Tag Archives: Art

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers Content Alert: Volume 37, Issue 2 (April 2012)

Cover image for Vol. 37 Issue 2

The latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is available on Wiley Online Library.

Boundary Crossings

Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives (pages 177–182)
David Featherstone, Anthony Ince, Danny Mackinnon, Kendra Strauss and Andrew Cumbers
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00493.x

Urban ecosystems as ‘natural’ homes for biogeographical boundary crossings (pages 183–190)
Robert A Francis, Jamie Lorimer and Mike Raco
Article first published online: 30 AUG 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00470.x

Geography and the matter of waste mobilities (pages 191–196)
Anna R Davies
Article first published online: 16 AUG 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00472.x

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Urban plans lost but not forgotten in a time of financial crisis

by Cian O’ Callaghan

'Balloon', Sorcha O'Brien and Eli Caamano, commissioned by the National Sculpture Factory, Cork. Photo by Cian O'Callaghan.

One of the impacts of the financial crisis that began in late 2008 is that the strategies, plans, and visions underpinning the development of cities do not speak to current realities.  Many of these strategies project twenty or thirty years into the future, a future they seek to build from a present that no longer exists.

The art installation depicted in the photograph above, which was produced in Cork city, Ireland during September 2008, captures the mood of this period very well.  It caught the city at a pivotal moment when the aspirations of the Cork Docklands Development Strategy – a plan initiated around the start of the millennium, which came to fruition in unison with the collapse of the property market – were about to be swallowed up the recession.  At the time these industrial buildings were slated for demolition to make way for three million sq ft of offices and over 1,200 apartments.  The installation was, in a way, like an elegy for these buildings and the version of industrial Cork they represented.  Due to the property crash, the intended development never happened, and these industrial buildings are still sitting on the quays.

The Celtic Tiger period in Ireland was characterised by optimism and growth.  But Ireland is now characterised by a very different narrative; that of banking collapse, sovereign debt, failed speculation, and ghost estates.  This confrontation between the exuberance of the Celtic Tiger and the miasma of the current period is expressed in those strategies that bridge the rupture between these two very different eras.  Now, rather than the population growth that was anticipated as a result of the Docklands project, Cork has to contend with halted developments and vacant properties, the loans of which are owned by Ireland’s ‘toxic’ bank, the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).  One of the city’s landmark buildings, the Elysian, for example, is now also one of Ireland’s most iconic ghost estates with reputably only twenty five units in the complex sold.  Meanwhile, the local Occupy Cork movement recently moved their camp off the streets and into another NAMA owned building in the city centre.

The dilemma currently faced by Cork is not unique to that city.  This conundrum raises a number of important questions for urban geographers.  One, which I address in my paper, is what happens to all those powerful urban visions underpinning aborted growth plans?  As we enter into a new era of capitalism, a key research question for urban geographers will not only be to address how to move the development of cities forward, but also to understand the latent affects of the plans and visions now lost but not forgotten.

The author: Dr Cian O’ Callaghan is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Geography and NIRSA (National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis), National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

O’Callaghan C 2012 Lightness and weight: (re)reading urban potentialities through photographs Area doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01078.x

O’Connell B 2011 The high-rise and the downturn The Irish Times 25 June

A Christmas gift to Cork YouTube video 2 Jan 2012

East Side Gallery and the Contested Geographies of Graffiti

by Sarah Mills

Following on from Fiona’s entry today (below) about a flâneur’s encounter with graffiti in Toulouse, I was struck by one of this week’s news stories.  Tensions over the East Side Gallery – a series of graffiti based images on a particular stretch of the Berlin Wall – have triggered long-standing debates about the role of graffiti/public art in cities.  The Gallery was originally created after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to bring together (unpaid) artists from East and West Germany in a creative project.  Controversially, a number of pieces have been whitewashed and overlaid with copied images in a recent renovation, described by one commentator as a “faked-up’ pastiche of itself…a Disneyesque, postmodern reconstruction of the art of the Wall designed to please tourists”.  A number of the original artists are now suing the city council over issues of copyright and the reproduction of images without the artists’ permission.

These ethical and legal issues over the display and ownership of graffiti, in this case embroiled with political symbolism and significance, highlights a broader set of complex geographies that interweave ideas of creativity, art, public space, urbanism and place-making.  In the context of this news story, McAuliffe and Iveson’s article in Geography Compass (see Fiona’s entry) also offers valuable insight into the tensions surrounding graffiti, which they describe as “a modern touchstone of urban discontent, a global popular culture phenomena that drives urban managers to distraction” (2011: 128).  In providing a critical review of the literature, they aim to uncover the complexity of graffiti’s dynamic and contested geographies and explore the tensions surrounding public graffiti, which are so clearly demonstrated in the ongoing debates surrounding the East Side Gallery.

 Read C. McAuliffe and K. Iveson (2011) Art and Crime (and Other Things Besides …): Conceptualising Graffiti in the City, Geography Compass 5 (3): 128-143.

 Read ‘Berlin Wall artists sue city in copyright controversy’ in The Guardian

 Read Jonathan Jones ‘In praise of the Berlin Wall murals’ in The Guardian  

Art and geography

Monet Houses of Parliament at Sunset

Houses of Parliament, Sunset. Claude Monet (1902).

I-Hsien Porter

One of the most instantly recognisable paintings in the world is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Painted in the early sixteenth century, the many ambiguities in the picture – the identity of the subject, the subject’s expression – have led to continuing fascination with the work.

Recently, an Italian art historian claimed to have identified the location of the painting. A bridge, with a reference to the date of a devastating flood, was spotted in the background. Art historian Carla Glori believes that this ties the image to a specific place on the River Trebbia, Italy.

