New book: Landscape, Nature, and the Sacred in Byzantium

Landscape, Nature, and the Sacred in Byzantium

This month sees the publication of Veronica della Dora’s new monograph, Landscape, Nature, and the Sacred in Byzantium, from Cambridge University Press. The following blurb offers a sense of the book’s ambitious scope:

Nature is as much an idea as a physical reality. By ‘placing’ nature within Byzantine culture and within the discourse of Orthodox Christian thought and practice, Landscape, Nature and the Sacred in Byzantium explores attitudes towards creation that are utterly and fascinatingly different from the modern. Drawing on Patristic writing and on Byzantine literature and art, the book develops a fresh conceptual framework for approaching Byzantine perceptions of space and the environment. It takes readers on an imaginary flight over the Earth and its varied topographies of gardens and wilderness, mountains and caves, rivers and seas, and invites them to shift from the linear time of history to the cyclical time and spaces of the sacred—the time and spaces of eternal returns and revelations.

The book can be ordered from the Cambridge University Press website.

Innes M. Keighren

Making Suburban Faith

On 12th January, the ‘Making Suburban Faith: Design, material culture and popular creativity’ project team presented our research in the Landscape Surgery Seminar Series.

This project is a current research project funded by the AHRC as a part of its Connected Communities programme, and is a collaboration between the Geography Departments of UCL and Royal Holloway. The research team is Claire Dwyer (PI UCL), David Gilbert (CI RH), Nazneen Ahmed (PDR UCL), Natalie Hyacinth (PhD RH), Laura Cuch (PhD UCL) and Christian Sayer (Admin, UCL).

The project explores the ways in which suburban faith communities create space focusing on architectures, material cultures, rituals, music and performance. The project is based in Ealing in West London and focuses on eight different faith community case studies selected to represent different faith and migration traditions. These case studies also represent different aesthetic and material cultures in their faith traditions and practices and in their buildings and community spaces.

The project involves four main research strands: survey and ethnographic work in all eight case study sites; ethnographic work with community members to explore home-based faith cultures and practices; ethnographic work on religious music and performance; three artistic projects which involve people from across different faith communities. In his introduction to the session, David Gilbert discussed the relationship between religion and creative practices, arguing that recent work on the geographies of creativity has marginalized religion, and indicting the hidden creativities of everyday religion – in its music, dance and performance, its craft and material culture, and in its architectures. Central to the methodology of Making Suburban Faith is active participatory research, involving faith communities and other publics from Ealing, and professional arts practitioners. The first of these involved sixth-formers from Brentside School in Ealing working with the international architecture firm Mangera Yvars in imagining and developing a multi-faith space for the suburbs. This creative participatory methodology is the focus of a session at this year’s AAG in San Francisco.

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A feature of the project is that it includes two PhD projects – while these contribute to the overall research of the project team, they are also independent pieces of work, developing their own ideas and perspectives on issues related to issues of faith, creativity and place. These PhD projects, by Natalie Hyacinth (RH) and Laura Cuch (UCL) were the focus of the session, and they have both posted separately, reflecting on these presentations.

David Gilbert

Food, Faith, Home: A visual exploration of religious and domestic material culture

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It was a fantastic experience to present my doctoral research at the Landscape Surgery seminar series on 12th January. Mine is an interdisciplinary practice-based PhD, using photography and film to explore the relationship between religious practices and home of the different faith communities that form the case studies of the overarching project Making Suburban Faith, in which the PhD is embedded.

I structured my presentation through the key terms of home, faith and material culture, which I juxtaposed to the presentation of both visual work by artists that have explored these concepts and my own visual work developed over the first year of my PhD. The purpose was to create a dialogue between the theoretical and visual approaches underpinning my research.
I first drew on a critical geography of Home (Blunt and Dowling, 2006) to examine what might constitute “domestic” religious practices for different faith communities. This critical theoretical framework is poignant for my research as it enables an interrogation of home which is not limited to the physical space of a household, and which takes into account: imaginaries of home; relations of power which are constitutive of people’s identities and their experience of home, and how home is open to and constituted through the relationship of different scales.
Second, I drew on Sophie Watson’s paper ‘Performing Religion: Migrants, the Church and Belonging in Marrickville, Sydney’ (2009), which explores the role played by various Christian churches in Sydney from different religious traditions to accommodate and integrate migrant cultures, as well as Blunt and Dowling’s (2006) idea that experiences of home are multiple and mobile, to interrogate to what extent the congregational spaces of the faith communities in our case studies are experienced as home.

