RGS 2014 – ‘Moving forward with Legal Geographies’ – final session details

Sherfield Building

Antonia Layard (University of Bristol) and I are convening three sessions on legal geography at the Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference in London at the end of this month. A previous post on the overall aims of the sessions is here, and now below are the abstracts of the individual papers:

When?: Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 9am to 4.20pm

Where?: Imperial College, London in Sherfield Building, Room 8

How?: Details of booking procedures and the full RGS 2014 programme are here.

9.00 – 10.40am, Session 1: Legal productions of spaces and environments

Recovering Whigs and Hunters: Imagining a political-legal ecology

Wendy Jepson (Texas A&M University, USA)

Legal geography and political ecology address a common set of concerns about space, place, and nature that include the nature of property, access, power, illegality and governance. Yet these two epistemic communities have little common vocabulary or meaningful debates to precipitate lively engagement beyond cursory citation or footnotes. Critical legal geography skirts along the edge of political ecology, yet seems to fold back into broader debates within human geography on scale and the production of space. Political ecology adopts a rather limited instrumentalist interpretation of the law. To address this tension and missed opportunities, I turn to EP Thompson’s history Whigs and Hunters (1974) as a new starting point to consider what conceptual advances may be made by integrating these two intellectual traditions. I outline promising synergies that have the potential to move forward what I imagine as a collective critical project underlying both geographies: (1) materiality, (2) relationality; and (3) co-production. While limited in scope, attention to these three areas provide starting points to imagine what a political-legal ecology would look like, what questions it would address, and how it would contribute to an overarching critical project in legal geography.

Sequent Legal Occupance as a framework for interdisciplinary legal geography – The ‘Severnscape’

Caroline Buffery (University of Birmingham)

Recent debates in legal geography have highlighted that there is a need to develop more creative approaches to understanding the intersection between law and geography to catalyse wider inter-disciplinary interest. Such input from other branches of knowledge can deepen investigations into the relationship between law and geography, and contribute to the development of novel conceptual approaches to address the intersections between space, place and time. This paper argues that such engagement can be achieved by using a Sequent Legal Occupance (SLO) method of analysis. Drawing upon the concept formulated by geographer Derwent Whittlesey, SLO adopts law as a focus for the investigation of navigation and fisheries on the River Severn estuary. Drawing on archival resources, this paper identifies the ways in which law and geography, when viewed through an SLO ‘lens’, have both historically played reciprocal roles in the formation of the contemporary environment in terms of ‘occupance’ within and upon the landscape. Analysing the legal conflicts that occurred concerning property, rights and the river, the paper demonstrates the role of legal geography in examining the interconnection between the ‘non-corporeal’ (fish and water courses) and those that utilised these resources, arguing for a move away from the predominantly anthropocentric focus within current legal geographic approaches. The ‘Severnscape’ is revealed as a hybrid, multidimensional lawscape, affected in a multiplicity of ways by its geographical aspect, illustrating the diverse relationships between institutions, nature, and society. I argue that the SLO approach of associating the past with the present has the potential to engage the interest of a diverse audience (particularly within environmental law and policy) promoting a better understanding of the correlation between law and geography, and the effects of such a fusion on place and space.

Environmental Law and Geography in Brazil

Jonas Dias de Souza (University of São Paulo, Brazil)

Brazilian Environmental Law is defined as a set of principles and rules that regulates the relationship between society and environment. In this manner, Environmental Law and its doctrine establish a series of principles and concepts in reference of environment (natural forest, natural and artificial landscape, natural protect areas) in order to guide the application of law and make it intelligible.

This paper aims to investigate how Environmental Law and its doctrine construct a geography of the world through its principles and concepts and what are the ideologies and power relations behind this construction. We systematize the principles and concepts present in Environmental Law and analyse the discourse of Brazilian doctrine. In doing so, we dialogue with the current studies of Legal Geography (Forest, 2009; Blomley et all, 2001; Holder & Harrison, 2003) and discuss how space and law are integrated (Blomley´s concept of splice), the manipulation of geographical reality by law and social problems of such construction. We also try to contribute to Legal Geography bringing the discussions and concepts of Brazilian geographers, specially the territory concept of Milton Santos (1994), the idea of Geographics Ideologies of Antonio Carlos Robert Moraes (2005), and the concept of temisfera (the juridical sphere) of José Nicolau dos Santos (1954).

National is bad, local is good. Local legislation and the rescaling of security in Italy

Francesca Menichelli (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)

Since the early 2000s, a shift has taken place in Italy in legislative production on the topic of security, which moved from being an exclusive responsibility of central governments to being something that falls under the scope of action of regional and, increasingly, municipal authorities. While at first glance this development may seem part and parcel with the fragmentation of control brought about by neoliberalism, it actually has to be framed within the ongoing crises of legitimacy that have been affecting national authorities since investigations into political corruption first broke out at the beginning of the 1990s. On a general level, the passing of local laws on security in all but one of the Italian regions has been instrumental in formalising the role of local authorities in the provision of security to citizens and in promoting the creation of networks of exchange and co-operation linking governing bodies at different scales of government. In turn, this has contributed to the emergence of a new constitutional-legal and political order structured around the problem of urban security, which is increasingly challenging the centralist organisation of the Italian state. Taking these developments as a starting point, the aim of this paper is to unpack the idea of scale that is assumed in these texts, so as to analyse the political and deliberative process that resulted in these acts in terms of the uncritical replacement of an unproblematic, fixed and negatively connotated idea of ‘national’ with an unproblematic, fixed and positively connotated idea of ‘local’. Then, the article will go on to highlight what the tensions and conflicts are that can arise out of such narrowly defined notions of scale, and what contribution geography could offer to law-making.

Contracts, firms and competitiveness: a missing link in economic geography?

Rachel Mulhall (University of Birmingham)

Contractual agreements of all types – written and tacit – between transaction partners are a fundamental component of the organisation of production. All exchanges involve some form of explicit or implicit arrangement that reflects the nature of corporate relationships. As the manufacture of products and services is increasingly fragmented, inter-firm agreements are becoming more significant and increasingly complex. Formal agreements, and their legal implications, have a limited critique in economic geography, despite having a direct influence on two fundamental aspects of firm performance: flexibility and competitiveness. Through an analysis of the intermediate metal component manufacturing industry in the West Midlands region of the UK, the development of trading agreements between buyers and suppliers is examined. By exploring the social context in which the relationship between transaction partners is developed, the paper highlights the importance of formal contracts as a tool in inter-firm trading. The study examines the trading relationship of five case studies (buyer and supplier), which are supported by 50 further interviews in the industry and its trading partners. Contracts are based on legal geographies – a contract can only be enforced with a specified jurisdiction. But how firms use this form of legal geographies is interesting. Forms of contracts, from global to local, and their combined use with informal trust- or dependency-based relationships provide a collection of transaction agreement structures. The combination of agreements can provide both flexibility and rigidity to firms, but also binds together distinct spaces of firms and legal territory. Optimising the mix of flexibility and territory can be extremely beneficial to the organisation, both customer and supplier, but can also provide a route for the transfer of risks between trading partners.

10 – 12.50pm, Session 2 – Interrogating assumptions of legal closure

Distance to justice: (absence of) legal protections of New Mexico’s day labor community

Kevin Raleigh (University of Cincinnati, USA)

In 2005, New Mexico became the second U.S. state to pass laws protecting day labor workers, an increasing sector of the American labor pool. Understanding legislation concerning day laborer rights and practices of day labor temp agencies in New Mexico demonstrates an initial foray into bridging geography of law and neoliberalism. Furthermore, it provides additional consideration that clarifies the labor subset for whom this law applies, and calls into question the apparent redundancies and repetitions with existing federal law. By assessing the impact analysis (Clark 1989) of the New Mexico Day Laborer Act and employing a “conversational analysis” (Blomley 1989) comparing it with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the National Employment Law Project (NELP) on day labor and the day labor statutes of neighboring Arizona, this research actualizes the reality of legal closure (Blomley 1994) and maps this reality as an abstract distance to justice that these marginalized workers must – but thus far have not – overcome in the pursuit of fairness and the elimination of abuses in the work place. This research also suggests that the New Mexico Day Laborer Act creates the marginalized community of workers that it aims to protect, and that the erroneous combining of universalist statutes protecting individuals and particularist statutes protecting communities (Forest 2001) – as well as unrecognizing the breadth and manageability of space over which the law dominates – depletes the law of its power. To that end, this research demonstrates that the particularist provisions of this law are ineffectual and realistically unenforceable, while the universalist statutes, though preventative and theoretically enforceable, place the burden of proof upon the marginalized workers themselves, and thus create an insurmountable distance to justice.

