(walking into the blank page)

Magnolia, Saltaire (2022)

I recently changed job and, as I’ve been settling into new routines and getting to know new colleagues, I’ve had less time for writing. I haven’t stopped walking – though my routes have also changed. During the week, I’ve walked by the Thames and wandered around Southwark, Lambeth and Camden. At the weekend, I find myself walking, as I have for years, beside Sheffield’s rivers – the Don, the Loxley, the Rivelin. Walking remains a constant amidst all the change.

Magnolia, Saltaire (2022)

I’ve always struggled with writing, however. I express myself better through my photographs, which together, and obliquely, have created something like a notebook of my experiences, feelings, reflections. At present, as I try to write more regularly again, I’m confronting what the French refer to as ‘blank page syndrome’ – writer’s block. Picking up this blog again is way to recreate a writing routine and rebuild some confidence.

Magnolia, Saltaire (2022)

In 2020, working with Emily-Rose Baker, I published an edited volume – Invisible Wounds: Negotiating Post-Traumatic Landscapes to accompany an exhibition I co-curated with Museums Sheffield – Invisible Wounds: Landscape and Memory in Photography. Since then, my writing has stalled. Maybe it’s the pandemic, the change of job, the commute. Experts tell me it’s more likely to be my tendency to edit as I write, this sense I always have that the first draft needs to be perfect, my lack of self-confidence. Perhaps it’s just that I have gotten out of the habit. Whatever the reason, all the ideas that course freely through my mind while I walk simply freeze in my fingers as soon as I pull out my laptop.

So, a return to occursus and to this blog. I’ve blocked out regular slots in my diary to read and to write. I’m planning my new writing project and allowing myself to write in chunks, rather than overwhelming myself with vertiginous views of the whole. I’ll be writing about my walks and the peripheral urban landscapes that have been my passion and my consolation since growing up as a child in east Hull. I’ll also be thinking and writing about affect theory, the twin canons of contemporary nature and ‘edgelands’ writing, and the work of artists and photographers whose interests similarly lie in place. Some of the pieces I publish here will be reflections on my reading and research; others may be extracts from the writing project itself.

Thank you for walking with me into this blank page.

(return)

Vale Road, Sheffield, April 2022

I lie down, amidst soft shards of tarmac, flecks of glass, cans squashed by unknown fists. The scrubby ground yields forget-me-nots, coltsfoot, spring draba, herb robert. I learned these names during the pandemic, as the perimeter of my wandering contracted. Sycamore, Scots pine, bird cherry. From the trees, thin trails of birdsong. This is a place of remains. The hill that rears steeply behind me is seared with twisted dendix. Fly tippers have dumped black bags, white goods, a sagging red sofa.

I record a minute of birdsong on my phone. A gold rescue blanket, ballasted with tyres, susurrates in the breeze.

Programme of events – #interrupteur . Artist-writer Emma Bolland in residence at Jessop West, MarchApril 2019

The #interrupteur residency, now in its second year, brings artist-writers into the everyday space of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Sheffield.

The aims of the residency are to forge future links between artists, writers, academics, and students, exploring the possibilities of continuing creative/academic partnerships to impact of the life of the University and on the city of Sheffield’s creative community.

This year’s #interrupteur artist-writer in residence for the University of Sheffield’s School of Arts and Humanities is Emma Bolland. During March and April 2019, they will be spending a number of days installed in the foyer of Jessops West, working alone and with guest collaborators to facilitate a space for writing, speaking, reading, text-based performance and installation, and other interventionist surprises. Emma and their guests welcome interruption, conversation, and participation, both planned and impromptu.

Museums in Context and Partnership: April 19th-20th, National Railway Museum, York.

We’re hosting a conference in collaboration with the rather wonderful National Railway Museum in York.

In this two-day conference, we will be discussing the role of heritage institutions in our cities and communities, and how museums, galleries and higher education might work together for teaching, research and public engagement purposes. We will be drawing upon expertise from both the culture and heritage industry and from academic practitioners, and the conference will serve as a space for discussion of both the benefits and challenges of such initiatives, as well as an ideas exchange on best practice.

This conference is free to attend.  Register for your free place here.

