Monthly Archives: December 2016

CFP RGS-IBG 2017 – Teaching Mobilities

Jographies

RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017: London, 29th August – 1st September 2017

 Convenors: Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London), Justin Spinney (Cardiff University), and Simon Cook (Royal Holloway, University of London).

 CFP – Teaching mobilities: practice, pedagogies, power

Geographers are well attuned to mobilities – everyday mobilities that constitute our social lives, permitting social reproduction and subverting rules and restrictions to reassert people’s rights to public space; international mobilities that speak to the precarity of our current times, from a global migration crisis, war-torn displacement to eviction; mobilities that comprise expressive cultural practices and movements or perform deep-rooted histories of cultural identity.. Mobilities pervade our research and understandings of the world.

But how do we, or could we teach mobilities? Is mobility, as a concept or concrete example, something we can easily convey or does it offer particular difficulties or opportunities for engaging students?  Are the multiple…

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Workshop: Performing the Urban Archive (and Messages From the Future…)

The Landscape Surgeons were recently treated to a wonderful interactive urban-intervention/creative-archive workshop run by Cecilie Sachs-Olsen, entitled Performing the Urban Archive. A new addition to the department, Cecilie completed her PhD at Queen Marys, University of London, under the supervision of David Pinder (Geography) and Jen Harvie (English and Drama). She has published work in Cultural Geographies (also see here for a piece co-authored with Harriet Hawkins) and Performance Research; and is co-founder of an exciting  urban performance collective, zURBS, which has run various urban interventions and workshops internationally.

The idea of seeing the city as an archive – to approach it as layer upon layer of compacted material detail that is in endless transformation – has always been of great interest and value to Cecilie as an urban researcher and artist practitioner working in and with urban space.

Cecilie writes… “I believe that this approach may imply a certain way of ‘looking’ that has the potential to challenge pre-determined and fixed understandings of urban space in favour of openness, instability and multiplicity. In turn, it may lead to a re-imagination and new understandings of our material surroundings”.

The idea of ‘performing urban archives’ then, seeks to resolve the binary oppositions that are often created between materiality – I’m here referring to the objects and material entities of urban space – and performance, as bodily practices. Each of these concepts is often seen as unable to encompass the essential traits of the other. For example, whereas the archive implies a form of placedness, givenness and nomination to remain, performance is often seen as being so radically in time that it cannot remain in material traces and therefore disappears.

Similar distinctions are made between practice and representation: In geography, representation has been critiqued for fixing and deadening the liveliness of things, resulting in a turn to new approaches that foreground the performative and practiced. The performative approach here tends to focus on an engagement with space that is oriented around immaterial and human-centred action, and risks neglecting substantial considerations of how social processes are bound up with the constraints of the material qualities of space.

Accordingly, performing urban archives turns the attention to how the ways we think about and inhabit cities are both shaped by and materialized in spatial forms, so that rather than seeing materiality as a fixed entity, it is seen as contingent and inherently performative. The idea of performance destabilizes materiality by making explicit the processes in which (the meaning of) materiality is constantly invented.

“When we know what a door is and what it can do we limit ourselves and the possibilities of the door…”  – Anne Bogart (theatre director)

The workshop activity started with an anonymous audio message from the future:

“This is an incoming message from the future. Listen carefully. I repeat, this is a message from the future. Dear people from the past. This message is sent to you by a team of archaeologists from the future.
You will be happy to know that in the future we found the time capsule that you produced today, March 3, 2016. As we understood it, the aim of this time capsule was to give the future an idea of what urban life was like in 2016. The time capsule was mainly filled with objects and some occasional drawings that we guess were an attempt to archive this urban life. But we are confused. The way we understand it in the future, it is people, and not things, that make society. The meaning of an object is determined by the social practices it is part of, and not simply by the object itself. Unfortunately, we have NO idea what these social practices were.
Yes, you might say that this is our job as archaeologists to find out, by digging deep, looking into significant detail, restoring damaged pasts, reading signs in traces of things that have gone before and so on. However, this would require a significant amount of time – and if it is one thing we are short of in the future it is time for substantial research. Luckily, we do have a time machine, so we decided that in order to save time, we would go back in time, just in time to deliver this message before you make the time capsule, so that we can give you some inputs that may help you make it more substantial.
You will all have been given copies of the original map that we found in the time capsule. This map indicates where the things in the time capsule were found. Inside the map you will find our interpretations of the things found in these places. Now, we would ask you to go to these places – as many as you can – and find similar or completely other objects and add notes, drawings, stories and other additions that you find relevant in order to give us a substantial idea of the present: how urban life is, what your experiences of the city is, how the city works, what is important, what is not important and so on.
You’ve got one hour out in the city to do this. Then you will come back here and present what you found and we will see if it will make a valid contribution to the time capsule.
Good luck! End of message.”

