RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016

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204 Beyond interdisciplinarity: Situating practice in the art-geography nexus (3): Politics of collaboration: working the art-geography nexus as generative encounter
Affiliation History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Jethro Brice (University of Bristol, UK)
J. D. Dewsbury (University of Bristol, UK)
Owain Jones (Bath Spa University, UK)
Merle Patchett (University of Bristol, UK)
Chair(s) Jethro Brice (University of Bristol, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room RGS-IBG Council Room
Session abstract This session explores new ways of activating the productive nexus of art and geography: moving beyond familiar, discursive, models of inter-disciplinarity to engage seriously with the immediate material efficacies of contemporary art as a mode of spatial enquiry. Recent geographical work has shown a lively engagement with the possibilities and affordances of artistic practice, to incorporate atmospheric and material affect. Art methods are appreciated for their capacity to elicit multiple concurrent registers - to address the nexus of differing, yet interdependent, systems of meaning and doing. Such work has adopted various approaches to cross-disciplinary practice, including critique, conversation and collaboration. What is increasingly apparent - yet remains relatively unexamined - is the potential for new ways of working the relation of art and geography not as two separate systems working alongside one another, but as a generative encounter in which the full potential for new understanding is elaborated in the nexus of creative experimental practice. Rather than a simple borrowing of methods from other disciplines, what is at stake is a dissolution of boundaries in which the very nature of enquiry in certain areas of the social sciences and humanities becomes coextensive with modes of enquiry developed within contemporary art. This session invites methodologically innovative interventions that are situated explicitly within the nexus of artistic and social-scientific-humanities research, extending the scope of such work beyond familiar, discursive, models of inter-disciplinary practice.
Linked Sessions Beyond interdisciplinarity: Situating practice in the art-geography nexus (1): Situating practice: material and visual encounters in the art-geography nexus
Beyond interdisciplinarity: Situating practice in the art-geography nexus (2): Enacted cartographies: space, sense and memory in the art-geography nexus
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
The realpolitik of the art/geography nexus as 'generative encounter'
Iain Biggs (University of the West of England, UK)
Drawing on historical examples of institutionally-based initiatives towards generative encounters between geography and contemporary creative practices, Whatmore and Landström's 'competency groups', and examples of performatively-based, place-oriented, creative practice that maintain an arms-length relationship to discursive theorisations, this paper will identify and explore aspects of the realpolitik of the art/geography nexus as 'generative encounter' to date. The conference theme states that: "the aim of nexus thinking is to address the interdependencies, tensions and trade-offs between different environmental and social domains", while the session invitation to participate suggests that such thinking requires: "a dissolution of boundaries in which the very nature of enquiry in certain areas of the social sciences and humanities becomes coextensive with modes of enquiry developed within contemporary art". By questioning the call for 'boundary dissolution' in terms of the realpolitik of current 'interdependencies, tensions and trade-offs', the paper will attempt to set out both the psychosocial shifts and practical reconfigurations necessary if some form of genuine art/geography nexus is to become a performative reality able to address substantive issues of policy and governance. The paper will reference the work of a number of creative practitioners engaged with spatial understandings and practices, including Pauline O'Connell, Gini Lee, Deirdre O'Mahoney, Mike Pearson and Simon Read, the work of Sarah J. Whatmore and Catharina Landström with regard to the generation of 'competency groups' as a form of intervention in flood issues, and a number of collaborative projects involving artists and geographers.
Disrupting the nexus: Tales from the Office of Experiments
Dominic Walker (University of Exeter, UK)
This paper uses the work of British artist Neal White, Director at the Office of Experiments (OOE), to consider art's placing in the nexus of artistic and social-scientific-humanities research. The OOE, in the late 2000s, put together a series of exhibitions, workshops, bus tours, online materials, archives and individual projects under banner of the Overt Research Project, a project designed to consider what it means to do overt research. Though there are many outputs, two of these are examined in this paper. They are the Dark Places exhibition, which also featured an online archive, and the Secrecy and Technology bus tour of Southern England. These have been chosen owing to their interdisciplinarity and use of artistic practice to question the spatial and conceptual implications of military/industrial and techno/scientific complexes at sites in southern England. Some of these sites imbue a Cold War legacy, hiding in plain sight in the landscape and being afforded a layer of secrecy through a combination of strategic positioning in the landscape, politics, and the blurring of the information/mis-information divide. The mobility of encounters with these sites in these formats helps reflect the different everyday spaces where such sites can be experienced, but also the associated challenges which such undertakings entail. What emerges is a confrontation of inherently geographical issues, by an artist, in an interdisciplinary project with a simple goal: to disrupt rather than acquiesce.