PROGRAMME

19th April: Day 1 – Museums, Cities and Communities 

8.45am – 9am: Registration & coffee

9.00am – 9.10am: Welcome and introduction – Professor Dawn Hadley (Acting Vice President for Arts and Humanities, University of Sheffield)

9.10am – 10.40am: Museums and galleries in urban contexts: case studies

Laura Sillars (Artistic Director at Site Gallery, Sheffield)

Helen Featherstone (Director of the Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust & Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield)

Nicola Freeman (Director of Engagement & Learning at The Hepworth, Wakefield)

Anna Stolyarova (Director of the Amsterdam Street Art Museum, Amsterdam)

10.40am – 11am: Museum and gallery case studies: discussion and questions

11.00am: Coffee

11.10am – 12.10pm: Professor Dawn Hadley (University of Sheffield) & Nick Bax (Human)

‘Castlegate, Sheffield: heritage-led urban regeneration’

12.10pm: Lunch

1.15pm – 2.35pm: Panel 1

Adrian Steel (The Postal Museum)

‘Delivered: The Postal Museum’s new home in the heart of Clerkenwell’

Geoff Ginn (University of Queensland, Australia)

‘Heritage and Renewal: The North Ipswich Railway Workshops, the Queensland Museum and the challenge of ‘catalyst’ investment’

Gabor Stark (University for the Creative Arts)

‘EKR – The Friendly Army: Collective Remembrance and Collaborative Placemaking’

2.35pm – 4.00pm: Panel 2

Andrew Parkin / Sally Waite (Tyne & Wear Archives / Newcastle University)

‘Building a Community Curriculum: the Shefton Collection as a resource for schools’

Cynthia Johnston (School of Advanced Study, University of London),

‘A Pioneering Partnership: Blackburn Museum and the University of London; connecting cultures of research and management’

Kazz Morohashi (Norwich University of the Arts)

‘What did the dog see? Engaging with family audience through live listening and Go Walkeez’

Sue Perks (University for the Creative Arts)

‘The Importance of exhibition projects involving community engagement: my work with Aik Saath’

4.00pm: Coffee

4.15pm – 5.00pm: Andrew McLean (Assistant Director & Head Curator, NRM York)

‘Permanent displays as nexus of collaboration’

5.30 pm: Close

20th April: Day 2 – Museums, Galleries and Higher Education 

8.45am-9.15am: Registration & coffee

9.15am – 10.40am: Panel 1

Judith King (Arts & Heritage)

‘Meeting Point: Museums and contemporary artists working together’

Michael Eades (School of Advanced Study, University of London; Festival Curator and Manager, Being Human)

‘Plugging a Gap? ‘Being Human’ and a national perspective on university/museum partnerships’

Sarah Geere & Chris Baker (University of Sheffield)

‘The changing landscape of impact, knowledge exchange and partnership working’

10.40am – 12.00pm: Panel 2

Mike Esbester / Peter Thorpe (University of Portsmouth / NRM)

‘Crowdsourcing, collaboration, archives & accidents: the ‘Railway Work, Life & Death’ project’

Jonathan Aylen & Bob Gwynne (University of Manchester / NRM)

‘From Steam to E-Mail: how computers shaped the railways and railways shaped computing’

Barbara Warnock / Christine Schmidt (Wiener Library, London)

‘Collaborating with academia – the experiences of a small museum’

12pm: Lunch

1.00pm – 2.20pm: Panel 3

Linda Thomson (University College London)

‘Museums on Prescription: museums-based social prescribing scheme for lonely older adults’

Helena Chance / Hannah Ellams (Buckinghamshire New University / Wycombe Museum)

‘“Living, Laughing and Learning in High Wycombe Furniture Town”: a Wycombe Museum and Buckinghamshire New University Partnership’

Rachel Pattinson (Newcastle University)

‘From Warhorse to the Wombles: Seven Stories and Newcastle University’

2.20pm – 4.00pm: Panel 4

Sophie Vohra (University of York, NRM)

‘The Academic and the Museum: The Benefits and Difficulties of a Collaborative Doctoral Award’

Lauren Stokeld (University of York, NRM)

‘Learning the Ropes: Research Students in Public Engagement and a Question of Expertise’

Sarah Morton (University of Bath)

‘The grass isn’t always greener: Towards good practice guidelines for student projects and placements in the heritage sector’

Simona Valeriani (Victoria and Albert Museum, Royal College of Art)

‘Between Museum and Academia: Combining Research and Postgraduate Teaching at the V&A’

4.00pm: Coffee

4.15pm – 5.15pm: Professor Julian Richards (Director of WRoCAH, University of York)

‘Opportunities and Challenges of Partnership Working’

5.15pm – 6.30pm: Route 57 & Railway Cultures – Publications launch & drinks reception

Dan Eltringham (University of Sheffield)

‘Editing the Loco-Motion: Creative Writing, Print and the Museum’

Readings from contributors to Route 57

Islands, camps, zones: towards a nissological reading of Georges Perec

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I’m currently writing a chapter for a book on Perec (which will be published in 2019) that presents a nissological reading of Perec’s work.