Linked to this question, I introduced an undergoing visual pilot project (with the provisional title of ‘Looking after Faith’), which reflects on the experience of people who undertake typically “domestic” tasks in congregational spaces, such as cleaning, cooking, decorating and caring. This project has a visual approach that combines interviews and images of objects, as well as portraits, which aim to make visible the more “behind the scenes” practices involved in the daily functioning of such congregations. Here, I drew on my experience as a photographer (lauracuch.com) to also elaborate on how visual practice and the interplay between image and text might be particularly relevant for the study of embodied and affective religious experiences.

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Betty cleaning at Our Lady & St Joseph Church in Hanwell (© Laura Cuch, 2015)

Throughout my presentation I also reflected on the significance of material culture, especially that which relates to food, in mediating religious practices at home, as well as those practices that cross the boundaries between the house and the congregational space. By paying particular attention to the material culture of food and food practices, my research also aims to contribute knowledge on the relationship between food, religion and home. This will be the focus of one of the main visual practice elements of my research and I ended my presentation with some preliminary visual notes.

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Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Temple in Ealing (© Laura Cuch, 2015)

Despite the limitations of time, some really interesting questions came up in the discussion, which I hope will develop further in conversation with the LS community. These covered: issues of representation and consent; the meaning and significance of ‘inter-faith’ research and; the necessity of making visible the significance of the particularity of the locality of our case studies.

Finally, it was very inspiring to see how presenting alongside other members of the Making Suburban Faith research team, David Gilbert and Natalie Hyacinth, generated a dialogue between some of the different dimensions of the overarching project, which people engaged with and gave really interesting feedback on.

AHRC Project: Making Suburban Faith
http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org/
Laura Cuch’s photographer website:
http://www.lauracuch.com
Laura Cuch’s academia.edu website:
https://ucl.academia.edu/LauraCuch

Three Musics…Three Worlds: Religion and affective atmosphere in three West London faith spaces

I had a wonderful time presenting at my first Landscape Surgery seminar on Tuesday 8th January 2016. I introduced my first year PhD research into sacred sounds and presented findings of my autumn 2015 ethnographic fieldwork with three faith communities: the Sri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Hindu Temple, Ealing Christian Centre and St Thomas the Apostle Anglican Church. I spoke of my work as an ethnographically centred research project that contributes to the study of creativity, material culture and space in Ealing as part of the AHRC funded Making Suburban Faith team. I outlined my developing research questions that concern themes of the performativity of faith, the body and the senses and the construction of emotion and affect.

I explained to the group that affect and emotion are terms that have arisen much during my first year of research. Music is an undoubtedly emotive and affective art form and so I have become more and more interested in how emotions and affect are produced and understood within the musical celebrations of faith communities.

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A Sunday musical “celebration” service at Ealing Christian Centre, December 2015

I pre-circulated Ben Anderson’s 2009 paper ‘Affective atmospheres’, as I believe his related concepts and focus upon the term atmosphere provides an interesting route into my developing ideas, particularly with regard to the atmospheres created by faith spaces and through sacred sounds. I read to the group the 1856 Karl Marx quote Anderson outlines in the beginning of his paper, it reads:

“the atmosphere in which we live, weighs upon every one with a 20,000 pound force, but do you feel it?”

Anderson suggests that Marx’s quote discloses the ambivalent meaning and nature of the term “atmosphere”. On the one hand, an atmosphere is a real material phenomenon that physically “weighs” or “presses” upon people, things and areas. Yet atmospheres also affect in an ambiguous and often “unsayable” way. I also presented Anderson’s key concept of “intensive spatialities” as a method to explore how music affects the intensity of religious services and celebrations.