Country guidance and international protection: Law, geography and the enclosure of jurisprudential knowledge

Simon Parker (University of York)
Ronan Toal (Garden Court Chambers)

This paper draws on a number of important recent cases in the UK and European Courts regarding the circumstances in which the rights of an individual seeking international protection might be breached if they were to be returned to their country of origin or a third transit country. A central feature of all such deliberations is the role played by what is referred to as ‘country guidance’. Country guidance is an official assessment of the political, economic, social and cultural situation that obtains in national territories where there are significant levels of asylum or international protection claims to the United Kingdom. Currently such country guidance is produced and issued by the Upper Tier of the UK Immigration Appeal Tribunal (the highest immigration tribunal in the UK) and its findings as a matter of fact are not open to challenge by appellants. The effect of these guidance rules has been to assign to immigration judges and their advisors the role of infallible experts on the political geography of some of the world’s most volatile and conflict ridden societies. This has potentially fatal consequences for those who, by virtue of their inability to challenge the veracity, contemporaneity and comprehensiveness of the country guidance find themselves and their families returned to circumstances in which a very real threat to their life and liberty exists. The paper concludes by identifying the emergence of a new governmentality of jurisprudential knowledge that is extending the powers of the state into domains of social scientific expertise that have remained hitherto autonomous and resistant to instrumentalisation.

Legal pluralism and the everyday politics of domestic violence law in Cambodia

Katherine Brickell (Royal Holloway, University of London)

In September 2005 the Cambodian National Assembly ratified the ‘Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of the Victims’ (DV Law). Drawing on in-depth research undertaken over a two-year period and funded jointly by the ESRC/Department for International Development (DFID), I explore the hiatus that has emerged between promises enshrined in legal reform and progress realised on the ground. Through a mixed quantitative/qualitative approach, I trace the everyday politics of DV Law from the perspective of different lay and institutional stakeholders who operate under a pluri-legal system of state-sanctioned and customary law. And I question how DV Law has been variously embraced and rejected in the homes, commune councils, and government offices that contribute to its success or failure to meet its objective, to: ‘prevent domestic violence, protect the victims and strengthen the culture of non-violence and harmony within the households in society in the Kingdom of Cambodia’.

Legal Geography: Becoming spatial detectives

Antonia Layard (University of Bristol)

Legal geography investigates the co-constitutive relationship of people, place and law. This paper (which is currently in review for Geography Compass) provides an overview of how the law and geography project emerged, and in particular the ways in which its recent scholarship has investigated how law makes spatialities thicken (and thin) at different times and locations. It explores how legal practice, in all its discretionary and rule-bound variety, co-produces places through an attentiveness to, and sometimes an apparent dismissal of, spatiality. The essay notes the formative importance of studies on power and inequality within urban governance in this predominantly critical field. However, it also considers how the cross-discipline is increasingly embracing legal geographic scholarship from within cultural, material and post-human geographies. Adopting the metaphor of the ‘spatial detective’, the essay situates legal geography as a way of examining law’s materialisation within space, considering the field’s methods, core concepts and the potential directions in which they may evolve.

Moving Forwards With Legal Geographies: Discussion.

2.40-4.20pm, Session 3 – Legal materialities

Embodied encounters and architects of neutrality in a courtroom in The Hague

Catherine Traynor (University of Leicester)

Based on a case study of ‘the heart of the international zone’ in ‘The Hague, International City of Peace and Justice’, this paper explores neutrality, geographically, materially and relationally. It is framed by the geographies of the built environment; objects and power; affect and emotion; organisational anthropology; and the critical geopolitics of identity and scale. Drawing from interviews, organisational tours and observations, the paper examines whether and how embodied accounts portray one form of neutrality as a ‘competence’ of people, places and things combined. Such competence involves the meticulous organisation of ‘truth’, ‘balance’, ‘principled decision-making’ and ‘openness’. Specifically, this paper considers how neutrality, and being ‘human,’ ‘subhuman or ‘superhuman’ are co-constructed through the organisational space of the ICTY (The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia). Finally, in the midst of a trial, the paper explores how the spatial practices of the courtroom and its occupants are both created by and delineate producers and consumers of neutrality. In so doing, it raises important questions about the relationship between international criminal law, society and space.

The law in ruins: co-production, nomic traces and the sedimented taskscapes of the world’s first factory

Luke Bennett (Sheffield Hallam University)

The Legal Geography canon rests on a principle of co-production: namely that the social, the spatial and the legal act upon each other to form the ‘nomosphere’ (Delaney, 2010) and/or a ‘splice’ (Blomley, 2003). This paper will seek – through application of such thinking to a case study – to reframe the co-productive triumvirate, as matter, discourse and practice, and thereby align the co-production model towards a more processual and relational understanding of ‘worlding’ (Massey, 2005), pointing in particular to the generative role of human purpose, context and contingency in local instances of pragmatic co-production: Ingold’s (1993) notion of ‘taskscape’. Specifically, the presentation will advance its argument by examining the ‘entanglement’ (Hodder, 2012) of matter, purpose and normativity (which I take to include – but be wider than – legal discourse) in the founding, expansion, decline and ‘rescue’ of the world’s first factory scale cotton mill, at Cromford in Derbyshire, UK. If Legal Geography’s co-production model is right we should expect not just to find material traces of law in the physical world, but also evidence of the accommodation of law to site specific and circumstantial effects of topography, geology, commercial conventions and social mores. The presentation will thus focus upon explicating the physical sedimentation of a variety of taskscapes across the site’s 250 year life, and their attendant socio-spatial normativities, within the fabric and layout of the Mill complex.

The legal and the material: Legal characterizations and geographical circulations of radioactive waste in France and the UK

Romain J. Garcier (ENS Lyon, France)

This paper analyzes the role of legal categories in the management of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste generated by the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. The paper is informed by two case studies in France and in the UK, but set in a larger European context. Faced with soaring decommissioning costs and the daunting prospect of scarce disposal sites being clogged by massive amounts of waste, France and the UK, already the two largest ILW producers in Europe, have developed strategies to enable the diversion of radioactive waste away from specialized disposal sites. Such strategies are sponsored by governments, regulators and the European Commission. They are based on legal instruments that are, I argue, powerful geographical operators because they redefine the social persona of radioactive waste and allow waste to be moved and transformed in unprecedented fashion. From a theoretical perspective, this paper aims to create a conversation between the literature on materiality and waste, and the geo-legal literature. I argue that the legal framing of objects and materials under categories and classifications is integral to them being valued and managed – but that such a framing is always a contested, contingent process, amenable to various strategic priorities and very often detached from the actual physical properties of materials. This argument has important implications, for it displaces the spatial politics of materiality from the thing itself and its agency (Bennett, Gregson) to the legal tools used to endow materials with a social persona.

The end of territory: a materialist reading of the Republic of Nauru

Cait Storr (University of Melbourne, Australia)

This paper is part of a broader interrogation into the relationship between territory and statehood in international legal thought, explored through a reconstruction of the legal history of the Republic of Nauru, a so-called ‘small island developing state’ in the Pacific and ‘canary in the coalmine’ of climate change. Rather than departing from a now commonplace assumption of the otherness of postcolonial statehood, this paper will draw on key insights of Elden on the historical development of the concept of territory, and of Latour on the misapprehension of the subject / object distinction in Enlightenment thought, in order to rethink the narrative of Nauru from the period of German administration through to its profound existential precarity in the contemporary moment. In this alternative narrative, Nauruan phosphate will be treated as an actant not only on Nauruan development but on international law itself. It will be concluded that if its precarity is to be diagnosed as something other than terminal, Nauru may be better conceptualised not as a postcolonial state, but as a state that demonstrates the playing out to conclusion of the flawed logic of nature / culture inscribed by modern statehood. It is suggested that in order to contribute meaningful responses to the precarity faced by small island states in the Anthropocene, legal geography may need to take account of new materialist approaches to structures of legal thought.

Competing rationalities of urban governance: law, administration and material power in the case of governing car parking in Tallinn, Estonia

Tauri Tuvikene (University College London)

This paper discusses the often incongruous relationship between legal thinking and administrative, material and political rationalities through the analysis of the politics of parking regulations. The study on the introduction of paid parking in 1993 and making it governable over the twenty years period in Tallinn, Estonia shows how law can fail to function, how administrative tools could be framed illegal and unconstitutional, how material artefacts escape the legal methods devised to regulate them and political interests can and often do influence the legal thinking and practice. Thus, on the one hand, the paper argues for the importance of considering the often ignored legal documents and practices in the urban governance while, on the other hand, the paper argues that law has to confront various other rationalities that might escape law’s and law practitioners’ desires and goals. The archival research, media analysis, studies of court cases and interviews in Tallinn over a seven months period in 2012 brought out a number of contradictory associations between law and other socio-material spheres. I would like to discuss two moments and their analytical implications in the paper. First, the study in Tallinn showed how the materiality of a parked car renders the established legal logics difficult to follow, suggesting thus the need to attend to how the practices of law are influenced by the often ‘uncooperative’ (Bakker, 2003) materiality. Second, the post-socialist construction of ‘state-phobia’ (Foucault, 2008) produced a political atmosphere that, among other effects, helped to render the use of wheel clamps for parking regulation unconstitutional suggesting thus the need to attend to the interplay between social and political processes and the legal deliberation.

 

Photo credit: http://felixonline.co.uk/media/photo/10/ethiopian-protest/

 

RGS 2014 – ‘Cold War Bunkers – exceptionalism, affect and aftermath’ – final session details

York RSG

John Beck (University of Westminster), Ian Klinke (University of Oxford) and I are convening four sessions on Cold War Bunkers at the Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference in London at the end of August. A previous post on the overall aims of the sessions is here , and now below are the abstracts of the individual papers:

When?: Friday, 29 August 2014, 9am to 6.30pm

Where?: Imperial College, London in Skempton Building, Room 163

How?: Details of booking procedures and the full RGS 2014 programme are here.

http://www.rgs.org/WhatsOn/ConferencesAndSeminars/Annual+International+Conference/Annual+international+conference.htm. The single day delegate rate is: £185.

