EM Toolkit for urban mapping and performance art practice
Concept and design by Alessandro Carboni (2016)


EM is a Toolkit for urban mapping and performance practice conceived by Alessandro Carboni that uses the body as device to capture, to extract urban events and to map what happen in a place in its geometrical and temporal extensions. The method allows to deal with those events, embody and reconfigure them with a choreographic thinking. The result is a Corporeal Maps made out of posture, forms and body gestures.

EM Toolkit is the result of an individual and collaborative investigation of theory and practice between Alessandro Carboni and people such as performers, theorists, artists, researchers, cartographers, curators and mapmakers. EM wants to reflect on the body as vector, as tool and a condition to analyse the embedded forces that regulate that contemporary city.

EM Toolkit explores a ‘subjective mapping’ process, using embodiment and performance practice as a strategy for reflection on, and representation of, urban space and takes account of ways in which cities are defined as complex systems of urban events. EM Toolkit also considers mapping process as embodied experience, as an antithesis to the traditional map which is commonly a disembodied visual representation.

The toolkit equips its users, typically mapmakers and performers, to develop a greater awareness of, and to be better able to observe and interpret, events that occur in real-time in the urban space. The toolkit reveals those events that already exist in urban space, but that we are not fully aware of because they are at the periphery of our attention. EM Toolkit’s name is derived from combining two letters to form an acronym open to different interpretation. The letter E is related the words: embody, embodiment, exploration, extraction, extended. M is for map, mapping, modality, mode and measurement. The name is deliberately playful in terms of meaning, underlining that the toolkit itself has multiple possibilities and applications. The toolkit was designed and developed through iterative research conducted in Aarhus, Hong Kong, Malmö/Copenhagen and Bologna.

The completed EM Toolkit is presented as a Toolbox and guide for artists to use. The premise of the EM Toolkit is that artists can use their body as a device to capture urban events and to map what happens in a place, capturing the geometrical and temporal dimension of that place. The toolkit is designed using four principles: 1. observe, 2. capture (urban space mapping through corporal actions), 3. extract (selective re-enactment of the actions in the studio), 4. transmit (corporal map into a choreographic score). I structured the research using a hybrid combination of artistic research and action research methodologies. As part of this I lead a series of workshops to iteratively design, test and apply the toolkit through a reflexive spiral of action research. In these workshops participants were also trained in a simple form of action research that is built into the toolkit design.

Preliminary findings of the research that have been disseminated through conferences and festivals such as Media Architecture Biennale in Aarhus, Bi-city/Hong Kong Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture, Transmediale Festival in Berlin, Santarcangelo Festival in Italy, From Soil to Structure Festival in Malmö.

EM Toolkit has been developed in the frame of Alessandro Carboni’s PhD at School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong.