The Artistic Research Forum takes place at University of Agder, Faculty of Fine Arts in Kristiansand. Prof. Anne Helen Mydland and prof. Neil Brownsword presented Topographies of the Obsolete, followed by discussions together with prof. Rolf Hughes and the audience.
Over 60 years after Hilla and Bernd Becher raised questions and awareness around the present state, condition and the beginning of the de-industrialisation of Europe and North America, the curators of the 2014 ‘New Industries Festival’ (in the Ruhr area of Germany) still posed the question: What happened to Industry? How does the process of de-industrialisation affect communities and landscapes? The issues raised, point to the continuous need and emergency of engagement with the process of deindustrialisation and the landscape of post-industry.
Phase 1 of the project focused upon the artistic responses to the post-industrial landscape of Stoke on Trent, the historic centre of ceramic manufacture in the UK. In 2012 the British Ceramics Biennial invited Bergen Academy of Art and Design to develop a site-specific artistic response to the closed Spode Works factory as a key element of their 2013 exhibition programme. Artists were granted access to work in a majority of the factories public and hidden spaces. Following six onsite residencies, more than 50 international participants including artists, historians and theoreticians have been involved in this project, employing strategies that have mapped the site through various media, object appropriation and re-contextualisation and performative gesture. Through these intense periods investigation the core of the project has evolved resulting in numerous artworks, events, exhibitions and a series of publications. We are now at the end of Phase 1 and starting Phase 2.
For phase 2 of the project we aim to juxtapose and mirror the experiences, methodologies and outcomes that evolved through phase 1 to other post-industrial regions in the UK, Norway, Denmark, France, Switzerland, and Germany. The partner institutions will apply methodologies of working site specifically uncovered through the project, back to their national/local context, thus grounding the project in their own research environment and landscape. Phase 2 is one year of mapping out and identifying new post-industrial sites, new research questions, and to expand contextualisation which will be raised and developed further through a series of think tanks, conferences and research groups. With the ambition conceive a fully developed artistic research project with artistic in situ engagement in selected sites- (‘Topographies of the Obsolete Phase 3’ working title). Our methodology, where artistic practice leads this development and discourse, is a relevant paradigm which will continue to create/develop both research strands and questions.
Topographies fundamental questions are: Within the context of site specific artistic practice: what is, and how can ceramic and clay be understood as both material and subject in contemporary art practice. How can we perceive the material (clay/ ceramics) to be or constitute a site? Moreover, how do ceramics and clay form and construct our understanding of the site?
In Phase 1 Topographies have explored the following research strands: 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 and The Topography of the Contemporary Ruin.
In Phase 2 we want to broaden our approach and understanding through strands, which build upon the research outcomes of phase 1. These encompass; Raw Material, The Contemporary Ruin and Ruination and The Role of the Artist in a Non-Art Space.
The aim of phase 2 is to identify relevant approaches and contextualisation of these strands and further define subcategories within them. They still encompass an indepth discursive platform that has evolved out of phase 1. This will be further developed through an engagement with new sites and new projects, within our established multi-perspective methodology. These strands will constitute the basis of the research context in the different institutions, workshops, seminars and conferences. A discursive platform will evolve through two think tanks and constituting research groups in the partner institutions.
Topographies will further develop this discursive and contextualising platform as a superstructure/umbrella to create an interdisciplinary and international research group. Partner institutions together with KHIB will develop their own project and research responses to, and within the framework of Topographies of the Obsolete. It remains important that research strands are developed out of the individual projects, so that the overriding research questions and discussions are constantly relevant, and are grounded in each participant’s artistic practice. This was an important experience that evolved out of phase 1 and a key factor. It enabled strong ownership, commitment and relevance for the individual artist, creating a sustainable project both for the institutions involved and for the project at large.