City Scribe: artistic practice as research and research as artistic practice

I’ve recently been working on a new City Scribe action, whilst in Montpellier, France, at the IETM conference. As part of this project, I spent some time thinking through my motivations and approach to City Scribe.


Image credit: Richard Sobey

City Scribe is artistic practice as research and research as artistic practice. It is a series of interventions into city space. People (audiences) see this work incidentally/accidentally as they encounter it on the street. Sometimes the work is also part of a curated programme.

The methodological approach is centred around the performative actions of the City Scribe. These solo performances are accompanied by a gathering body of additional ‘data’ relating to these actions; GPS tracking, photographic and video documentation, writing, drawing and other mapping activities.

City Scribe’s interventions into city spaces develop a multiplicity of layered experiments exploring a range of ideas;

  • Asking city dwellers to reflect on the social, physical, geographic, spatial and architectural in their cities
  • Exploring an embodied approach to the city – what does it mean to physically ‘occupy’, ‘inhabit’ our city spaces?
  • Exploring a gendered embodiment of public space – challenging perceptions of gender, dealing with the tensions faced when challenging gender conventions, playing with object,  subject and the ‘gaze’, and representations of androgyny
  • Highlighting the everyday rhythms, the flow and movement of people and objects through city spaces, playing with repetition and variation
  • Exploring mark making, inscribing, marking the city space through movement, drawing and using GPS technology – investigating making maps in a range of ways, playing with new topographies, hand-drawn maps, embellishing found maps, connecting with new topographic practices
  • Exploring how men are typically perceived to walk, move and inhabit their surroundings, in different cities around the world – looking at gait, pace, physical stance and attitude
  • Exploring perceptions of the city in terms of the common, the ‘right’ to walk through the city spaces, owning the city as a citizen, challenging the privatization and private policing of public spaces
  • Investigating the city as a physical space for people to run through, climb on, stand still and lie down (sleep) in

About waymarkingthesketchbook

Sarah Spanton is director of arts organisation Waymarking -
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