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Lord Ganesh shrine, Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Temple, December 2015
In order to illustrate the ways in which an affective atmosphere can be created, felt and produced in various ways through sound, I presented three central pieces of music from each community to the group. I played a snippet of the “Porti” chant from the Hindu temple, “Softly” by Will Todd which I sang at St Thomas’ as part of the Nine Lessons & Carols Christmas Choir and “Joy to the World” which is sung at the Ealing Christian Centre. I explained how an affective atmosphere is created in each space through various means of repetition, language and breathe.

For example, the Tamil word “Porti”, meaning praise, is repeated at the end of each line of a 108-line chant, the first page of which is below:

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“Porti” 108 line Chant, Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Temple

Hindu devotees at the Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Temple consider this repetition the necessary spiritual medium through which Goddess Thurkkai Amman’s cosmic energy, or “shakti”, becomes activated through the recitation of each line. I noted how Hindu devotional songs place much significance on the Tamil language as containing affective power and the importance of the repetition of sounds such as “porti” and “om” in creating a divine affective atmosphere.

I contrasted this with “Joy the World” sung at Ealing Christian Centre which focuses much less on language and words and so more on rhythm, “feeling” and the emotive, performative way songs are sung. For example, a whole verse of “Joy to the World” was left out so that a more seamless feel and focus upon the rhythm was ensured.

By contrast, the deliberate focus and application of “breathe” emerged as an important method in which to create a certain atmosphere of “softness” during rehearsals for the Will Todd carol “Softly” for St Thomas’ Christmas concert. Ironically, during my time rehearsing this song, “softly” became the hardest word to sing!! So it was interesting and helpful to present the contrasting findings of my research at these faith communities as it made me think through more closely the meanings and terms I had been working with.

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“Softly” by Will Todd
Finally, in relation to this I posed a query to the group regarding my thus far application of the terms “affect” and “atmosphere”, inspired by Anderson, to the musical celebrations of the three faith communities. I noted how I had found that each community had their own particular set of words or terms to describe the specific atmosphere that music and sound conjured in their world. I asked the group how translatable the term affect was, and importantly how could I approach and explore further conceptual ties that link each space.

I received really helpful comments from the group and though I was a little nervous at first, I quickly felt relaxed in what was a friendly and encouraging atmosphere…

Thank you to Surgeons for their kind and helpful comments, encouraging manner and patience!!
Natalie Hyacinth
Doctoral Researcher
AHRC Project: Making Suburban Faith
http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org/

Upcoming Event: Passenger Films and Precarious Geographies present “Nightcrawler”

Dear Surgeons,
Please see details of the first Passengerfilms event of 2016. We are trying out a great new venue – the lovely Paragon Bar at the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel – so a reassuring smattering of LS faces in the crowd would be wonderful! And please bring along any other interested parties you can think of.

Ella and Mel from Precarious Geographies are hosting, with Oli Mould and Will Davies (Goldsmiths) on the panel discussing NIGHTCRAWLER. There is a bar throughout (amazing cocktails) and food available too.
Hope to see some of you there!
Tickets available though the Genesis website here : http://genesiscinema.co.uk/GenesisCinema.dll/WhatsOn?Film=1214382

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Join us on Tuesday 19th of January for a screening and exploration of Dan Gilroy’s fascinating film ‘Nightcrawler’ presented by Passengerfilms in collaboration with ‘Precarious Geographies’ and Genesis Cinema.

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Set in the hyper-precarious world of contemporary LA, Nightcrawler is a disturbing critique of the neoliberal urban condition. Its protagonist, Lou Bloom, is a young man frustrated by an impenetrable labour market in which even unpaid internships are inaccessible. Bloom embarks on a mission to make his own fortunes by forging a career in crime journalism. Lou’s willingness to cross boundaries others won’t in order to get the goriest footage means his career rapidly gains momentum. His merciless pursuit of uncomprehendingly brutal footage is met by both horror and admiration by TV stations. But this is not just a film about a sinister individual; Lou’s prioritisation of ambition and commercial success at the expense of compassion and humanity…

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RHUL Geography Department to host ‘Cornwall Connections’ Symposium

On 12th March 2016 the Institute of Cornish Studies, part of the University of Exeter, will be holding a symposium at Royal Holloway, University of London in association with the Geography Department of that historic institution. The aim of the day is to explore both historical and contemporary connections between Cornwall and London with papers exploring topics like migration and centre-periphery relations. We would welcome papers from a broad range of disciplines and presented in a conventional lecture format or in a film or poster presentation.