9.00 – 10.40am, Session 1 – encountering the bunker

Cold War bunkers as a post traumatic landscape – Luke Bennett (Sheffield Hallam University)

This presentation will set the scene for the Cold War Bunkers strand by situating my work on ‘bunkerology’ alongside a wider interpretation of the psycho-cultural drivers for ‘bunker gazing’. It will seek to show that just as Paul Virilio’s Atlantikwall bunker hunting in the late 1950s / early 1960s was rooted in his desire to make sense of the “geostrategic and geopolitical foundations of the total war I had lived through in Nantes, not far from the submarine base of Saint-Nazaire” (Virilio & Parent 1996: 11), so Cold War bunker hunting can be seen as an ongoing processing of the trauma of an ‘ultimate’ war that never happened, but which none the less left spatial and psycho-cultural scars. The paper will follow the sublimation of this trauma, through Peter Laurie’s 1970s attempts to read the materialisation of power in the Cold War’s landscape, W.S. Sebald standing before the ‘Pagodas’ of Orford ness contemplating the post-traumatic landscape before him shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, and Sarah Vowell writing in 2004 of the potency of ruined bunkers for the last Cold War generation, and of their validation of the apocalyptic anxiety that suddenly vanished with adulthood, but yet still haunts. This investigation will be pursued by reference to the testimony of bunker hunters, my own journey to bunker gazing and by drawing upon the anxieties of Cold War era psychologists and their concerns for the effects that apocalyptic anxiety might (and perhaps did) have upon children raised in the era of the Cold War bunker building.

The Cold War bunker and/as cinema – John Beck (Westminster University)

This paper considers the ways in which Cold War bunkers, both large-scale military fortifications and domestic shelters, have been imagined in films. Central to the narrative construction of bunkered space is the sense of the bunker as a time machine, incarceration within both stopping time and altering perception of time passing. Living inside the bunker intensifies the anxieties and tensions of Cold War society but also renders them irrelevant, as there is often no accessible world left beyond the walls of the shelter. In this way, the bunker might be said to merge with the function of the cinema as a sealed space with its own temporal logic and peculiar relation to the external world. Does the cinema, then, provide a privileged space through which the containment embodied in the bunker can be affectively as well as symbolically encountered? Works discussed include Cuban Missile Crisis-era films such as Ladybug, Ladybug (1963), Dr. Strangelove (1964), Fail-Safe (1964); 1970s paranoid horror films like Chosen Survivors (1974) and the Polish Communist-era parable Seksmisja (1984); and post-Cold War responses to the legacy of nuclear dread, from grim speculations like Paul Bartel’s Shelf Life (1993) to mainstream comedies like Blast from the Past (1999).

The sublime myth of the Cold War bunker – Kathrine Sandys (Rose Bruford College)

As civilians, films, novels and public information programmes have shaped our knowledge of the Cold War, both during the period and even following decommissioning. The fictional architecture portrayed through this mediated experience was exotic and of a structure never experienced in a domestic environment, with designers such as Ken Adam creating the mysterious and epic subterranean operational bunkers for the villains of the Cold War period Bond films. The reality of these ‘secret’ spaces is often closer to the fiction than imagined, in their unusual, purpose-built vernacular, improvised style with many bunkers and hardened shell military buildings displaying their purpose through their unusual shape and form. Without knowing this purpose however, to the civilian eye, these structures maintain their mythical qualities and presence. This illustrated paper presents a series of public art installations created between 2004 and 2011, animating and mythologizing Cold War military bunkers. These works were the build up to an entire PhD project exploring the sublime imbued in the unknown of the Cold War military space, through phenomenology. In the case of this research, the intangibility of lighting and sound were applied as scenographic devices where the audience explored the derelict sites, animated by subtly integrated lighting and/or infrasound (sound as sensation of nuclear pulse or machinery), in order to form their own stories and desire for authenticity around the purpose of the spaces. Notions of journey, expectation, isolation and framing were explored throughout the research, now offered in this presentation.

Torås Fort and the military sublime: A macro and granular study of war architecture in landscape – Matthew Flintham (University of Newcastle)

Over a three year period Matthew Flintham has undertaken a photo and videographic study of the military facility of Torås on the island of Tjøme, Norway. The site was established as a naval defensive post in anticipation of a Nazi invasion but was rapidly captured and significantly modified by the invaders. The site was again remodeled during the Cold War against Soviet incursion with a maze of subterranean tunnels blasted into the dramatic Larvikite rock formations that are typical of the region. Previously closed to civilian islanders the gates were suddenly thrown open in 2007 (?) and the remote base, once almost entirely hidden in the dramatic topography of the island, is now revealed as a unique fusion of landscape, architecture and weapon systems. The Norwegian landscape often prompts reference to the ‘sublime’, but the notion of the ‘military sublime’ (a problematic term that has been applied the work of contemporary fine art photographers working in conflict zones) is perhaps more relevant here. Flintham’s paper will describe his micro and macro visual methodology for studying the hasty transformation of landscape into military architecture, and the much slower process of bunker into ruin and ruin into dust. This paper will ultimately address the role of images in the analysis of geological time, or more specifically, the ‘dark’ stratum of human conflict and the transformation of its material presence in the landscape. The presentation will be accompanied by moving image footage of Torås Fort and the surrounding area.

The Bunker Project: claustrophobia, performance and influence – Zoe Svendsen (University of Cambridge)

The Bunker Project ran from 2005-8 and was a community-focused performance research project, exploring hidden war spaces in the city of Cambridge – from dilapidated air-raid shelters in peoples’ back gardens to a Cold War era Regional Seat of Government. The project brought together oral history and performance theory, site-specific theatre and changing concepts of ‘rehearsal’, to produce a powerful cultural intervention. This paper will outline the structure of the project and its aesthetic and cultural aims, showing how subsequent work from Metis Arts (the theatre company which ran the project) has been shaped by this initial thinking about bunkers. Thus the paper will then consider 3rd Ring Out (2010-11) a theatre project concerned with planning for climate change through the mode of rehearsal, which directly drew on Cold War exercises for its rationale. The performances toured the UK in two twenty-foot shipping containers (3rd Ring Out was nominated for a Total Theatre award and won a Tipping Point arts and environment award). World Factory (2013-ongoing) is Metis Arts’ current project, an interdisciplinary performance work, which aims to explore the relationship between China and the UK through the lens of the textile industry. Global textile production – from 19th century Manchester to contemporary Shanghai – might seem remote from bunkers, and the thinking they engender. But the paper will conclude by showing how and why they are linked.

11.10 – 12.50pm, Session 2 – the bunker as exceptional space

From survival cell to ‘empty space’: bunker rites vs acts of resistance in Cold War Switzerland – Silvia Berger (University of Zurich, Switzerland)

Imagine a nation peppered with high-security cells in every home. Five decades ago, this vision materialized in Switzerland. Since the early 1960’s, the country has built 2300 collective and 360’000 private nuclear shelters, the majority of them in the basements of single-family homes. By 2006 the authorities announced that Switzerland has enough shelter space for 114% of its population. No other country in the world has ever established such a comprehensive and carefully calibrated system of subterranean bunkers. Inspired by studies on space, body and ritual, my paper zooms in on the operational lives of this megalomaniac underground world. I will trace the fervent government action programs launched in the 1960s and 70s for the control and regulation of the shelter society and the shelter subject. Displayed in behavioural scripts and inscribed in spatial forms and technical objects of the bunker, specific rituals and bodily routines were supposed to be practiced in order to guarantee an orderly passage to the post-apocalypse, without any violation of norms, social roles and affective regimes. The citizens’ compliance to the official bunker rites was rather poor though. This disobedience and the authorities’ operational shortcomings facilitated individual, antagonistic forms of appropriating and imagining the bunker (“autonomous republic”, “zero-star hotel” etc.). Given the myriads of tactics and ideas used to transform the language and materiality of space, I will argue that Swiss bunkers gradually transmogrified into “Empty Spaces” (Kostera/Kociatkiewicz)—i.e. places that defy all attempts at stable classification, and are devoid of clear ownership and meaning.

The bunker and the camp: Inside West Germany’s nuclear retreat – Ian Klinke (University of Oxford)

Recent research has located the camp as the paradigmatic space that emerges when geopolitics and biopolitics intersect. In doing so, it has neglected another space that is indispensible for an understanding of the nexus of these two modalities of power – the nuclear bunker. This paper explores the West German government’s nuclear bunker in Marienthal, a subterranean lebensraum (living space) constructed on the site of an underground WWII concentration camp. Designed as a shelter for up to 3,000 politicians, bureaucrats and military staff, this cryptic concrete space was home to a number of NATO-exercises, which included the simulation of pre-emptive strikes on the Warsaw Pact as well as on West German cities that had been taken by the Red Army only hours before. The paper relates the nuclear bunker to its predecessor – the camp – and uncovers a number of spatial inversions and overlaps between the two. Whilst the nuclear bunker seemingly turns the camp inside out by protecting its inhabitants from the nuclear holocaust outside, it was similarly governed by legal exceptionality, pure logistics, hygiene, semi-invisibility and a genocidal rationality. Yet, it was also an ambiguous space where a fundamental blurring between inside and outside materialised. This porosity and insecurity revealed the nuclear bunker’s deadly character for it was here that sovereign power and total war sought to find eternal peace.

