Engaging indoor / outdoor spaces of the Louvre Lens

This is the second in the series of blog posts highlighting selected projects I have led or collaborated on and what I love most about them. This forms part of my exploration towards the next phase of my career in supporting cultural institutional change through methods of expanded choreographic practice.

Today I am re-visiting Moving Peripheries: Louvre Lens (2022)

This project is part of a body of work in consultation with cultural institutions working to re-imagine public, and internal, engagement. It brings together academic and creative practitioners to explore the idea of ‘periphery’ – where the edges of the museum meets the neighborhood – and how these thresholds can move from being boundaries to becoming lines of connection.

My long-time collaborator and Los Angeles and Paris-based designer Rennie Tang commissioned me to co-create a new exploratory work for the Louvre Lens.

The Louvre Lens, a peripheral outpost to the central Louvre in Paris is located in Lens, a former mining town on the far north periphery of France. It was originally a storage site for the Louvre’s artworks and became a public museum in 2012. As part of the opening the museum commissioned landscape architect Catherine Mosbach to design a public park that would make a connection between the town and the entrance to the museum.

In response to the invitation I developed movement prompts to be engaged along the periphery of the park. Through playful, exploratory actions that made visible the potentialities of the edges of the space to merge with the neighborhood I worked with Louvre Lens landscape architect Catherine Mosbach on a day open to the public. We tested out what playing along the park’s periphery and through the museum might do to shift the choreographies of movement along the landscape she had created.

In order to do that I designed a movement score that was mapped to take us along the periphery of the park and through the museum – connecting inside and outside and the museum to neighborhood. These gestures included acts of folding, playing and proximity (being near and far). Our aim was to experience and document moving along a dynamic system without fixed position and collaborate with the living system of the park.

This interaction between two people and with the space (both interior and exterior) invited participation from visitors and influenced a more open, experimental and experiential engagement with the site. It created permission to move, to relate and to co-create a relationship between being inside and outside of the museum in new ways. It gave value, both to the experience of passing through the museum and to interacting with the landscape outside of it, equal importance in integrity and identity.

What I LOVE about this project was the quality of connection between indoor and outdoor spaces of the museum. The fluidity and transparency between indoor/outdoor spaces and attention to landscape as public park felt exciting and new. I have had the privilege to work in spaces that also pointed to a relationship between indoor and outdoor in cultural spaces such as the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven where Rennie and my project Punt.Point is part of the permanence collection; the Getty Research Centre and the Hammer Museum, both in Los Angeles and, more recently, the Windermere Jetty museum in Cumbria. What I loved about all these spaces is how the landscape and surrounding environment was considered and engaged. Architects such as Carmody Groarke (Windermere Jetty) understand the ways in which interior and exterior spaces communicate and have moved past the model of a bunkered museums in which there are no windows to the outside and the bunker-like building creates a divide between what is happening on the inside and the life outside of the museum.

Creating performance and consulting with museums over the past 15 years has led me to discover that I feel best, literally my body/mind is happier, in museums that are porous. When the architectural structure breathes with and in relation to the outside world I feel better and I do not think I am alone in this.These spaces not only affect the area they inhabit but invite an interplay between that can be mutually affective. Since the pandemic, when I spent more time outdoors and in public parks as a place of sanctuary and inspiration, this desire to work with such cultural spaces is even more apparent and acute.As a trained dancer sensitive to spatial conditions, these are the spaces I feel best in. I can connect and feel an aliveness different than in museums that are sealed off from the outside world with no windows or invitations to look out.

I invite people to contact me and get in touch for cultural projects focused on creating connection between inside/outside spaces. You can find me at: info@sarawookey.com

Let’s have a chat!

The the live event was filmed in collaboration with Kipp and can be found here.

Those involved in the project include Catherine Mosbach, an internationally recognized landscape architect and the founder of Paris-based design firm mosbach paysagiste; and Christian Kipp a UK-based photographer and filmmaker who makes beautiful work with the subject of dance and landscape; Rennie Tang Los Angeles-based designer and professor in the Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning department at California State Polytechnic University. Rennie and I have worked together on projects that involve kinesthetic engagement in urban landscapes, playscapes, and choreographic spatial practices since 2010.

A co-written article about the project has been submitted to Journal of Landscape Architecture for wider distribution.



Photo by Christian Kipp