Narrative of Walking: Scripted Space and the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden

Narrative of Walking: Scripted Space and the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden

In the Winter and Spring quarters of 2015, the Hammer Museum partnered with UCLA’s Digital Humanities Program to offer a course about the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden. The course, taught by the Hammer’s Project Manager for Digital Initiatives Philip Leers, tasked students with researching the history and import of the Sculpture Garden and creating digital platforms to communicate that research. We asked the students to write blog posts describing their final projects and are proud to present the results of their hard work.

As an MFA Student in the Media Arts department at UCLA, I am in close proximity to the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden just about every day. However, it wasn't until I enrolled in a Digital Humanities course about the garden that I really began to appreciate it. By studying the garden from multiple points of view, I became fascinated by the idea of "reading" the space with a "narrative of walking" in mind. My final project is a video essay titled Narrative of Walking: Scripted Space and the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, which investigates the interplay between the garden's design and the movement of visitors within and through that landscape.

My reading of the garden was influenced by a number of conversations I had with Media Archaeologist and UCLA Media Arts Professor Erkki Huhtamo. Huhtamo's study of "scripted spaces" in "(Un)walking At The Fair: About Mobile Visualities at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900" (2013) makes the claim that the movement of people through an area must not be taken for granted, but rather acknowledged as an aspect of the design. The many ways in which people respond to the controls and limits built into the architecture of public space, and the documentation of these responses, contribute to my study of the Murphy Sculpture Garden as a scripted space.

Still from Narrative of Walking: Scripted Space and the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, Kate Parsons, 2015

The scripted space of the Sculpture Garden was designed by landscape architects Cornell, Bridgers, and Troller with use in mind--there are havens of solitude, areas of communal space, practical points of access, and the potential of discovery. How people traverse the garden - whether it be a student walking along the garden's winding pathways on the way to class, or a visitor wandering through the lush greenery to discover nooks and crannies beneath a shaded tree - seems to inform the design in a way that recalls John Dixon Hunt's "Lordship of the Feet: Toward a Poetics of Movement in the Garden" (2003). Hunt postulates three different kinds of movement in gardens: the procession (a ritualistic, predetermined movement), the stroll (a meandering walk with a known destination), and the ramble (a completely directionless wander). My video will identify a "narrative of walking" that arises from the intersection of the Sculpture Garden's design and the forms of movement described by Hunt.

Through interviews with Prof. Huhtamo, landscape architects, and others familiar with the garden, I will illustrate how the space's design and the movement of people within it together compose a narrative of walking that shapes how we understand the garden . I will use creative techniques, including animations of movement within the garden and aerial photography of the area, to emphasize how the Sculpture Garden's landscape is scripted, and to document how people respond to it, in expected and unexpected ways.

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Tags: digital humanities, sculpture garden, collections