Lashed to the world: exploring building services with Slavoj Žižek



“Inside and Outside never cover the entire space: there is always an excess of a third space which gets lost in the division into Outside and Inside. In human dwellings, there is an intermediate space which is disavowed: we all know it exists, but we do not really accept its existence – it remains ignored and (mostly) unsayable. The main content of this invisible space is excrement (canalization), but also the complex network of electricity, digital links, etc. – all this is contained in narrow spaces between walls or floors.” (Žižek 2009)

So writes Slavoj Žižek in a rather rambling rumination ranging across class struggle and post modern architecture. But it is in a few corners of this piece that he touches on something that I find worth exploring here: his passing ruminations on the ‘invisible’ zones and elements of everyday buildings. This is a preoccupation that has been hovering in…

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Conference & Call for Papers: Social Water

Social Water: an Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Workshop
25th October 2013, University of York

Call for Papers

Water sustains life, but how might it also be said to sustain communities? Social and cultural engagements with water have become a rapidly expanding research area, a development which has challenged and complicated the previously dominant technical–managerial view of water as a ‘natural resource’. There is a growing realisation that ecologically-responsible interactions with water can only come about through an understanding of how people experience, use and ‘think with’ water as a particular type of substance that lies somewhere between nature and culture.

Veronica Strang proposes that: ‘Water’s diversity is […] a key to its meanings’ (2005: 98). Water comes in many forms: it can be salty, fresh, flowing, frozen, or gaseous; it can be ‘blue’ or ‘green’ (Falkenmark 1997), grey, or ‘virtual’ (Allen 2011). Water might be understood as a materialisation of structures of social power (Swyngedouw 2004), a substance through whose movements we can trace histories of colonialism, underdevelopment and the flow of capital. It can be a space of leisure, sport, or hedonism, or a site of danger, the origin of disasters such as tsunamis or droughts. Perhaps crucially, thinking about water is inseparable from thinking about its opposite, land.

This workshop takes water’s various forms as a provocation and invitation for postgraduates to present similarly diverse critical perspectives on water’s social meanings. It offers a unique opportunity for constructive interdisciplinary conversations on this emerging and vital subject.

Topics to consider might include, but are not limited to:

·Water privatisation
·Water on film
·Water in ecocriticism and environmental studies
·Gendered engagements with water
·Water in religion, performance and ritual
·Waterscapes – the sea, rivers, coastlines, marshes
·Disasters and reconstruction
·Embodiment, memory and affect

The day will feature a keynote speech by Dr Kimberley Peters, Lecturer in Human Geography at Aberystwyth University, and will conclude with a roundtable discussion led by Professor Graham Huggan of the School of English at the University of Leeds.

This event is hosted by the White Rose Research Studentship Network on Hydropolitics: Community, Environment and Conflict in an Unevenly Developed World. It has been generously supported by the University of York Humanities Research Centre.

Abstracts of 250 words for 20 minute papers should be sent to Hannah Boast,, by 13 September 2013.

Furnace Park // neighbours (1)

At the top of the Furnace Park site, you will see the wonderful Don Cutlery Works. Built in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, the complex (which originally included offices, workshops and warehouses) was home – until around 1910 – to Southern and Richardson, merchants and manufacturers of cutlery.

The building was listed by English Heritage, who note that “In addition to the complex’s intactness, it meets the criteria for listing of post-1840 industrial buildings at a national level as the form and layout of the buildings clearly express a regional specialism specific to the nature of the metal working in Sheffield. Don Cutlery Works also has significant Group Value with Doncaster’s Cementation Furnace (Scheduled Monument) on the opposite side of the road.” (Source: British Listed Buildings




Side wall of Don Cutlery Works, from the upper part of Furnace Park


Doncaster’s Cementation Furnace now sits awkwardly ring-fenced by the HSBC car park. Built in 1848, the furnace was operational throughout the Second World War and the white structure which sits at the top of the cone is a blackout cover. The Furnace is Grade II listed and a scheduled national monument.

