Threshold Cartographies- the Poetics of Contested Space
Royal College of Art, London
My project will be a multidisciplinary mapping of the United Kingdom's deindustrialised zones. This research makes a significant shift from the field of psycho-geography to socio-geography, marking an important turn from the individual to the collective. I want to investigate new forms of socio-political discourse that have arisen as a result of the radical reordering of urban space in the post-industrial era. Central to my research will be critically engaged walks—dérives—through post-industrial zones. For Guy Debord, a 'dérive' refers to the exploration of urban areas in order to expose, and reassemble, their cognitive and social mapping. Debord develops the concept in the Theory of the Dérive—a work which, in its critique of capitalist urbanism, posed a significant challenge to the reductive assumptions of standard geographical practice. This practice based research will develop the concept of the dérive by encompassing a diverse array of influences—among them the intoxicated wanderings of De Quincey; the tilting, shifting and temporal dislocation of Defoe's London in A Journal of a Plague Year and J.G. Ballard's prescient work on liminal zones as sites of potential resistance. In addition I will draw on the work of Walter Benjamin, whose walks through cities such as Marseilles, Berlin and Moscow provided the content for his conflation of critical and poetic engagement. I will examine areas in the United Kingdom that have undergone extensive change since the exodus of manufacturing industries in the 1970s and 80s. These are sites where industrial spaces have been reconfigured, where suburbanization has led to increased social atomization and the eterritorialization of communal relations cultivated in the post-World War II era. I hope that by investigating these changes it will be possible to develop a better understanding of the social and ideological currents exerting an influence on the United Kingdom in the post-industrial era.