RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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61 Towards a creative geopolitics (2): Craft, collaboration and creative agency
Affiliation Political Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Alasdair Pinkerton (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Harriet Hawkins (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Chair(s) Alasdair Pinkerton (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 27 August 2014, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Sherfield/SALC Building, Read Lecture Theatre
Session abstract Creativity has emerged as a key concept across a range of scholarly disciplines, including Geography. Registering the political and economic imperatives of creativity, and its social, material and embodied dimensions, geographers are coming to attend to diverse forms of creative practice and its manifold possibilities, as well as its potential manipulations. Longstanding geographical attention to the creative economy, or to the analysis of various art forms, from fine art to cinema and literature, as well as attention to sub-cultural or subversive creativities, geographical scholarship is increasingly come to engage with vernacular (everyday) creativities, the democratic possibilities of creative use of Web 2.0, and even in-human creativities.

In this session we build on these critical geographies of creativity, and in doing so extend cultural perspectives on critical geopolitics and security. Geopolitics has, under its own cultural, embodied and affective turns, seen a recent growth in studies not only of art-work, but also video games, comic books, films. In light of these recent studies we seek to revisit questions not only of what such analysis of cultural products do in terms of the critical geopolitical scholarship and practice, but also to query the growth of vernacular creativities, or what could, after creative economic policy, be termed the ‘creativity’ script within statecraft. Furthermore, if creativity could be seen as a form of response to those very scripts, narratives and practices, to what extent might creativity claim new ground in geopolitical analysis and critique, through, for example, the production and co-production of geopolitical materials; the curation of artistic and technological responses; counter-cartographic practices of uncloaking, revealing, improvisation, exploration and play (including, for example, web-based initiatives such as ‘mash ups’); alternative forms of writing and presentation through the counter-factual, scenarios, lyricism, biography and even fiction?
Linked Sessions Towards a creative geopolitics (1): Space and conflict
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
The Role of NGOs in Contemporary Cambodian Dance
Amanda Rogers (Swansea University, UK)
This paper examines the transnational geopolitics influencing contemporary Cambodian performance, focussing on the extent to which NGOs and aid agencies enable innovations in classical dance forms. Classical Khmer dance is often discussed in relation to its reconstruction using foreign aid in the wake of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), locking artists into a dependency relationship that fails to cultivate innovation (Diamond 2003). Conversely, the return of diaspora artists to Cambodia is often depicted as the driving force in contemporizing classical dance (Shapiro-Phim 2008). This paper brings these perspectives together to critically assess how NGOs and foreign donors support companies and individuals experimenting with classical dance forms, the adaptations in creative practice and Khmer identity that result, and the political tensions that surround such backing.

In particular, the paper examines how collaborations between NGOs can develop international platforms for showcasing contemporary Khmer dance (notably the 2013 Cambodia Season in New York). These high-profile activities are a mechanism for promoting the Cambodian state and can be used to develop donor relationships after a loss of aid during the global economic recession. As result, the type of innovation promoted through performance is inevitably influenced by the politics of financial relations and the geographical imaginations and cultural-creative expectations of aid agencies. This paper analyses these dynamics, developing emerging lines of geographical inquiry that address how creative practice is embroiled in geopolitical issues and providing broader insights into the tensions that surround post-conflict performance (Ingram 2011).
Crafting critical geographies: The Design of Experiences
Nelly Ben Hayoun (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
The Design of Experiences extent the notion of the ‘product’ design in terms of scope, scale and methods of engagement towards architecture, installations, environments, social systems and scenarios. It embraces both:
-the development of a cultural spatial intervention, – the formation of emotional and critical systems and a chain of reactions.
Antonin Artaud refers to the ‘Theater of Cruelty, as imposing to members of the audience extreme experiences and emotion in order to develop their critical thinking. This paper will study how the design of experiences can build and craft momentum for critical geographies. By geographies, we mean scenes, spaces that have been set up to perform a specific function. The design of experiences, in this context, applies to the engineering of an action, a situation that generate chaos and disorder and can have political implication. We will discuss how the Design of Experiences can be used as a research method to ‘process’ and generate critical thinking into a set geography. We will argue using examples drawn from our practice: a series of events scored for Mission Control.
Beyond ‘geographic certainty’: the geopolitics of creative agency and international development
Polly Stupples (Massey University, New Zealand)
In the last five years, the discourse of the creative economy has gained currency in the field of international development (Stupples, 2014; UNCTAD 2008; UNCTAD 2010; UNDP and UNESCO 2013). Within this discourse the creative economy is championed as a driver of (economic) development for the poor, and an enabler of a plethora of human development outcomes. In a context defined by the constructed cartographies of underdevelopment, what is the political agency of the new intercultural space suggested by the creative economy – and particularly the creative practice of artists? Furthermore, what geopolitics is enacted when donors in Western Europe become the main financial support for artistic communities in the ‘Third World’?
These questions are explored in relation to the policy discourses of the value of the arts and the creative economy to development, through postcolonial theory and through an ethnographic analysis of the workings of a group of contemporary visual artists in Central America (undertaken as doctoral fieldwork). Refusing to fit into development’s frameworks of ‘geographic certainty’ (Pérez-Ratton 2011, 29) this group of artists is, paradoxically, involved in counter-representational and counter-cartographic practices of place-making that unsettle, and intervene in, the geopolitics of creative agency and international development.