‘Approaching the bunker’ – an early glimpse of the book project

guardian1

The email arrived during the summer, catching me slightly off guard. A writer for the journal Improbable Research wanted to check a few details with me for a piece he was preparing for their website on my ‘bunkers and gender’ paper published last year. From a quick glance I couldn’t tell whether Improbable Research was ironic in its plaudits for the research that it featured. Their motto: “Research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK”, left me none the wiser. Who wants to be the butt of ‘You got funding for that?!?’ type jibes (and no – I didn’t get finding for it anyway). I still can’t make my mind up on whether I won the academic equivalent of a Golden Raspberry Award, but here’s the article:

http://www.improbable.com/2014/10/24/bunkerology/

I spent 2013 trying to avoid bunkers, but 2014 has sucked me back in good and proper. It seems that the bunker doesn’t let you go once it has your attention.

This summer’s day-long session on Cold War Bunkers at the Royal Geographical Society Conference is now spawning an edited collection – I’m currently pulling together the proposal for a publisher who’s keen. The working title is: “Approaching the bunker: bodies, materialities and meaning-making in Cold War ruins

The idea is to focus on what these bunkers mean to us (or others) now – in their early 21st century state of abandonment. The collection will thus look at a range of engagements with these relics and the purposes and methods behind those attempts at knowing and/or (re)valorising them. As such this project is a continuation of my “multivalence” thesis – that there are a number of stable ways of performing bunkerology, and that there are identifiable practices and motivations out there: ‘logics’ if you like (thus producing ‘bunkerologies’). Some of the contributions will seek to interpret bunker-hunters motivations, but others will showcases the authors’ own engagements with these structures, in doing so reflexively questioning their own motives, methods and representational conventions. The collection will also look at ‘official’ attempts to condition views of and/or practices within these places, and there will also be a look at the materiality of the bunker itself – and its resistances and affordances as they act upon the mind and body of the enquiring subject.

I’ve got 18 contributions, from across the academic spectrum: from artist to archaeologist, architect to anthropologist, geographer to a germ warfare specialist. And the greatest thing is the gender split: exactly 50:50 as things currently stand. Now at one level this causes me some problems – because I’ve previously concluded that the bunker’s call is louder for males than females. But I didn’t contend that there was an essentialist reason as to why bunkerology was gendered, I’d pointed out that I’d come across some women involved in bunkerology, and that the gendering was at best situational (and in many cases occupational). My contributors are all academics, heritage professionals and/or artists so perhaps no surprise there that the gender gap might be far less evident.

John Schofield and others have pioneered the co-opting of artists into Cold War related material culture studies (and in particular contemporary archaeology), but my collection will take this into the social sciences, and specifically geography where it is less common. The plan is to set up provocative juxtapositions between contributions, rather than to group them into clusters of methodological or disciplinary affiliation. Instead I will group the contributions into thematic pairings. So, for example, I have a paper from Martin Dodge (geographer) looking at the difficulties faced in piecing together the history and physical extent of  Manchester’s ‘Guardian’ Underground Telephone Exchange from  archival sources. I’m pairing this with artist Stephen Felmingham’s essay on his attempts to interrogate ROC Posts through in-situ drawing using his peripheral vision. It struck me that each of these ‘researchers’ is trying to find ways to penetrate beyond physical or mental blockages raised in the name of ‘secrecy’ for such installations, so it will be interesting to have such divergent (and yet in some ways similarly challenged) methodologies sitting side by side.

Here’s short video in which Stephen talks about his project:

 

Photo credit:

Air shaft/surface structure for Manchester’s underground telephone exchange: http://mancbible.fullist.co.uk/2014/10/manchesters-darkest-secret/

 

 

Further beyond the broken building: on the sudden decline of some old ruins

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“These seemingly sleepy, old-fashioned things, defaced houses, closed-down factories, the debris of shipwrecked histories [which] still today raise up the ruins of an unknown, strange city.” 