Nissology, a term coined by Grant McCall in 1996, derives from the Greek nisos (island) and describes the interdisciplinary theory of islands and islandness. My chapter takes as its starting point three case studies from the Perecquian corpus: the imaginary island of W (which appears in W, ou le souvenir d’enfance, the semi-autobiographical text that was first published in 1975) and which functions as an allegory of the Nazi concentration camps; Ellis Island (the US migrant inspection centre that is the subject of Perec and Robert Bober’s 1980 film, Récits d’Ellis Island); and the Parisian îlots insalubres (usually translated as ‘unhealthy zones’, but more literally, small islands – or islets – of insalubrity) that dominated French planning discourse from the late nineteenth century right through the 4th Republic (there is still mention of ‘tubercular islands’ in planning documents dated 1956), and in one of which la rue Vilin (where Perec was born and which features in L’Infra-ordinaire, W and the unfinished Lieux project) was situated. The main thrust of the argument is that around these major islands, and through a series of textual and historical allusions, Perec constellates a broader carceral archipelago, made up of dispersed yet interconnected island territories that are located in multiple space-times. This nissological reading – which also draws in some of Perec’s many references to other insular places (including Madagascar, Tierra del Fuego, Pulau Bidong and Jules Verne’s imaginary Lincoln Island) suggests that Perec is concerned less with individual islands (or specific insular regimes) than with the ways in which island topographies are produced as networked sites in which sovereign power and bio-politics intersect. Finally, my chapter explores the ways in which Perec’s archipelagic topographies, when understood relationally, in both spatial and temporal terms, can be seen to speak both to the complex and extended networks of power that subtend the organization of the modern world, but also the ongoing (and performative) manifestations of the past in what Derek Gregory (2004) has insightfully described as the colonial present.

Railway Cultures

In January 2018, and in collaboration with the National Railway Museum in York, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Sheffield launched the Railway Cultures Project. The outcomes include 2 books (more on which later) and a conference, which will take place on April 19-20. The conference – Museums in Context and Partnership – will be free to attend and we’ll be publishing the final programme next week, at which point you’ll also be able to reserve a place. We do hope you’ll be able to join us for what promises to be a fantastic day!

Art + Copyright/Copyleft : A Symposium and Exhibition

Call for papers

A symposium: Art+Copyright/Copyleft

June 16th 2017 at Bank Street Arts, Sheffield

11am – 4pm

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: 

Richard Taylor, Lawyer and partner at DLA Piper LLP, specialist in Intellectual Property

Professor Robert Burrell, Head of School of Law, University of Sheffield

There will also be an exhibition of works by  Bryan Eccleshall, June 16th (including private view in the evening) – June 17th 2017.

You can listen to Richard Taylor’s recent programme on BBC Radio 4, Copyright or Wrong? (including an interview with Bryan Eccleshall) here.

occursus and Bank Street Arts are pleased to invite proposals for 20-minute contributions (including, but not limited to, papers, presentations and readings) that reflect critically on the issues and practicalities of copyright and copyleft, with particular reference to the arts (broadly interpreted).

Abstracts (300 words maximum) for 20-minute papers or presentations and a short biography (100 words maximum) should be sent to Amanda Crawley Jackson (a.j.jackson@sheffield.ac.uk) by May 15th 2017. Decisions will be announced in mid-May.

To reserve a place at the conference, please email Amanda Crawley Jackson (a.j.jackson@sheffield.ac.uk). Please note that there will be an attendance fee of £10, to include a light lunch and afternoon refreshments (tea, coffee, biscuits).  Attendance fees will be donated to Bank Street Arts.

Should you wish to purchase one of the works exhibited by Bryan Eccleshall on June 16th-17th, please note that 50% of the sale price will be donated to Bank Street Arts. Furthermore, should Bryan sell his recent work, After Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, in the course of this selling show, he will be donating 100% of the sale price to Bank Street Arts.  A catalogue of the exhibition, including prices, will be made available before and during the exhibition.

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10bn Talks – A series of events at the University of Sheffield for L2 Achieve More

Running between February 13th – March 3rd 2017, the 10bn Talks accompany an online course open to all second-year students at the University of Sheffield. Many of these events are open to the wider University and the public.

