Category Archives: Meaningful Encounter

Superdiversity: Picturing Finsbury Park

A Research Exhibition by Katherine Stansfeld

Furtherfield Gallery, Finsbury Park 18th February to 1st March 2017

dscf8526Ruth Catlow, co-founder and director of Furtherfield introduced the perfectly-formed group of visitors to the impact that both Katherine’s “informal residency” and this exhibition has had. The show was open to the public for the first time last weekend. More than 300 people visited over the weekend, and 80% were first time visitors. As a way of engaging with the local community, Continue reading

Introducing New PhD Students 2016/17

 

 

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Space, Freedom and Control in the Digital Workplace

Having undertaken both BA Geography and MA Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway, I am delighted to return to the department for PhD study. This time, however, with a twist! As a Leverhulme Trust Magna Carta Scholarship funded candidate I have been given the opportunity to work in a wholly interdisciplinary capacity between the schools of Geography and Management. With my supervisory team – Prof. Phil Crang (Geog) and Prof. Gillian Symons (SoM) – I will be investigating the contemporary digital workplace through a range of analytical lenses. Of particular interest currently are the themes of ‘surveillance, display, and (de)territorialisation’, in addition to the development of methodological toolkits geared toward today’s changing work environments. In this race – both with and against Moore’s law – this line of study will hopefully generate exciting research into digital workplaces and, in addition, build bridges between the disciplines of Geography and Management.

 

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Excavating the contemporary urban geographies of Robin Hood Gardens, London

Before joining the Royal Holloway family I studied at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2013 with a BA in human geography. With a brief interlude for various jobs and travel excursions it wasn’t until 2015 when I returned to academia, enrolling in the MA Cultural Geography course at Royal Holloway. It was during this time, and with great help from the Geography Department, that I managed to secure a PhD with funding by the ESRC. With a start date of September 2017, the PhD (supervised by Dr. Oli Mould and Prof. David Gilbert) aims to explore the social and cultural urban geographies of the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in East London. More specifically it will focus on how the present-day site, and its on-going political contestation, is continually ‘produced’ by historical and layered assemblages of materiality, culture and urban politics.

In terms of my wider research foci I am particularly interested in the geographies of home, geographies of architecture and concepts of liminality. With a particular fascination with how individuals create and navigate the spaces in which they live as well as how intimate and ‘everyday’ architectural spaces are linked to a wider urban politics. Looking beyond my academic interests, I fill my time with manufacturing unhealthy baked goods and consuming large amounts of dystopian science fiction.

 

Daniel Crawford

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(Dis)Assembling the Sacred

 

I’ve been a student in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway since 2012, completing a BA in Geography and MA in Cultural Geography during that time. Funded by an ESRC 1+3 studentship, my PhD aims to investigate how meanings and experiences of sacred spaces are influenced by processes of material change. Within the ‘infrasecular’ present such processes are pervasive, as the relationships between communities and individuals, belief, non-belief and alternative forms of spirituality become increasingly complex, and, in parallel, sacred spaces are transformed and repurposed, made and unmade, neglected and conserved. I am interested in exploring these shifts with reference to various religious and non-religious understandings of the ‘sacred’ itself, many of which offer compelling and provocative ways of thinking about its geographies (architectural, natural, bodily, textual). These inform my current theoretical work looking at how and where silence, nonsense (and non-sense), emptiness and other negative projections of the unknowable might exert themselves. Finding suitable case studies and methodologies to clarify and focus these concerns will be my next step.

 

Katy Lawn picture1

Affective geographies of the contemporary British workplace: lifeworlds, biopolitics and precarity

I completed my undergraduate degree at Durham University, where I focused on cultural and literary geographies through a comparative study of Jack Kerouac novels and the philosophy of the (then) recently translated You Must Change Your Life by Peter Sloterdijk. After completing my undergraduate degree in 2013, I worked in a large publishing house for a year – which meant I got to meet David Starkey (very briefly). But the call of the academy was still too strong… and I returned to complete my MA at Royal Holloway in 2016 with a sustained interest in philosophies of living and emotional geographies. My PhD  work – supervised by Prof. Phil Crang and Dr. Oli Mould – will carry this interest through with a particular focus on the geographies of work, and within that, the role of affect and emotion in the workplace. I also have an interest in creative methods in social research – for example poetic ethnography and visual methods. When I am not reading critical management theory, I also like to paint, draw, and go to spoken word poetry events.

 

Flora Parrott

Swallow hole: the pursuit of darkness and uncertaintyparrott

 

I studied Fine Art at The Michaelis School of Art in Cape Town, The Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art graduating with a Masters in Printmaking in 2009. Exhibitions include, Robin Gibson Gallery in Sydney, Herbert Gallery and Museum in Coventry and the Ryedale Folk Museum, The Cosmos, Residency & Relatively Absolute at Wysing Arts Centre, The Negligent Eye at The Bluecoat, Liverpool, and Thin Place, Oriel Myrddin, Wales. In 2012 I received an Artist International Development Grant to travel to Brazil, the resulting project ‘Fixed Position’ showed at Tintype London, Projeto Fidalga, São Paulo and in The Earth Science Museum at The University São Paulo.

