Topographies of the Obsolete is an artistic research project that focuses on the closed Spode Works in Stoke-on-Trent, UK.

The first workshop Resurrecting the Obsolete took place in September 2012 in the Spode Factory, Stoke on Trent, UK organized by Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Norway (KHiB).

KHiB was invited as a Research Fellow Partner Institution by the British Ceramics Biennial 2013 and the first workshop included 33 staff and students from KHiB, The Royal Academy of Art Copenhagen, Muthesius Kunsthochschule Kiel, Sheffield Hallam Univerisity, University of Nottingham Trent and invited alumni/artists from KHiB. Together we explored the Spode site’s histories, industrial space and infrastructure.

The workshops have uncovered a variety of methods and strategies exploring the complexity of the site from different perspectives and practices particular to each of the artists/students involved. We had a great variation of expressions ranging from the performative intervention based to installation and object based work.

The second of the research residency took place in March 2013 as the artistic research project Topographies of the Obsolete. The third workshop takes place in August 2013.

In September a number of participants from the research project will present their works during the British Ceramics Biennial 2013.

This site will act as a meeting point for participants and others interested in our progress.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Untold stories

The first days of the workshop at Spode Factory was overwhelming and very exciting. I had never been to a place like that before, and I felt honored to be there and for letting me explore a factory that has such a big place in Stoke-on-Trent's history. 

I've worked a lot with absurd and surreal situations and I'm interested in what it is that makes people do strange things in everyday life. What happens when I stage a person into a specific situation and why? Sometimes I want the observer to make up their own stories by looking at my staged photographs, because there isn’t always an answer to why these situations happen and why people do what they do. This was the starting point for the project I did in the factory, and since the story that I wanted to tell wasn't completely set, I wanted to see what possibilities the rooms had. I would go into a room and try out different approaches. If I didn't feel that the room was suited for it, I would go to the next one. I worked quite intuitively. Some of the ideas and thoughts that have gone through my mind after the workshop is that the woman in my photographs is feeling lost and that she doesn't know where she belongs. Where and what is her place? She has a connection to the place, but somehow she doesn't know why. Maybe she has worked there and find it hard to leave?  

Here is 4 out of 7 photographs from the project with the working title "Untold stories". 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

In place/out of place: nature will fill this space

Before my arrival at the Spode factory, I had many pre-conceived ideas about it being a void. Empty. Disused. Useless. Void of human life or purpose.

On arrival a void is the opposite of what it was. Not only did it contain history and sadness, a monument to failed industry, but it also contained a new purpose.

To be filled by nature.

Nature sees its usefulness. Its crumbling rocks as nesting ground for searching buddleia and pigeons.

The reality of this nature is quite different to the nature used on Spode's tableware. The tamed, beautified nature of composed flowers, pastures and peaceful idyllic animals. The real nature now gradually fills its walls. A void is an impossibility. 

My approach to the space will be to experience and relate to it at is present moment. The past will filter through by its traces, marks of time, scars and blemishes, and its future by the use it fulfills now. The Spode factory is an entity itself. It has seen time and it will continue to see time, in its own way.

During the initial meeting between myself and it, I used research experiments (or perhaps systems) to situate myself in that point in time and the space. To gain an intimate knowledge of the site and its state of being, so that we were connected.

These included durational experiments, such as walking to create an amplification of space, mapping to know its crevices and its dimples, writing from the spaces perspective and mine so that we intermingle at some points. Documenting the scars on the skin of Spode from its life of production and the life that it now knows.

Nature meets Nature.