It is appropriate that the symposium is being held at Royal Holloway since Thomas Holloway, the founder of the institution, had connections to the West Cornwall town of Penzance. If successful the aim is to hold similar events in the future both in other areas of Britain and overseas.

If you are interested in giving a presentation please send an abstract of 150 words along with name, title and institutional affiliation to both

cornishstudies@exeter.ac.uk and ben.gilby.2014@live.rhul.ac.uk by 10th February.

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Interactive Documentary as Method

In this Tuesday’s Landscape Surgery session (December 1st 2015) I presented my methodological work with interactive documentary (or “i-Docs”), alongside my collaborator Michael Skelly.

Given that few people have heard of interactive documentary I started by introducing what an i-Doc is, and why I think Geographers should care.

As I explained, interactive documentary is an emerging form of documentary film typified by ‘nonlinear’ spatiotemporal organisation. Rather than present footage in a predetermined order, users can navigate through i-Docs in multiple ways and often add their own content. I-Docs focus on a range of politically pertinent issues and often use their nonlinearity and interactive capacities to destabilize dominant representations of those issues or produce new ways of engaging with debates. (Links to some prominent i-Docs are included at the bottom of this post).

In order to give people a sense of what i-Docs are like and how I think Geographers could approach them I circulated a paper I’m currently preparing on interactive documentary which analyses one particular i-Doc; Gaza Sderot. 

 In this paper I argue that Geographers should care about i-Docs for two interrelated reasons. Firstly, Geographers have always been interested in the ways that space-time is expressed and reformulated through film, media and technologies of exhibition and i-Docs clearly sit within this lineage, providing an insight into contemporary regimes of vision.  And, secondly, given that nonlinear ontologies and their politics are central to contemporary Geographical thinking (perhaps most significantly through the influential philosophy of Deleuze), Geographers should have a particular interest in the politicized nonlinear imaginaries that i-Docs develop. In the paper I use Gaza Sderot, an i-Doc about the Gaza conflict, to demonstrate how we might analyse i-Docs in order to understand their construction of nonlinear imaginaries and to explore the political ramifications of those imaginaries.

On Tuesday, however, I focused on how i-Docs could be used methodologically within Geography. I presented my own work with interactive documentary and asked the group to think about how i-Docs could be valuable as a method within Geography more broadly.

My work with i-Docs is part of my PhD research into pop-up culture in London. I am employing interactive documentary as a method through which to explore pop-up culture’s own nonlinear spatiotemporal logics.

The Temporary City Home Page

i-Doc Home Page

I am filming and editing clips of pop-up places as well as designing the i-Doc interface with the help of Michael Skelly who has been undertaking the coding. Working closely together we have been thinking about how the i-Doc can evoke pop-up’s spatiotemporal logics in a user friendly way and experimenting with different ways of organising the interface. So far, the key feature of the interface is its irreversibility. During your visit to the i-Doc’s version of the ‘pop-up city’ a flipping calendar at the bottom of the screen marks the passage of time. Clips come and go, popping up and down as time passes so that the user will inevitably miss some events.

As well as briefly demonstrating where we’re up to with the i-Doc we talked about our experience of collaborating and the way that working together on this kind of project exposes artificial boundaries between what is the ‘platform’ for academic or creative work and what is ‘the work’ itself.

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Screen shot from ‘inside’ the i-Doc

This was the first time we have shown the i-Doc and it was great to get feedback from the group. In particular questions were raised about the relationships between i-Docs and forms of interactive mapping and around the politics of choice and agency. It was also incredibly helpful to get suggestions on the ways that the i-Doc interface could add to my critique of pop-up culture. The group suggested ways that the interface could work to expose the artifice of pop-up’s imaginary, revealing that its logics of openness, spontaneity and flexibility mask normative functions and in particular distract from the calculated contribution of pop-up to processes of gentrification and displacement.

It was also really exciting to hear lots of Landscape Surgery members thinking through ways that interactive documentary could be valuable in their own work.

