RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016

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296 The Nexus of Art and Geography: practice as research (1)
Affiliation Participatory Geographies Research Group
Convenor(s) Cara Courage (University of Virginia, USA / Futurecity)
Anita McKeown (Independent Researcher)
Chair(s) Cara Courage (University of Virginia, USA / Futurecity)
Timetable Friday 02 September 2016, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Session abstract Spatial practices are not unique to geography, historically artists have engaged with materialities as social practice (Courage, 2015; Kester, 2011; Lacy, 1998) physical environments (landscape painting, perspective) and exploring and shaping concepts of time and space (virtual worlds, telematics/telepresence). Both fields share experiences of spatial and social turns in theory (Soja, 2008; Bishop, 2006; Bourriaud, Massey, 2005), and practice (Mel Chin; In Certain Places; M12; France Whitehead) with theoretical, methodological and epistemological impacts. As the Century of the System (Gawande, 2014) progresses it is no longer possible for any single discipline to address potential future concerns and systemic approaches will be required to address current nexus challenges; water, food, energy, climate, economic growth and human security. As part of a growing inter- and transdisciplinary concern to research and practice, the dissolving of both academic and sector field-specific boundaries is emerging. Methodological promiscuity is common practice within arts' practice, matured through a half century of non-object, process-orientated practices, cross-pollinating and fertilising ideas across ‘disciplinary frontiers to address global challenges for humanity and the earth’s myriad of systems’ (McKeown, 2015). The artistic and spatial turn across arts and geographical disciplines is maturing and the conversation is not an exclusive, but mutual conversation. Artistic practices utilise geographical methods; Cartography, GIS, Spatial Inquiry, Participant Observation and share research interests with geography e.g. Information Modelling, a cultural and emotional engagement with place. Equally, geographers are utilising arts-based methods (Hawkins, 2012; Rose, 2011); visual and performative methods and methodologies e.g. Photography, Compositional Analysis, the Situationist’s dérive, to expand their understanding of the world and make connections to synthesise knowledge between disciplines. This panel, taking inspiration from the nexus theme of the RGS-IBG 2016 annual conference, aims to bring together ‘artist-geographers’ and ‘geographer-artists’ to present on the perspective of practice-based/practice as research, engaged in nexus discourse towards social-ecological resilience. We have sought a range of submissions from artists, geographers, researchers, curators commissioners, scientists or others working in this area, and have curated a three-part session that addresses an intellectual and artistic narrative through theory, practice and application through to plenary session. Subjects addressed will include but are not limited to: Systems thinking for knowledge production within the Arts / Geographic practices; Practices encouraging collaborative research and interdisciplinary problem-finding; Practice as research and the development of new methodologies through fieldwork; Discovering new questions through collaborative research; Exploring symbiotic relationships towards different ways of knowing and producing knowledge within Arts and Geography collaborations; Agile adaptive behaviour - The fluid state between specialist and non-specialist; itinerant academics and artists;
Linked Sessions The Nexus of Art and Geography: practice as research (2)
The Nexus of Art and Geography: practice as research (3)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Art without artists? An experiment in facilitating community-led arts commissioning
Phil Jones (University of Birmingham, UK)
Expertise in engaging communities with different forms of arts and culture can broadly be termed 'cultural intermediation', building on Bourdieu (1984). Capacity for such activities has been severely denuded in the UK following a long period of public sector cuts. The neoliberal rhetoric justifying austerity suggests that without the dead hand of the state, communities will be liberated to take much greater control over their own affairs. Since 2010 there have been a number of experiments in handing state power to neighbourhoods ranging from localism in spatial planning to pilot schemes for community budgeting. As part of a larger project examining processes of cultural intermediation, we facilitated an experimental period of community-led arts budgeting in two neighbourhoods – Balsall Heath in Birmingham and Ordsall in Salford. In Ordsall we collaborated with four local arts organisations to give commissions to community members with ideas for cultural projects. In Balsall Heath, we adopted a different approach, recruiting a panel of interested community members to identify key challenges in the community and commission activities responding to these. Two academic geographers played an enabling role for community members in Balsall Heath, helping them to deliver their planned activities, which included: a food festival; football tournament; Caribbean cultural events; and days out to London museums and the Lake District. I reflect here on the different outcomes from the artist-facilitated and geographer-facilitated activities as well as the broader implications for arts budgeting at the neighbourhood scale.
A translocal approach to dialogue-based art
Rachelle Knowles (Coventry University, UK)
My current research develops a ten-point set of principles towards a translocal approach to dialogue-based art. The problem I investigate is how to devise a methodological framework for dialogue-based art that reflects 21st century social relations and communications, and the politics of mobility that affect and control human movement. A solution this research test out is the application of ideas from the interdisciplinary field of translocality to the practice of dialogue-based art. Through this approach, I argue, the practice of dialogue-based art can address the contemporary conditions of life within networked and globalized society. In Translocal Geographies Bricknall and Datta argue for a multiscalar understanding of translocality beyond the discourse of national borders and international migrations, deployed the term as an expression of "simultaneous situatedness across different locales" and "connectedness to a variety of other locales" (2011, p.4), no matter the proximity. Viewed in this way, the theory and practice of translocality becomes an apt descriptor of the activities and goals of artists and artist-led networks seeking to bridge the space between people through dialogue-based processes and inter-connective flows. As the translocal research perspective develops towards ideas of local-to-local connectivities and an expanded discourse of circulations and transfers, so translocality as applied to dialogue-based art proposes a broader, more conceptual notion of communications across spatial, temporal and cultural distance. This solution, I argue, presents a methodology for artistic research that draws on multiple modes of social and networked practices, and also contributes to the interdisciplinary translocal research perspective.
