, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 143-152

Nice-looking obstacles: parkour as urban practice of deterritorialization

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Abstract

Most academic publications refer to Parkour as a subversive and embodied tactic that challenges hegemonic discourses of discipline and control. Architecture becomes the playful ground where new ways to move take form. These approaches rarely address the material and embodied relations that occur in these practices and remain on the discursive plane of cultural signifiers. A theory of movement between bodies as the founding aspect of Parkour unfolds alternative concepts of body, space, time and movement beyond the discursive. Movement becomes the leitmotif for a re-conceptualization of the relations between subjects and objects and abandons their division. With the example of Parkour, I will challenge anthropocentric approaches toward embodiment and instead foreground open-ended shifting configurations of places and their relation to movement. Parkour re-shapes rigid concepts of places and their human encounter through movement. Through its encounter with obstacles Parkour activates the silent potential for movement located in the relation between bodies and thus reaches beyond material boundaries (e.g., a wall). As a deterritorializing practice, I will use Parkour to re-consider the relations between different bodies such as architectural configurations, subjects and their urban ecologies to develop a relational model for movement to shape our everyday encounters with matter.