Secrecy, obscurity, security, obsession: The ‘Guardian’ telecommunications bunker deep under Manchester city centre and Cold War urbanism – Martin Dodge (University of Manchester) & Richard Brook (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Our paper focuses on a massive bunker space built in Manchester’s urban heart and seeks to (re)interpret its meanings through different periods of time and perspectives: official secrecy, technical obscurity of service space, securitised critical infrastructure, and conspiratorial obsessions. The bunker, known by its code-name ‘Guardian’, was conceived architecturally as a site of atomic-bomb resistant telecommunication equipment and given the large scale expenditure to construct it 30 metres beneath city streets it clearly had strategic importance to the British Government in terms of advancing its Cold War doctrine in the 1950s. The paper draws as an evidential base on our primary archival research, historical news reporting and first hand accounts of GPO / BT staff. It is theoretically grounded in the spatiality of technological development, focused at the architectural scale on the make-up of the facilities, their geographical configuration across the region/nation, and their how they were planned as work places for particular kinds of ‘cold warriors’ over several decades. Through this place-specific interpretation of Manchester and its infrastructural imperative around communications we also want say something more broadly about the underlying processes of Cold War urbanism as it played out in Britain in the 1950s and 60s and the legacy of these spaces in subsequent decades.

War, peace, and affect in Cuban cave science and exploration – María Alejandra Pérez (West Virginia University, USA)

During the Cold War, Cuba hardly had any need for building defensive concrete structures. Instead, the Revolutionary Armed Forces spearheaded the selection and modification of some of the country’s thousands of caves for the purposes of military defense. Indeed, the link between Cuba’s karst landscape and its political history predates the consolidation of socialist Cuba: the indigenous Taino culture used caverns as sites of ritual and hideouts during the Spanish conquest. African slaves relied on and modified caves by extending passages to escape their owners. During the independence war against Spain, and then again during the Revolution against the Batista regime, caves were critical rebel hideouts and weapon storage sites. This last chapter earned Cuban speleology Fidel Castro’s recognition and support. It was in 1960, during the 20th anniversary of the Speleological Society of Cuba, that Castro famously declared, “The future of our homeland is necessarily a future of men of science.” This paper examines the intricate relationship between the development of cave science, or speleology, and the militarization of the country’s karst landscape, from the perspectives of Cuban speleologists both living in Cuba and abroad. Their stories reveal contrasting views on the impact of the Cold War on the internationalization of Cuban cave science. All share, however, how much fieldwork and underground exploration promoted camaraderie and unity of purpose. Thus, Cuba’s “geographies of speleology” (Cant 2006) are as much about militarization and science as they are about the affective bonds that fieldwork and underground exploration facilitates and engenders.

2.40-4.20pm, Session 3 – the bunker as post traumatic landscape

The Royal Observer Corps – a study in transitory archaeology and the disenfranchised – Bob Clarke (University of Exeter)

The taskscape has become a necessary interpretive component when considering human endeavour. No more so than when investigating the archaeology of Cold War Britain. By its very nature, the Cold War maintained a level of subterfuge; often transitory activities of a secret or clandestine nature segregated the general populous from the activities acted out by those initiated into its order. In the Western World, this forced increasing tensions between state and public, manifesting itself in civil disobedience or apathy and disenfranchisement. Now just over two decades later we have an opportunity to investigate the secret landscape of the Cold War. Recent work has demonstrated that a perceived landscape of security fences, miss-representative signage and ordnance survey designations intended to mislead the user does represent an array of related activities. Moreover, those who participated in the development of this taskscape, moving through their own, and the organisations life-cycle are still available for comment. Engaging with those who were members of secret organisations allows for a hitherto un-narrated account of a taskscape now made visible. Utilising the national landscape of the Royal Observer Corps it is possible to map certain behaviours – especially the landscape of the disenfranchised. This paper describes the landscape of the ROC, its bunkers and the transition it has experienced as it transits from a secret landscape to a public one. It investigates the premise that secret landscapes, whilst transitory, do maintain longevity through the memory of those who now act out remembrance by telling their story.

Emerging from the bunker: embodiment, practice and Cold War legacies – Steven Leech (University of Manchester)

Russian artist Yevgeniy Fiks highlights a tension between the “living breathing remnants” of the Cold War and contemporary social memory. In his work, the ageing body of the former ‘Cold Warrior’ is juxtaposed to a sense of ambivalence (surrounding a “war that was not a war”). Through the lens of portraiture, the artist’s subjects, members of the marginal American Cold War Veterans Association (2009), emerge as a forgotten collective. His work is presents a set of questions; how do we make sense of the presence of these veterans and how does thinking through their corporeality help us articulate the character of Cold War ambiguities? Similarly, this paper will raise questions about the military body and its impact upon the management and representation of Cold War legacies in the landscapes and subterranean spaces of the UK. Drawing upon oral history interviews and ethnographic research with former radar engineers and operators, it will highlight the ways in which they negotiate forms of identity, authenticity and disconnection through a range of cultural practices. For example, it will discuss their participation as guides and volunteers at military and bunker museums, visiting former sites of operation and grass-roots heritage work. Specifically, It will argue that these experiences are, partially, an attempt to relocate themselves in relation to the conflict and as a means of making sense of the transition of former places of work, from sites of national security to facets of the historic environment – as heritage sites – or as places of abandonment and ruination.

Engaging bunkers: how a popular historical geography of the Cold War is practiced – Gunnar Maus (University of Kiel, Germany)

Many Cold War bunkers are hidden in plain sight. They acquire meaning as traces of world and local history only when engaged as such. A popular historical geography of Cold War militarized landscapes is in the making in Germany. I will visit a variety of concrete bunkers, atomic shelters and depots through accompanying geocachers, local historians, ‘bunkerologists’ (Bennett 2010), museum specialists and state conservators. I argue that by asking how these groups bestow meaning upon these relics, one can observe a cultural memory in-the-making. Their occupations can be described as practices of memory that transcend group delimitations. Conceptually, this follows on from work on the geography of memory, which has generally characterized memory as a means to socially construct place-based narratives of collective and individual identity. In this view, informed by practice theory, a set of more or less universal (in a Western context) set of practices of memory is confronted with material arrangements of a time past. The end of the Cold War, understood as a contextual break for the way bunkers are enacted, affords new ways of dealing with them. Re-contextualizing them as traces of the Cold War is one of those ways.

Cold War heritage (and) tourism: exploring discourses of neglect and engagement – Inge Hermann (Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands)

This paper explores the idea of ‘Cold War heritage (and) tourism’, that is, the process of construction and negotiation meanings that develop through tourism, whilst simultaneously being a moment that also resides within tourism (often termed heritage tourism) at Cold War sites in Britain. The entanglement of heritage (and) tourism has led to two sets of dominant practices; the first is concerned with the preservation and conservation management of sites, places and objects for future uses and generations to enjoy, whilst the second regards heritage as something that can be used here and now as a tool for community development, social unity, or as an economic resource which, according to some, is part of and stirred by processes of commodification and touristification. Through examining the representational practices at five Cold War sites in Britain which are opened as tourist attractions this paper, based on a previous doctoral research, aims to identify the order of discourses that surround Cold War heritage, including who engages in the dialogue of what should remain of the Cold War for tourism uses and human engagement.

4.50-6.30pm, Session 4 – ruination and afteruse

Peripheral artefacts: drawing [out] the Cold War – Stephen Felmingham (Plymouth College of Art)

The systems of fortified bunkers built during the twentieth century have become, especially since the end of the Cold War, objects of troubled fascination for artists and their relationships to the landscape, to geo-politics and to the speed of modern warfare have been well delineated. This paper will describe other, largely unconsidered, aspects of these sites and the drawings made during my practice-based doctoral research: ‘Drawing, Place and the Contemporary Sublime’, which uses as its basis the network of Royal Observer Corps observation bunkers built across the UK in response to the nuclear threat. The paper will describe the agency of the drawn line, as an active, dynamic and responsive element and a ‘primary means of symbolic communication’ (Downs, 2007, xi). This status, the paper will argue, offers the possibility that the fleeting and uncanny visions carried in our peripheral vision, largely repressed by the perceptual system, can be uncovered through the agency of drawing and that these can begin to describe the residues of traumatic memory remaining in the concrete crucible of the bunker. The paper will outline the fieldwork carried out in the bunkers, the innovative drawing techniques utilised and its implications for theories of place, the sublime and perception. It will conclude that the communication that drawing can make, through the tracing of gesture and its echoes that lie far back in the psyche, has the potential to uncover cultural anxieties that remain in the collective unconscious from this most dangerous time in man’s history.

