Topographies of the Obsolete is an artistic research project initiated by Professors Neil Brownsword and Anne Helen Mydland at Bergen Academy of Art and Design (KHiB) in collaboration with partner universities/institutions in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, France and the UK. In 2012 the British Ceramics Biennial invited Bergen Academy of Art and Design (KHiB) to develop a site-specific artistic response to the former Spode Factory in Stoke-on-Trent as a key element of their 2013 exhibition programme. The project explores the landscape and associated histories of post-industry, with an initial emphasis on Stoke-on-Trent, a world-renowned ceramics capital that bears evidence of fluctuations in global fortunes.
The original Spode Factory, situated in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent, was once a keystone of the city’s industrial heritage, which operated upon its original site for over 230 years. Amongst Spode’s contributions to ceramic history are the perfection of under-glaze blue printing and fine bone china. In 2008 Spode’s Church Street site closed, with most of its production infrastructure and contents left intact. The site and its remnants has been the point of departure for the interdisciplinary artistic research of over 50 participating artists, historians and theoreticians over six residencies.
Topographies of the Obsolete is a framework, formulating topics and research strands which are treated as questions and approaches that are addressed through artistic practice. By honing in on the particular history and the singularity of this site, Topographies questions what is, and how can ceramic and clay be understood as both material and subject in contemporary art practice.
Research outcomes from ‘Topographies of the Obsolete’ will continue to inform a programme of seminars, publications and exhibitions.
Initial strands of discourse to depart from:
The Socio-Economic Post Industrial Landscape as site
The Globalized Landscape of Ceramics
The Human Topography of Post-Industry
The Topography of Objects/Archives and the Artist/Archaeologist
The Topography of the Contemporary Ruin
The project is on-going and funded by The Norwegian Artistic Research Programme
Brown's Topographies of the Obsolete project "Dancing in the Boardroom (Turnin' My Heartbeat Up)" will be shown as a part of her DEPE Space residency in Detroit. It will be on view from January 15 to April 24, 2016. Read story
Topographies of the Obsolete finished its second project phase on the 25-26th of August with Think Tank 2. Read story