Ella Harris

Links to some interesting i-Docs…

http://gaza-sderot.arte.tv/

http://prisonvalley.arte.tv/?lang=en

http://pinepoint.nfb.ca/#/pinepoint

http://hollowdocumentary.com/

http://bear71.nfb.ca/#/bear71

http://www.dadaabstories.org/

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A Visit to the British Museum of Food

The notion of curation has expanded beyond the museum and art world, encompassing other cultural economic realms such as fashion and food. In my own research on exploring diasporic Iranian identities in commercial food spaces in London and Vancouver through the ways in which diasporic Iranian identities are marketed, curated and designed, and how these identities materialise through the foods themselves, I use the notion of ‘curation’ as a way of expressing a different relationship between commercial actors and the materialities of their retail spaces. Hunt (2015) explores this in further detail where shop keepers act as curators of the material culture of their stores. Furthermore, writing on how local foods are curated in the marketplace in Uppsala, Sweden, Joosse and Hracs (2015, p.207), “argue that curators are thus crucial in helping consumers to find products but create new ways of food sourcing”. However, more recently the worlds of food and museums have combined (it should be noted that food museums, focusing on a niche subject as the Cup Noodle Museum in Japan have been open for several years), with the opening of the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in New York and the British Museum of Food in London.  Here the museums act as curators providing a pedagogic role in showing the wider roles and embedding of “culture, history, science, production and commerce of food and drink” (MOFAD, 2015). In this blog entry I will focus on my recent visit to the British Museum of Food.

The British Museum of Food:

The British Museum of Food opened in October 2015 and owned by Bompas and Parr, who are known for their culinary installations and experiments. The museum is located within the renowned Borough Market, further emphasising the prestige of the market and its role in London’s urban landscape. The museum features a range of interactive exhibitions embodying the motto “From Field to Table, Mouth…and Beyond” (Bompas and Parr, 2015). The exhibitions aim to showcase a journey of food through various ways in which consumers act with it. I will now take you, the reader through the five exhibitions hosted at the museum.

The Exhibits:

Be the Bolus:

This exhibit is film based where visitors are exposed to how food is digested. Here the visitor is exposed to the “science aspect” of food, which is equally as important in the consumption chain.

Choco-Phonica:

This is one of the more interactive exhibits where visitors are invited to partake in an experiment determining the correlation between taste and soundscapes. Four pods are set up each with different sounds, such as sounds of the rainforest. Here the visitor is asked to sample a piece of chocolate as they listen to the sounds to see if there is any difference between the four samples in terms of bitterness vs sweetness and creamy vs dry.

Atelier of Flavour:

In this exhibit the realms of art and food merge, in the sense that food is portrayed as art in the literal sense that is showcased as one would find, such as framed photographs in an art gallery. Here food was treated as an object of humour kitsch, for example a traditional English breakfast is presented as knitted piece of art.

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Knitted full English breakfast

The British Menu Archive:

Menus can be treated as cultural texts as not only do they provide obvious information such as prices, meal structure and the foods available, but also form narratives around the histories and cultures of. Menus provide a rich insight into social relations between communities, in addition to the modification that occurs to dishes as they travel through time and space.  The collection includes a range of menus dating from 1907 to 2014.

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A display of menu

The Butterfly Effect:

On the top floor there is a room which has a tropical aesthetic, filled with luscious green plants and lots of butterflies. At first I was unsure about the connection between butterflies and food; here the connection is pollination. There is a buzz (pun intended!) on the importance of bees and their impact on pollination, but less so on butterflies. This exhibit aims to focus the attention on butterflies and their importance in the global food system, especially in the propagation of bananas.

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Feeding time!

Final thoughts:

Overall the British Museum of Food does what it sets out to do, by taking the visitor through a food journey “From Field to Table, Mouth…and Beyond”. The size of the space does limit what is on display, nonetheless the ways in which the materials are curated allows the museum to simultaneously becomes a pedagogic and entertainment space.

References:

Bompas and Parr (2015). British Museum of Food. Retrieved from http://bompasandparr.com/projects/view/british-museum-of-food

Joosse, S., & Hracs, B. J. (2015). Curating the quest for ‘good food’: The practices, spatial dynamics and influence of food-related curation in Sweden.Geoforum64, 205-216.

