(P077)
Urban Memories: Mobility, Materiality and Photographic Practice
Location SOAS Senate House - S116
Date and Start Time 02 Jun, 2018 at 16:30
Sessions 1

Convenor

  • David Kendall (Goldsmiths, University of London) email

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Chair Abbas Nokhasteh (Urban Photographers' Association)

Short abstract

This roundtable explores how urban photography offers alternative ocular archives of cities. Nothing is cast in stone and only interpreted as heritage; the past is illusive and uncanny. 'Urban Memories' will present visual projects and artistic research by the Urban Photographers' Association.

Long abstract

Cities are living archives and rediscovering their visual history is fundamental in the development of urban photographic practice. Nothing is cast in stone and only interpreted as heritage; the past is illusive and uncanny. Therefore, how do historical photographs visualise and politicise daily life and architecture in order to commemorate and generate specific social histories, public memories, landscapes and pictorial archives? Cities are not merely architectural metaphors; they are mobile, evolving entities projecting memories deep into the social life of urban dwellers. In what way can urban photography break down social stereotypes and offer alternative ocular archives of cities? Urban Memories tries to answer these questions through selected visual and artistic projects, curated research, and theory and arts practice.

The Urban Photographers' Association (UPA) aims to show the work of contemporary international photographers focusing on cities and the urban realm. The photographers, artists and curators presenting in Urban Memories represent a diverse range of practices including landscape, architectural, portraiture, fine art, documentary, street-based and object photography; all informed by an active engagement with urban theory and associated research methods. The projects reflect the experiences of personal, often immersive involvement in the urban spaces and they also raise questions about how photography might speak to debates within urban ethnography and visual arts practice.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Remembering, Forgetting, Discovering: Dialectics of Memory and Photography in Conversation

Authors: Carla De Utra Mendes (Urban Photographers' Association) email
Victor Seidler (Goldsmiths, University of London) email

Short abstract

Our dialogical method addresses the work of the Urban Photographers' Association, a process in which we will disassemble and reassemble some of the taken for granted concepts of both photography and memory and, ultimately, of urban memory.

Long abstract

Is photography an 'ars memoriae'? And, if so, is it a material registration of memory or, on the contrary, the immateriality of something once concrete, as memories often seem to be? At the end of the day, memory is an in-between, 'a dialectic of remembering and forgetting' (Halbwachs in Crimson, 2005, p. xiv). Urban memory is also often between what exists as archive in the form of 'history' or what has disappeared as a form of 'amnesia' (thinking of Crimson's 2005 title). However, it is rarely in what can be rediscovered and rethought as a form of agential questioning, or what Crimson states as the 'ability or faculty by which we recollect the past' (Crimson, 2005, p.xii). This process transforms cities from mere repositories or palimpsests into creative resource pools and urban photographers into mediators between selves and city. Exploring the work of the Urban Photographers Association, through their different collaborations and individual practices allows us to perceive the ways in which memories are evoked and invisible or immaterial dynamics are brought, as photography, into light and made visible. Our method is thus a discovery, rethinking what connects photography to memory as art forms.

References:

Crimson, M. (2005) (ed). Urban Memory. History and Amnesia in the Modern City. London, UK, New York, NY: Routledge.

Woolwich: A Photographic Walk through a Heritage Quarter

Author: Gill Golding (Goldsmiths, University of London) email

Short abstract

Using a walking methodology combined with a camera, this visual project uses the regeneration of Woolwich, with its 'Heritage Quarter', as a case study in which to explore the relationship between the urban landscape, the street, gender and space and asks: In whose image has the space been created?

Long abstract

Using a walking methodology combined with a camera, this visual project uses the regeneration of Woolwich, with its 'Heritage Quarter', as a case study in which to explore the relationship between the urban landscape, the street, gender and space.

Woolwich has a rich social, military and industrial history associated with the dockyards and munitions manufacturing. Whilst the Royal Arsenal and Woolwich Town Centre undergo significant regeneration, the new aesthetic appearance reveals an insight into the intentions and priorities of those make decisions about the built environment. The creation of a thematic 'heritage quarter' that features symbolic references to the town's military past, reflects cultural values and ideological interests that invite us to ask: In whose image has the space been created?

The choice of integrating walking with photographic research reflects a belief that encountering landscapes through an embodied practice creates a unique, dialogic relationship with the environment. The use of a camera within this process enables a plurality of perspectives to become visible, thus provoking a critical engagement with the urban space, which in turn widens the analytic frame. Perceptions, understandings and insights into a multiplicity of stories can be gained that allow for a series of interpretations.