Michel de Certeau (1998) The Practice of Everyday Life, Vol 2: p.133

I’ve used this quote a number of times now on this blog, it’s a great way of pointing to how ruins and associated ‘left-behind-pieces’ can trip you up – in the built environment, life or otherwise.

I will be using the quote again this Friday as I take a group of Paul Dobraszyczyk’s students on a tour of Sheffield’s ruins, as part of their ‘Ruin Lust’ module. But what’s really struck me in preparing this itinerary is how my adopted city’s once seemingly stable and dependable ruins are suddenly and rapidly disappearing. Empty hulks I’ve wandered past year after year with my own students, orienting them to the city that they are going to be learning about as surveyors, are on the move. My ‘old familiars’ are now either lying demolished, sitting freshly shrouded in scaffolding or re-clad and  repurposed to some funky ‘meanwhile’ use or other.

Now, for many this is ‘progress’, and the erasure of ruins is another index of development, on a par with (for the Futurists) factory smoke as a sign of modernisation or (for surveyors) tower cranes as a pointer to the state of a city’s property market. On Sheffield’s low-level skyline I still see few tower cranes, and only a little smoke, but this fading away of once dependable ruins is a sure sign of something afoot, and it certainly offers up a provocation: that of the ruin of ruins, of their vulnerability to erasure at any time other than the depth of an economic slump.

Ruinphobia and erasure lust

I’ve been trying to work out how I feel about this ‘loss’. Ambivalent is the best word I can find.

I miss the familiarity (and informality) of ‘my’ ruins, but I also see the dangers of fetishising broken-ness, emptiness and uselessness. I guess it’s a bit like a meal – you need some ruins in the urban matrix as hot chillies to challenge the bland functional wholesomeness of the majority of the cityscape, but just as a plate full of chillies would not be a nourishing meal, a city full of ruins would be too much.

Striding around Liverpool last year with a surveying colleague and a group of my students, our guide urged us to see whole streets as tired and in need of an abrupt and unapologetic change. Whilst the vitriol was directed at shabby 1960’s office blocks, the register was reminiscent of the aggressive agents of Post-War change who saw the slum clearance bulldozing of dilapidated terraced housing as a proud step towards a bright new future. Gesturing towards these under-occupied office blocks, my colleague declared their current uses unsustainable, the building types outmoded and these flat streets going downhill fast. Yes, there were enclaves of heritage buildings that could be kept for posterity, but much of the real estate assembled in this quarter was dismissed as simply a waste of space.

My colleague’s eloquent reaction typified the ‘ruinphobia’ that (much more so than ruin lust, or ‘ruinphilia’) drives the lives and fates of most of the built environment. In the spring I spoke at Paul’s conference at the University of Manchester on ‘Big Ruins’ and offered up there some early thoughts on the pervasive influence of ruinphobia.

I’m now gathering my thoughts for a paper that my SHU colleague Jill Dickinson and I are presenting at the University of Sheffield Town & Regional Planning Department’s interdisciplinary symposium on ‘Transience and Permanence in Urban Development’ in January 2015. Our concern is how ruinphobia is expressed through law and policy, and how that in turn influences the fates and forms of urban land use and reuse. Our paper is entitled “Forcing the empties back to work?: ruinphobia and the bluntness of law and policy” and we will also seek to show how certain assumptions about utility and urban temporalities are embedded within the range of legal and policy measures that drive the war against emptiness, disuse and degeneration. Here’s our abstract:

Since at least the mid Nineteenth century (but having important antecedents far back in feudalism’s concern for the proper utilisation of land – the law of waste) many pages of the statute book have been dedicated to the creation of measures to encourage or force property back into productive use, or at least occupancy. This paper will critically examine the ‘challenge’ of the city’s empty, unproductive and/or dilapidated places:

First, by questioning the unstated assumption that emptiness and dis-use are problematic. This requires an analysis of the latent ruinphobia that lies at the heart of the policy agenda and finds its expression in the policy’s links to the social sciences (e.g. Wilson & Kelling’s ‘broken window theory’ of crime caused by urban dereliction), in community governance measures such as the Clean Neighbourhood & Environment Act 2005, and the embers of slum clearance (Housing Market Renewal). This fear of emptiness (and its related Protestant ethic of full utilisation) is palpable (and unquestioned) in The Portas Review, in the 2007 abolition of empty premises rate relief, in the ‘bedroom tax’, in the proliferation of charity shop and other ‘meanwhile’ occupancies.