Qualitative representation in the space between arts practice and geography
John Stell (University of Leeds, UK)
The utilisation of geographical methods in artistic practices such as psychogeography often includes engagement with GIS (Geographical Information Systems) or related digital cartography. The digital humanities also use GIS[1]. In examples such as Nold's biomapping of Greenwich[2], this engagement can appear a conflict between the participants' space of personal experience and the objective container-like space of the system into which the experience is mapped. In this presentation I will argue that the digital tools such as GIS which have contributed to various spatial arts practices may constrain the development of such practices through too early a commitment to the nature of space itself. This highlights an issue that arts practices used to produce an understanding of the world can sometimes use tools that embody some of the structure which the practices might otherwise question. But how can artists work with geographical information without accepting the spatial framework of coordinate geometry underlying GIS? Qualitative spatial representation[3] allows spatial information to be processed digitally but instead of idealized numerical coordinate points, it can use relationships between regions. These regions originate in earlier philosophical work, including that of Whitehead[4], whose "extensive connection" was motivated by an embodied conception of space. I will explore the role this qualitative approach to spatial information might play in the relationship between geography and arts practice. I will also discuss connections with my own practice as an artist in mapping as a collaboration between the artist and the environment.
CRYSTALLINE - The Arctic Circle
Siobhan McDonald (Independent Artist)
I am developing a body of work following a recent research trip to the North Pole where I studied the dis-appearing landscape of the Arctic. Prompted by my experience of the Arctic shelf receding, this new work addresses issues of the instability of the earth's materiality. The work is grounded in an investigation of material processes, exploring the dynamic forces that transform matter and energy. This project combines art and science in a fascinating exploration of one of the Earth's last relatively untouched wilderness areas - the High Arctic to bring audiences on journeys to both real and artistically re-imagined Arctic spaces. CRYSTALLINE'S pivotal process is collaboration: with The European Space Agency; curator Helen Carey; palaeontologist Prof. Jenny McElwain, UCD; and with composer Irene Buckley. CRYSTALLINE explores our desire to make corporeal contact with geological phenomena in Polar Re- gions. From January 2016, in my collaboration with Jenny McElwain, I will focus on the study of plants and atmospheres from the Arctic regions as far back as 400 million years ago, to explore the essential 'nature' that, invisible to the eye, acts as imaginary portholes into other times. This work will be informed by my arctic tracings of sounds and images recorded in the glaciers of this disappearing frozen landscape. In doing so, the urgency's around the tipping of natural balances in this fragile region will be revealed. The final work will emerge from my forthcoming residency at the ESA in spring 2016. Here I will conduct a series of workshops in ESA Madrid to work with experts using technology to help understand how the sun effects the melting of the polar ice caps. From this, a crucially innovative component of CRYSTALLINE – its final sound component, will be created for completion by June 2016 in a unique collaboration with Irene Buckley the original music score will be performed at ESA, Madrid and preserved in CD format to be included in the CRYSTALLINE publication. In addition there will be a radio documentary based on my recordings of the High Arctic and interviews with artists and scientists, by award winning producer Claire Cunningham to be broadcast on RTE Lyric FM, funded under the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The final exhibition is confirmed for both ESA, Madrid and The Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris.
Interrogating Territory: Borders, fictions and contradictions
Anne Gough (Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)
The artist and geographer Trevor Paglen (2008) has written that what we know as the nation-state is a spatial practice. What must then be asked how is that space produced? The practice of art is uniquely positioned to illuminate the contradictions between state fictions and their increasingly fortified territories. In this paper I examine the work of two artists whose work interrogates the commonly accepted realities and narratives of spatial sovereignty, security and research. Bouchara Khalili re-orients territory. In her work The Mapping Journey Project (2008-2011) she profiles eight people from different places around the Mediterranean. As they describe their journeys to obtain work in Europe, Khalili physical annotates a traditional map. She then abstracts these travels as a silk-screened constellation to connect Morocco to Holland and Libya to Turkey. By providing a platform for migrants and refugees to tell their stories, she questions nation-state ideas of illegality. A route of personal determination is clarified. The silk-screen serves to express the route on a more intimate scale, and forces viewers to see the movement, not only the borders. Trevor Paglen also questions the nation-state, on a different scale. He photographs from the air the three primary shapers of U.S. surveillance: the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency (2014). Viewed at night, the images are mundane and shocking. The viewer must face the realization that power, data and decision-making are housed within huge but ordinary office parks. While Khalili uses individual stories to interrogate state territory, Paglen demystifies and situates the architecture of territorial surveillance.