As one of the two academic leads working on Level 2 Achieve More: 10bn, I’m looking forward to hearing colleagues including Wyn Morgan, Tony Ryan, Megan Blake, Casey Strine, Tom Webb, Alastair Buckley, Cristina Cerulli, Jackie Labbe, Marco Viceconti, Annamaria Carusi, Paul White and many others talk about issues relating to a predicted global population of 10bn.

L2 students from all disciplines, faculties and departments at the University of Sheffield can sign up for L2 Achieve More here.

Making Common Ground at Furnace Park: place, purpose and familiarisation

lukebennett13

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I’ve been increasingly exploring the stabilities of place. In recent years writers on place have tended to emphasise place’s flux: the way in which it is a momentary, fragile assemblage of the varied intentions, actions and desires of those who happen to be present in (or otherwise having influence over) any seemingly coherent action-space. I get this kick against formalism, but I think that it tends to present place as too fluid. My recent projects have been examining various ways by which places become stabilised (and replicated). My recent article (details here) on the role of law in shaping the form and proliferation of the ‘classic’ cotton mill published in Geoforum earlier this year is an early outing on this. And now – after three years of gestation, my article co-written with Amanda Crawley Jackson of the University of Sheffield has been published in Social and Cultural Geography

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Edinburgh (March 2016)

We walked along the river and I don’t remember any of our conversations, just that it was good to walk. My memories of this trip – starbursts: the café where we ate éclairs; the weak morning sun coming through the thin yellow curtains in our rented house in Pilrig; Ocean Terminal – empty, bluntly lit, shops closed; figuring out how the buses worked and travelling over and over between Princes Street and Leith.

I had not remembered that the trees were leafless, their branches thickly crosshatched across a pale grey sky.

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Sheffield riverscape (1)

I walked with Daisy along the River Don from the Wardsend cemetery to Neepsend. At Wardsend, we started off a little way down the railway lines that run stark and clean through the undulating and overgrown cemetery, then veered off to follow the river itself, along the newly surfaced track that cuts through the vast mounds of debris – spolia from demolished works? – that loom either side. The electricity pylons hummed and crackled overhead and the thunderous engines of quad bikes rumbled and reverberated in an undefinable distance.

Everywhere we walk, waste. And amidst the waste, lilac and jack-in-the-hedge. The river bank is strewn with tyres and bottles and fast food wrappers, mattresses and plastic chairs, podgy black bin bags. A sign screwed to one of the metal kissing gates put there to stop the quad bikes : fly tippers – we are watching you.

At Wardsend, on the hill amidst the silver birch, there has been a fire. Graves squat in scorched earth, black tipped tendrils clasping shards of stone, displacing fragments of Victorian ironwork.

The Hillsborough playing fields are to our right. A man in a vermilion jersey sparks across the pitch. A sheep’s skull – or perhaps it is just a carrier bag – is revealed, briefly, as the river washes across it. Bottle-green, muddy mallards drift.

Neepsend. Eviscerated drag cars and deserted roads, leading to an empty, elevated horizon.

004 – Theory-Parkour – Lamb on Parkour, Architecture and the Body – Urban Cultural Studies Podcast

urbanculturalstudies

UCS 004 Lamb on Parkour, Architecture and the Body (12 August 2013) Conversational interview inspired by scholar Matthew Lamb’s article “Misuse of The Monument: The Art of Parkour and the Discursive Limits of a Disciplinary Architecture,” forthcoming in the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies (1.1, 2013). Pitched at a theoretical level (complementing the specific place-bound analysis of  Monument Circle in Indianapolis found in the article) discussion centers on the origins (and varieties) of parkour–an athletic engagement with the built environment (misuse through climbing, dropping, vaulting, jumping…)–and the conditioning of the body in place and as subject to architectural and urban forces.

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# MAPS /// The Age of the Drone: No-Fly Zones and the Future Fear of Blue Sky

There’s some interesting work being done at the moment on drone theory, particularly in the light of Grégoire Chamayou’s thought-provoking publication, Théorie du drone (2013). Along with the piece below, originally published on thefunambulist.net, I recommend reading Derek Gregory‘s reflections on Chamayou’s work, which can be found here.