Secondly, by exploring the bluntness of ‘temporality’ within the planning law and policy system and its implications for use-forcing. Here ‘temporality’ is used in two senses – both as an awareness of the passage of time, and more specifically in acknowledgement that law attaches to familiar-sized moments – phases of use. Our contention is that for all its talk of planning (which implies a command of the future) planning law and policy has only limited effective reach across time (for it cannot force development to occur, merely channel the development aspirations of other stakeholders) and that it also rests upon a specific time horizon – that of the ‘medium term’. Consents are granted without time limit (but implicitly anchored to the 20 years or so likely life of a building) or are restricted to a handful of years. The planning system is not set up to act or think in terms months – its notion of temporary being confined to 28 days (a nod back to pre-industrial fairs, hunting seasons and the like).

I’m also starting to think through how different people see ruins differently, and at different times and a variety of scales. In part this is prompted by an invitation from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, to speak there in March 2015 as part of a series of guest lectures on multidisciplinary perspectives on ‘the contemporary’ and heritage. I’ve proposed as my title “Make, use, abandon, repeat: thoughts on entropy and the temporalities of real estate”: and I’m thinking that I’ll try to offer up there some insight into how the real estate industry’s particular sense of past, present and future affects its engagements with the built environment. The ‘contemporary’ is a function of notions of both the past and the future acting upon (and or creating) as sense of ‘the present’. I’ll try to go further and show how rival temporalities are at work in forming, sustaining and/or changing the built environment. I’ll illustrate my talk with reference to some sites and surplus-to-current-use property types (likely a mix of ruined bunkers, quarries and cotton mills).

What are ruins anyway?

Paul’s students are art historians (hence the focus on ruin lust). The humanities has dominated academic ruin-talk in recent years, but potentially the tide is now turning (towards balance and collaboration I’d hope, rather than a ditching of the ruin-positivity brought in from the arts). As I flagged in my ‘Ruin of Ruins’ talk at Paul’s conference, political economists are entering the fray and arguing that a focus on the aesthetics of contemporary ruins has stifled analysis of the causes and consequent processes of ruination. The decontextualisation of ruinous objects, and/or insufficient attention to their ‘site stories’ is a fair criticism, but ‘affective’ ruin-scholarship has increasingly acknowledged the dynamic – and processual – nature of the material forces (many of them elemental) by which buildings and their component materials are degraded.

But amidst this tussle the irony I live with is that I’ve done very similar circuit walks with my real estate students. The same buildings, but with a change of gazes, resulting in very different readings for those structures. The temporalities are different too. The trainee surveyors look forwards to what the dilapidated building could become. I suspect Paul’s students will tend to look backwards, to what remains of what once was. In other words, development site vs evocative ruin. And my students know that an untended building will quickly fall into ruin.

In Sheffield – partly given the shrinking ruin-base, and also the tendency for our buildings to be small and low to the ground – both types of spectator need to be broad minded in order to actually spot empty or underused buildings. Both communities are stuck in the ‘traditional’ mindset – namely that ruins will be broken castles or cathedral-like industrial monoliths, that they will be empty keeps and abandoned dark satanic mills. More likely here in Sheffield however, ruins will be hollow 1960s offices, empty municipal buildings and/or surplus retail units. And these places only coyly betray their ruinous nature. The rot sets in subtly at first, the signs of early stage abandonment visible only to the expert eye. Rotting window frames, bird nests clogging drains, grime gathering on now uncleaned windows. This is how ruins start, as Tim Edensor helpfully explained at Paul’s conference for the benefit of ruin-scholars (it’s something my students and surveying colleagues knew all along) ruination is a process that takes over when the work of care necessary to keep it at bay is stopped. Thus a building enters its ruin phase as soon as care is withdrawn (or substantially reduced).