Whilst the study concludes that the regenerated 'heritage quarter' draws on and reproduces a consensual view of national history, this visual presentation will address how this method of social inquiry encourages us to view the urban space as a dynamic, constantly changing environment that reflects specific ideological interests.

Democracy Wall

Author: Paul Halliday (Goldsmiths) email

Short abstract

'Democracy Wall' explores spaces of awkwardness and dissent, in part reflecting my own uneasiness about the nature of modern British urban life. Moreover, the photography project considers commentaries about the speed of urban change, of regeneration, gentrification, memory, politics and history.

Long abstract

For some time I have been interested in spaces of awkwardness and dissent, in part reflecting my own uneasiness about the nature of modern British urban life. We so often hear commentaries about the speed of change, of regeneration and gentrification, and walking through some of England's cities, my camera has afforded me the opportunity to reflect not only on what is in front of the lens, but also that which is overlooked and considered outside of politics and history. This photography project, 'Democracy Wall' starts from a premise that humans and their material cultures perform being; and looking for the remarkable within the everyday, place themselves within utopic narrations of a future, possible world.

Memory, Perception and Montage: Uncovering Hidden Realities within the Everyday Urban Realm

Author: Rachel Jones (International Association of Visual Urbanists) email

Short abstract

This presentation explores the relationship between memory, imagination and the perception of the urban realm through a discussion of my visual arts practice. My work engages with the multiplicity of the city by revealing hidden realities that become visible through the photographic process.

Long abstract

In this presentation I will explore the relationship between memory, imagination and the perception of the material urban landscape through a discussion of my visual arts practice, Using photographic media, my work seeks to engage with the multiplicity and complexity of the kaleidoscopic urban sphere by revealing hidden or unnoticed aspects of everyday life within the city. The flux and flow of the dynamic urban sphere produce a layered experience of temporal and spatial perception, creating a living montage in which memory, imagination and the material world combine. My images seek to depict this montage through a manipulation of light and colour, de-familiarising the urban landscape by disrupting the boundary between legibility and illegibility, between figure and ground, and between subject and object, in order to deconstruct and interrogate the process of perception. Furthermore, my work challenges the perception of the photographic medium, often pushing photographic technology beyond its comfort zone to produce images that do not always resemble how we expect 'photographs' to appear. My practice questions the indexical nature of the photograph, blurring the lines between painting and photography to explore the role of memory and optical illusion within perception. I use photographic technology to reveal hidden 'realities', which become visible through the recording and editing process. The distortion and disorientation, created through these images, aims to prompt the viewer to consider how memory and imagination impact his/her own perception of urban temporality and spatiality.

Disappearing into Night

Author: David Kendall (Goldsmiths, University of London) email

Short abstract

'Disappearing into Night' explores how infrastructural transformation, energy generation and consumption in Doha, Qatar effects acoustic and ocular landscapes, thus uncovering and modifying past and present connections between people, architecture and digital infrastructure in the city.

Long abstract

In Gulf cities the rapid development of urban infrastructures, transforms the built environment. At night in Doha (Qatar) artificial light and buildings fuse together to form fresh visual landscapes. In these settings electrical light sculpts new architectural backdrops, reorganises boundaries and visually erodes soon-to-be forgotten neighbourhoods, erased by structural change. Moreover, if an entire city is imagined as an archive, the buildings in Doha are not only sites of infrastructural order, but become politically and socially active through destruction and reconstruction. Overlaid by an assemblage of digital signals produced by communal activities, and a multitude of events created by inhabitants in particular places and moments in time. These ever-shifting edge conditions create fertile ground from which the urban imaginary can arise from the Anthropocene. Furthermore, the project explores how the electromagnetic spectrum seen by human eyes and image sensors merges with radiant flux, the unseen light-energy emitted and received by Information and Communication Technologies. 'Temporality' is conceptually important in practice development and the perceptual experiments analyse how sound effects vision, and 'listening' exposes and transmits unseen audible phenomena to form new temporal objects - an afterimage of a spatial experience or atmosphere in the sky glow enveloping the biosphere. As a result, recording both the audio and visual elements observed on journeys made on foot fuses the acoustic and ocular landscapes thus uncovering new connections between people, architecture and digital infrastructure in the city.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.