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‘Spiritual Flavours’: A Screening of Laura Cuch’s Documentary Film

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Photography by Ed Brookes.

For the last Landscape Surgery of Term 1, Surgeons were invited to a screening of the film ‘Spiritual Flavours’. As detailed on the film’s website (http://www.spiritualflavours.com/page.php?series=film) ‘The film Spiritual Flavours interweaves biographical narratives and spiritual accounts from Betty, Aziz and Ossie (who belong to a Catholic church, a mosque and a liberal synagogue, respectively) with the experiences of cooking in their homes. The chosen recipes weave together the narratives of past, present and future aspirations, spirituality and the everyday. The commonalities and differences between them are expressed through visual and sonic synchronies and asynchronies; and a variety of visual materials and formats make visible the nature of the film as a research process. At the end, Betty, Aziz and Ossie meet, cook and eat together’.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Spiritual Flavours is a collaborative arts project with members of different faith communities in the area of Ealing and Hanwell, who contribute recipes that they relate to their spirituality and religious practices. Through interviews and cooking sessions, the project pays attention to affective relationships with food, as a vehicle to explore ideas about inheritance, tradition and belief.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

The project is part of the wider Making Suburban Faith 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 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 diverse faith community case studies selected to represent different faith and migration traditions. These include a synagogue, a Sri Lankan Hindu Temple, a mosque, a Sikh Gurdwara, an Anglican church, a multicultural Roman Catholic church and an ethnically diverse Pentecostal church.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

The film is directed by documentary and fine art photographer Laura Cuch (Geography, UCL) as part of her practice-led PhD which uses photography and film to explore the domestic material cultures of faith in suburbia, with a particular focus on food and foodways. After the screening of her film, Laura led surgeons in a discussion of the film itself and the themes it explored.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Discussion began with Laura explaining the theoretical lens of the film which sought to investigate the relationship between material culture, religion and domestic space. Laura described how she used food as the foci to explore this focus on material culture as she felt there was a fundamental relationship between food and faith which crossed boundaries of religion/secularism and community/private/public space in interesting ways. Surgeons then discussed with Laura, ideas of participant recruitment and choice of food featured within the film. Laura described how she chose participants in order to best display both gender and generational differences and similarities between food and faith within the film. Discussion then turned to ideas of visual culture and questions surrounding whether Laura felt an obligation to present a positive narrative within the film.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Laura rounded off the discussion by highlighting the potential contributions of the film and the wider Suburban Faith project. These potential contributions were many and varied but included the idea of food as a research medium, food as material culture, the journeys of material cultures within and between community faiths and spaces, ideas of practice as research and the creation of new spaces of public engagement through research.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Surgeons credited Laura on the affective capacity of her film, the film’s evocative stills and soundscape and how the film eloquently captured and explored both the sensory surfaces and soundscapes of food and cooking. On behalf of Landscape Surgery as a whole, we would like to thank Laura for sharing her wonderful and thought-provoking film with us and wish her all the best with the project!

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

A trailer to ‘Spiritual Flavours’ can be found here:

 

 

 

 

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Decolonising geographical knowledges or reproducing coloniality?

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Geography: “a discipline that may not be ready to, or even capable of, responding to the challenge of decolonisation,” (Esson et al., 2017: 384).

Huw Rowlands (AHRC PhD, RHUL Geography) and Joy Slappnig (CDA PhD, RHUL Geography in collaboration with the RGS-IBG) expertly led Landscape Surgery this week, in a “Contemporary Debates in Human Geography” session concerning “decolonizing geographical knowledges” – a topic that not only formed the locus of important discussions at the recent RGS-IBG conference, but also inspired a forum in Transactions. Together we sought to ultimately explore and unpack the question: decolonising geographical knowledge or reproducing coloniality? To begin exploration of this challenging but salient topic, Huw and Joy posed three key reflective questions:

-What is geographical knowledge? How is it perpetuated? Why should we address it?

After a few moments of personal reflection, we were asked to document our initial reactions to these questions on post-it-notes, which we then used to populate flip-charts posting these questions around the room.