Thus perhaps to find Sheffield’s ruins I need to adjust my expectations. I need to look for the subtle ruins and I need to look for them in the empty units of shopping parades, above street level in the vacant floors sullenly stacked upon still thriving ground level shops. I need to look for them in the heart of the city, not in its industrial periphery.

And when I look for them that way I find a fair few, and many of them are Listed Buildings – kept ‘alive’ but gravely ill by the iron lung of heritage protection. But for what purpose? Perhaps my colleague was right, “erase it all”. Perhaps, as Rodney Harrison (2013) puts it we are suffering from “a ‘crisis’ of the accumulation of the past” (580), that we have become too obsessed with “not forgetting” (581), perhaps we just need to let some of this stuff go lest we otherwise suffer an overload of different pickled pasts piling up round us, “constantly surfacing and intervening in our present” (581). Perhaps we need to remember to forget, and to periodically remind ourselves to check whether a protected building or monument is still meaningful for us or can now be released from its suspended animation. It is certainly notable that the only ruins that I can think of as not presently disappearing in Sheffield are those that are listed.

So, these then are the “New Ruins” of Sheffield. I am not the first to identify them – Owen Hatherley  devotes much of his 2010 ‘guide book’ to this city’s prominent relics of the modernist era and its aspirations. Notable too is Hatherley’s singling out of the city’s indoor market, built atop of the rubble ruins of Sheffield’s 13th century castle (demolished in 1647 by order of parliament at the end of the English Civil War). It seems that talk is afoot of resurrecting the medieval ruins of the castle at the expense of the abandoned modernist ruins of the indoor market that currently sits on top of that rubble. Great (future) socio-economic potential is ascribed by the proponents to the desired airing of the castle’s modest remains. It is asserted – with the familiar bombast of urban regeneration ‘vision’ – that reconnecting this city with its foundational ruins, will enhance both the city and the 21st century Sheffielder’s sense of the city and their identity:

“Sheffield Castle could form a further jewel in the crown of Sheffield’s City Centre public realm. It could provide a catalyst for attracting significant public investment that will help in the regeneration of what is currently a run-down area of the City Centre. It also provides a new and powerful image for the City and one that will attract visitors as well as provide a place of immense interest and enjoyment for residents of the City and surrounding area. With a carefully directed programme of excavation, conservation and selected reconstruction the remains of Sheffield Castle could bring significant economic, social and educational benefits to the City. It provides the chance to take the City on a journey of discovery that it is hoped will excite, enthuse and engage an entire generation of Sheffielders and visitors to the City.” (Waddington, 2009: 3)

So, perhaps after all there is still some ruin lust left in Sheffield’s policy circles (Reed 2014), and ruinphobia does not always win the day.

 

References

The Friends of Sheffield Castle (2013-14) Website: http://www.friendsofsheffieldcastle.org.uk/

Harrison, R. (2013) ‘Forgetting to remember, remembering to forget: late modern heritage practices, sustainability and the ‘crisis’ of accumulation of the past’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 19 (6): 579-595.

Hatherley, O. (2010) A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, Verso: London.

Reed, J. (2014) ‘Council “committed” to Sheffield Council plan despite lottery funding setback’, The Yorkshire Post, 25 October. http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/main-topics/general-news/council-committed-to-sheffield-castle-plan-despite-lottery-funding-setback-1-6910832

Waddington, C. (2009) Discovering Sheffield Castle – A prospectus for excavating and presenting Sheffield’s lost castle, ARS Ltd Report 2009/1, Archaeological Research Services Ltd: Sheffield.

