The Poetics of Space (1994) by Bachelard Gaston

In this book Gaston talks about phenomenology of spaces, focusing mainly on the house, it’s interior spaces and it’s outdoor context. According to Gaston poetics is a constant theme to the idea of space and metaphor is often used to describe our relationship with this space. He believes that image comes before thought and therefore he looks at the phenomenology of soul and not the mind.

In the first chapter Bachelard suggests that all closely inhabited spaces have a notion of ‘home.’ The house is seen as a protective maternal figure in which daydreaming is sheltered, dreamers are protected and provides peace to dream. It is also a shelter in which we store out treasures from previous years. Bachelard explores the psychology of houses, for example a door knob is used to close and open doors, as is a key, however the key is seen by people as something which is more often used to close and the door knob more often used to open.

Through this chapter Bachelard has given, a house, A very tangible thing and intangible feeling. Through this text he shows us how the house is not just a physical basic necessity but it goes way beyond that. It is a basic necessity for a soul to evolve and survive.

Contested Spaces

Contested spaces are usually thought of as disputed spaces. I think of them as spaces without boundaries. The inhabitants of that space, merciless with the constant fight of power over them.

Contested Spaces are created everywhere whether intentionally or unintentionally. A big example of a contested space is Kashmir, with India and Pakistan both fighting to gain the land, govern the country. What is it that makes it a contested space then? Is it the fact that the people are severely affected, the fact that there’s the Indian and Pakistani military at every corner with loaded guns or is it the mere fact that the people begin to live in fear? According to me, it tends to be an amalgamation of everything. A clash of cultures, a restriction of movement and the fear of being trampled upon by the contesting countries.

 On a smaller scale we can look at contested spaces as a mere argument amongst two classes for a classroom or studio or the dispute arising from a first come first serve seat in a movie theatre. These are relatively calmer situation with ongoing daily routines. 

Contested spaces largely are fought over due to greed. Nothing can ever be enough, clearly demonstrated through the heart breaking Kashmir situation and other such examples like that all over the world. Organisations have come in to solve such disputes but mostly to no avail. Greed has no end. Contested spaces continue to emerge. 

Contestant Spaces

“Social spaces where cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in context of highly asymmetrical relations of power. “

Mary Louise Pratt

A conflict that started off with innocent immigrations, has led to one of the most scarring conflicts in the history and present of the world, the Israel and Palestine conflict. a piece of land, the Giza strip, has become a contested space for two cultures, going back to the roots religion. The cause of the space becoming can be broken down into symbolism of the place for both the cultures and both their rightful claims.

When something moves further beyond power politics towards affecting lives in a large scale is a contested space to me.

The situation and whether the Israelis or the Arabs are right in their approach or not is not something that I wouldn’t  speak about. However the aftermath of the lives of the people, their mental state and social state is what that makes the it a contested space.

The daily life of the local is highly affected living in a contested space, there is always the fear of the ‘other’ side.To believe in something, to be a part of something makes you vulnerable to the atrocities committed. The impact on the daily life of Palestinians is supposed to be far greater than that of the Israel population. The prevalence of checkpoints and road blocks add several barriers to education, work places and medical care. Three of the most basic necessities of human social life become difficult to access, and if a curfew is set down, which might be for weeks or months at a time, there is no accessibility. For someone born in the constant turmoil of constant opposition it becomes very easy to fight for oneself,for ones rights and land. Restriction becomes the oil to the conflict.

A constant criminal climate of mass murder, torture, denial of medical care, demotion of home is not new to the locals of these areas. Being suppressed, increasing immigrations are their only escape. The concept of ‘ethnic cleansing’ where the areas are cleared off of the opposing population. The identity of the person becomes so scarred, becomes so delicate, that they would be willing to take on a stronger persona, even if violence or terrorism would be the way.

the impact of this space resonate not only to the extent of the people actually facing it but also to people worldwide. Anti semitism and anti islam sentiments all over the world leads to conscious or unconscious racism. All over discrimination leads to frustration, and the many stores and incidents of innocent people suffering due to their religious beliefs  are heard everyday.

The aim of this conflict becomes making the other groups life so miserable to the extent that they give up the fight, give up the contested space. Efforts of an outer party, like that of UN stepping in, remain futile, as the true root is deep set into the psyche of each individual living in these areas. The contested space becomes a dimension with its core ideals set in the past, the conflict or fight occurring in the present and for a hope for the desired future.

Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

Chapter 1

The house, from cellar to garret

In the writing the writer talks about spaces, specifically the house, and how the space is more than just a physical dimension. He talks about the house as an entity, inspiring poetry. Concepts of the relationship between memory and space are explored and how the house gets its own identity is explored.