All photos Amanda Crawley Jackson, 2012-2013

Everyday Growing Cultures

Everyday Growing Cultures project

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

15:30 to 20:30, The Showroom, Sheffield

Everyday Growing Cultures is a six month pilot study that focuses on the potentially transformative value of connecting two currently disparate communities: allotment growers and the open data community. Based on comparative research in Manchester and Sheffield, the project explores the potential effects of digital engagement and open data for allotment holders and those on waiting lists to build stronger, more active communities, benefit local economies and improve environmental sustainability and food security.

Since mid February we have run a number of events in Manchester and Sheffield, working with growing communities to identify potential food growing spaces. We have talked to local councils about taking some of our ideas forward and how this might take place. We have requested allotment data through the Freedom of Information Act. We have looked at how council websites provide information to potential plot holders. We are in the process of surveying people on waiting lists. We are making a film about the project to highlight these important issues.

With this public event we would like to share and discuss our findings with as many people as possible. So if you care about growing food in cities, please join us to discuss these issues! The event will run as follows:

15:30 – registration open

16:30 – 17:30  – Introduction to the project and the debate (prompt start)

17:30 – 17:45  – Showing of Everyday Growing Cultures project film

17:45 – 18:00  – Short break

18:00 – 19:30  – Free feature film! We are excited to include the award winning documentary Grown in Detroit to our programme. Click the link for info and trailer.

19:30 – 20:30  – Drinks reception

To register for this free event please follow this link:

From Ian Humphrey, Research Associate, Growing Cultures, University of Sheffield

Incomplete Canvases

Talk by Dr Kirsty Bell, Associate Professor of French, Mount Allison University, Canada.
Incomplete canvases. Stories of painters in Quebec fiction.

My talk will have two main parts: literary historical and thematic/theoretical. I will consider the late emergence of the painter character in Quebec’s literary history (especially when compared to the important painter novels of the French 19th century) and endeavour to consider some of the cultural phenomena that may explain the emergence of this character in post-1960s Quebec literature. Within these novels, I will also examine the recurring motif of the unfinished work of art by presenting vignettes based on 3 novels. The story of painters in Quebec fiction is, to some extent, a search for completeness and also an attempt to understand the meanings and values of that which cannot be finished. Thus, the theme of the incomplete canvas also allows for a more theoretical consideration of “finishedness” in artistic creation. In sort, the goal is to show how these novels contend with the theme and theory of incompleteness in art and to demonstrate how these novels fit into the story of painters in Quebec’s literary history.

The talk will be free and open to all. It will take place in Seminar Room 3, Jessop West, University of Sheffield, at 5pm on Thurs 16th May. Wine will be provided.

Conference on Antonin Artaud at MMU

The Institute of Humanities and Social Science Research: Centre of Research in English at Manchester Metropolitan University present a one day symposium on ‘Antonin Artaud: Affects, Effects, Bodies’.

Wednesday 24th April 2013

Artaud’s influence on theory and practice in the arts is substantial. As a playwright, director actor, film scenarist, poet, artist and critic he challenged existing modes of working and thinking in ways that are still generating considerable interest and debate. His iconoclastic work, which brings the affective body and its creative potential to the fore, has shaped artistic experiment and new modes of critical thinking and writing and substantial critical studies of Artaud have been written by Derrida, Deleuze and others. Diagnosed as clinically schizophrenic, Artaud’s writings and drawings are also of considerable interest to psychologists and art therapists. The event should bring together research students, theorists and practitioners from fields both within and outside the academy.
The workshop will take place from 12.45pm-5.30pm in Geoffrey Manton room 332

This is a one day open-to-all workshop and we will seek to engage with an audience that spans academics, research students and the public.
12.45pm Welcome from Anna Powell
1pm Xavier Aldana Reyes (MMU): Artaud’s Theatre of Affect: From Cruelty to Horror
2pm Ros Murray (Manchester): Artaud on Paper
3pm break
3.30pm Anna Powell (MMU): Passional Bodies: Artaud’s graphics as interstitial force
4.30pm Jay Murphy (Aberdeen): The Artaud Effect
5.30pm close
Please register on Eventbrite here:
Places are limited!