 


 

CFP for Brook & Dodge’s proposed July 2015 conference session on Cold War Urbanism (plus my submitted abstract)

Heaton_Park_BT_Tower,_distance_view

Richard Brook and Martin Dodge presented their work on the Guardian Exchange complex at the Cold War Bunkers RGS session last week, and I’m delighted to circulate their call for papers for their proposed Cold War Urbanism session at the International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015, London, 5-10 July 2015. NB: the deadline for submissions (to them, not me) is soon: 12 September 2014.

CfP: Cold war urbanism: Histories of strategic plans, secure structures and technocratic politics in post-war Britain and beyond

Convenors: Richard Brook (Manchester School of Architecture) and Martin Dodge (University of Manchester)

In this session we wish to explore how the threat of nuclear war in the 1950s and ‘60s affected planning at a range of geographic scales. National and international telecommunications networks were built during this time as a direct response to global political conditions. The rise of atomic power and computational technologies required new facilities that were often dispersed and situated variously for secrecy and locally available expertise/experience. The zoning of land and organisation of facilities and the planning of towns is not conventionally viewed as informed by processes of the ‘warfare state’ (Edgerton, 2005), but we want to ask; What were the patterns of the built environment, economic structures and aesthetics / cultures of Cold War urbanism in Britain? As Boyd and Linehan (2013) state in the introduction to their recent book Ordnance: War + Architecture & Space, we need to be alert to ‘escalation in the intersections between the fabric of the landscape and the technologies of war and the extrusion and mutation of war from the battlefield into everyday life’. We seek papers drawing on a range of different evidential bases, archival research, personal histories and lived experiences and theoretical ideas to understand the spatiality of technological development, primarily focused upon city scales and architectural resultants.

The following is non-exhaustive list of possible themes:

+ spaces of production, testing, storage of novel military†weapons systems associated with cold war including aircraft and bombers, missiles and submarines, radar system and satellites

+ sites associated with atomic weapons and the distinct design challenges of keeping these safe and secure

+ civil nuclear power research and networks of production, with their links to militarism

+ research and manufacturing facilities for advanced digital computing technologies, programming, and data centres

+ academic research facilities associated with military funding and cold war doctrines

+ civic spaces in cities with shelters and spaces of civilian refuge

+ developments of national telecommunications and need for hardened facilities, underground bunkers and remote radio networks

+ bunkers for the strategic communications, military C&C and continuation of government in the event of war

+ architectural design, materials science and electronics deployed to counter atomic age threats

+ aesthetics of cold war urbanism, forms of visual representation of atomic power and nuclear weapons, the cultural meanings attached to new militarised landscapes and computerisation of society

+ development of transportation infrastructure, logistics and routing to take account of cold war

+ overall shaping of cities, housing renewal and suburbanisation to try to achieve population decentralisation that would reduce the risk of annihilation of citizenry in a single blast

 __________________________________________________________________________

Please send a title and brief abstract (of no more than 200 words) to either of the convenors by 12 September 2014. Also, please detail if you have any special audio-visual requirements or mobility requirements.

 # Richard Brook,†R.Brook@mmu.ac.uk, Manchester School of Architecture

 # Martin Dodge,†M.Dodge@manchester.ac.uk, Department of Geography, University of Manchester

__________________________________________________________________________

Further details on the ICHG Conference, including registration fees, are available at:

 http://www.ichg2015.org

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And here’s the abstract I’ve submitted:

Forming an everyday Cold War network – the constitutive role of law, surveying and asset management in the birth, life and death of ROC Posts

Luke Bennett & Sarah Cardwell, Department of the Natural & Built Environment, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Born in the wartime exigencies of countering Zeppelin and Gotha Bomber raids towards the end of the First World War, the Royal Observer Corps and its distributed network of observation posts grew to become an iconic part of 1939-45 homeland security across the UK. Then, during the Cold War, the ROC’s network of people and land-sites was re-purposed for the observation of atomic bomb blasts and radioactive fallout clouds. This paper will examine the constitutive role of (mundane, vanilla flavour) property law in the creation and management of the ROC’s national network of 1,500 Cold War monitoring posts. For the Cold War, this network of small underground posts, spread across fields and hilltops, was mostly held in existence via leases, and the simple surrender of these leases in 1991 (transferring these posts back to ambivalent rural landowners following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the consequent disbanding of the ROC) ‘privatised’, multiplied and diversified the actors engaged in the abandonment, decommissioning and or alternative use-making for these now de-networked structures.

