For this exercise, I began by trying to pinpoint the exact location within the space of the movie theatre that corresponded to when I felt the most comfortable or ‘at home’. I realized it’s not when I’m seated within the auditorium watching a film, but rather the moment and place of descending the long flight of stairs as I make my way through the entrance of this space. As I go down the steps, in the act of reaching toward this object of passive leisure, my body “trails behind” me. It does this because my body is one that inhabits positions and orientations that make my visit to this place natural and unnoticeable.
For instance, I live in close physical proximity to Cinema du Parc, and while this convenience is a reason I frequent the place, it is not born out of randomness and bears implications. This proximity indicates that I live in one of the uptown urban neighborhoods that are in walking distance from the theatre (Plateau/McGill Ghetto/Mile End) which as a result of general gentrification are not accessible to all bodies. Another proximity stems from my participation in higher education, and because Cinema du Parc is a borderline art-house theatre, the mark of artistic/academic bodies in shaping the institution itself opens up as a point of inclusion for me. Higher education and box-office cinema are both institutions that are shaped by white bodies habitually passing through them, and this is also a reason why my act of entry into this space may go unconscious and unobserved because mine is a body that inhabits whiteness. My body may be background to my action as I walk into the theatre, but once I am in and participating in the space, I find that this does not always stay the same.
Continuing with Sarah Ahmed, the movie theatre is a “space of social interaction that reveal the orientations of specific bodies”. After a film has finished and everyone begins to leave, some people will linger in the lobby, forming little groups to share opinions and experiences of the film. As a phenomenological experiment, I try to focus just on just the sounds in the lobby. I notice that the sound of men’s voices are often more frequent and audible in the noises of these gatherings. I am reminded of the all-ages punk shows I went to in my youth, of standing outside in circles like these discussing the music with my friends. The bands were predominantly boys or men, despite a growing level of diversity within the community. I am acutely aware of my voice when I speak and the way my tongue shapes the beginnings of words I may or may not let pass. In these cases I am made aware of my body because the space I am in is formed by the habitual actions (eg. speech/making noise) of bodies unlike mine. Although formal exclusion isn’t taking place, there is still a feeling of negation that is informed by how my senses perceive which bodies act habitually, in the background, to produce and re-produce a space.
In order to create a differential space out of this movie theatre, a disruption of the spatial practices that make it a designated point of leisure would have to occur. I though perhaps of staging a week long slumber party inside the auditoriums where people could collaborate on interactive artistic projects which could then be displayed or performed at any point in the day. This would blur the lines between work, leisure, and rest and also perhaps create new categories for ways to spend time.
Ahmed, Sara. “A Phenomenology of Whiteness.” Feminist Theory. Vol. 8, No. 2 (2007). 149-168.
Lefebvre, Henri. “The Production of Space.” The People, Place, and Space Reader. Ed. Jen Gieseking and William Mangold. London: Routledge, 2014. 289-293.