Abstracts and links to speaker biographies:
Xavier Aldana Reyes (MMU) Artaud’s Theatre of Affect: From Cruelty to Horror
The aim of this paper is twofold. On the one hand, it intends to explore the affective qualities of Artaud’s plans for a theatre of cruelty in order to argue that spectatorial impact lies at the heart of his wider dramatic project. On the other, it suggests that his plays and scenarios show a symbiotic relationship between the dramatic medium and the cinematic. Although Artaud never specifically wrote a Horror film, I argue that his thoughts on the affective role of cinema seem to transcend surrealism and may even have found an alternative home in the corporeal concerns of the Horror genre.
I start by discussing some of the writings in The Theatre and Its Double (1938), particularly how they articulate an enquiry on the affective drive behind the theatre of cruelty. To illustrate the practical use of Artaud’s ideas I focus on the connections between two of his dramatic works, the unsuccessful adaptation The Cenci (1935) and his (in)famous scenario The Spurt of Blood (1925). The differences between Artaud and Shelley’s treatment of the same material forThe Cenci serve to show the structural and conceptual preoccupations behind the former’s oeuvre. I complement my conclusions here with an analysis of The Spurt of Blood which foregrounds the potentially transgressive and challenging qualities of drama. In the last part of this talk, I turn to Artaud’s own translation of affect into cinema through a brief discussion of some of his screen projects. Of particular interest is visual shock, which has been seen as integral to The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928) and which came of age in Un Chien Andalou (1929).
Affect is increasingly becoming an area of interest in the fields of Film and Performance Studies, but few critics have so far attempted to read stage and screen as part of one affective continuum. This paper follows my wider argument that current thinking behind the somatic dimension of extreme spectatorial experience is intrinsically related to dramatic forms that have historically sought to appeal to the bodies of audiences. Artaud’s writings are particularly significant because they enrich our understanding of what corporeality might mean within the context of spectatorship.
Ros Murray (Manchester): Artaud on Paper.
In Le Pèse-nerfs, Artaud declares: ‘dear friends: what you mistook for my works were merely the waste products of myself, those scrapings of the soul that the normal man does not welcome’. Taking this statement as its starting point, this paper explores the relationship between body and text in Artaud’s work, addressing how this plays out in a material sense.
On the one hand Artaud seems to desire a direct, unmediated form of corporeal expression, yet on the other he continually draws attention to the body’s mediation, as if what he calls his ‘véritable corps’ only comes into being though the material object. Artaud’s self-generating ‘véritable corps’ is a mediated one, but one which expresses continual processes of destruction and recreation, in opposition to both the living body as it is viewed from the outside, and to any representation of the body as a complete or fixed form. The unfinished nature of most of Artaud’s work, and its ambiguous status as ‘work’, bears witness to this, and indeed, the work paradoxically announces its own impossibility from the very outset. The surface or membrane is constantly emphasised throughout Artaud’s texts and drawings both in metaphorical terms, for example through skin imagery, but also literally, through drawing attention to the surface of the page. What emerges from this is an emphatically material ‘body’ that questions the boundaries of the medium through which it comes into being, as well as the reader or audience’s perception of their own embodied experience in relation to this medium, be it a text, a film, a sound-recording, an art object, or simply a scrap of paper.
Anna Powell (MMU) Passional Bodies: Artaud’s graphics as interstitial force.
Artaud’s work is a crucial force in schizoanalysis as developed by Deleuze and Guattari. His drawings, along with his poetic commentaries on them, play a significant role in the wider anti-oedipal project. The drawings operate three interlocking machines: figures of the body, figures of the face and gris-gris or magical spells. All repudiate formal artistic rules and work in their interstices to release powerful affects via ‘the lifting of malediction’. Artaud’s counter-attack works instead by ‘bodily vituperation against the constraints of spatial form, perspective, measure, balance, dimensions’.