 

Photo credit (photo added by Luke): 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaton_Park_BT_Tower#mediaviewer/File:Heaton_Park_BT_Tower,_distance_view.jpg

 

 

What’s so special about bunkers anyway? – a tentative answer from the RGS Cold War Bunkers sessions

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What’s so special about bunkers anyway?

That question came up yesterday, at the RGS 2014 conference’s day-long session on Cold War Bunkers. The question was actually, what’s so special about Cold War bunkers?, but widening it out opens a bigger provocation.

As I write I’m sitting in a cramped train compartment, my elbows intruding upon my neighbour as I clumsily type this. If she glances across in this artificially intimate space she will see that I’m now writing about her. I feel compelled to type quickly so that these words will scroll up out of view. But my point in mentioning my physical predicament in writing this is that here I’m in an unusually confined space, this is a place of singular purpose (conveyance), here special codes of embodiment and behaviour rule, and where necessarily I surrender to physical forces that I cannot control (pulling my body backwards at speed to Sheffield). My view from my window is fractional, my vision half blocked by labels warning me of deadly danger should I feel inclined to stick my head out of the window, or to engage with live rail and overhead wires, in each case should I proceed to instigate an escape from this capsule using the emergency hammer presented exquisitely in a glazed recess above my head. This portion of the carriage – with its contemplation of dangerous exceptional futures, and the need to script and physically enable them is oddly bunker-like, and yet if I proposed a conference session on train spaces I don’t think I’d get 18 high quality papers examining carriage-confinement from a variety of disciplines (geography, film, theatre, anthropology, history, archaeology, heritage, architecture and fine art) from the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Cuba, Germany and Switzerland.

So, why did I get them in reply to a call for papers on Cold War bunkers? Does this imply that there is something special about studying confinement, extremis, bodies and materiality in these concrete chambers?

Probably. It’s something that I need to unpack more, but here are my first thoughts on this important question, grouped for convenience (but not as a manifesto, other formulations and critiques are possible and welcome).

Bunkers as therapy

I find that often when I let slip my bunker-thing in conversation that first reactions are a mix of incredulity and distain, a why would you expose yourself to ridicule in spending time on such a perverse topic?  To which my stock reply is either it’s the universality of your distain that I want to understand, why do you regard it as unsuited to scrutiny? or to let them simply carry on talking, because usually – within a sentence or two – they’ve started telling me about their recollections of growing up in the nuclear angst of the 1980s, of relatives with some connection to war institutions or of  a room or shed at their home that – they wonder – might be a bunker. So, something’s there, just below the surface and in bunker-talk situations it comes tentatively to the surface.

The artists participating in the bunkers conference sessions (Kathrine Sandys, Matthew Flintham, Stephen Felingham and Louise K. Wilson) all acknowledged that there work was influenced by this sublimated, formative anxiety of youth (and yes, I realise that nuclear weapons are still as real as they ever where, but the cultural situation has changed, a specifically nuclear anxiety has faded from now, and become then). Nuclear bunkers, represent a there, at which to recover something that has gone (or at least changed) since then. Thus as ruins (intact or otherwise) the abandoned bunker becomes a site for evocative reflection on a war that never was, and end that never came. And yes, that refection is made from a place of safety. It is precisely because it is past that it is safe to ponder, and perhaps even to play, with that past. The bunker (each individually, and collectively in the networks and taskscapes that they comprise in aggregate) are a join-the-dots puzzle that can now be performed and whether as recovery, recuperation and/or recreation.