Processional engagement: Sebaldian pilgrimages to the Ness – Louise K. Wilson (Sound Artist)

The shingle spit of Orford Ness in Suffolk – known locally as ‘the island’ – is owned and run by the National Trust – charged with the difficult task of managing tourism while stewarding the fragile habitat on this nature reserve. This role primarily involves the fraught guardianship of a significant territory for 20th century history – espousing a policy of continued ruination for the structures that represent a 70 odd year history of military testing. The Trust’s webpage on the Ness additionally cites one aspect of their work as “enriching with art”: it is approached by and actively approaches artists to be resident and to respond to this unique landscape. This presentation will critically reflect on the place of novelty in these numerous and successive responses. This presentation will examine the different and repetitive methodologies (and cultural references) employed by artists gathering and processing visual/ auditory material there. Of particular interest when considering questions of (artistic) access and (architectural) legibility, are influential texts by Paul Virilio and the late W G Sebald whose works are recurrently cited by artists, archaeologists and writers. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn (1995) it is argued offers a seemingly mandatory lens through which to ‘see’ the Ness now. This notion will be contextualized in a wider framework, addressing the tension between difference and repetition that arises in artists’ engagements with fraught and ‘difficult’ historical sites.

Preserving and managing York Cold War bunker: authenticity, curation and the visitor experience – Rachael Bowers (English Heritage) & Kevin Booth (English Heritage)

An exploration of the curation and management of York Cold War Bunker, this paper details the transformation of an abandoned Cold War structure into a heritage attraction and its ongoing management. The relative perfection of the building in comparison with other Cold War monuments is shown to have informed the presentation of artefacts and the museum’s collections policy, creating an authentic representation of the experiences of the Royal Observer Corps personnel who served here between 1961 and 1991. The difficulties encountered in presenting the building are discussed, illuminating why English Heritage chose to protect and manage the bunker in its present form. Initial suggestions for how best to use, interpret and manage the building are also examined. The physical restrictions of the bunker with regards to space and safety (of both collections and visitors) have also dictated the form of interpretation offered, leading to the development of high quality but labour intensive personalised interpretation. York Cold War Bunker’s success as a heritage attraction is then measured in relation to the achievement of its original aims, the authenticity of experience and the effectiveness of the interpretation offered. Central to the examination of its success are the reactions and responses of visitors to York Cold War Bunker, and the continuing development of the site as a heritage attraction. This analysis leads to a discussion of ways in which York Cold War Bunker can continue to develop.

The conversion of resilience: on turning bunkers to new uses – Arno Geesink (Kraft Architectuur, The Netherlands)

Many bunkers still linger around in the landscape not because they were conserved, but because they are built to withstand extreme external forces. This resilience – the core of their being – is the primary reason why people try to put them to new use, as destruction is not an affordable option. All these constructions were built for an extremely specific military purpose and in a different time or setting, new users are faced with the problem of the specific functional layout combined with the extreme inflexibility of the material. Most of the times these structure don’t have any connection with the existing urban fabric; they adhere to a completely different reality of war maps, lines, sectors and schemes. After this reality is gone, the bunker is left as an erratic in the landscape, disposed of its reason to exist. The raw essence of its origination is still readily available. When one walks through it one can feel the confinement, the claustrophobic spaces, its small openings and its immense walls.  The readability of the rigid functionality of its design and the frequent beauty of their strategic locations make bunkers grateful objects for conversion. As Arnhem has been a strategic garrison town for ages, its landscape is riddled with remains from medieval times till the end of the Cold War, combined with its beautiful natural surroundings, which makes it fertile ground for bunker conversion projects. As an architect I use the intriguing robust remains of conflict heritage and its stories and connotations as the basis for new architectural proposals. By giving these objects a new purpose, giving them a new life, conservation becomes part of their exploitation, instead of just a matter of conservation expenses.

 

 

 

Photo credit: York Regional Seat of Government Bunker, http://davstott.me.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/bunker.jpg

 

 

With a cast of thousands – George Haydock’s film in homage to wasteland at Pomona Island

I’ve never been backed by a string quartet before – and George Haydock’s meditative short film below is probably the only time in my life that it’s going to happen.

It’s always disconcerting watching yourself. And there’s a moment in this where I suddenly realised where my sentence was going to take me and couldn’t resist a smile (it’s the point about Salford docks exporting itself until only emptiness was left). Hopefully it doesn’t look smug (it’s borderline I think). I developed a new-found respect for TV presenters that day – that art of keeping on talking, and thinking – with just the right buffer between the two.

So, there I was – an overgrown pixie – sitting on a rock for an hour and half trying to constantly think of something more to say about this overgrown and unregenerated wasteland portion of Salford docks.  I’d also been speaking earlier that day at a National Water Safety Forum symposium at The Lowry (in the now rather scuffed looking – regenerated – portion of the docks) on drownings in inland waterways, so my head was already in a strange place (and my body in a suit). Earlier that day I’d travelled up and down the quays in a boat, my RoSPA colleague pointing out all of the locations at which adventurous water users had come unstuck, some fatally.

Every few minutes we had to stop filming, as a tram trundled past. Occasionally it was a jogger or dog walker who provoked the pause. Having to sit on a rock and talk about a place that you’ve never visited before is actually quite difficult. There’s almost something fakir-like about it; a trial of endurance.

An endurance taking me towards revelation?

Maybe

So, I eventually realised that the big point (my attempt at a ‘big’ point at least) about Pomona was that there is no big point. It is a pause place, a gap in the intense meaning otherwise foisted on the landscape in the city making, regeneration, repurposing. Pomona just ‘is’.

That’s it.

And with that revelation a nirvana-lite passed over me. Phew, I’d finally worked out something that they might be able to use in the film…

 

 

There’s an interview with George about his take on Pomona at http://www.theskyliner.org/pomona-island-on-film/ which includes the following account of his intentions and inspiration for his film:

“My main intention was to capture the essence of this unusual space, to glorify it, live with it and let it dwell for while. I wanted to celebrate the areas state of limbo – and see it with open eyes. A lot of people who look at the space see and feel nothing, they might see this film and think it’s trivial, but in a way that tension is what interested me. The film is ultimately an attempt to challenge and cause friction against most people’s perspective. For me, film should speak at an intuitive level – and this is what I aimed to do with Pomona Island.”

Ironically the photograph at the start of this post comes from a locations agency website (http://www.filmandtvlocations.co.uk/locations/pomona) – it seems Pomona’s wasteland status is productive in and of itself, with that site praising the venue as offering “a unique opportunity to film on an open quayside location in front of the back drop of Manchester City Centres impressive skyline.”

So, Pomona shows us that flux that is the succession of urban uses that any ground can testify to. But Pomona shows that procession in a freeze-frame. The recirculation is slower. The docks have lain empty for 40 years, and when they arrived in the early Twentieth century they displaced a range of earlier leisure uses formerly of this boundary between Salford and Manchester, including Pomona gardens and zoo.

Very fitting then, that ending to the film, that ‘cast of thousands’ – but I won’t spoil the surprise.

Great stuff!

 

Gazing upon monstrous hulks: landships, stone frigates and buildings that wander

 

“Everything degenerates in the hands of man…He mixes and confuses the climates, the elements, the seasons… He turns everything upside down; he disfigures everything; he loves deformity, monsters”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762) Emile or On Education

And thus Rousseau launched what would become the Romantic movement, a rallying cry issued at the brink of the first wave of the Eighteenth century’s revolutions. So much was about to change – new orders of politics, manufacture and ideas. But Rousseau saw in the Enlightenment not a will to order and sense making, but a multiplication of forms, an acceleration of man’s warping of otherwise static, given ways of things. The emergent brave new world was increasingly jumbling things up.

Imagining mills as landships

Not all saw this shock-of-the-new as a bad thing though, and some sought to apply the rules of the sublime (until then a characteristic of the awe-inspiring otherness of the natural world at its extremes) to man-made sights. There was a frisson to be savoured in that uncomfortable –  uncategoriseable – sense of gazing at something new and unfamiliar.  Thus, in June 1790, gazing for the first time upon Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills, the world’s first factory scale cotton factory, a traveller – Viscount Torrington – wrote in his travelogue – groping for a metaphor by which to circumscribe this exceptional place:

“seven stories high and fill’d with inhabitants, remind me of a first rate man of war; and when they are lighted up on a dark night look luminously beautiful”.

For this was a place that – by the standards of the day – was infeasibly large, purposeful and which resisted the century old environmental command that the waning of daylight is the signal of the end of the working day. Torrington gives us a glimpse here of an embryonic industrial sublime, something echoed in Joseph Wright of Derby’s contemporaneous painting shown above, Arkwright’s Cotton Mills by Night (c.1783) – the frisson of the new, a pride in progress of the new ‘manufactories’ and their entrepreneurs. Around this time the block form of Arkwright’s buildings, now modest in scale to our eyes given what we know of what came next, reverberated across Georgian popular culture – the factory, positioned as picturesque object, amidst greenery as decoration to drawing room wall or hand painted dinner plates, alongside representations of the ascendant British Navy and its infeasibly large and purpose-filled vessels.

In this piece I want to take for a walk (or a sail) the rebellious image of building-as-ship. This is a deviant proposition, for if there is one thing taken for granted with buildings it is that they do not move, they are fixed (in law ‘real estate’ denotes a type of property that is characterised by its very immobility). In short, a ship and a building are meant to be unrelated concepts. A building is not a ship, and a ship is not a building. Normally.