Continue reading

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LS PROGRAMME AUTUMN 2017

LS meets on Tuesdays in BSQ, room 1-03,  2-4pm

10 Oct Catch-up session
24 Oct Caves: Flora Parrot and Rachel Squire
7 Nov Contemporary debates in human geography
21 Nov Author-meets-critics without author
5 Dec Spiritual Flavours: Screening of Laura Cuch’s documentary

 

Due to space constraints, participation is restricted to SCHG members and invited guests only

YEAR 1 PRESENTATIONS: the digital workplace, boredom, ‘first encounters’ and indigenous maps

For our final meeting of the academic year, the Surgeons were treated to a snapshot of what our first year PhDs have been up to. Below are the abstracts for the sessions presented.

Adam Badger, Space, Freedom and Control in the Digital workplace

This interdisciplinary PhD works across the schools of Geography and Management to understand the ways in which the use (and implementation) of digital technologies at work are transforming the identities and lives of those engaging with them. By utilising the relational ontology of ‘digital sociomateriality’ in conjunction with growing discourses of ‘workplace geographies’ this study seeks to explore how labour is continuously emergent through the interrelations of workplace and practice in contemporary employment. Primary analytical focus is (at present) geared toward developing understandings of how new digital work geographies are impacting; workplace surveillance, display, and (de-)territorialisation and will do so utilising research gathered from at least three linked case-studies. In this talk I will look to introduce the relevant debates currently present in the field and frame their relationship to possible case-studies.

 

Katy Lawn, Working through Boredom: Creatively Approaching Questions of Workplace Emotion

This paper will set out a proposed approach to a study of boredom as it relates to questions around the experience of work. As a key register of lived experience in contemporary society (Mann, forthcoming), boredom is often said to have arisen in tandem with modernity and the industrial process (Moran 2003). But, if boredom is so closely intertwined with the production process historically, what of boredom in our ‘post-bureaucratic’ era?
In considering questions around work (which are more usually framed in economic terms) the aim is to take a cultural-geographical approach to look at how work is experienced. I will set out the proposed structure of the research project, which is composed of two halves. The first half will deal with a set of case studies which demonstrate the ways in which artists and cultural practitioners have tackled the theme of workplace boredom through fine art, socially engaged art, poetry and photography. The second half will involve using creative methods such as photo elicitation and epiphany object interviews to produce a set of richly textured case studies which address participants’ working lifeworlds. This two-part structure fits in tandem with a wider concern with firstly: cultural approaches to studies of work and the workplace, and secondly: workplaces and work practices as emotional or “affective soups” (Thrift 2008:244).

 

Huw Rowlands, The Unbearable Rightness of Seeing

My working title is “Historical and contemporary performance of cross-cultural encounters: temporal and spatial dynamics”. My main interest is in ‘first-contact encounters’, what they are, why they are chosen for particular attention, and how performance analysis might help us understand their repetitions. So the key phrase in my first few months’ reading and thinking has been ‘first-contact encounters’. I have problems with each of these words; and I’m not even sure about the hyphen. I was drawn to this during research for my MA dissertation, through learning about how one story has been told over the years. Marine Lieutenant William Dawes sailed with the First Fleet, sent to establish a convict colony in New South Wales. The tellings in which he appears usually focus on his relationship with Indigenous Australian Patyegarang, from whom he learned most about the local language spoken at the time. Subsequently, I have chosen to focus on Cook’s first Pacific voyage in my search for PhD case studies. I will draw on these two contexts to explore some of the problems with ‘first-contact encounters’, as I work towards my first annual review over the next few weeks.

 

Joy Slappnig, The Indigenous Map: Native Information, Ethnographic Object, Artefact of Encounter

Assessing Indigenous contribution to colonial collections, such as the map collection at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), poses challenges of approach and methodology. Western collecting and cataloguing conventions have traditionally obscured Indigenous presence in the archive, and the small number of maps that have been categorised as ‘native’ often show more hybridity than might be assumed (having been co-produced by Europeans and Indigenous people during the process of colonial expansion, for example). Relational approaches to material culture, especially the study of ethnographic museum collections over the last decade, suggests new ways of conceptualising these maps. Rather than approaching them as images (as they have traditionally been analysed), studying these maps as objects can help to disentangle colonial relationships between Indigenous peoples and the British, and it can provide new insights into the role colonial collections such as the RGS play in defining the ‘Indigenous’.

 

Many thanks to our four speakers; and the Landscape Surgery cohort for their invaluable feedback, comments and enthusiasm. Wishing everybody a happy and productive summer 2017!