The Funambulist

Fragment of a US map showing no-fly zones for drones by Map Box

In the recent days, two similar incidents were reported around the presidential residencies of France and the United States. On January 16, a small drone has been seen flying above the Élysée (French presidential palace), revealing a breach in the security of the complex, only two months after photographs of President Hollande inside the gardens were published, leaving the presidential staff clueless about whether these photos had been taken by a drone or not (the magazine denied using one). Two days ago, a similar incident occurred this time in the vicinity of the White House in Washington DC, when a 2×2-foot commercial drone crashed in its gardens. The spectacle of the American news channels exacerbated this almost non-event (it was candidly piloted by a drunk government worker) to the point that CNN anchor Wolf Pritzker suggested to set up the equivalent…

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Painting a picture

A fascinating blog post that speaks precisely of the area in which we are making Furnace Park. It’s a strange serendipity that on the 1873 map, the space occupied by what is now the Furnace Park site is marked out in a red pen…. We have also done a little research on the Jewish community that lived in this area in the 19th century. See https://occursus.org/2012/06/15/quiet-flows-the-don/

In search of Harris

After leaving Russia[1], my great-grandparents’ path of travel would have likely taken them through Austria-Hungary or Germany to the nearest railway station whence they would have crossed Europe to a North Sea port in Germany, Holland or Belgium.  There they would have boarded a ship for England, probably travelling third class where conditions were hardly luxurious, but adequate for the two-day crossing.

Many such migrants passed through Sheffield on their way from Hull to Manchester, Liverpool and ultimately America.  Some decided to stay and set up as watchmakers, jewellers or tailors. [2]  My great-grandparents were among them.

Typical of migrants in a strange land, new arrivals often went directly to members of their own family who had already settled in England, or else to people from their village back home. [3]  The Jewish community, which grew from a base of about 60 in the 1840’s to…

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An end….and a new beginning

A fascinating blog post that speaks precisely of the area in which we are making Furnace Park.

 

In search of Harris

After my great-grandfather’s death in November 1876, it seems that there was little reason for his widow and infant son to remain in Sheffield.  Within two years, they had left town and, to my knowledge, they would never return.

Capture Shepherd St, Google Maps, 2012

I’d always wondered what had happened to Shepherd Street and its surrounding area in the 10 years since I’d first visited.  And thanks to the wonders of Google Maps and Street View, I did not have to make a trip to Sheffield to find out.

From my desktop several thousand kilometres away, it seems that the area has deteriorated further and some businesses have closed their doors.  If it had all looked rather dreary in 2003, then it is even more so now.

However, there is a ray of sunshine on the horizon.

My earlier hunch about the area being ripe for urban renewal has proved…

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Rwanda : post-traumatic landscapes

At the moment I am working on a paper about images made by photographers and photojournalists in Rwanda in the years following the 1994 genocide. As part of my research, I have watched two interesting documentaries, the first by Jean-Christophe Klotz, Des images contre un massacre (2006) and the second by Bernard Bellefroid, Rwanda, les collines parlent (2005).

# WEAPONIZED ARCHITECTURE /// The Banlieue Archipelago: Cartographic Inventory of the Cités Around Paris

The Funambulist

Maps created for the purpose of this article / Download them here in high resolution (6.6 MB)
(license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)

As I recently wrote in an article about Mathieu Kassowitz’s La Haine, I will probably write a lot about Paris’s banlieues in the coming year(s), as I will be soon returning to live on that side of the Atlantic ocean. I spent the last weeks elaborating documents to illustrate what these “banlieues” really are. This is as useful to people who are not so familiar with Paris’s geography as for people who live in the center of the city, since most of the latter rarely venture in the suburbs. The maps presented above, associated with the list of illustrations below, therefore attempt to present a geographic inventory of the “Cités” and “Zones Urbaines Sensibles” (Sensitive Urban Zones) that exist in the first four zones of Paris’s region’s public transportation system…

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# CINEMA /// Banlieues and Police: La Haine’s Famous Tracking Shot

The Funambulist

Still from La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz (1995)

If, like me, you were a French teenager in the 1990s, you probably have a powerful remembrance of Mathieu Kasovitz’s La Haine (1995), in particular of the tracking shot that starts from the back of DJ Cut Killer mixing Assassin and NTM’s (the historical reference of Parisian hip-hop) “Nique la Police” (Fuck the Police) and Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” (I do not regret anything) and slowly flies over the Cité des Muguets in the suburbs of Paris (see the successive stills assembled below). This film remains a narrative reference to the situation of the Parisian banlieues (suburbs) where the most precarious populations, which include an important part of the North and West African first and second generations of immigration from French former colonies. It is in my plans to expose how technocratic urbanism has lead to the systematic spatial…

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