Stone frigates and military bureaucracy

15 years after Viscount Torrington gazed at Cromford Mills, and saw a stone building as a galleon, the British Navy commissioned a rocky isle in the West Indies as a frigate, adapting its caves as cannon emplacements from which to harry the Franco-Spanish navy as part of what would become known as the Trafalgar campaign.  By virtue of the vagaries (and bureaucracies) of the laws of war the British felt the need to regularise their possession of the island and did so by classifying it as an enemy sloop, and as a ‘prize’ of war thereafter commissioning the island as a frigate in service of the Crown: HMS Diamond Rock. In doing so a new naval category was formed – that of the ‘stone frigate’, a landship having the status of a seagoing naval vessel for the purposes of military law. Subsequently naval on-shore establishments became known as stone frigates, and were regarded as landward extensions of seafaring ships to whom they affiliated. They needed to be affiliated to sea vessels in this way, because the Admiralty was concerned that these landward places might otherwise be undisciplined – for the Naval Discipline Act of 1866 only applied to personnel enrolled upon the books of a warship.

To my mind the most inland and unseaworthy stone frigate is the colossal concrete bunker known – until 1998 – as HMS St Vincent, the Admiralty citadel in Whitehall. Overlooking Horse Guards Parade, this naval bunker was built in 1940, replete with a 20 feet thick concrete roof. In recent years Russian vine has been encouraged to grown upon its Brutalist flanks. Shorn of this greenery, the citadel looks like the approximation of an oil tanker, but also has primal – ark-like – connotations. It looks very immovable though.

Buildings that become ships

One of my kids’ favourite picture books was The School that Went to Sea. In that story a flood upends a classic village schoolhouse and the teacher and a few pupils must convert the standard fare of a school building into a sailing ship. Fortunately for them they manage this task and by the book’s end find themselves and their ship’ sailing into a sunny New York harbour, to be met with cheery smiles from an assembled welcome party.

One of my formative childhood moments was – in contrast – watching the Monty Python short 15 minutes film The Crimson Permanent Assurance, that ran as the opener to their (not great) Meaning of Life (1983). In Crimson an elderly crew of insurance clerks find their company taken over by “The Very Big Corporation of America” and its slick young executives. Throughout the ensuing mutiny the clerks convert their Edwardian office building into a gallon (with builder’s hording providing convenient sails) and having gruesomely killed their officers (the Americans) with improvised cutlasses, pull up anchor, detach from the city street and sail off to do rebellious battle with other offices, in other financial centres around the world.

 

Watching the film as a young boy it was the oddity of buildings becoming ships that had left its lasting impression – but watching it again now it’s the viscerality of the inter-generational / 1980s City of London ‘Big Bang’  and corporate takeover tensions that strike me most. But, it still remains – thanks to Terry Gilliam’s animation – a magical vision of a building becoming a ship and leaves you looking at the city-scape through new eyes. What if these buildings started moving?

And sometimes they do. There’s an uncanny echo of Crimson in this 1961 newsreel, which shows how an Elizabethan house was jacked up onto wheels and tugged to a new location in Exeter, out of the path of an impending motorway. Watch out in particular for the moment at which the building is seen to start moving from its resting position – in a way that challenges the viewer’s in-built assumptions about the static essentiality of buildings – and then the view of this house on wheels as it slowly crawls up the hill with Gilliam-like monstrousness.

 

Ships that become buildings

It is – of course – more common for ships to become buildings. In addition to ships at sea and stone frigates the Royal Navy in the Nineteenth century increasingly utilised old warships as dock accommodation – barracks, stores, hospitals and prisons. Via incremental adjustment these once-were-ships steadily changed into approximations of the functional buildings which they aspired to be. For example, in Cardiff, HMS Hamandryad an elderly 46 gun man-o-war was retired by the Admiralty to become in the 1860s a dockside hospital for sailors, eventually being replaced by a brick-built hospital of the same name in 1905 (when the sanitary status of mixing the proposition ‘hospital’ and ‘old ship’ no longer appeared to fit together). In turn that building was removed (in the de-institutionalisation drives of the 1980s) and the ship’s name now adheres to a nondescript steel and cement Community Mental Health Centre.

 

Sources:

Hamadryad Hospital Ship: http://education.gtj.org.uk/en/item1/30309

Former HMS St. Vincent: The Admiralty Citadel: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/Admiralty_Citadel2008.jpg

Auguste Mayer (1815) The Capture of Diamond Rock: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Capture_of_Diamond_Rock.jpg

‘Sails’ of the Crimson Permanent Assurance: http://node801.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/crimson-permanent-assurance-1983-by.html

Joseph Wright of Derby (c.1783)  Arkwright’s Cotton Mills by Night: http://www.wikiart.org/en/joseph-wright/arkwright-s-cotton-mills-by-night

Waddell, M. & Hartas, L. (1993) The School that Went to Sea: http://www.theaoi.com/portfolios/images/portfolio/thumb/847-374.jpg

Moving the house that moved: http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47920000/jpg/_47920573_exeter_house_1961.jpg

 

Plasticity at Cromford Mills: Arkwright’s Brain, Water, Cotton and Fire via Malabou & Hegel

Here are my slides for the PlastiCities conference on Tuesday (3 June). This Occursus / University of Sheffield event seeks to explore the concept of ‘plasticity’ thus:

“Scientific discourses on neuroplasticity abound with metaphors both of (neuronal) landscapes and (cortical) ‘real estate’. This cutting-edge symposium brings together speakers from across the disciplines to explore the ways in which recent advances in the understanding of neuroplasticity might be used to construct new models for negotiating urban landscapes and temporalities. Our discussions will include a consideration of how brain trauma and cerebral re-organisation can yield new understanding and insight regarding the complexity and resilience of the damaged topographies that punctuate the post-industrial, post-colonial and post-traumatic cityscape. Thinking through the sculptural dynamic of cerebral morphology will also open up a debate concerning the ways in which critical methodologies from the arts might find their place in the sculpting of new forms of stability within the contemporary built environment, participating in the ‘real life’ making of cities, at both grass roots and policy level.”

The event will feature speakers from neuroscience, psychology, art, archaeology, geography, French studies and built environment. Here’s a link to the programme:

http://occursus.org/2014/05/21/plasticities-a-free-symposium-3-june/

This truly cross-disciplinary selection of speakers will outline the rise of plasticity as a concept in neuroscience, its take-up in the recent work of philosophers like Catherine Malabou, and then seek to explore whether (and if so how) plasticity can be applied to landscape – thus moving from metaphors of cortical real estate to real estate itself.

My presentation will introduce this shift of focus – and will seek to operationalise Malabou (and Hegel who has a potent influence on both Malabou and plasticity in philosophy) via a case study which will take the concepts for a walk, and consider them at a specific place and set of circumstances. In doing so I’m seeking to implement Chris Van Dyke’s call (in Environment & Planning D: Society and Space last year) for empirical deployment of plasticity in landscape studies. Van Dyke will also be speaking at the event via Skype.

The site I will be examining is Cromford Mills, Sir Richard Arkwright’s first textile factory, established in 1771 near Matlock, Derbyshire. I will draw upon a rich vein of industrial archaeology and economic history scholarship (both enthusiast and academic) and analyse it through the frame of Malabou’s four plasticities (developmental, modulational, reparative and destructive), looking at  change and stasis across the site’s 250 year span, thereby considering plasticity’s dual character – the partial persistence of form and the potentiality of certain degrees of change. Think of the resistance and affordance of ‘memory-foam’ mattresses and you get the idea.

My current presentation is very much an interim report upon a work in progress – there is more to be done on thinking through plasticities at Cromford, and perhaps thereafter widening the focus to later era mills. I’m also working on a parallel analysis of Cromford using David Delaney’s ‘nomosphere’ theory, to look at the ways in which law can be found materialised and manifested within the social and spatial circumstances of this site. More on that at RGS 2014 in August.

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My presentation for the PlastiCities conference seeks to trace not just the stasis and change of the Cromford site – but also to draw out the link to ‘self-development’ and neuronal ‘freedom’ (the focus of Malabou’s work) by intertwining an analysis of Sir Richard Arkwright’s ‘self-made’ status, and the way in which his success was lauded by the mid Victorian liberals, specifically Samuel Smiles in his book, Self Help (1859). This is potentially contentious, as Malabou frames neuronal plasticity as a chance to consider what else the self-aware human mind could choose to be (in resistance to neo-liberalism), yet the ghost of Hegel oddly replicates a neo-liberal focus on ‘plastic individuals’ and their achievements (or potentialities), for example where she writes of plasticity in Hegelian terms as  “a process where the universal and the particular mutually inform one another, and their joint outcome is that particularity called the ‘exemplary individual’.”(Malabou, C. (2004) The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality and Dialectic, Routledge: London: 16)

Arkwright is an exemplar of self-making, and in my case study I’m interested in what his self-making made at Cromford, of how he acted on matter and landscape, and how landscape and matter acted back on him. That’s plasticity.

(I’ve also written an earlier blog post about my first visit to Cromford, its here: http://lukebennett13.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/cromford-mill-surveying-the-ruins-of-the-worlds-first-factory/

 

Image source: Cromford Mill at http://www.nationalmillsweekend.co.uk/pages_water/cromford.htm; and many Cromford Mill images in the slide presentation originated by The Arkwright Society / Cromford Mills:http://cromfordmills.org.uk/

 

 

Beyond the broken building – dereliction, progress and ruinphobia

“The scars left behind by industrial development of the past, the abandoned waste heaps, disused excavations and derelict installations and buildings no longer needed by industry, are an affront to our concept of an acceptable environment in the 1970s”

Peter Walker, Secretary of State for the Environment, 1971 – quoted in Wallwork (1974) Derelict Land – origins and prospects of a land-use problem, David & Charles: Newton Abbot, p. 13.