In a paper in Area, Soraya Khan and others examine Monet’s London Series of paintings. The position of the Sun in the paintings, along with the knowledge of the exact location of the paintings (from London landmarks), was used to date the images.

This form of historical dating opens an opportunity for interdisciplinarity between human and physical geography. In environmental studies, the artist’s depiction of the atmosphere gives insights into the physical climate of London. Likewise, art also offers insights into the social mood of the time.

Khan, S. et al. (2010) “Monet at the Savoy.” Area 42 (2): 208-216

The Daily Telegraph (10th January 2011) “Mona Lisa landscape location mystery ‘solved’.”

‘Lest we forget’

by Michelle Brooks

In 1985 a tapestry of the Picasso masterpiece ‘Guernica’ was donated to the United Nations by Nelson Rockefeller in recognition of the international mandate held by the organisation. The artwork depicts the catastrophic consequences of a distant geo-politik that pitted a superior military air power against an unsuspecting rural, artisinal village.  Hitler had agreed to help Franco with his nationalistic ambitions, the plan sent German and Italian bombs reigning down on the small Basque village of Guernica in northern Spain.  On market day, at 4.40pm on April 26th 1937, three hours of non-stop carpet bombing and high-calibre gun-fire began amidst the sounds of the only defence the villagers could muster – the church bells. The town was reduced to rubble with most of the casualties predictably, women, children and animals (arguably the result of choosing market day to perpetrate this act of violence). The strategy sought to demoralise the Basque people who stood in the way of absolute power for Franco.

The painting  ‘Guernica’ depicting the scene painted by Picasso, who was living in Paris at the time, only returned to Spain in 1981 due to Picasso’s request that only when democracy ruled should the painting be repatriated. The painting has come to represent many things to many people all over the world in the various countries in which it was exhibited, most often an anti-war symbol or a rebuttal to nationalism but sometimes such historical artefacts continue to have resonance in the present day.

On the 5th February 2003, General Colin Powell addressed the United Nations Security Council attempting to convince them of the need to invade Iraq. Later upon leaving, he walked through the hallway of the 2nd floor where politicians would traditionally stand for the cameras and past a tapestry of the iconic anti-war symbol ‘Guernica’ which unusually, on this occasion had been covered with an enormous drape. However, though Picasso’s warning was hidden and silenced, in hindsight the message is deafening, and perhaps timely, this remembrance Sunday.

Read article ‘War and Peace’ by Derek Gregory for T.I.B.G.

Read about the incident at Guernica

Read about the covering of the tapestry ‘Guernica’

Maps, propaganda and art

By Kelly Wakefield

A current exhibition at the British Library called Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art has been running since 30th April 2010.  The collection, according to the website “brings together 80 of the largest, most impressive and beautiful maps ever made, from 200 AD to the present day”.

A recent BBC article highlighted three of the London maps that are on show, the foremost large map from 1682 created after the Great Fire in 1666, a tapestry and Stephen Walter’s hand drawn map.

The first map created after the Great Fire, represents London as functional and powerful as well as showing a yet to be built St. Paul’s Cathedral (“the map is lying to us” – says Tom Harper, the library map’s curator). This is a vision of London that has risen from the flames and as Tom Harper explains  “the map wants to say ‘London is up and running’, so it can hardly show a building site”.

The second map is a huge tapestry produced for a landowner to show off wealth and prestige.  The map ignores the growing populations, back alleyways and human effluent flowing in the Thames instead showing spotless streets, another use of propoganda and power.

The third map discussed is Stephen Walters hand drawn map.  This map, unlike the previous two, is embellished with personal memories, anecdotes and cultural information.  Tom Harper suggests that the distinction between maps and works of art is far more blurred than one might think.

What is important to take away from this exhibition is appreciation for the maps and their stories but always to question what is shown and what is not…perhaps those parts are the most interesting!

The BBC,  28th June 2010, “London maps: Heads on spikes and ‘al fresco bonking

The British Library, exhibition running 30th April 2010 – 19th September 2010 “Magnificent Maps, Power, Propoganda and Art

Against stereotyping

By Rosa Mas Giralt

Yesterday evening, the BBC2 programme Newsnight featured an investigative report by Richard Watson. During this investigation, reporters managed to buy two faked offer letters to enrol in a college in Britain for £200 and £150 in each case. These invitation letters are essential for non-EU citizens to be able to apply for a student visa to enter the UK under the points system recently introduced. In a sense, what the programme unearthed was another example of how some people are using the migration system in the UK to exploit the situation of would be migrants.

Unfortunately, these types of criminal activities also exacerbate stereotypes and prejudices against migrants, who are portrayed as willing to break the law to enter the country surreptitiously and to take advantage of opportunities to improve their economic situation. It could be argued that the fraudsters exploit migrants in a twofold way, economically, but also symbolically, by reinforcing widely held stereotypes. Public perceptions, in turn, have material impacts on the everyday life and wellbeing of migrants.

In a forthcoming article for Area, Caitlin Cahill (2010) discusses a participatory action research project called “Dreaming of No Judgement”, which was conducted by the grassroots community initiative Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective based in Salt Lake City (US). Following a participatory methodology, the project was undertaken collaboratively by young Latino researchers and other members of the community group. As Cahill explains their “project draws connections between representations of immigrant communities and access to opportunities, by focusing upon the emotional and economic impacts of stereotyping” (2010: 7). By bringing to the fore and making visible everyday embodied experiences of the effects of stereotyping, projects such as this contribute to the long-term struggle for social justice.

Watch Richard Watson’s Newsnight report on the BBC iPlayer

Read Richard Watson’s article about the investigation on the BBC website

Read Caitlin Cahill (2010) “‘Why do they hate us?’ Reframing immigration through participatory action research”. Area. [Early View]

Visit the Mestizo Institute for Culture & Arts’ website