And within the conference room yesterday, there was a palpable shared sense of that familiar refrain (usually reached by paragraph three of the ‘let them talk’ scenario above) Phew, it’s not just me then. Frequently it felt like a group therapy session – a Bunkers Anonymous for those still haunted somehow by nuclear bunkers.

Bunker as place of work

But (and this but was possibly the most important point to emerge yesterday). This ‘bunker as post traumatic landscape’ angle (to adopt Amanda Crawley Jackson’s phrase) is not the only form of bunker signification that can be observed at work. It is not the only reason why people draw together, in thrall to the bunker.

This was exemplified by separate contributions from archaeologists Bob Clarke (University of Exeter) and Steven Leech (University of Manchester), and by contributions by Kevin Booth and Racheal Bowers of English Heritage. These places are often held in fond regard by those who once worked there. The reminiscences these bunker visitors are not about the psychic damage of having once worked with the rehearsal of world-ending. If there is trauma at all, it is that of a job, role, communal purpose having abruptly come to an end with waves of bunker decommissioning – and the standing down of the Royal Observer Corps, at the end of the Cold War and an attendant alienation effect (Clarke calls this ‘disenfranchisement’) caused by that abandonment of roles and practices that had given ROC members a  sense of purpose (and specifically that of duty and service) and a regular acquaintance with weekends of bunker dwelling camaraderie. As Steven Leech showed us, this network of identities lives on in the recursive ritual life observable at ad hoc ‘preservation’ sites, like a former RAF radar station now manned by ex-services personnel turned volunteer guides, in each stride, word and caress exhibiting their strong attachment to the knowledges, practices and artefacts of a once purposeful bunker.

Bunker as exceptional space

The artists, and also other speakers pointed to the special spatial and atmospheric properties of bunkers, with John Beck (University of Westminster) pointing to the irony of watching films about bunker confinements within similarly confined dark spaces – cinemas. Meanwhile Katherine Sandys (Rose Bruford College) explored the use of light and sound to subtly demark what would otherwise be the pitch black, non-spaces within bunkers. Louise K. Wilson took back to Orford Ness, a military site which has – in the footsteps of W.G. Sebald’s visit – achieved iconic (and some might say hackneyed) status in bunker and ruin writing. Louise pondered the pros and cons of this eternal return to the Suffolk shingle strip and constant re-meditation on the nature-reclaiming-ruins riff as it plays out upon this site and its Pagoda-like bomb fuse testing bunkers. How many ways are there to portray sea-salted air corroding military metal and concrete, and does it matter if methods are re-performed, are we too obsessed with ‘firsts’ and originality? Dutch architect Arno Geesink (Kraft Architectuur) then guided us through is exploration of Cold War structures in Arnhem, and of their novelty as forms, and the possibilities of their creative repurposing.

And the bunker is also a novel geopolitical place – the space, practices and purposes of the bunker rendering it characteristic of a space of exception, or heterotopia. Zoe Svendsen (University of Cambridge) showed how her studies of Cambridge’s bunkers had influenced subsequent performance work on the geopolitical performance of crisis decision making within confined, purely logistical space. Ian Klinke (University of Oxford), then picked up this point in his study of the West German Government’s bunker HQ, and its war game exercises there. Thus the bunker was presented as a place of unusual atmospheres, shapes and spatial arrangements. But it was also shown to materially embody distilled geopolitical goals and single purpose logistics, forming abject citadels of death and survival via mundane repeat performance of processual rehearsals within these redoubts.

Bunker as geopolitical bodies

Ian Klinke’s paper pointed to the internal and external political effects of the bunker – situating the bunker as a localisation of vital nodes of geopolitical systems, and in doing so brought forth from the inevitable focus upon the confined spaces and logistics at work there, a sense of the bunker as a place of bodily conditioning. This theme was also developed by Silvia Berger Ziauddin (University of Zurich) in her examination of the Swiss Government’s requirement that all domestic dwellings must have a basement bunker – a requirement still in force today. She pointed to the dual relationship of technical compliance with this physical directive, but with the widespread flouting of related commands seeking to condition citizen’s bodies and their weekly routines, rather than their buildings. These performative ordinances never managed to turn the Swiss into regular testers of their own bunkers, and despite such (unenforced) requirements for dry-runs and attentive upkeep of their shelters, a diverse range of cultural engagement (and non-engagement) with these ubiquitous bunkers ensued.

