QUADRAT

On my first visit to Governors Island, I was struck by the sight of a long fence with very regularly spaced square viewing panels into what was behind the fence. Governor’s Island has a history of being a military base of operations for much of American history, and though it is reopening to the public in phases as a vibrant civic space, there are areas that remain off-limits.

 

I’ve always noticed (and appreciated) that construction sites in New York City have these viewing panels - I was fascinated by the little portals into an otherwise hidden space. I discovered that it is actually a law in New York City that any construction fence must have 12x12 inch panels every 25 feet, and they must be located between three and six feet above ground. The regulations also specify that the fence also must be colored ‘hunter green.’

 

Quadrats are a methodology used in ecology to gather representative samples of a site - usually of plant life or slow-moving organisms. A square frame of a certain size is place randomly throughout a space or along a transect line, and then organisms within the frame are observed and quantified. It is important that only organisms and substrates within the frame are counted - even if something very interesting is just outside the frame.  How could this method be adapted as a site-responsive dance practice, another way of gathering information about a place?

 

This line of inquiry draws upon these viewing panels as windows into a space that frame a particular view, and can serve as a means of collecting information and responding to it.

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Method:

  • Define a study site - where are its boundaries?

  • Determine a number of samples that you will collect in that study site

  • Place the Quadrat

    • Flat options (on ground surface)

      • Choose randomly where to place the quadrat - for example, taking a few steps in any direction looking away from the ground 

      • Place quadrat every 25 ft (or other interval as appropriate to the space) along a linear transect

    • Landscape options

      • Stand the frame up on end

      • Have someone hold the frame

  • Record what is visible through the frame

    • Choreographic records

      • With movement, record what you see, texture / touching (with eyes closed), sound, smell, temperature, air quality, etc.

    • Photographic records

      • Take a photograph of the quadrat after you have made your movement

  • Repeat until you have gathered the determined number of sample sites​​

  • Incorporate your sampled movements into a phrase