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.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Andrew Brown

For 'Resurrecting the obsolete' in September 2012 my modus operandi was to try to retain an open mind as I walked around the site, listening, recording, taking photographs and simply enjoying the experience. I brought my existing interests:

  • Post-industrial landscapes
  • Exploring moments in time, being ‘present’
  • Thresholds and spaces betwixt and between
and approaches:
  • Retracing steps
  • Design direct embodied experience
  • Solitary vs. collective
  • Making use of what is there
  • The particular effectiveness of sound
and found myself initially drawn to signage, personal effects and inscriptions that gave insights into the the former Spode workforce. As I explored tentative routes began to form for a group walk, taking participants from one sonic environment to another.

For ’Topographies of the Obsolete’ March 2013 I returned with recording equipment and the intention of effecting a temporary repair of the works bell. This I recorded from various parts of the site.

I’d been put in contact with local archivist Ray Johnson (from the Staffordshire Film Archive) with whom I spent a couple of highly productive hours, as well as one of the key members of Airspace gallery, Anna Francis. Meeting her, Glen and Andy provided a cultural dimension that was previously missing for me.

The bus tour of Bradwell woods, Etruria, Gladstone and Burslem was also significant, making the place more comprehensible as a city. To develop this, and to begin to address the second strand of my project I performed several walks, to Cobridge, along the canal towpath to Westport Lake, back to Spode via Burslem and Hanley Park, to the Garden Festival site, and finally to Harecastle tunnel.

Overall I am pleased to have overcome my initial rush of naieve excitement regarding the site and, through having now worked there a second time and for a longer period, I feel I am better-placed to produce a mature response.

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