Artaud’s graphics link to his writings as part of the same vital project; affect and concept working in tandem to undermine the fixity of both representation and language. To counter baleful attempts to incorporate reality, his own figures that ‘have nothing to say/and represent/absolutely nothing’. The written marks he incorporates into the images are glossolalia at the interstice between language and sounds. In Artaud’s portraits, which shape Deleuze and Guattari’s own thinking about faciality, he seeks to resurrect the living human face from the tabula rasa of signification that has reduced it to ‘an empty force, a/field of death’.
Artaud’s bodies without organs are eviscerated and stripped bare to reveal the raw force of sensations neither inside nor out, as ‘there is no inside, no spirit, no outside or consciousness, nothing but the body’. These interstitial bodies are in a state of latency intended to ‘work in concert with each other so that with the colors, the shadows, and their emphases the whole would become valid and singular’. Artaud’s ‘improbable bodies’ would thus release schizo forces to work on and in other responsive bodies. My paper will connect Artaud’s figures, portraits, self-portraits and prophylactic spells with Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of the schizo body in its ‘general breakdown of surfaces’ as well as relevant material from A Thousand Plateaus and elsewhere.
Jay Murphy (Aberdeen): The Artaud Effect.
This paper proposes, following Antonin Artaud (d. 1948), an investigation exploring the virtual body, neurology and the brain as fields of contestation. Using Deleuze and Guattari, Francisco Varela, Gregory Little, Foucault, the ‘final’work of Artaud among other sources, this project seeks a clearer understanding of Artaud’s transformations in their relation to discussions of “biopower” or “neuropolitics,” an investigation that ultimately leads into examining the relevance Artaud may or may not have for an adequate theory of the current media environment.
The notion that the primary arena of struggle between various forms of corporate capitalist domination and autonomous processes of subjectivation is now the brain (as many theorists cite neurology or the mind as the site of contestation rather than the body per se; what other economists or sociologists call ‘cognitive capitalism’) has its starting point for my purposes in Deleuze’s theories of cinema, where the brain is introduced as the screen. Deleuze’s primary inspiration here was the ‘late’ Antonin Artaud who at the dawn of the atomic age in 1948 proclaimed “a newbody/will be assembled.” Artaud prefigured the current concern with virtuality and the virtual body as early as 1925 and he already sites it in his radio broadcast To have done with the judgment of god (1947-8) as a realm of struggle against techno-capitalism, monotheism, and the perpetual war economy of the ‘Cold War’ (tendencies only exacerbated under the current ‘war on terror’).
What I explore is how Artaud cunningly outlines the contemporary media environment, dominated by what David Rodowick has called the “social hieroglyph” and how it is riven with conflict. For Artaud this was a combat of sorcery and counter-sorcery, a desperate cosmological war against demonic, invasive forces. Yet what was most ‘mad’ and delusional in Artaud’s lifetime (where he was stigmatized as ‘schizophrenic’ and subjected to electroshock treatments) is an aspect that survives and even thrives today in analyses of capitalism by Philippe Pignarre and Isabelle Stengers, Frédéric Neyrat, and the collective Tiqqun where the movements of political economy are indeed nothing less than “black magic.” The essential question from Artaud is this fiercely debatable role of representation and representational processes and what can possibly constitute a subversion of them in an inexorable digital sensorium. There are several current manifestations of these debates, ranging from the fact that Artaud’s notebooks are themselves undergoing the process of digitalization for public access, to the exploitation of the idea of ‘capitalist sorcery’ in a film like the Otolith Group’s Anathema (2011).