Past and Present places; Evaluating solicited responses to Eng M.W. Wambwa's situated photographs
Andrea Stultiens (Minerva Art Academy, The Netherlands)
Eng. M.W. Wambwa (Retired town engineer, Mbale and Kampala)
Rumanzi Canon (Independent artist and co-founder of www.HIPUganda.org)
Luuk van den Berg (Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen)
Elsadig Mohamed (Independent Artist and Filmmaker)
Eng. M.W. Wambwa (born 1928) was one of the first western trained engineers in Uganda. Would this career option have failed, then he would have chosen to become a (photo) journalist. The slides that he made in the 1960s, after returning to Uganda from the UK, were the starting point for a discovery of the visualisation of the optimism of post independence Uganda and its urban space, through dialogues in photographs. These dialogues were set up by me. Three contemporary photographers responded to Wambwa's images. This resulted in a small publication and two exhibitions. In this presentation this artistic output and the way it portrays the developments of urban space in Uganda will be evaluated using Stuart Hall's reception theory. A strange and potentially problematic twist is, of course, that I am both initiator as well as main author of both the artistic project as well as this discursive output. I will try to critically assess these positions in relation to the meaning of the images produced, appropriated and presented.
Non-Representational Methods in the Geography-Art Nexus
Janet Banfield (University of Oxford, UK)
This presentation draws on practice-based research within the geography-art nexus, which sought to develop methodologies for capturing non-representational aspects of place-making through image-making as a mode of spatial enquiry. It offers a preliminary response to a recently identified need for geographers to develop their capacity to work with imagery conceptually, and informs geographical understanding of the 'visual' beyond discourse. The prevailing view within non-representational geography is that representational (conceptual) and non-representational (affective/pre-reflective) modes of understanding operate according to different logics, such that we cannot translate pre-reflective experience into conceptual knowledge without losing its affective quality. This presentation engages with an alternative non-representational perspective, which argues for representational—non-representational connectivity, such that the affective is not curtailed when translated into conceptual form, but is carried forwards, potentially allowing for its inter-subjective understanding. On this alternative perspective, image-making aids the formulation of conceptual knowledge from pre-reflective experience, recognising image-making both as conceptual in its own right and as a mediating step in the generation of linguistic concepts, informing our understanding of the 'visual' both within and beyond discourse. This offers potential both for working with image-making conceptually and for working with concepts more-than-conceptually, and brings opportunities for the methodological development of image-making as a mode of spatial, non-representational and conceptual enquiry. The blossoming geography-art nexus prompts us once again to consider the relation between the representational and the non-representational, as one potential means of methodological innovation to enhance our capacity to work with image-making conceptually and to understand the 'visual' beyond discourse.
Anti-Adult RUN! RUN! RUN! Masterclass, and a rough guide to a rough concept of an ill-disciplined partnership
Kai Syng Tan (Leeds College of Art, RUN! RUN! RUN! International Body For Research, UK)
Alan Latham (University College London, UK)
Through the example of a series of public workshops held in Kuopio, Finland, this presentation sketches a rough outline for a mode of enquiry organised through the exploration of a series of productive disciplinary antagonisms. This mode of working together is as much about being ill-disciplined as it is interdisciplinary. Commissioned for the 2015 Anti Festival in Kuopio, the workshops involved grown-ups being led through a series of running-based exercises by children 7-14; in the process drawing them into ways to be spontaneous and playful. Inspirations for this work include psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott's 'potential space' and ancient philosopher Lao Zi's 'gentle anarchism' and being 'old children'. Indeed, the cultivation of misbehaviour in such a structured manner captures the (paradoxical) tension behind the geographer and the artist's idea of a collaboration through productive antagonisms. What is also potentially powerful about this concept is that it is made/made up as the pair develop their collaborative work; it gets ripped apart and parts disposed of, and others consolidated, and tested in the real world. Far from being precious or theoretical, productive antagonisms is rough, and gets roughened up. The presentation itself will perform a form of productive antagonism. The scripted talk will be accompanied by a montage of images and texts, which will dance/battle with one another. It is hoped that at the end of this rough presentation of a rough idea, you, too, would be keen to join us in our ill-disciplined partnership (in-crime).