My initial description of my favorite space is entirely psychogeographic, as I consider my own individual emotions and behavior in the space. In this reflection I will try to expand on other bodies’ experiences in the space.
Erie Beach is a small residential neighborhood in Chatham Kent, Ontario. It is near the town of Erieau, which was historically a fishing and port village receiving shipments of coal from the United States. The beach is a private space and can only be accessed by property owners. Each property owner owns a piece of the beach making it a very restricted space. Since I have been visiting this space all my life as a privileged guest, the space that is restricted to most has always felt like a safe haven of freedom and lively connections to my surroundings. Although in reflection with Gill Valentine’s idea of public/private space, the private space is not truly private as it is managed and controlled by neighbors and for this reason, many bodies may not truly be themselves in the space.
Even though the space is technically private, residents share the beach with one and other. There is a certain unspoken set of rules in which bodies must conduct themselves within this private space adhering with Henri Lefebvre’s first triad: special practice. I did not realize this special practice and performance in my initial description of the space as it has been engrained in me as “normal”. At the beach, one cannot stop and rest on someone else’s property while strolling down the shoreline, or play music, dance, or skinny dip without getting negative attention from neighbors. This reinforces the social practice that is constantly reproduced by the majority bodies within it.
In my original portrayal of Erie Beach, the space was a warm, sunny, summer day where I felt connected with the vibrancy of the bodies around me, and at peace from the serenity of my surroundings. When I revisited the space last week it was winter. The lake was covered in snow and ice, haunted by its previous entity. The skeleton of the space was still there, but its soul and flesh had changed drastically. As a socially produced space, the bodies within it were no longer vibrant, connected and loose, but stiff, lethargic and preoccupied. In one sense, the change in bodies’ orientations made the space feel dramatically different, however it was the change in the space’s physical make up that induced the change in bodies’ orientations. Thus a perfect example of Jason Farman’s theory that space is “constructed simultaneously with our bodies” (18) co-constructing one another.
Through my memories of being in the actual space, as I gaze at the virtual computer image of Erie Beach at summer time, my body goes through the same physical sensations as it would if I was actually there. I feel my shoulders loosen, my breath become deeper, and my ears fill with the sound of the waves. This is an extension of Jason Farman’s idea of the “sensory-inscribed body”. Even in the dead of winter, virtual imagery of a space is able to stimulate my body with same way the actual space would.
Drawing from Sarah Ahmed’s phenomenology of whiteness, I myself possess white orientation in the space along with all other residents of the space, unaware of our orientation of power and exclusivity in the space, due to our ownership, politics and ideology. Along with being an inherently white space, Erie Beach is also authentically heterosexual. Both Valentine and Ahmed draw from Lefebvre in stating that the normality of a space is a consequence of constant reproduction of a certain behavior the bodies that are in that space conduct repeatedly and must always be reinforced. Next summer when I visit Erie Beach in its prime, I am going to challenge myself to try and break the norms of what is socially acceptable.