With this message in our minds we set out in four teams to try to archive the elements of the city described in a handout from the future, complete with a map of the area around Bedford Square and a set of clues and instructions.
Screen Shot 2016-11-24 at 15.57.24.pngWe could either collect items from the street; or take photos of things that we could not (practically or legally!) remove. Here are the results – our collective catalogue of the urban environment: our time capsule for the future. (Please click on the images for more details on which items relate to which clues, and explanations, where they have been added in the comments.)

We’d like to thank Cecilie for a wonderful afternoon, full of opportunities to challenge familiar ways of conceptualising urban materialities and performativity.

Katy and Huw

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Walking Heathrow: Exploring the fissures of infrastructure

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As I’m sat in my car, parked in the Hatton Cross Station Car Park, I watch as the dark blue hue of the cold November morning sky slowly turns to a light grey, as the sun struggles to pierce the thick blanket of cloud above. Planes rumble up the runway, the end of which is about 100m in front of me separated by three rows of chain-link, razor-wired fence and a buttress of thick orange scaffolding supporting runway lights. These slender machines soar over my head, jetting off into the turning sky, roaring their ascent to the awakening population beneath them. In a few minutes, I was due to meet a traveller from New York. He had a 6-hour lay over and wanted to walk the perimeter fence of Heathrow, roughly 13 miles or so. The banality of such an undertaking bemused many when I told them I was doing it, particularly as it involved me battling the alarm clock a good 2 hours earlier than I normally do. But it is in the banality that the sublime can shine through; there is beauty in the everyday. Also, I was halfway through marking my third year cohort’s essays on psychogeography, and with their exciting adventures in the quotidian city teeming through my mind, how could I refuse such an invitation?

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INTRODUCING THE MA CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY STUDENTS 2016/7

Poppy Lawrence
I returned to the department this term to study MA Cultural Geography having graduated from reading BA Geography at Royal Holloway earlier this year. My undergraduate dissertation involved contemplating the formation of a possible subculture within religious groups, more specifically looking at young creatives who identify as Christians within urban clusters such as London. I hope to focus my research this year upon the evolving nature of sacred space and community, looking at how this could be perceived as redefining the bodily and affectual experience of sacred space.

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Emily Hopkins

I completed my undergraduate degree in BSc Geography at Royal Holloway, and now I am starting the MA in Cultural Geography as part of my ESRC 1+3 studentship. My general interest is in creative geographies, ranging from visual and artistic methods, to the planning and functioning of cultural regeneration strategies.

Through a focus on creative gentrification within cities, my research aims to understand urban creativity from an audience perspective in smaller scale sites. I will undertake this in order to understand public perceptions on the artistic and cultural investments that are increasingly popular in city regeneration strategy.

Nina Willment

 Following my undergraduate degree at Royal Holloway, I am now studying for the MA as part of the ESRC 1+3 studentship. My general interests are in the geographies of creative workspaces and the work practices of creative labourers. My research aims to investigate the workspaces and careers of DJ’s and MC’s, particularly in the emerging musical genre of grime across the UK.

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Sarah-Jane Pilton

During my three years at Royal Holloway studying for my degree in BA Geography, I discovered my enjoyment for the cultural aspects of the course. I did my undergraduate dissertation on the geographies of women and sport, in relation to performance and the media, which links to my primary research interests of the body, gender and the digital. When it came to thinking about what I was going to do after I graduated I decided that I wasn’t ready to leave the department. I stumbled across the MA Cultural Geography course and after reading through the course content and speaking to lecturers on the course I decided this was the right path for me.

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Sterling Mackinnon III

Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway has provided a unique opportunity to synthesise mybackgrounds in both history and GIS. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington (Seattle, WA) I focused on historical notions of European nationhood and in the years following my graduation gravitated towards GIS, spending last year interning with the U.S. National Park Service as a GIS technician. As a cultural geographer I am fascinated by the entree of geospatial technologies, 3D modelling and printing, and virtual and augmented reality into the heritage sector, particularly with regards to ‘at-risk’ built heritage. I am curious as to how an evolving approach to built heritage preservation and restoration will inform and influence the future construction of narratives of place.

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