 

Derelict Land Art: Five Sisters 1976 by John Latham 1921- 2006

 John Latham (1976) Derelict Land Art: Five Sisters, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/latham-derelict-land-art-five-sisters-t02071

Big Ruins and dereliction

There’s always this danger when writing two pieces in parallel: that they will converge. Over recent days I’ve been working on my papers for the Big Ruin conference (Manchester, Wednesday next week) and the Land Art/Abandoned Quarries conference at Yorkshire Sculpture Paper the following day. Whether through collision, or otherwise, I find myself thinking a lot about derelict land in relation to both papers, in each case as a conscious opposition to the currently dominant focus upon the discrete buildings and structures in ‘ruin studies’. To foreground blank, indeterminate wasteland feels both dissident, and necessary.

Dereliction was seen as a major policy issue in the 1960s, and essentially as one of un- or under productivity. Notions of landscape aesthetics (eradicating the unsightly, the eyesore) played a part in the call to arms, and safety and environmental drivers came increasingly to the fore with (respectively) the Aberfan tragedy of 1966, and the rise of ecological sensibilities – but predominantly dereliction was something to be tackled because it was a ‘waste’ of land, expressing a deeply held view (that still has powerful sway today) that neither land nor labour should be left idle.

 

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My presentation for the ‘Big Ruins’ conference is streamed here. The gist of my talk is a desire to acknowledge recent calls (from critical, urban and economic geographers) to widen the context in which ruins are studied, and in particular to look at the political economy of ruination – the process by which ruins are made.

But in my presentation I will also argue that the aim should not be to throw the baby out with the bathwater, for the more aesthetically (and matter/affect) based approaches that have dominated ruinology in recent years, have an important role to play in helping us to understand how orientations towards ruins, ruination and dereliction ‘matter’. And I mean ‘matter’ here (in the double-play advanced by Karen Barad) both in the sense that ‘it is important’, but also in the – theoretically more complex – sense that orientations towards matter (i.e. stuff) affect how that stuff exists, occurs, survives, is reacted to, is able to influence us etc. To understand ruination we need to understand why it is objectionable to many, attractive to some and how those orientations affect the matter of the ruin and its stability as a loosening assemblage of wood, stone, metal, cement, brick, fabric etc under the dissipating action of time, human and ‘natural’ processes.

Thus, in my Big Ruins talk my desire is to emphasise the multiple gazes through which ruination is framed – and how those gazes (particularly those that are broadly anti-ruin) affect the occurrence, subsistence and fates of ruins and the dereliction of which they form a part. As a consequence, my talk will deal only briefly with ruinphilia and will instead concentrate on the ruinphobic gazes that frame ruins as a contagion, a waste of space and/or a waste of matter. Inevitably these are (in contrast to the ‘high’ arts roots of ruinphilia) earthy, pragmatic gazes of policy, law, taxation, economic development and their attendant discourses of efficiency, progress, modernisation and monetary value. But understanding these gazes and their effects is crucial to an understanding of contemporary ruination and – I contend – these gazes have received scant attention within ruin studies (where the aesthetic and Romantic ruinphiliac gaze has been privileged almost to the point of excluding all other ways of looking upon broken buildings). In my presentation I also point to the irony that ruinphobia both strives to eradicate ruin and yet at times actually amplifies it.

Land Art and dereliction

Towards the end of his recent documentary series on Brutalism, Jonathan Meades issued a rallying call for the nascent Brutalist revival, in doing so harking back nostalgically to a Modernist era in which – in his view – human will aspired, unapologetically to stamp its identity and presence upon the planet, raising gigantic forms towards heaven either in challenge to the gods, or in declaration that the gods are no more. In doing so Meades contrasted Brutalism’s aggressive confidence with a present day eco-modesty, through which, he asserted, humankind has lost sight of his specialness and its faith in progress.

I suspect that Meades, like John Latham, would celebrate the monolithic forms of the Five Sisters (shale tips – or locally ‘bings’ shown in the image above) in West Lothian. Yet Meades’ Brutalism is but one version of Modernism. Working back in time, to the height of Modernism we find John Barr (a journalist) castigating Iain Nairn (an architectural critic) as typifying a certain type of metropolitan aesthete thus:

“It is some academic opinion makers, usually living far from the nearest spoil heap, who defend dereliction on aesthetic grounds. To them, and, one suspects, to them alone, reclamation is seen as an enemy of the wonderous heaps and holes and tears-in-the-hillsides which shout proudly MAN WAS HERE!”

John Barr (1969) Derelict Land, Penguin: Harmondsworth, p.25

I find myself with both Meades’ and Barr’s words ringing in my head as I prepare for my contribution to the Land Art in quarries conference at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The wind has turned recently against Ruin Lust. The counter-forces are amassing, the label of ‘Ruin Porn’ now ever-present,waiting to pounce on those who linger too long in gazing at broken buildings. Doubtless a genealogy of  ruinphilia would find similar castigation at any earlier formative era (remember here that ‘nostalgia’ was originally conceived as an illness). But, for me, this week it has been appropriately moderating, to know that the battle between old and new, bombastic and modest, use and pause is nothing new.

My slides for the Land Art talk are streamed here:

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Latham’s work upon the Five Sisters was the result of a placement within the Scottish Development Agency organised by the Artist Placement Group (who had the mission of opening commerce and public administration to new ways of seeing the aspects of the world that they managed), the aim being to find new ways to see the vast bings as something other than “eyesores of spent energy” (Richardson 2012), and that according to Derek Lyddon, Chief Planner of the Scottish Development Agency at the time of Latham’s residency:

“The object of APG placements may be described as ‘organisation and imagination’; to place an artist in an organisation in the hope that his creative intelligence or imagination can spark off ideas, possibilities and actions that have not previously been perceived or considered feasible; in other words to show the feasibility of initiating what has not occurred to others to initiate. Hence the product is not an art work, but a report by the artist on new ways of looking at the chosen work areas and on the action that might result.” (quoted in Richardson 2012)

In part as a result of Latham’s work, and partly in the light of a post-industrial turn towards the preservation of industrial ‘heritage’, at least some of the bings have now been listed as ancient monuments (though hardly ancient in origin, the tipping that formed them ended in the early 1920s) and thus now have protection against demolition or reworking (the oil bearing shale having value to recyclers).

Latham’s creative visioning helped the civil servants to see this dereliction – these man made mountains – as positive features of the contemporary landscape. However, Latham’s own design for their artistic augmentation – the Meadesean sounding “Handbook of Reason”, a 24 metre cruciform beacon tower to be erected atop one of the bings, was rejected on cost grounds. If built, that bunker-like structure (shown in design mock-ups below) would certainly have signalled to the surrounding land, (perhaps to the delight of Meades and the consternation of Barr): “MAN WAS HERE”.

 

Documents as Part of APG Feasibility Study – Scottish Office 1976

 

Further details of Latham’s project are detailed in Craig Richardson (2012) ‘Waste to Monument: John Latham’s Niddrie Woman’  Tate Papers Issue 17, from which the above image is taken.

 

Gazing up, looking down: following cathedral stone back to its source

“Politics revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it, around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around the property of spaces and the possibilities of time.”

Jacques Rancière (2004) The Politics of Aesthetics, Continuum: London, p. 13.

Cathedral_Exeter4

You’re standing in the vast nave of Exeter Cathedral, staring up at the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England.

“When visiting such places most of us have gazed in awe at lofty stone arches and intricately carved tracery, each paying tribute to the masons who have fashioned them with loving care. Few amongst us, however, have given a passing thought to the men who provided them with their raw materials by working deep underground, enduring conditions of extreme hardship and danger, to wrest the stone from its natural bed” (Scott & Gray n.d.: 1)

In a previous post I’ve written about the after-life of stone fragments released (or prised) from crumbling ruins [here]. In contrast, in this post I will wander Beer Cave Quarry – the origin point of stone blocks that went into many of the grandest Medieval English cathedrals – in the company of a tour guide, walking through the vast underground spaces from which the cathedral’s rock was hewn and thinking about the possibilities of animating absent quarrymen, their toil and their stone prize.

Beer Cave Quarry, in East Devon was founded by the Romans in AD50 and then worked continuously for nearly two thousand years. The Roman entrance sits beside the Norman one, slightly apart – a few feet – and yet a thousand years too, the intruding rays of sunlight revealing thousands of pick marks on each threshold, in each case the ancient scrapes of very long ago. The Roman’s quarried into the cliffs from landward, at first in open workings and then following the ¼ mile wide seam of this 65 million year old chalk limestone underground, beneath the burden of 100 feet of overlying rock. In doing so, generation by generation, they and their successors inched forward a trail of Cathedral-like voids of excavated space: the pitch-black darkness now the spent inverse of the evacuated beautiful creamy-white, fine textured limestone won from this strata’s 13 foot seam of desire.