My teaching experience includes: Lecturer at Norwich University College of the Arts and Senior Lecturer at Kingston University. I am also currently visiting lecturer at UCA, and the universities of Birmingham, Bath and Bournemouth.

In 2016 I was Artist in Residence at RGS-IBG and The Leverhulme Artist in Residence in the Geography Department at Royal Holloway University London, developing a project titled ‘Swallet’. Current projects include a publication with Camberwell Press and an upcoming group show at Norwich Castle Museum.
 

Huw Rowlands

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Historical and contemporary performance of cross-cultural first contact encounters: temporal and spatial dynamics

As first year AHRC-funded PhD student, I focus on re-performances of first-contact encounters in colonial-indigenous relationships. My research explores the roles of these encounters and their subsequent expressions in a range of media and contexts, such as neo-historical novels, dance/theatre, oral traditions, and exhibitions, including in the contemporary world. Seen through the lenses of performance and performativity, the research aims to understand the role of first contact re-performances in the cross-cultural dynamics of contemporary societies. I am supervised by Felix Driver and advised by Helen Gilbert.

A ‘Surgeon’ since undertaking an MA in the department 2014-15, I particularly enjoy the interdisciplinary nature of surgeries. Interdisciplinary, eclectic, curious, these are all words that seem to characterise my life; so far anyway. As a public/third sector project manager for 20 years, I worked on such diverse projects as the creation of a long-distance footpath between Winchester and Mont Saint Michel, funding Gaelic language tourism in Scotland, looking for life on Mars, and organising a multicultural percussion festival in the mountains of France. I taught geography, junk percussion and creative writing in both France and in UK Steiner schools over four years, and am also currently working (very) part-time as project co-manager, modern maps processing at the British Library.

My other interests include samba-reggae, photography, knitting, garden design, drawing, theatre, world music, walking and badminton.

 

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The Indigenous Map

My PhD project (which is part of the Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) scheme and supervised by Prof. Felix Driver and Dr. Catherine Souch) seeks to establish Indigenous contribution to the map collection at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), and to explore the historical significance of “Indigenous maps” as sources of geographical information, as ethnographic objects, and as artefacts of encounter. I’m new to Geography and intrigued by the diversity of the discipline, and to see what my academic background can bring to my PhD. I completed a BA in History at King’s College London (my dissertation focused on the influence of bebop on racial integration in New York during the 1940s and ‘50s), and an MSc in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology at the University of Oxford (where my final project investigated how the “remnants” of repatriated objects in American museums (catalogue records, exhibition labels, photographs, etc.), influence Indigenous presence in those institutions). I’m interested in the geographies of exchange and encounter, material anthropology, post-colonial studies, as well as ethnographic collections, and the ways in which they have been assembled (and sometimes disassembled), displayed and otherwise engaged with, and used in the production of knowledge. I really liked participating in curatorial research internships at the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, during which I worked on a repatriation procedure with the Laguna Pueblo tribe, and on an exhibition of pre-Columbian architectural models. A you might expect, I enjoy visiting the London museums in my free time (the Hunterian Museum is a recent favourite), and I also like going to the movies. I’ve just moved to the northwest of London and I’m currently enjoying the novel NW by Zadie Smith. 

 

 

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Collecting Natural Selection: The multi-sensory collecting journeys of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace

by Dr. Janet Owen

The collecting journeys of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace were undertaken to remote parts of the globe. They were, hazardous, multi-sensory journeys of heat and cold, tempest and calm. They were intense physical and mental encounters with alien environments: natural as well as cultural. They involved intense fear and diseases that brought them close to death. Throughout these travails they wrote how it was their zeal to collect natural history which helped them cope and gave them the will to live. For both men these journeys were uniquely memorable and life-changing. My research explores these complex experiences in more detail by focusing on two of the remotest locations on the European nineteenth-century world map: Tierra del Fuego and the Straits of Magellan which Darwin visited in 1832-3 and 1834, and Dorey in New Guinea which Wallace visited in 1858. They are places where both naturalists made rare acquisitions of human cultural artefacts as well as prolific collections of natural history specimens. Collecting specimens from the human and natural worlds provides a rare opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on the drive to collect which Wallace and Darwin embody. That these took place in two environments and cultures that could hardly be more different provides an opportunity to explore concepts of deep mapping and place this in an appropriate sensory framework.

I am currently writing an article for submission to the British Journal for the History of Science about these historical, multi-sensory journeys. As part of my research methodology, I travelled to these past theatres of collecting and captured my own sensory data, which helped me to ask new questions of the historical data left behind by Darwin and Wallace. I plan to prepare an article about these travels in due course, and am working on the idea of a long-term research project which centres on the interactive digital mapping of Darwin and Wallace’s collecting journeys.

