Wrought – confessions of a wandering mind (Art and Work Symposium)

I spoke at the Occursus/Art Sheffield symposium today on ‘Art and Work’. Big thanks to the organisers and all who took part in this fascinating cross-disciplinary event. My tumble of day-thoughts was kicked off by first speaker, Bryan Ecclesall offering up the apposite view that:

“history [is] a series of accreted surfaces that are more or less revealed by the present [through the active looking or ignoring of the eyes and actions of positioned viewers]”

Here are my slides:

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My presentation in anothers’ words

And here is the summary of my talk, as ably interpreted and tweeted live by the event reporters (Isla & Ben of Article magazine). An impressive job.

“Luke Bennett’s presentation focused on the theme of the past tense of work. Sheffield as a “working” city and the possibilities of reading the landscape to combine the different points of view from the eyes of the law, the social and the pedestrian and history as a system of accreted surfaces.

Luke uses his blog to question these themes, through wandering and wondering- are these activities of work, labour and production? A way in which places are made by our work practices- realm of on site practice and their materialities.

Luke is both an environmental lawyer and a social researcher – wanting to blend the different ways of reading and engaging with the city, the reality physicality of city-process carried out by lawyers, surveyors and inhabitants- all read through the concrete of the city and its ghosts.

The materialities are undeniable in the city and its uses, yet much is passed unnoticed until the human element engages with it- in a crack that causes destruction or accident that would otherwise be disengaged with. Luke is fascinated by valorization of mundane elements of the built environment- tracing psychogeography, urban exploration and play.

Luke urges us to notice the ghosts of the present and their fear of usage/non usage/liabilities/compliance, the ghosts of the future- forward gazing/ contingencies/planning/designing – how are we going to do it?/afford it?- and the ghosts of the past, a not fully known past always haunting the present and future.

We all see the concrete from partial cultural standpoints that shape how we see the places that we use. Getting to the science of the matter, Luke was here to investigate why we see and notice what is noticed and not noticed in the landscape and want to bring these together.  To blend and explore the intersection of multiple – heterogeneous- perspectives, from legal scholarship: deductive, hermetic-study as code-system, social science- inductive/ generalisations- (make claims to “scientificness”), and the arts- phenomenonological- specificity of one thing looking at rather than code/general.

Luke works “towards a psychogeography of the dropped curb”- what is missing is a sense of the mundane shaping force of law- adding the concrete and combining the ghosts. To “trace the humdrum within the spectacular” through noticing everything- from all angles and doing something with the outcome.

 Out of a carrier bag- Luke produced a brick- and embodied labour of the landscape-from the landscape to build the landscape. Hoping to trace the history and document an archive photographical depiction of this- Luke demonstrates the ability of landscape to be seen through all angles, law, concrete, ghosts and all.”

More resources and reflection on this event are available at the conference blogsite: http://sheffield-art-and-work.tumblr.com/


About lukebennett13
Reader & Course Leader, BSc Hons Real Estate, Sheffield Hallam University, UK. I TEACH: built environment law to construction, surveying, real estate and environmental management students. I RESEARCH: metal theft; urban exploration & recreational trespass; occupiers' perceptions of liability for their premises. I THINK: about the links between ideas, materialities and practices in the built environment. I WAS: an environmental lawyer working in commercial practice for 17 years before I joined academia in 2007. I EXPLAIN: the aims of my blogsite site here: https://lukebennett13.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/prosaic/ LINKS: Twitter: @lukebennett13; Archive: http://shu.academia.edu/lukebennett. EPITAPH: “He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances.” James Joyce, Dubliners

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