But bunkers come in all shapes and sizes, with markedly different degrees of visibility. In contrast to the Swiss government’s hollow exhortations seeking to prompt a public engagement with their domestic bunkers, state secrecy was the order of the day in UK Cold War – Martin Dodge (University of Manchester) and Richard Brook (Manchester School of Architecture) highlighted the limits of their archival based attempts at researching the still closed to access Guardian Exchange complex beneath the streets of central Manchester. Here, the lingering effect of official secrecy and techno-bureaucratic exceptionalism deny any glimpse of this bunker or of those who worked there. Here, the bunker’s geopolitical bodies are those conditioned to be excluded from access to it, either physically or in terms of clear representation of it.   This theme was echoed in a number of papers via the notion of ‘hiding in plain site’ – that such bunkers (in terms of there sheer physical existence at least) are never hidden from view, yet somehow we learned not to notice them. Stephen Felmingham (Plymouth College of Art) shared with us his attempts at finding ways to mobilise peripheral vision as a way of bringing the half-noticed into view in his ROC post drawings. This contrasted interestingly with Gunnar Maus’ (University of Kiel) work to characterise public engagements in (the former) West Germany with Cold War remains. Maus showed how the same mundane bunker-objects (in his distributed local stores for demolition munitions) were the subject of signifying attention by a variety of communities of practice, with each took from that material the opportunity to construct different uses, and knowledge accumulating and circulating practices about these multiple bunkers – and whether as state heritage official, bunkerologist or geo-cacher. Yet still – for most passers-by, these structures remained unnoticed amidst the West German border’s roadways, bridges and forests.

Bunker materialities

Stephen Felmingham also showed us close up the mundane materiality of the ROC Post form as it was co-opted into his drawings, performed on-site in the bowels of these small dank chambers, soot and other residues purposively incorporated into his pictures. Elsewhere we zoomed out to a wider scale. Bunkers are places where form unapologetically follows function, and yet these monolithic structures, where visible above ground can take on mountain-like or monumental forms. Artist Matthew Flintham (University of Newcastle) took us – through lingering film treatment – to a vast concrete fort establishment in Norway, co-opting a group of children as guides to the surfaces, textures and scale of this now ruined structure – in doing so positioning this man-made mountain within its landscape, unsettling clear notions of where the bunker ends and ‘nature’ begins. This point was also brought to the fore in Maria Alejanda Perez’s (University of West Virginia) work on the revolutionary and military interest in cave complexes within Cuba during the Cold War, reminding us that many of the larger bunker complexes around the world are actually modified cave systems and/or former underground stone quarries. The seeming semantic gap between man-made and natural places of confinement and shelter is destabilised by such hybridisation, concrete and limestone are two variants of essentially the same matter.  Here stalactites – to be found emergent in both – come into play as linking devices, reminding us that underground structures are more unstable than their surface cousins – under attack constantly from water ingress from above, below and all around. These subterranean chambers defy the water which they have displaced from the surrounding earth, but that water seeks ways back in, afflicting the bunker and artefacts and people in it with dampness, mold and calcite formations, testifying to the particular dynamics of water led ruination faced by the bunker, as illustrated by the early fortunes of York ROC HQ bunker after it came into the hands of English Heritage, and the curators struggled not just with questions of authenticity, but also those of air quality. The underground bunker, then – stands in unique testimony to the limits (or at least the difficulties of) human colonisation of the ‘underworld’, yet also of its affinity with the universality of cave dwelling.

So, that’s what I’ve come up with so far. The question (what makes bunkers special) is still bouncing around in my head. There is more to be done on this, and no doubt it will influence the edited volume that we’re now planning as an output from this day spent peering into the bunker.

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!

 

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