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Topographies of the Obsolete Introduction: Exploring the Site Specific and Associated Histories of Post-Industry. Symposium.

BROWNSWORD, Neil (2015) Topographies of the Obsolete Introduction: Exploring the Site Specific and Associated Histories of Post-Industry. Symposium. In: Topographies of the Obsolete, 7 November 2015, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PH. (Unpublished)

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Abstract or description

Topographies of the Obsolete is an international artistic research project initiated by Bergen Academy of Art and Design that explores the post-industrial landscape and its associated socio-economic histories, industrial architecture, production remnants through a range of interdisciplinary artistic practice. The project primarily explores how ceramic and clay can be understood as both material and subject in contemporary art practice. (website: http://topographies.khib.no). This one-day symposium brought together eight academics to discuss research strands uncovered through the project through a range of inter-disciplinary perspectives.

Brownsword organised the symposium in collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology and co-presented the introduction to the symposium (abstract below).

Symposium details:
In ‘The Natural History of Staffordshire’, Dr Robert Plot, the first keeper of the Ashmolean Museum describes an early account of the county’s pre-industrial pottery manufacturing during the late 17th century. Apart from documenting potters’ practices and processes, Plot details the region’s natural clays that were once fundamental to its rise as a world renowned industrial centre for ceramics. Yet in recent decades, the factories and communities of labour that historically developed around these natural resources have been subject to dramatic downturn. Global economics have resulted in much of the region’s ceramic industry outsourcing to low-cost overseas production.

Today, despite ongoing attempts to regenerate the city of Stoke-on-Trent, the economic fallout and human cost of the decline of traditional industry remain omnipresent throughout the six towns. Plot’s pre-industrial mapping of North Staffordshire in the 1680’s, has been echoed through the artistic research project Topographies of the Obsolete, which has recently surveyed the region’s post-industrial landscape through a range of multi-media responses primarily centred around the former Spode factory site. Through various phases of on-site practice-led investigation, interconnected strands of discourse emerged that examine the socio-economic impact of globalization upon community and place, the contemporary ruin, and the artist as post-industrial archivist/archaeologist.

Topographies of the Obsolete frames a particular point in time through which artists have opened up a different perspective to the complexities of socio–economic decline addressed by politicians, economists, historians and ex-employees. It documents both the aftermath of the Spode factory closure and the repurposing of its post-industrial fabric through processes of culture-led regeneration.

This one-day symposium will reflect upon this recent history. The topics uncovered through Topographies of the Obsolete will be expanded upon by a panel of experts previously unconnected to the project, from the fields of art and design, anthropology, urban sociology, critical theory and cultural geography. It will offer a broad range of inter- disciplinary perspectives surrounding the effects of de-industrialisation upon communities and landscapes, and the urban renewal of such cities through art and culture-led strategies.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Additional Information: Abstracts: Topographies of the Obsolete Introduction: Exploring the Site Specific and Associated Histories of Post-Industry Neil Brownsword and Anne Helen Mydland, Bucks New University/Bergen Academy of Art and Design. The ‘Potteries’ - the name given to the six towns that constitute Stoke-on-Trent, remain one of the few cities in Britain still associated with an industry that for centuries has shaped the areas economic life and physical landscape. Yet during the last three decades, escalating international competition and economic unrest has destabilized Stoke-on- Trent’s global monopoly. Throughout this period the physical evidence of the effects of deindustrialisation have remained commonplace throughout the city, as sites of historic manufacture and its related infrastructure faced closure and demolition. Since 2008, the UK’s ‘recession dominated’ financial climate has resulted in lengthy delays in attempts to regenerate the city. The former Spode Factory, a keystone of Stoke-on- Trent’s industrial heritage, remains one such site at the beginnings of its contemporary re-purposing. In 2012, the British Ceramics Biennial invited Bergen Academy of Art and Design to develop a site-specific artistic response to the former Spode site, as a key element of their 2013 exhibition programme. Following six onsite residencies, more than 50 international participants, including artists, historians and theoreticians, have been involved in this project. Through various phases of on-site practice-led investigation, interconnected strands of discourse emerged that examine the socio economic impact of globalization upon community and place, the contemporary ruin, and the artist as post- industrial archivist/archaeologist. Topographies of the Obsolete frames a particular point in time, through which artists have opened up a different perspective to the complexities of socio–economic decline addressed by politicians, economists, historians and ex-employees. It documents both the aftermath of the Spode factory closure, and the repurposing of its post-industrial fabric through an early phase of its culture-led regeneration. The projects context and outcomes will be elucidated during this introduction, presenting a framework that will be expanded upon by the invited panel of speakers.
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Art and Design
Event Title: Topographies of the Obsolete
Event Location: Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PH
Event Dates: 7 November 2015
Depositing User: Neil BROWNSWORD
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2019 10:41
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2019 10:41
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/5645

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