Exploring the relationship between disability and architecture

Ambiguous Boundaries: Cane Hill and the Resistance of Space

"Space, but you cannot even conceive the horrible inside-outside that real space is."
(Henri Michaux)

According to the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, inside and outside form a dialectics of division; hostile in their opposition, polarized in their attributes. Yet, despite their mutual resistance, both inside and outside depend upon one another for the sake of preserving their identities. It is an ambivalent conflict, framed by both seduction and repulsion. For Bachelard, this resistance eventually collapses, in the process displacing the spatial centre that previously housed inside and outside. What remains in this fall is a drone, unable to be clearly placed and so gliding towards annihilation.

Meditating in-between this opposition, we nonetheless seek shelter even if it is precarious. If inside is regarded as the space in which shelter is secured, then when the outside infringes upon this protected territory, disorientation and anxiety ensues. The shelter which is burdened with the outside becomes a void, undefined and in danger of losing its capacity as a haven. This privileged position inside has over the outside is rendered explicit in that the outside excludes us from the inside. When the world withdraws, then we are cast out from its clutch. Thereafter, we strive to return to the inside. In the meantime, however, it remains inaccessible.

This abstract conflict between exclusion and inclusion is realized, above all else, in the space of decay where the distinction between inside and outside is sufficiently ambiguous so as to evade definition. Here, we bear witness to a mutual dissolution which threatens to invert the inclusive nature of the protective inside. It is decay, rich and unbound, which permits a glimpse of this conflict unfolding in concrete terms. Through involving a harmonious disjunction between inside and outside, the space of decay partakes of a dynamic that is not thwarted by formal logic. Instead, the impossible collision between absence and presence, past and present, and being and non-being entwine.

Arts Council England