Doreen Massey – Some Times of Space (2003)

The essay Some Times of Space (2003) by Doreen Massey has been quite influential in my understanding of how space and time are interconnected. Furthermore, Massey touches upon representation of space and time; in particular representation in the form of the map.

Massey starts the essay with an allegory of our weather system. I didn’t quite get the relevance of this part of the essay to the rest. However, the rest of the essay makes up for this. First, Massey asks us to imagine a journey but not one made just across space but also temporally as well – (Massey, 2013:117). I myself imagined a journey to Deptford. Although this really wasn’t a very imaginative journey(!), I thought of leaving my home, walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus and then when I’d got off the bus walking to one of the locations I’d use for shooting a diptych. This notion was already quite eye-opening for me; I realised that space doesn’t stay still but is always moving because time is passing. This movement is going on at the source of the journey, the destination and even the in-between moments – (Massey, 2013:118). For example parts of Deptford (my destination) are changing (subtly with building work or drastically with the movement of people). This might be where I am photographing or elsewhere in Deptford. My home (the source of there journey) has changed too; perhaps some parcel will have been delivered by the time I return.

Also I can see with my own eyes things changing on the in-between part of the journey – the bus ride. I could spy the small-scale change of someone turning a corner into another street from the top deck of the bus where I’m sitting or the large-scale change of another development being constructed. Massey therefore dispels the idea of going back in space because that place has moved on in time – (Massey, 2013:118). Representation aims to make sense of the somewhat confusing idea of space never being able to revert to past times. However, it complicates the matter because as Massey shows; ‘It is not space that takes the life out of time, but representation.’ – (Massey, 2013:119).

Massey disputes the idea of space being consigned to the same realm as time in terms of progression. I tend to agree with Massey on this point. Calling a country more or less developed is relegating the less developed country as having to progress to the status of ‘developed’. This already assumes the ‘more’ developed country is the only way of progressing. I began to wonder if the same methodology could be applied to regeneration? When thinking about regeneration of places like Deptford, similar stages of development are used to model how far along the development has progressed. While these models are unique for each development, there is some kind of plan for Deptford as a whole. It presupposes that Deptford will progress based on similar places which have undergone regeneration in the past. The plans introduce a monolithic, singular timeline for development.

However, as Massey (2013:120) suggests, space does not fit into time’s singular line because it is made up of multiple meeting points, all interconnected. What usually happens with developed towns is the place can start to look uniform under private, gated developments while function takes precedence over form as the place is based around shopping experience and consumerism. This is typified by Minton (2012:34) when she remarks: ‘despite the relatively interesting architecture, there was nothing to remind me of where I actually was’ when talking about two high end shopping centres in two towns. It is therefore arguable whether Deptford or other newly developed towns will have ‘progressed’ or merely been absorbed into the well of similarly modelled towns. What gives me hope about Deptford is its unique character. Not only are the people quite obstinate to development without consultation, a lot of the buildings were built so well there is no need to knock them down and so they stand the test of time and regeneration. Going back to ideas of progression, models of regeneration with ‘developing’ towns following models of ‘developed’ towns can be seen as following the same, singular timeline as ‘developing’ countries following ‘developed’ countries.

Massey is of the opinion that thinking of space as fitting into time is of a modernist narrative – (Massey, 2013:120). Here, there is no space (no pun intended!) for space, just time which isn’t particularly useful as can be seen with the concepts of ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ countries. However, Massey also cites Fredric Jameson who is of the opinion the postmodern is all space and no time. Massey suggests thinking about space and time where an ‘emphasis on times of space is a reminder of co-agency’ – (Massey, 2013:121). My understanding of this is a web is created of many ‘here-and-now’s’, all interconnected but with none of these spaces finished because there is always movement. I agree with this to a certain degree but it does seem Massey is advocating the postmodern way of thinking rather than proposing something new. Returning to my Deptford analogy, none of the modernist way of thinking (basing new developments on models from a past time) is applicable here. Instead things should be taken at face-value and negotiated to arrive at a unique space.

Massey doesn’t answer directly how representation interacts with space and time; she makes it clear what it isn’t. Representation – for example with a map, is not space – (Massey, 2013:121). This is slightly frustrating as I was hoping to gain some insight from my reading of Massey’s text into my representation of Deptford changing. However, reading Some Times of Space (2003) has made me appreciate the unique standing of Deptford in the greater scheme of regeneration. Firstly, it seemingly withstands the onslaught of regeneration thrown at it and so is unique in this regard. Also I appreciate that the Deptford of here and now is interconnected with the rest of the world, its neighbours and its inhabitants in a multiplicity of flowing ways. Each of these facets make it unique in its here and now but as they are unfixed they are subject to change in the future.

References:

Massey, D. (2013) ‘Some Times of Spaces’ In: Groom, A. (eds.) Time. London: Whitechapel Gallery and The MIT Press. pp.116-122.

Minton, A. (2012) Ground Control.  (2nd ed.) London: Penguin Books Ltd.

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