The Bishops of Exeter leased the quarries for centuries – but the reformation in 1540 saw the collapse of ecclesiastical demand for Beer Stone, and for a while the mine fell silent, then finding more modest secular (and local) uses for it, with some resurgence in the Victorian thirst for urban church building. Production finally ceased in 1920, leaving a 75 acre underground labyrinth comprised of sturdy stone pillars and the void spaces between: the extracted stone now elsewhere: dried, hardened and discoloured by centuries of exposure to sky.

What is there to see in the dark?

As Strangleman (2013) notes, a mine erases itself, though fulfilment (and exhaustion) of its purpose. It is a place at which there is nothing to see as such. The extracted stone is normally the story – and the places created with it – as Knoop & Jones noted back in 1938 the histories of stone are of their use, not their production.

The recorded story of Beer Stone is of its diffusion, its mobility (by sea) – Beer stone recorded on masons’ stock rolls at London Bridge (1350), Rochester Castle (1368) and Westminster Abbey (early 1400s), the result of impressive networks of supply. Tracing these networks is a challenge in itself, a trail only partially satisfied by ancient archives, as Edensor has argued. Seeking to explicate the networks by which metropolitan Manchester’s stone found its way into (being) the heart of that Victorian city,  Edensor set out to trace stone’s urban materiality: seeking out the relations and the consequences of the mineral ‘stuff-ness’ of cities and their buildings, and adopting multiple methods to find the “multiple traces of other time-spaces … [amidst]… an affective and sensual encounter with materiality that promotes empathy with other times, people, events and non-human agents.” (450) This tracing takes Edensor (and us) to the stone-source, the quarry: a former ‘workspace’ (literally worked-space) – a space made by work.

At Beer Cave Quarry the remains of quarrying tools from Roman era onwards, found within spoil filled chambers, testify to a day in day out playing out of working lives, alongside the working marks, scrapes, scratches, spoil, candle burns and graffiti. Walking into the workings is to walk amongst eras of excavation within paces of each other – but out striding as spectator the inch by inch creep of the working faces: Roman arches, then the more rudimentary square openings of the Saxons, then a turn into the expanded halls of the Normans, all adjacent to hundreds of subsequent years of steady workings up to 1920, and connected up by the mine’s poly-era workways, and their ‘robbed pillars’ showing the scars of subsequent trimming of stone from these ancient bulwarks, the quick winning of stone by shaving it from the pillar by sawing the one remaining connecting face, rather than an arduous six (as entailed in cutting a block free from virgin rockbed).

Here – in this gloom – is human/matter relationality: the pragmatism of ‘corner cutting’, the working lives and family fortunes entwined in the prising out of this stone.  These traces speak to the toil at this place, as does the following scrawl, scratched into a pillar in angry Norman French deep within the workings:

 “Master mason, you built your cathedral towards heaven

With stone that was quarried from hell.”

But in what sense can we know this toil? What illuminates these voids? What creates the experience of being there? How much hangs on the interlocutor and the narration of this place? Without lighting, without a pathway through the cave complex this would be meaningless unilluminated space – truly dark void. This place becomes animated by our guide’s (re)performance of the lives of this quarry, his eloquent foregrounding of background, of revealing the worked – made – space of this subterranean honeycomb: the incidental cathedral-like spaces of this evacuated rock mass.

Our guide’s incantations make us think of the 15 hours a day, 6 days a week toil, and of a quarryman presenting a four tonne quarried block to the foreman – the ‘touchstone’ – at the end of the lightless day – only to be paid if the rock ‘rang true’ in retort to his expert strike upon it. Our guide also emotes, narrating centuries of local antagonism, speaking a bitterness towards the productive focus of the Bishopric, and its driving of production at this site in the Middle Ages, of the collapse of a piece of the quarry roof in 1758 response to a surface explosion – 48 men and one boy killed, the owner’s only question in response to that news: “Have we lost any horses?”

There is ancestral bitterness directed at the masons too. An up-welling of the ages-old division between the local quarrymen and the far better paid stone masons who would often visit the site, sourcing blocks and working them underground in their softer – still moist – form. The secrecy of the masons kept the local quarrymen at bay, keeping to their brotherhood their valuable stone carving skills. It was not until 1856 that one – William Cawley – finally became a stone mason – entering the brotherhood using a community collection given to William’s grandmother after her husband was killed during a local smuggling accident in 1801.

And that smuggling – our guide told us – also still resonated within the culture of the local village and of its underground quarry. Brandy from France, Port from Spain and Portugal, hidden in the darkness sought out by customs men, deadly skirmishes and all. And to this day, the fisherman of the village chide our guide that he is the descendant of a customs man. There is then – via our evocative guide and his story-telling – a sense of a lingering symbiotic connection between the caves and the local village, and that there is much that is left behind in the caves, sedimented there:  discarded tools, voids, relations, attitudes, grievances and their attendant affects. And quarrying phrases too, now hovering – decontextualized – in everyday speech: ‘To broach’ – to prick, indent or furrow the surface of stone with a narrow-pointed stone chisel. ‘Stone deaf’ – occupational deafness from the thunderous echo of constant blows, iron against stone. ‘Worth a candle’ – each quarryman having to buy five animal tallow candles per day, and decide whether an area of rock was worth the effort – and cost – of the meagre lighting to be brought to its working.

Visiting the past?

Norman working area Beer Quarry

And so, we stand as an audience listening to these stories – but are we communing with stone, with the quarrymen or just with our narrator? Standing in the spot of the 1758 roof collapse we know – and feel – nothing of this incident until told of it. We walk Roman to Saxon to Norman in the space of a few strides. The arch work changes, that is our only sign, the stone is uniform throughout. This area’s substance is its void. This place is a curation of absence.

High and Lewis (2007) in their attack upon urban exploration, reject industrial experiential tourism, asserting that “Spelunking can be read as akin to dancing on a grave” (29). For them such spectatorship completes an insensitivity twice meted out by the non-working class, first in bringing about closure, second in the spectatorship of a “post-industrial necrology.” (29). But High and Lewis’ attack on urban explorers for a decontextualized appropriation, of generic – disconnected – fetishized images, assumes that no attempt is being made to connect with the specificity of a former workplace, its tasks and histories. Strangleman (2013), defends modern attempts to construct an engagement with sites of past labour – and sees in short-term engagement with them – each generation making its methods, finding its own way to take something from the past, and pursue (each generation for its own reasons) a ‘remembrance of lost work’ – there are indeed many ways of remembering.

A trip to Beer Quarry Caves shows that a good guide, using the time and space of passage through a place and a deft unfurling of its stories, can animate even the darkest, emptiest subterranean void.

But, in our journey back towards the mouth of this mine there is a spectre to meet, the (as Derrida styled it) ‘spectre of Marx’. Our guide frames this place in the conventional politico-materialist language of people actualising through work, through actions upon matter, socio-economic relations of production and the progressive movement of distinct historical epochs – all the raison d’etre of amateur industrial archaeology. As such this framing alludes to “concrete political forms” (Cheah, 2010: 89) flowing back to Marx’s dialectical materialism (that history is headed somewhere, that it embodies conflict between distinct social groupings, that history is driven by relations with matter and power). Edensor’s materialism is more vitalist, and in seeking to speak the alterity of urban stone (its flux over time, ungovernability of matter, its otherness and resistance to human dominion). Given that the human-labour-achievement-over-matter frame remains so dominant it is perhaps no surprise that ‘new’ materialists get accused of forgetting the toils of labouring people. New materialists would point out – perhaps – that human labour is not being denied, but rather shown alongside a much wider constellation of factors and forces. But that does result in a de-emphasis, the moral-political implications of which perhaps need working through more.

We leave our guide now, he’s back at the entrance, gathering the next tour group, getting them in the mood by passing around a Roman coin found recently near the entrance. Our guide knows both what he will say, and how to pace it for maximum effect. Whether in the bravura of performance or genuine ancestral angst, he will once again take the opportunity to colourfully re-assert the quarryman over the masons, the cathedral, the sky and the surface world.  He will once again weave thing and story in a way that activates some slight – but compelling – sense of others’ (and our own) material relations.

Sources

Beer Quarry Caves Ltd (n.d.) Beer Quarry Caves – www.beerquarrycaves.co.uk

Cahill, K. (2008) Beer Quarry Caves – Global & Western Media Productions at: http://www.jurassiccoast.org/downloads/news/beer_quarry_caves.pdf‎

Cheah, P. (2010) ‘Non-Dialectical Materialism’ in Coole, D. & Frost, S.A. New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency and Politics, Duke University Press: London.

Edensor, T. (2013) ‘Vital urban materiality and its multiple absences: the building stone of central Manchester’ Cultural Geographies, 20, 447-465.

High, S & Lewis, D.W. (2007) Corporate Wasteland: The Landscape and Memory of De-Industrialisation, New York.

Knoop, D. & Jones, J.P. (1938) ‘The English Medieval Quarry’ The Economic History Review, 9 (1), 17-37.

Scott, J. & Gray, G. (n.d.) Out of the Darkness: A brief history and description of the Old Stone Quarry, Beer, Axminster Printing co. Ltd

Strangleman, T. (2013) ‘“Smokestack Nostalgia”, “Ruin Porn” or Working-Class Obituary: The role and meaning of deindustrialised representation’ International Labour and Working Class History, 84, 23-37.

Images:

www.beerquarrycaves.co.uk

www.englishcathedrals.co.uk/cathedral/exeter-cathedral/

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