I began a project in 2013. Today, I found this writing stored as a draft in WordPress and have begun also to return to files I’ve recovered from an old laptop.
So this (start again).
My research focuses on places that are scarred by the past and how we might live in, and care for them, in the present and the future. I am interested in how the ‘back stories’ of certain places leak messily into the present; how ‘memory-mud’ (Sinclair 2011: 59) clogs sites with difficult pasts, making it difficult to imagine if and how they might be repaired. The troubling, more-than-human agency of what I call post-traumatic landscapes doesn’t necessarily cause us to remember what happened there. Instead, they stubbornly stop us forgetting.
In 2013-2016, I focused on ways of working within the intimate, resistive manifoldness of brownfield sites, developing an adaptive art of doing, seeing and being that acknowledges the limits (financial, material, discursive, practical) of engagements with wasteland sites and their reuse. I looked at how the arts might encourage (and begin to implement at ground level) radical imaginaries of other futures, particularly with regard to the damaged urban topographies that emerged from our industrial past. What, I asked, is the place of utopian thinking today and what role do the resistances and potentialities afforded by the obdurate matter of the past play in this creative process?
In exploring plasticity’s relevance to urban change and stasis, I wanted to better understand the ground and matter of difficult sites including but not limited to our “live lab”, Furnace Park. Inspired by research in neuroplasticity, I continue to edge towards a non-linear understanding of the fates and futures of recalcitrant places and spaces, exploring how emotional attachment, chance, contingency and synergistic effects produce anticipatable and unexpected ruptures, resistances and counter-effects. The aim is to find, through the voices of the arts and humanities, ways of describing these non-linear processes, awkward flows, memories, legacies and dreams. Working with creative practitioners to imagine how things might be otherwise (Rancière 2004), part of my work is about using ‘weird’ realism as a tool to unlearn normative perceptions of damaged, abandoned and neglected sites. Is it possible to bring about a ‘critical relation to the normal and habitual’, along with a commitment to ‘moving between multiple ways of seeing the world’ (Locas 2010: 18).