  • When describing the house, primitiveness is necessary, one needs the innocence to understand it. There is intimacy even in poor humble dwellings.
  • Memory, dreams, imagination are the three things necessary to build the house.
  • In the past one notices discrepancies, physical details, but when one reminisces of the past it always seems comforting. It seems more like a blur of a visual, the emotion is remembered more than the physicality go the space.
  • Virtues of shelter are so simple, so deeply rooted in our unconscious that they may be recaptured through mere mention, rather than through minute description. Here the nuance bespeaks the color. A poet’s word, because it strikes true, moves the very depths of our being. Over-picturesqueness in a house can conceal its intimacy.”

Real houses of intimacy can’t be described. The example of the smell of raisins in the        cupboard shows the other senses playing in the space. One is familiar but can’t always describe what is familiar. The house is described almost as a hazy painting, with unclear details but the mood is experienced strongly.

  • Spaces of day dreams find themselves in day dreams, how a space transforms into a dream because of the power of the memory attached to it and how a real place transitions into a dream
  • Past, present and future affect day dreams of the house. They oppose as well as stimulate each other
  • Places identify solitude. When alone these paces invoke the mind and tap into nostalgia.
  • Space gets its own identity. Becomes a separate.
  • Thus we cover the universe with drawings we have lived.

A space which does not have direct memories with an individual can still set a chain of reactions and thoughts to go about just with a single element.

  • The association of certain spaces with our fears and inhibitions is done. It almost seems like the space has been psychoanalysed and our deepest emotions are brought forward by a space. The cellar is associated with darkness and the unknown. The attic brings comfort in the day but captures the eeriness of the cellar at night. The tower creates the aura of another century, another time.
  •  “write a room,” “read a room,” or “read a house.”

Personally I found this as the most powerful sentence of the chapter. Turning something tangible into an intangible thing through words is giving that space a power that lies in our mind. The space becomes indestructible and will always remain.  


Contested Spaces

A contested spaces is an area in which two or more entities are in dispute over. I find that it comes with a sense of need or greed to encroach upon another space. My opinion on the issue of contested spaces fluctuates as per the situation.
I believe a space inhabited by slum dwellers in a city like Bombay cannot be seen as a contested space. These are people that come from villages from all over India, some that have even been there for generations. Most of the inhabitants that live in these slums are the backbone of the city. Therefore its not a fair statement to make that they don’t belong in the space just in spirit of development.
When there are SRA projects that give rise to new housing for the inhabitants of the slum, they are made to live in a space with poor ventilation, lack of natural light and a lifestyle they are not used to. I do believe the government land they inhabit cannot be taken away from them.
The way I look at an agricultural land as a contested space is very different. These lands are inhabited by farmers that live with a very low income, suddenly exposing them to heaps of money as a bribe to get away from their space for industrial use. It is a way in which an entire farming culture is abolished through this.
There is a very thin line in the issue of contested spaces. It is the blurry border that causes these issues at a small scale, and sometimes at the scale of Countries.

Poetics Of Space




The Poetics Of Space by Gaston Bachelard is filled with a series of metaphors portrayed through poetic imagery. Although each chapter has a distinct focus, the recurrent poetic theme ties together the philosophical outlook with reference to space and its relationships.

I found a nest I the skeleton of the ivy

A soft nest of country moss and dream herb.

White nests your birds will flower

You will fly, feather paths.

In the chapter ‘nests,’Bachelard talks about shelter as a primal instinct. He compares our homes to the carapace of a turtle and the shell of a snail, and suggests that like animals, humans too withdraw into their corners to find their place of rest and quiet.

‘Men can do everything but build a bird’s nest.’

He goes on to talk about how we marvel nests, a work unmatchable by any mason or builder. It serves as a ‘warm home’ for birds, ‘a life giving home,’ and a ‘shelter.’ We all marvel at the sight of a nest, and remain disappointed when we find it once abandoned by its inhabitants. The joy of seeing the nest and the fear of the trembling reaction of its inhabitants to the presence of a human intrigued the writer even more.

The writer went on to describe the sounds of these birds and how they attached a person to the tree that they belonged to. They comprise such an essential part of one’s surrounding that he begins to associate various actions to these sounds to find solace.

The writer also talks about return and loyalty, coming to back to where we’re most comfortable, where we feel warm, where we feel at home. A calm nest and an old home are images of comfort.

A bird is the most hardworking worker without tools, that moulds its nest with its breast constantly pressing down all around, creating a rounded surface with everything evenly flattened due to the pressure it exerts. Just as a bird moulds its surroundings to procure shelter and protection, so does a human, according to his or her own basic needs.

The writer essentially uses the metaphor of a nest, to illustrate the warmth, suitability and hide away space of the bird, having similar characteristics to the spaces a human being desires. He does so through numerous examples, praise for the builder and excitement and loyalty to his primal place, always longing to return.

