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Space - During times of restriction

Updated: Feb 15

During this moment in our evolution, there is huge emphasis on staying in our space for the safety of the collective. I spend a significant amount of time exploring the concept of “space” and its’ impact. For example, we can observe space as it relates to architecture, cities and towns, rural landscape, the space within a relationship, our physical space, our personal space conversing with other people, the space within, confined space and our perception of space. A big open space can imply freedom and expansion for one person or can initiate feelings of anxiety and fear for another person. This interest in ‘space’ evolved from my own personal experience. It emerged after a period in my life where I found myself having feelings of anxiety in certain social settings. These spaces quite often had crowds of people congregating for social interaction. Involuntary physical anxiety as well as the feeling of fear would rush to the surface. Over the years I have learned that behind every fear lies opportunity. My past experience of space is not what I am talking about today. It did however gift an opportunity that presented as research through Arts Practice. This indirectly begin a journey of passionate exploration and greater understanding about many philosophical concepts including my current grasp of ‘space’.

The following is a description from a client I worked with a few years ago. In their feedback they are actually talking about rehearsal strategies. However, in this excerpt they unconsciously describe the impact of ‘space’ on them and their colleagues.

“I met with my colleagues to rehearse the performance program in the theatre. I found it incredibly helpful because we found our space, found a space for each other, performed in it and got a feel for the space. Then we provided each other with feedback and support”.

In this example there was a conscious decision to rehearse in the venue space. The suggestion that ‘we found our space’ implies that there was a search for the most appropriate position on the stage to present the concert. How does one find their space? By exploration and movement within the space, with the final stage positions emerging for practical reasons such as sound transmission to the audience, visibility etc. or for sensory reasons such as ‘what feels right, or both. From here as a group they ‘found a space for each other’. They individually found their space before collectively tweaking the positions for the collective space for each other. Then once the collective space was agreed, the rehearsal took place and this was followed by feedback and support.

The excerpt above, provides multiple layers of insight for philosophical exploration. How can this relate to what we are currently experiencing with spatial restrictions? Let’s bring it all back the our most immediate space, our personal space. Within our space we have a human desire for connection. Whether we actually have physical interactions daily with others or whether we do it from a distance through technology, the desire is present.

In times of isolation, how many times have you wished someone would pick up the phone and call you? Or how many times have you posted a social media post just to get a ‘like’ from somebody in order for you to feel seen? I am guilty of both scenarios on many occasions and find that unless I consciously stop and question why I am posting something it can have a significant impact on my experience throughout that day. When I post something on social media because I have a longing for connection, I might spend my day distracted, constantly checking to see who out there in the wider space sees me, connects with a ‘like’ or better actually looks at what I post and comments. Of course, like others, I regularly share posts to connect and share information with friends. However, the ‘space’ I find myself in, while doing so, is crucial. Rather than focusing on posting on social media, when I find myself in a longing ‘space’, if I take some time and acknowledge my longing and desire for connection, something else inevitably emerges from that ‘space’. This is not always easy.

What type of 'space' do you find yourself in? What is your current physical space? Is the house full with all the family during these times of restricted movement? And if so, is there anywhere for you to find a space for yourself? Is there even a corner of the house where you can set up a ‘space for yourself’? An old text that crossed my path a few years ago during some research writing was that of Gaston Bachelard, (1969) The Poetics of Space. This book discusses the various spaces we inhabit within our living spaces revealing insights into our understanding of intimate places. One of the spaces he discusses is the corner. He describes these secluded spaces as a ‘symbol of solitude for the imagination’. He explains that when we are ‘in our corner’ we are escaping our thoughts. The corner ensures ‘high immobility’.

"Consciousness of being at peace in one’s corner produces a sense of immobility,

and this, in turn, radiates immobility. An imaginary room rises up around our bodies, which think that they are well hidden when we take refuge in a corner.

Already, the shadows are walls, a piece of furniture constitutes a barrier, hangings are a roof. But all of these images are over-imagined. We have to designate the space of our immobility by making it the space of our being. (p.136/7)

Bachelard references L’état d’ébauche, (Paris, 1950 p. 127) Noël Arnaud who writes:

Je suis l’espace oú je suis (I am the space where I am)

Returning again to the excerpt from my client above, there was significant movement within the confined space of the rehearsal for significant individual and collective expansion . Once the individual musician looked after their own space and addressed their own needs within that space, the collective needs could be met. And following the collective - the music flowed. Then a dialogue took place offering further insights, feedback and support.

Whether we are feeling freedom in our current 'isolation' or restriction, perhaps we can create a corner space for ourselves as a ‘symbol of solitude for the imagination’. By creating distraction from our thoughts, temporarily compounding our perceived immobility, we may in fact allow ‘space’ for greater mobility in the future. We have an opportunity to explore a new ‘space’ in a corner of ourselves, to clear the cobwebs of the past, that sit in waiting!

If you enjoyed this article please share with others.

© Cli Donnellan, Creative Facilitator


Bachelard, G. (1969) The Poetics of Space. The classic look at how we experience intimate places. United States: Beacon Press.

The Poetics of Space. The classic look at how we experience intimate places. United States: Beacon Press.


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