One of the reasons why I started the man and the machine project was to explore how to create an space that was holding it self. In a one-on-one session I’m holding space for the other person, by actually continuously adapting to the client. In a workshop I shape the space by selecting exercises and guiding along the way. But I’ve also been curious about how much the space can do by itself.
How much can I influence the space by just the architectural design, by placing objects, selecting the soundscape, and building an ambiance? I believe that this such a fundamental task of a space holder. There is also the question of time – how long will a space exist? With me holding the space the life time is limited. Also with a fixed time frame, like saying there will be a workshop between hour X and Y.
I wanted to create a space that existed much longer, and that wasn’t dependent on me. And I wanted to make it more than just an passive room. From this the idea of the machine held space was born. I wanted to build a machine that shaped the space in order to manipulate the behaviour of the participants in the space. And technology was the key.
The second question that came was, do I want the space to limit the behaviour of participants? To make them all come together around a set of tasks, or by a shared experience. Or do I want a space the encourage the participants to feel the maximum amount of freedom. The first felt easier and I’m a strong believer that restriction gives focus. And that too much freedom overwhelms.
The longest living machine held space I’ve created so far was active for four hours, with an open door policy allowing participants to come and go. While building that space I spent many many more hours rehearsing the setup, to learn exactly how I wanted it to behave. Being alone in the space for so long was sometimes overwhelming pushing me into a very passive state of being.
Some nights I dreamt about sleeping in a machine held space. To see what would happen if I start to accept it as my new reality. To forget the machine with its sensors controlling the space. To see if it felt “natural” for a lack of a better word. Anyhow building such a space, that lives for a long long time is a dream of mine.