Poetics of Space – Corners

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard (1958) looks at the way a space is an experience. He doesn’t look at spaces as just being entities but what the meaning and the emotion is behind what he is looking into. Its the experience one feels with the space and how the space has come about to even begin with.
Chapter 6 in Poetics of spaces is about corners. This looks at the importance and impact a corner has on a space. It is a symbol of solitude for the imagination. A corner is a space of solitude. It is further derived as ones personal space where there is no room for further interaction. The corner is looked at in a very positive way. It is not something that is forgotten just because it does not lend a spacious central quality of the space. It is a symbol of solitude, a space to hide.
Corners are most often spaces of comfort. It could be the edge of a piece of furniture or a corner in a room. Is is away from the centre at a point at which one finds isolation and centre within themselves.
This could be looked at as a space not so pleasant. For example the edge of a map of one boundary into another boundary. This creates the edge of one space pushed into the corner. It creates a space of lost identity. Does this corner belong to this territory or that?

Lakeer without Poem

This short video work by Shruti Mahajan, poetically and very artistically makes the viewer feel the force borders and partitions have on us. The video uses uses graphic elements of maps and is in a monochrome colour scheme of only black and white without distractions making the viewer see the situation for what it is.
The film has been inspired by the poem Lakeer. This poem talks about the division of the Indian subcontinent. This is looking at the idea of the boundary, or the simply the line of division. This line is further taken forward in the mindsets of people and the boundaries of their beliefs. The film inspired by this poem is divided into three parts.
This part of the film, draws over an existing map. Taking the line in at some points, further out at some points and even intersecting with the existing line. Questioning who really is creating this line of division and how can it be so precise? The line is drawn in thick black charcoal drawn with great force across the page. There is no precision in the way the outline of the map is drawn and seems to be done in a way where the mind is following the simple motion of the hand. The background sound to this is applause and cheering, as though it is some kind of celebration. This sends out a very morbid signal as the visual quality depicts something very dark in comparison to this cheer.
This part of the video uses a technique of showing a process of working on something very skilfully. she’s cutting out what looks like train tracks or more so even the border that would be this line that has been drawn between the divided country. This making is a process shown in a very artistic craft kind of way as though is something beautiful being made that has been documented. Once again here, the peacefulness of just watching her make this is lost by the harsh colour of the black.
Through this sequence one sees the scissor angrily moving through an existing map with great force cutting through the borders all over. The motion of the siccor is not following the line of the map but moving across various directions inside and outside of the map. In a way this symbolises that the division is not so clear. The division of the map does not move in one direction but cuts all over. This brutal cutting cutis into one space and another. This emphasises the first part of the video as to who has created these borders and are they even right?

Lakeer – Shruti Mahajan

The short film Lakeer poetically captures what the partition of a country, in this case India, is in three simple steps. The constant turmoil within the nation and its several parts is no new story. Through this film the artist makes one wonder the weight of diversity against the friction it causes.

The artist starts with ‘drawing’, where she draws over a map, changing the existing boundaries. So easily through the medium we call a ‘map’ we completely cut off a population, make them outsiders

and on the other hand take over a population, compel them to become ‘insiders’. 

The second step, ‘making’ she cuts boundaries, ready to be affixed onto the map perhaps. Almost symbolic to the laws set, which make the map an absolute. These boundaries have made way for the several conflicts arising in our country by ‘others’, or the insiders, for a struggle to get out of these boundaries, take back once taken boundaries, or create new boundaries altogether.

The last step ‘dividing’  she cuts out the map unevenly, destructively. She chops off the entire form, the identity of the mp into smaller parts, which is what our nation is. The boundaries have given birth to conflict, to groups, sections, which in the process of making a nation come together are actually destroying it and leaving back a few fragmented pieces of paper. 

The film was inspired by the poem ‘Lakeer’ by Faiz Ahmed. The film to me speaks out about the callousness and how casually one simply cuts, divides and makes a country, as some sort of project. What effect this eventually has on the identity of the country is what the artist tries to show in a very simplified manner. 

Lakeer by Faiz Ahemd

The Indian subcontinent has a variety of cultures and beliefs throughout with different religions coexisting in the same mass of land. There is no distinct cultural boundary that segregates people, but a gradient that is unique to the region. What would be the impact of defining a nation boundary over the existing natural boundaries of land?

The video Lakeer by Faiz Ahmed Faiz talks about the partition of the Indian subcontinent. The first step of a partition is to define a nation’s boundary. Who decides the shape of the country to come? Is it drawn out with different forms, the best to be selected by a tiny council? How does this imaginary line then manifest into a clear distinction of power and space?

Faiz Ahmed uses a pair of scissors to split the map of the Indian subcontinent, showing how the people at the border face the downsides. The partition system is ever lasting, with quarrels over pieces of lands lasting over centuries. This short video boldly expresses the ever lasting effects of partition of the Indian subcontinent.