MOFAD (2015). Vision. Retrieved from http://www.mofad.org/

 

Priya Vadi (PhD Candidate)

Introducing the MA Cultural Geography Students 2015/6

Chloe Asker
PastedGraphic-1Before finding myself at Royal Holloway, I studied human geography at The University of Southampton. Here, I began to cultivate my passion for cultural geography and the more-than-human aspects of the discipline. I completed my undergraduate dissertation on the gendered domestic geographies of dog keeping, and found my interest for nature-cultures and embodiment under the guidance of Dr Emma Roe.

Twitter | Etsy Store

 

Adam Badger

UntitledI arrived onto the MA cultural geography course having just finished my BA Geography degree at Royal Holloway earlier this year. My primary research interests concern social mobility/justice, the city and (rather differently) the digital world. I believe we now stand at a point where online worlds can interact with the built environment and provide the agency necessary for social change. In my opinion, part of our role as geographers is to research these issues in a democratic way to help towards creating a fairer society.

Twitter

Ed Brookes

edHaving spent the past two years traveling and working abroad I have returned to the world of academia. I have a previous geographical background graduating from Southampton with a BA in Human Geography. I have developed broad interests in geographies of the home, memory and mobility. I am especially interested in the politics of home and memory spaces, and how individuals navigate the spaces in which they live, previously researching elderly experiences in sheltered accommodation.

Twitter | Blog

 

Georgina Collins

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.57.13I graduated from Royal Holloway in the summer of 2015 with a BSc in Geography. Throughout my undergraduate I became very interested in Historical Geography and the Geographies of Museums and Collections. My undergraduate dissertation involved engaging with objects from the V&A Indian collection to consider the changing attitudes towards displaying India from the Colonial and Indian exhibition 1886 to the present day Nehru gallery. This allowed me to explore the method of object biography; which I wish to investigate further during the Cultural Geography MA using material culture to explore the concept of cultural genocide.

 

Dan Crawford

557834_4866521881537_879988634_nI completed my undergraduate degree at Royal Holloway this year, and am now studying for the MA as part of an ESRC 1+3 studentship. Broadly I am interested in the relationships between architecture, religion, heritage, landscape and sacred space. My research aims to investigate the ways in which sacred spaces are understood and experienced in the contemporary city, how they undergo material change over different timescales, and how these changes are implicated in wider social and cultural processes.

 

Jo Howes
unnamedComing to higher education later than most, my journey was via horticultural training and practice, followed by a History degree. My research interests include the Victorian imperial networks of horticultural knowledge and exchange and the spaces that have permitted or restricted this flow of knowledge across gender, class and ethnicity.

Twitter

 

Katy Lawn
katyAfter completing my undergraduate degree at Durham University, where I focused on cultural and literary geographies, I have joined Royal Holloway with a general interest in philosophies of living and emotional/psycho-geographies. Through a particular focus on the geographies of work and the workplace, I hope to uncover some of what it means to live a fulfilled life in a contemporary urban setting.

Twitter


Anthea Zhang 

mmexport1443952928294I am a visiting research student from South China Normal University. I major in geographical information science. And I have strong Interests in Cultural Geography. I focus on the intersection between Cultural Geography and GIS. At the moment my research is concentrating on the everyday practice of migrations in Guangzhou city, China. Using a qualitative GIS method.

Twitter

 

HELEN SCALWAY ON GEOGRAPHIES OF LAB MICE

On November 3rd 2015 I made a presentation to the Landscape Surgery group at Royal Holloway concerning a collaborative project between a geographer, Professor Gail Davies of Exeter University, and myself as an artist. The subject concerned the geographies of lab animals, specifically lab mice. The presentation was an attempt, as the collaboration is now drawing to a close, to situate the work in a wider context, within a set of histories.
Sadly Gail could not be present. However, I began by looking briefly at one of her papers to which she had drawn my attention early on in our long conversation, one I have found riveting, titled ‘Writing biology with mutant mice: the monstrous potential of post genomic life’ (Davies 2013).
In this paper Gail explores the ways in which the science around lab animals is subject to different forces: a version of science is at work, characterised as modernist – i.e. reductionist, spare, ‘pure’, looking for uniformity and repeatability on the one hand; and in contrast, a ‘post-modern’ version characterised by excess, undecidability, unforeseeability – what in Derrida’s terms might be called ‘the monstrous’. She writes:
‘Rather than searching for the normal, the ideal type, or the singular genetic code from which variations are defined, here difference is of central interest and value … it is monstrous in the sense that it is oriented to the production of a variety of possibilities, not all of which will become facts. It is open to the future – to the monstrous arrivant – in a way that the sequencing practices of human genome project were not…’

