Shapes in the landscape

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I do wish this picture captured the movement in and out and around this installation. ‘In person’, these figures were not at all scary and it was the smallest observers who most often joined in the business of this circle. Facing the centre and copying the half-sitting, half-standing stance of the group assembled, they talked across the interior to others, both known and unknown; pausing at regular intervals to look up at the faces of the figures they had chosen to come alongside. Others, taking it to be a readymade audience, danced into the middle, looped back out and through the silent assembly, and others – who like me –  watched on in wonder at this primitive urge so unselfconsciously evoked by the formation of a circle.

Whether it was this experience or the fact that we, as sociable creatures understand the language of shapes, stance and a shared focus of attention – I can’t help but see circles wherever I go. I have watched on in fascination at their formation, wondered at what held them together, and guessed at what precipitated their dissolution. In cataloguing my photographs I find that I have developed a taxonomy of circles. For although each has a resonance of its own there do seem to be some central organising principles. Some are more formal than others, some form around a shared activity and others around a desire for shared presence, some rely on the scaffolding of furniture or the instructions of a teacher; and then there are those that form a little too tightly, or where participants sit back-towards-the-centre which serves to subvert ‘the rules of the circle’, thereby limiting its potential for inclusion.

How then should we think about the natural emergence of shapes in learning environments? Do all environments lend themselves equally well to the natural formation of shapes? And how should we harness their affordances and read their contours in the service of learning?

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