 

Etched in Bone: Screening of a work in progress by Martin Thomas and Béatrice Bijon, with a response by Luciana Martins

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Photography: Huw Rowlands

This special session of Landscape Surgery on 9th May, supported by the Centre for the GeoHumanities, was an extraordinary opportunity to witness and respond to a ‘work-in-progress’ film by Martin Thomas and Béatrice Bijon, from Australian National University. The session was chaired by Felix Driver, Luciana Martins from Birkbeck, University of London responded, and the assembly generated keen discussion, which in its turn rippled out into the London streets and buildings and beyond.

My response will be less descriptive and summative than I am in the habit of offering, both because of the scope and complexity of our shared experience as well as the dynamics of its generation; its ‘coming into being’. I will instead attempt a reflection focused on three themes that struck me most forcefully, and acknowledge my omissions as well as my debt to all of you who created the experience with your responses. The first will be the historic events that the film bears witness to. I will move on to the recent repatriation events that the film witnessed. My aim will then be to consider the witnessing itself; the relationships between the film, audiences and events.

With that said, I would like to start with the customary warning to readers that I will be referring to deceased Indigenous Australians and others. Continue reading

Speculation and Meaning in the 1980s Swedish Arts World: The Making, Display and Dispersal of the Financier Fredrik Roos’ Art Collection: Jenny Sjöholm

Landscape Surgery’s summer term programme started on 2nd May with a round of news about the varied and fascinating things that Surgeons have been up to over the past few weeks. These involved suitcases, corridors, conferences, placements, submissions, and a fellowship. The one I will give a specific mention to is Ben Murphy’s show at the Architectural Association’s School of Architecture until 27th May, to give you all a chance to see it in the next couple of weeks or so. It sounded like Ben gained some rich experience about dealing with press interviews along the way.

For the main part of afternoon, Jenny Sjöholm, Marie-Sklodowska Curie Fellow with the Department, introduced us to an art collection created by Frederick Roos. This collection was remarkable in many ways as we shall see; but Jenny’s particularly fascinating work has been to trace the collection over its life. This is not an object biography but a collection biography if you will. Continue reading

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LS Programme Term 3

2 May 2017         Speculation and Meaning in the 1980s Swedish Art World: The Making, Display, and Dispersal of the Financier Fredrik Roos’ Art Collection                                    Jenny Sjoholm

9 May 2017           Etched in Bone Screening                                                                        Martin Thomas (Australian National University), discussant: Luciana Martins (The session will start at 2pm and finish around 4.30pm)

16 May 2017         Writing for the Broader Public                                                                     Emily Brown (The Conversation), Sasha Engelmann, Fraser Macdonald (University of Edinburgh), Oli Mould

23 May 2017      Convening Conference Sessions and Editing Special Issues
Sarah Evans, RGS Conference Officer

30 May 2017        Yr1 Presentations

31 May 2017       CGH event: Digital GeoHumanities: Digital Maps, Scale and Digital Film-making                                                                                                                    Co-convened by Harriet Hawkins, Ella Harris and Mike Duggan

MA Students at the RGS-IBG

MA Cultural Geography students in the Foyle Reading Room at the RGS-IBG

MA Cultural Geography students in the Foyle Reading Room at the RGS-IBG

On 9 February, the MA Cultural Geography students visited the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for a series of talks from current PhD researchers (including Peter Martin, Benjamin Newman, and Jane Wess) describing their work with the Society archives. The students also had the chance to work with some primary material: the journals and log books of the Royal Navy commander Foley Charles Prendergast Vereker (1850-1900). In this post, the students offer their thoughts and reflections on Vereker’s material (errors and omissions expected).

Emily Hopkins

After studying two of Vereker’s journals (1870-1872 and 1883-1884), I was struck by the clarity of the watercolour works – so much so, that when photographs appeared in the journal from 1883, I found myself hoping for more hand crafted illustrations. Vereker himself appreciates the beauty of the landscapes he had so carefully represented in his works: he notes in one entry that the Seychelle Islands were compared to the Garden of Eden, whereby ‘naught but humanity is vile’. I began my readings expecting to read purely colonial texts, so was pleasantly surprised to find Vereker and his crew truly appreciating the landscapes and cultures they passed through. Alongside the artworks, the science of geographical expeditions was foregrounded through the common occurrence of coastal surveys, weather readings, and mapping. For me, this highlighted how the geographical discipline has long been a hybrid of the arts and the sciences. It also displayed the continued importance of visual methods in empirical geographical fieldwork, both in the past and present.