Occursus book reviews

Occursus is launching a book review feature and we are currently seeking interested reviewers. While no fee will be paid, you will receive a free copy of the book you review. You are also welcome to submit independent reviews (max 500 words) of recently published books for inclusion on the site.

If you are interested, please email Amanda Crawley Jackson at and attach where possible a sample of your writing (review or other).

Book for review will normally address space and spatialities in literature, art, philosophy and politics.

The stuff of war, the comfort of rubber


repair inside barrage balloon

Ok, so this week’s blog essay was going to be another extract from Scree, my and Katja Hock’s collaboration about the Parkwood hillside. But in chewing over which snippet to post-up, my mind started wandering and I find myself compelled to overlay rubber, bombs and the anniversary of my grandmother’s death, as I picture the hillside’s landfill site.

Circling the tip

The Parkwood hillside has had municipal tipping taking place upon it for over 100 years. The current operations are due to be concluded within the next decade. As I gaze down upon the as yet unused Cell 4, it appears that beneath the shallow earthen skin of the hill lies a shell of black rubber. The birds are the only occupants at the moment, basking in the warm east facing flanks of the cell’s impermeable liner. The cell looks like a vast garden pond waiting for its hose-water.


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Theo Simpson

Roxspur Artist in Residence Programme

RM&C is pleased to welcome Theo Simpson as the first artist in residence at Downgate Drive.

Theo will be working in the factory throughout March and April, making a series of photographic and video works.

His work features in the collections of Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert National Art Library and the National Library of Australia. With Ben McLaughlin, Theo also founded Mass Observation, described by the New York Times as ‘one of Britain’s most exciting new design practices’.

Theo 1

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This essay is premature. In part it is an eulogy, a post-mortem for something that is not yet out of the exuberant play-pen of adolescence, and still has a rich, fruitful life ahead of it. But, perhaps, there is some merit now in anticipating its eventual decay, and pondering the potential pitfalls of a developing body of thought at its initial flowering. Here I want to write a prospective obituary for the ‘geological turn’.

As regular readers will have noticed, I’m happily locked into a geo-materialist groove at the moment, revelling in opportunities to contribute to a weird realist embrace of the not-quite-so-inert-as-we-think-of terra firma. My aim is not to ‘call time’ on this fertile outpouring, rather to deliver up a snapshot of this tendency, and to ponder where – for good and ill – this summoning of rock, earth and metal, and their co-option back into cultural discourse…

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bindweed fence

“railroad yard in San Jose 
I wandered desolate
in front of a tank factory
and sat on a bench
near the switchman’s shack.

A flower lay on the hay on
the asphalt highway
–the dread hay flower
I thought–It had a
brittle black stem and
corolla of yellowish dirty
spikes like Jesus’ inchlong
crown, and a soiled
dry center cotton tuft
like a used shaving brush
that’s been lying under
the garage for a year.

Yellow, yellow flower, and
flower of industry,
tough spiky ugly flower,
flower nonetheless,
with the form of the great yellow
Rose in your brain!
This is the flower of the World.”

Allen Ginsberg (1954) In Back of the Real

I came across this poem whilst idly flicking through a slim collection of beat poets at my father’s new house a few weeks ago. I know little about poetry, and much less about botany. It was…

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Thinking about spatial insurgency…

The Funambulist

As I wrote in a previous post, I was lucky enough to be included in LOG 25 Reclaim Resi[lience]stance, edited by Cynthia Davidson and curated by François Roche. My essay consisted in a historical philosophical interpretation of the two very specific architectures that are the barricade and the tunnel. As said in the text, the title Abject Matter, is both communicating my will to read them through a materialist philosophy, as well as my questioning of the recurrent terminology of counter-insurgent strategies that tends to associate insurrections and social movements with filthiness and infection. I concluded my text with a short introduction to Gilbert Simondon’s concepts of form and matter, that I am hopeful to develop a bit more in the near future.

Abject Matter: The Barricade and the Tunnel
by Léopold Lambert

Seen through a materialist reading, the built environment can be a way of contextualizing…

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# LAW /// Trapped in the Border’s Thickness

The Funambulist

For the last seven days, a group of twenty Eritrean refugees have been trapped between the two fences materializing the border between Egypt and Israel as they were trying to enter the latter. Today, the group was dismissed as a vast majority of them was expelled and three of them were brought to a detention center on the Israeli territory. This short post does not even want to spend too much time deploring the “normal xenophobia” that motivates European countries and Israel to let migrants dying at their frontiers – in that case, and from the article in the Guardian, one of the women of the group miscarried a child as no other humanitarian aid was brought to them other than a limited amount of water. This reality reached a long time ago the tragic stage where it has been accepted as a collateral effect of globalization and would…

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