Risky engagements: some thoughts on geography and art

I’m uploading some audio clips from a recent presentation I gave at an event on ‘Risky engagements: encounters between science, art and public health’. This took place at the University of Manchester and the Whitworth Art Gallery, 5th-6th January 2012, and was organised by Kozo Hiramatsu of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, anthropologist Rupert Cox, and sound artist Angus Carlyle.



The event was designed to spark discussion of the issues raised by Angus and Rupert’s Air Pressure project, currently installed at the Whitworth. An immersive video and multi-channel audio work, it centres on a site in Japan where the runway of an international airport has been built right beside a traditional organic farm. Two farming families refuse to move, despite pressure from the authorities to re-locate, and the intense noise at the site. The exhibition is on until the 12th of February and is well worth a visit.




I presented some thoughts about about art-geography collaborations, of which there have been an increasing number in recent years. I spoke about a project I’m just starting, The Invisible College, a collaboration with public artists NVA (more on that soon; for now see NVA’s website). I also made some more general comments about four issues that seem to come up when academics and artists work together. These are:

1. Epistemology

2. Evaluation
(I would add to this that in my view, the lack of established criteria for this is a good thing; the resulting sense of uncertainty seems productive and useful.)

3. Politics
(Below is the image I refer to in this, from the Office of Experiments website)

4. Publics


The other contributions spun together a vast array of approaches and topics. From the Japanese side, there was a talk about noise around the airport from an acoustics and health perspective, and presentations about Minamata disease, the history and politics of a radiation poisoning incident caused by US nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll, and the Fukushima disaster. The UK presenters covered the future of waste (including some stuff about a Finnish project to build a permanent nuclear waste storage facility that will be sealed for 100,000 years), collaborations between arctic scientists and artists, a wonderful story weaving together the September 11th attacks and HIV, John Wynne presenting his work with sound in a transplant hospital, and Peter Cusack airing some recordings from the zone of exclusion in Chernobyl, and some wicked drone action from shipping in the Thames estuary.

So, a mind-expandingly diverse melting pot of ideas. Thanks to Rupert and Angus for the invite, and to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for funding such an interesting event..