Emma Forsyth

Today’s visit to the RGS involved my first experience working with archival materials. The journals of Vereker enabled me to get to grips with the process of an exploring an archive itself, which felt like an investigation requiring me to piece together the tiny pieces of information I could identify. My key observations from the task include how immersive it was flicking through the pages of the journals. The illustrations accompanying the text were the most interesting, as they seemed to tell the story, and gave me a further insight into Vereker’s explorations in the East. I was particularly struck by the use of night and day in many of the painted images, as well as the portrayal of the landscapes he explored. The use of vivid colour and the emphasis on the physical aspects of the environments – the trees, rocks, sand and water – conveyed a sense of being there. Finally, I also found the process of reading to be a slightly intrusive one – as if I was reading somebody’s personal diary. This was not a negative, as I believe this is the nature of archival research, allowing you a deep insight into someone’s personal life and experience. Overall, it has been an experience which has not only introduced me to a new method, but also the environment of the archive.

James Totty

I perused Vereker’s journals and logbooks, and apart from frank admiration at the quality of their preservation at the hands of the Royal Society, I found myself drawn into the narrative world of his crafting. Being 150 years old, the union of scientific survey, artistic impressionism and textual description (frequently and pleasingly juxtaposed on adjacent pages) illustrates the tradition this dual approach to research has within the geographical discipline. Vereker himself strikes me as something of a dilettante, his voyages playing out as he leaps from one ship to the next, circumnavigating the globe under the pretence of surveying, collecting and observing at the behest of her majesty. In truth this romantic imagining is mostly constructed by each journals vivid artwork and erudite, verbose description; perhaps helped along in my own mind by Vereker’s lineage from the exiled Plantagenet dynasty. Surely, the frontiers of the colonial world were a fitting place for such an individual. It is this imperialism that frequently shatter the mythology and re-contextualise his work, whether it be callous and dismissive attitudes towards native peoples, or highly questionable environmental attitudes.

Nina Willment

Never having set foot in an archive before I was unsure of what I would find! I couldn’t believe the vast amount of documents and artefacts that the RGS store, predominantly on site. I was shocked at the beauty of the Vereker journals, the watercolour pictures a work of art onto themselves. I thought that the advent of photography would have rendered these artworks almost redundant but I am so pleased that this was not the case. The images and drawings worked in harmonious conjunction with each other to give a romanticised representation of the vast array of places Vereker and his crew journeyed to and observed. I particularly enjoyed reading the anecdotal narratives that are weaved throughout the journals. Initially I was shocked that exploration based journals could fetch such a hefty sum at auctions.. However, after spending the afternoon in the archives (with many thanks to the RGS, Ben, Jane, Peter and Innes for guiding us through) I began to understand the rationale behind the infatuation that persists and therefore the high price placed on these  these journals in the modern day, as they undoubtedly remain wholly intriguing and exceptionally visually beautiful artefacts.

Sterling MacKinnon

Jogging between between two principle journals (one containing Vereker’s entries from 1873-1877 and the other entries from 1884-1885) I found myself reflecting on the notion of ‘free time’, specifically the time that had afforded Vereker the opportunity to so diligently document his travels in text, watercolour, and eventually photography.  It felt particular significant that the relative scope and size of the journals grow with the increase in his rank.  Beyond what I might speculate about the distribution of ‘downtime’ amongst a crew’s ranks, there seems something generally significant about the time afforded a sailor at any rank while at sea.  As such I found myself viewing and reading through the journals as the product of much prolonged reflection, the opportunity for which, must have been inherently ‘part of the job’.  It left me curious about the tradition of observational journaling within the navy more generally, specifically the manners in which the tradition may have been nurtured and encouraged institutionally.

 

UPCOMING EVENT. Dream Worlds: Dark Ecologies of Anime.

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The first Passengerfilms event for 2017 will take place on Tuesday 31st January at The Book Club in Shoreditch, delving into the world of anime to discuss the theme of dream worlds and ecologies.

Passengerfilms and our panel invite you to join us in the uncovering of mutated ecologies, to further understand the status of reality. This event takes inspiration from the film that is noted as being the beginning of Studio Ghibli: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). In a post-apocolyptic world, Nausicaä takes on the task of helping her world, which is filled with toxic waste, overgrown fauna and war.

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The films selected and our discussion panel will build on this theme, looking at anime shorts to build on and continue the legacy of Nausicaä. The films use a recurrent and geographical theme of landscape to portray alternative worlds to our own – whether they are set in imaginations…

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