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.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Richard Launder ROUTEMASTER: Spode Office

Resurrecting the Obsolete
Research Residency 1.


                                                              Age of Enlightenment

Starting Strategies (Sept. 8 - 18th 2012): enacted upon simultaneously (especially days 1 and 2):
·      assemble all movables which mutely appeal, make note of others not so easy to move (photo document, write in register)
·      Physically walk thro the buildings and roads, try to get lost and assemble a mind-map of these (photo document, write in register)
·      Oblique strategy: enter every unlocked door (we were told that we could enter all doors that were open: in relation to security risk), enter and move onward until stopped, retrace steps, start again.
These Situationist approach’s gave a speedy accumulation of site knowledge - the physical buildings, spaces, levels, inside/outside and importantly, via the collecting, moving, testing and the observation involved: an overview about the former employees together with their particular professional areas, jobs, skills and even some individual personal aspects (of which, more later) Enabling a psycho-geographic reading.

Procedural Strategies: while simultaneously continuing the above, though to a lesser degree:
·      Locate a variety of spaces/objects which ‘push back’ and speak: the emotive atmosphere of pressure/deadlines, movement, physical work/wear & tear, tools, plans/maps, reports, unfinished ceramics
·      Particular atmospheres I was stimulated to find: focused concentration, traces of time passing, dereliction, threads of connections (internal and external)
·      Hold in mind certain issues: ‘Paths of Desire’, ruins, walking, archives, psycho-geographies, create rules, Destruction Art,
·      Start to work with these empirically/intuitively articulating the spaces, the movable materials, background narratives/knowledge gained
·      Be open to: performative/video, sculptural, installation, /sculpture, photographic, text possibilities and combinations
By journeying through these I came to proceed with a group of potential projects which developed in parallel, and often in conversation with each other; they all moved along at different speeds some clearly needing a lot more time/concentration, others arriving fairly effortlessly - nice when that happens.

Research Residency 2: 9 - 19 March 2013


ROUTEMASTER´S Desktop, Walks & Maps

Umbrella title for a group of interrelated works conceptualised, produced & curated from the ROUTEMASTER: Spode Office, a physical space, extant Sept. 2013 - Dec. 2013? (Distribution to be negotiated)

·      A contextualised ‘viewing space’ - an office which it is possible to view into from 4 sides (goldfish bowl like) it becomes a performative installation, with a potential for guided (limited numbers) audience to enter and potentially interact (in direct opposition to both the history of the site) From this HQ, other works are conducted - the balance between fictive and real office is resolved by the 2 desks inherited in the room.                                            The room was staged (originally in Sept. 2012) to convey an atmosphere of competence, confrontation, on the brink of dis-function/chaos; a maximallist approach to intense detail, placing layers of suggested narrative, potential past/future/present actions/events and the files, plans, maps, tools/equipment (individually doctored), samples, reports, personal items...which are their alibis.  After a year of occupancy, a new layer of dust, light markings/fadings, together with evidence of recent activities will become part of the accretion.                                      ROUTEMASTER: Spode Office:  title, came about by being asked directly by Julia Collura (collaborative partner for a performance work): who’s room is this? What is this person doing? What is the character of the person whose office this is?                                                             Staging /performance texts/sketches, Julia & I will have time on-site in March to run thro some of our collaborative concepts (sound: the old AEOLIAN grand piano/costume/progression of site - the potential of a ‘processing audience’)                                                                                                                              Location: office, originally the heart of the factory: technical personnel, those who found solutions/kept production rolling; 1st floor of 1950´s Designers block.   

 ROUTEMASTER: Spode Office: a selection of curated on-going works:

·      White on White: performative place/performing objects: partially finished ceramic plates performing.  Needs:  editing, staging texts developing sound recordings, more filming on site, further investigating access to the top round window (via a trapdoor)                                                                                                     Location: main arterial road connecting the old front of factory (admin. /sales/museum) to the various production areas, Designers block, 1950´s functionalist building; all brickwork painted matt white, plates are matt white.

                                             White on White: performance video still

·      Topography of  Routemaster´s desktop and Walks:  A found partial plan of the site with a circle marked out, no information about why. Use to investigate the circle as a derive, attempt to walk it through the labyrinth site (rule: follow the circle as closely as possible, only enter through open doors) Map this out using various tools/materials on a large scale full plan of the factory (found), placed on the Routemaster´s desk- leave as evidence of activity (frozen in time). Needs: Allocate time for further walking and collecting approaches: investigate sound recording/ register opportunities.

                                                                  Paths of Desire

·      bone to bones: a performing story of material and manufacture involving ruin/climate-erosion/decay: nature; contra protection/ shelter/refinement: civilisation; in relation and as comment to the contemporary economic and political position of materialist/consumer culture. A noble savage for our times? From a quasi archeologic/geologic/construction site position.                                                     Proposed scale: two square floor areas covered by an echo of galvanised corrugated roofing. (Approx. 2 m x 2m)  with guttering exchanging the rain & leak waters.  Installation to be constructed in March, then needs to be left in-situ to weather until the biennial. Documentation during erosion process, footage may become a video. Location: leaking roof is located and a pipeline route to the nearby outside courtyard area.                                                                                              


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