 

Film: returning from Cape Horn 9th February 2016, in waters where HMS Beagle sheltered from storms in January 1833

Film: Wulaia Bay 9th February 2016. Where Darwin collected geological specimens, Yaghan body paints and other items for his zoological collection. 

Dr Janet Owen is currently an honorary research fellow in the Geography department at Royal Holloway. With an original background in archaeology and anthropology, she works in the arts/ museum sector and is the author of ‘Darwin’s Apprentice: An Archaeological Biography of John Lubbock’. All film content is author’s own.

Cultural Geographers at the White Cube

Outside the White Cube, Bermondsey

Outside the White Cube, Bermondsey

On Friday, 7 December a group of MA Cultural Geographers, together with Creative Writers, PhD students and staff gathered at the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey to visit the recently opened Antony Gormley Exhibition “Model”.

Thinking about questions of the body, affect, architecture and space the group examined the exhibition’s collection of working models from Gormley’s past and present work, as well as new and recently made sculptural works installed in the gallery’s central corridor.

The centre piece of the exhibition was the huge room-size installation “Model.” “Model,” rendered in 100 tonnes of weathered sheet-steel developed Gormley’s long running exploration of the human body and space in the form of an installation the audience can enter. Described as part sculpture-part building we entered ‘Model” through a ‘foot,’ walking and crawling through the interlinked spaces and feeling our way through the darkened chambers. Whilst many of us explored the space by way of feeling its edges or stepping blindly into the dark and hoping for the best, Giles extended his bodily capacities by using his umbrella as a prosthesis (!). Extending it up and to the side he felt for ceiling and walls, and used it to create vibrations and knocking against the walls, explored the spaces as echo chambers, using sound as a means to determine dimensions that could not be seen in the dark.

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After the exhibition, the group went for lunch, and then wandered along the embankment.

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Cultural Geographers at large in London

Geographers at the Shard

Geographers at the Shard

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The South London Black Music Archive

Memorabilia from The South London Black Music Archive. Photograph from peckhamspace.com

One of the standout exhibitions for me this year has been The South London Black Music Archive (2012) by Barby Asante at Peckham Space, South London. This short post will briefly describe this exhibition, explaining why I think it was interesting, and how it speaks to my Ph.D. research.

The South London Black Music Archive engaged with people’s relationship with black music in the South London area. Predominantly authored by East-London artist Barby Asante, the exhibition was presented as an ‘open archive’ to which visitors can add to the objects on display. Peckham Space describes the intention of the exhibition thus: ‘Asante’s selected objects highlighting seminal moments in this history will share the same platform as visitors’ objects and stories depicting their own experiences through music and memorabilia.’[1] The exhibition consisted of one room and encompassed a variety of display methods, including archival boxes, an interactive magnetic map, vitrines, changeable wall displays, shelving and a listening station. Visitors were actively encouraged to contribute objects relating to their experiences of black music in South London to gain “membership” to the archive. The objects were categorised, labelled and stored within boxes and exhibited on a rotational basis in the gallery space. The exhibition encompasses a range of technologies to appeal to an intergenerational audience, including iPods, record players, tape players and a DVD station. Music filled the gallery space; the atmosphere constantly being (re)shaped and transformed through inviting visitors to play donated records and suggested tracks from the listening station. The exhibition also allowed people to share their memories, stories, observations and anecdotes relating to their experiences of black music in South London by texting the gallery. These texts were received and printed live within the space, enabling the visitor to add their printed story to a large magnetic map in the area to which it referred. Within this very small space a multitude of interactive opportunities and outlets for the visitors’ personal expression and contributions to be heard, seen, touched and absorbed.

Magnetic map of South London with visitor texts stuck on. Photograph from peckhamspace.com

The facility to allow spectators to feed back into the exhibition was, for me, particularly interesting. In doing so a tension was created between the authorship of the space and the spectator, challenging the identity and position of the artist, whilst empowering the visitor. Through this tension, the aesthetic experience of the space was created based on exchange rather than transmission. Exchange is a key word for this exhibition. It appeared not only in the authorship of the space, but also in the form of the social relations it facilitates. The objects and interactivity of the exhibition aren’t really the art here; it is the social relations created by them instead. This is not to downplay the objects and processes of multiple authorship of the exhibition at all, for they were the facilitators of this social exchange. However, the primary aesthetic, in my opinion, lay in the social relations and encounters the exhibition provoked. In this light, The South London Black Music Archive transformed Peckham Space into a site of dialogue and encounter, using art practice as a technology of connection.

My Ph.D. research is interested in precisely this connective ability of aesthetics coupled with its potential to play a role in the debate surrounding the creation of meaningful encounters in times and spaces of increasing diversity. I attended a fascinating series of sessions focused on ‘Encountering the City’ at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference in Edinburgh last month which opened my eyes to the great variety of research currently being carried out on the understanding of meaningful encounter. I am hoping that my research will be able to add something to this exciting and important topic.

Danny McNally (Ph.D. student at Royal Holloway)