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2008:
Walking in the City: Urban Space, The Body, Performance Art
by SU Zhitian Rachelle
Most often walking in the city is purely functional; it is the disregarded locomotive between two locations. However, if one can walk through space and travel between places, then walking can also be considered as a mobile practice of investigating the social structure of cities.
 
Hence, this dissertation intends to revisit the act of walking and its potential as an urban design method in deciphering the built environment. It constructs new architectural knowledge by forefronting walking in the city as a performative strategy in understanding urban spaces. It is less concerned with the structuring of cities by static objects such as houses, but focuses instead on the urban flux – the ephemeral relationships formed between the users, objects and ideas within a city.
 
Developed upon the theories of the social production of space and the politics of the city (Henri Lefebvre), and the urban experience of everyday life (Michel de Certeau), this dissertation is a reinterpretation
of Lefebvre’s three representations of space – Perceived, Conceived and Lived – through an investigation into performance art in Singapore. This trans-disciplinary approach adopted explores the embodied notion of architectural space (Iain Borden), giving rise to a new analysis of urban experience as variously known as – ‘felt’, ‘known’ and ‘thought’ spaces.

Two walk-performances Let’s Walk and The Rather Terrible Slaughter of the Tour Guide by Singaporean artists Amanda Heng and Tan Kai Syng respectively, are taken as key case studies for this dissertation. From these two walks, I then synthesize a third walk-performance. By doing so, I hope to contribute an original understanding of Singapore’s urban space; drawing close attention to how the city may be experienced and understood by physically walking through it.
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