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Arrows

There are some interesting parallels between these suggestions of ‘excess, undecidability, unforeseeability’ in post-genomics – characteristics of ‘the monstrous’ – and these qualities in some approaches to contemporary drawing. Crucially, in the context of the work which became Micespace, we might say that drawing which welcomes the not-yet-see-able partakes of ‘the monstrous’, understood in this way. Drawing research scholar Vinod Goel has suggested that, in certain phases in a design process, thoughts and their representations need to be ‘intersecting, undifferentiated and ambiguous’ (2014: 4) and that freehand sketches are useful because they facilitate lateral transformations (ibid., p. 218). Another leading drawing researcher, Steve Garner remarks: ‘Drawing is an immanence, always pointing to somewhere else’ (2008: 37).

Drawing as begetting the unfixed and ambiguous, the future-bearing – this seemed to offer fitting approaches for a project concerned with the begetting of ‘the monstrous’.

So, at Landscape Surgery I presented some works from Gail’s and my collaboration in the light of these earlier comments – not looking for closed conclusions but for further discussion. All the visual experiments were predicated on the idea that while there is an object of study, the lab mouse, there is no fixed agreement as to what kind of entity – or process – this might comprise. The visual approaches all began with some variety of drawing but ranged from a form of charting combining linear pen drawing with writing, to the most hands-on explorations with other materials, to dematerialisations of projected light.
Why so many approaches, so many methods? I think the answer lies somewhere in this: that materials and means radically inflect outcomes and their implications, so that working with different materials opens up a corporeally-imbricated, rich variety of ways of ‘thinkings-through’. Truly method changes meaning; and this became fascinating to me in itself.
Some interesting questions emerged from the session.
Many questions concerned the ‘lab diagram’, initially based on an American National Institute of Health recommended lab design. Instead of requiring people to look at this as a projection or even a series of fly-ins, the diagram, which contains a certain amount of text, was printed out and twenty copies handed round: superficially the work looks like a neutral architectural plan, but the labelling confuses categories. The labelling evokes hope and fear and finance, pain and ‘sacrifice’, ‘dirt’ and ‘purity’, suggesting the metaphoric, moral and emotional complexities of place. A question I need to consider further is why this particular diagram on paper was so productive of questions whereas the projected images in the powerpoint provoked some, but fewer.

3 Lab - the 'clean' and the 'dirty'The clean and the dirty

Various points were raised:

That the lab diagram drawing functions partly as a building plan and needs weighting for frequency of action
That text is a part of an aesthetic
That diagrams do things, capture and create positions – (the implications from this seem vast)
Leaving the questions arising from the diagram for those around the whole website, the question was asked, could the website develop into a form of drawing research?
In what ways are hyperlinks on a website, a version of direction-giving arrows? (Arrows in diagramming having come under discussion for their suggestion of highly selective ‘causality’.)
It was asked whether the tracks made by animals might be considered a form of drawing? – If so, what would the word ‘drawing’ mean in this context?
Could this kind of approach be used to map other human/animal relations, e.g. those with farm animals?
What is the difference, if any, between an unfamiliar hybrid and a monster?
What might be the viewpoint of any audience for this work? How might it be given voice?

Such questions continue to resonate for me.

Helen Scalway

4 Monstrous mouseprintMonstrous mouse print

References

Davies, G. (2013) Writing biology with mutant mice: the monstrous potential of post genomic life, Geoforum, 48: 268-78.

Garner, S. (2008) Writing on Drawing: Essays on Drawing Practice and Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goel, V. (2014). Drawing as a Research Tool, Studies in Material Thinking, Vol.10, February.

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