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, 28 April 2013

Gwen Heeney Reflections on the Spode Workshop March 2013

Reflections on my time at the international workshop; Topographies of the Obsolete at the Spode Factory March 2013. During the workshop I identified two of the main stands of the project; the post industrial landscape as site and topography of objects/archives
My main focus was to create a series of narratives using light, space and objects which would become signifiers to the past and the obsolete. I was immediately drawn to the light in the China Hall a vast open space which throughout the day became altered by the light.
I became aware of the significance of the mould store, an important archive of information illuminated by light streaming through the windows. I had a sense of a knowledge store; of files/ records/archives. I began to view the moulds as an important archive which needed to be explored and some way to be made sense of.
In the store the moulds manifested themselves as objects with a great tension stored as though still precious; they presented a record to a past‘site’ of invention, a record of creativity. Like the shell of the empty building each mould represented a shell of a productive past. Light reveals shadows; the shadows reveal the anthropology of the forms within...Since the workshop I have been reading The Shadow Club, Roberto Casati. published by Little Brown
I started to make sense of the moulds in a very formal way, spending a great deal of time selecting each one and placing them carefully in grids in the China Hall where the light illuminated the interior spaces. Using different configurations I started to formally articulate a visual language which addressed issues of collective memory, history of ‘place’, mapping of creative pasts, but also made connections with current information technology i.e.‘Quick Response Codes’. They became a means of communicating the past and possible declaring/ predicting the future. A key to the skills left behind. They provoked descriptions such as profiles, building blocks (DNA) of the companies creative past; an industrial excavation/study
The moulds as multiple structures slightly parted, laid out in grids on the floor took on a futuristic appearance; the shadow and light penetrating the interior space began to deepen the language giving a glimpse of the abstract interior forms a glimpse of past creativity. The Light and shadow on another level physically and metaphorically described the past ‘dark side’ of the company; the physical labour which marked its worldwide success. A reference here to Calvino Invisible Cities
I created a series of photo montages of the interior of the China Hall; industrial landscape as site which investigated the way light changes our perception of space.
Marco Frascari the architect states “architecture exists because of light; palpable material light (lume materiale), something born in the materials of construction and imprisoned in the body of an edifice as the mind is imprisoned in the body”

It is this way that light can become part of a building; in this case the derelict post industrial site which interests me.


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