather than one being defined at the expense of the other.(4) This movement resembles Abbott's notion of interdimensional space travel because, in his account as well, the spaces retain their integrity rather than one disappearing into the other (even though this is maintained too rigidly by Abbott sometimes, as when the Square is jailed on returning from Spaceland for refusing to recant his new-found belief in three-dimensionality.(5))
Interdimensional movement is also a common part of the artmaking process regardless of whether it produces cross-spatial work--we create a type of movement from the Spaceland we occupy into the artspaces that we create with them when we transform concrete objects, materials and processes into images or other constructions that comprise artwork. This movement is also not limited to art, as we are all also accustomed to travelling into the virtual spaces of images, films and stories as a regular part of modern daily life.
However this movement is usually in only one direction, from Spaceland into virtual spaces of the imagination or intellect. The SLR project aims to experiment with movement in the opposite direction--for visits into Spaceland, starting with visits by straight-lines from Abbott's Flatland and Lineland. (Visits by circles, polygons, triangles and other Flatland shapes could be considered at another stage, thuogh even those look like straight lines when seen in Flatland.) As well as providing the opportunity to see what straight-lines look like in their new situations, this may also stimulate Spacelanders' interest in our own dimension by showing that it can be a dimensional destination of choice, in contrast to our tendency to take it for granted or think of it as just too literal, or even as something that gets in the way. The renewal of interest in the physicality of Spaceland is especially needed now that its climate seems to be reacting to its long-term neglect by raising its temperatures and melting its icecaps.
However these hopes for the project rely on expressions of interest in hosting a straight-line residency, as its first stage. If you are interested in this project and there is a physical place or location that is significant to you, all you need to do at this stage is measure it and provide the information about the location requested in the specifications for Expressions of Interest. The SLR project will study each expression of interest received, to determine how a straight-line would best occupy its proposed location. This second stage will result in the publication of a collection of proposals, each one describing the location and proposing how it considers a straight-line would best occupy it. Each host would then have the opportunity to decide whether or not it wanted to work with the project towards the realisation of the particular residency proposed for its location. This third stage is a more open-ended one as each residency would need to be negotiated individually, depending on the circumstances.
(1) Edwin A. Abbott Flatland: A Romance in Many Dimensions (1884), Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 1992
(2) see INTRODUKTION TIL SAMLINGEN on http://www.herningkunstmuseum.dk/
(3) Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics , 1998, trans Simon Pleasance & Fronza Woods: France: les Presse du réel, 2002
(4) For images, see Margaret Roberts, Art and the Status of Place , in Scope: Contemporary Research Topics (art: 3) p129 (http://www.thescopes.org)
(5) The SLR project draws selectively from Abbott's Flatland - it is more interested in its mathematical dimension than in the social values projected onto Flatland in the construction of the narrative. As well, the length of lines to be offered residencies will be determined by the host location.