The Exhibition

The exhibition, as those who’ve seen the fliers will testify, is due to run for a week from, well, yesterday.  This meant that a lot of fun was had in the drizzle on Wednesday and the beautiful sun yesterday morning sloshing wallpaper paste around and generally causing a mess.  I had Colin, Callum and Lovely Pete helping out on Wednesday and it’s completely a coincidence that I’m supervising the MSci projects of two of these guys…

There are some nice photos here of the posters going up.  I need to say a huge thanks to Kevin Burkhill who was kind enough to print out miles of posters for me – lovely work which then got covered in wallpaper paste, one batch of which was made up using rainwater pouring from a downspout on the Arts Building.  On the Wednesday we were stopped by Security once and twice by building managers, but a magic email from Richard, who has been my handler in the Estates Department, waved away all the problems.

Last night and all day today, however, we’ve had driving rain which has obliterated many of the posters in unsheltered spots.  I was hoping to go and salvage some of them, but it seems like a lost cause.  Still the rain continues, but I’ll go out shortly and get some photos of the mashed posters.  Will try reposting some next week when, hopefully, the rain will have stopped.  But it’s a touch Biblical today… but these are the risks you take when trying to do something a little bit off the wall (literally, in the case of many of the posters).  In the meantime, the catalogue can be found here.

Good opportunity to say a big thanks to everyone who has helped out – Corrina our College Marketing & Comms manager, Paul & Richard in Estates, Angie in Security, Kev in the Drawing Office, Dom, Colin, Pete and Callum who all helped put the posters up and, of course, Dan Burwood for taking all the lovely portraits in the first place.  Last and most importantly, thanks to the participants, some of whom were briefly campus celebrities before being beaten down by the rain.  There’s probably a cycling metaphor there somewhere…


Things are moving forward – had my first building manager ring me up today to confirm details of how the posters would be attached to his building.  On this score I’ve been experimenting with how this is going to work.  I’ve been in conversation with Kev in the Geography Drawing Office about the print outs.  Although using the expensive glossy paper makes for nicer prints, sadly they smear really easily when wet.  The (much) cheaper matt paper absorbs the ink from our map plotter rather better.  So I attached a couple of smaller scale prints to my shed at home using wallpaper paste.  One I then covered in a clear sealant, the other I left as it came out of the printer.  Then I sprayed a hosepipe all over them.  You can see the results here.  Basically both seemed to survive quite happily.  And they’re still surviving as the week has gone on, despite the rain we’ve had.  So it looks like it should all be okay.  And I kinda like the way they look when they’re a bit weathered, it really sells the ‘flyposted’ aesthetic.

Giving a bit of thought today to running a session at the Association of American Geographers’ annual conference on geographers engaging in artistic practice.  Will post a call up on the various geography email lists and see if anyone else seems interested or whether this is just more random musing from me.  I want to see if other people are struggling to reconcile academic activity and more artistic outputs from their work.  Maybe they can help me make sense of what it is that I’m doing as I flounder around organising exhibitions when I should be writing papers.

Just a quick post before I head up north to do some ethnomethodology (don’t ask) with a hydrologist friend who works at the University of Liverpool.

The cycling exhibition will launch on Thursday 30 September 2010. I’ve given the website a spring clean and you can see details of the exhibition and provisional locations on the new exhibition page.  There should even be some proper publicity, thanks to the kind help of the press office.

On the publications front, I’ve got the reviewers’ comments back for the cartoon.  Generally positive, although I couldn’t help but laugh at the slightly anguished ‘but what would Doreen Massey think’ that emerged from this.  Will get my drawing tablet back out and work on these shortly, so hopefully there should be a fun paper to see relatively soon (ACME, the journal in question, is open access).  We’ve also had a piece accepted for Applied Geography about the Digbeth project and I’ve just sent back the revised cycling-and-senses paper to Environment and Planning D – we’ll see what the reviewers make of it this time.

Of course all of this good progress will come to a grinding halt shortly as term begins again and chaos descends once more…

Just had a meeting with the lovely Paul from the University’s Estates Department.  He seemed pretty relaxed about letting me stick a bunch of poster-sized portraits and maps to the walls of campus.  So all I have to do now is identify the specific sites I’m going to use and get him to sign off on them.  This means not using the Aston Webb, or the complex around the Ashley Building, nor the (thoroughly beautiful) Metallurgy and Materials Building because they’re all listed.  Otherwise I’ve got a (fairly) free hand so long as I use wallpaper paste that can be scrubbed off brick relatively easily.

My task when back from holiday in a week or so will be to wander around, photographing locations that I want to use and work out a walking route between them that’s navigable around the various bits of campus which are currently dug up while the service tunnels are fixed. (Yes, we have service tunnels, but sadly no command and control bunker that I know of).  Target is to run all of this for the last week in September, which coincides with Freshers’ week, meaning that there’ll be lots of people on campus.  Dan will be in Syria, but I’m hoping to persuade him to write something for the exhibition catalogue.

So that’s all fun and exciting.  While I’m here I should also mention the ‘Rhetoric vs. reality in research: mapping theory and practice’ workshop that I went to back on 15 July at Queen Mary’s.  Really nice bunch of people, good mix of postgrads and more experienced staff. Interesting to hang out a bit at QMUL – a real buzz about the place, kinda get a sense of why it’s one of *the* geography departments in the UK.  Anyway, there was a great presentation by Erene Kaptani from the University of East London looking at theatrical performance as a means of engaging with hard to reach groups – lots of exciting overlaps with the ‘body geography’ approaches that I’m increasingly taking.  Another stand out for me was Ant Ince, who was just dotting Is and crossing Ts on his PhD looking at activist research engaging with militant groups (squatters etc).  Great stuff.  I presented the cycling material, all in a bit of a rush sad to say.  Always really interesting to present to a group who don’t engage in mapping or GIS at all – a totally different kind of response to that which I’d get from a group of cartographers, say.  You’ve got to love mixing up graphs with ethnographic data – it just messes with people’s heads.

Can’t believe the summer is so far advanced.  Sent off two RG-related papers so far and will resubmit two other ones once they’re revised – hopefully I’ll be getting the revisions done next week while I’m away at a cottage in a remote part of Scotland with only my laptop for company.  Ah, the writing retreat, it’s the only way to get things done, particularly when you’ve got no wifi or phone reception.  Still waiting to get referees’ comments back on the cartoon paper – apparently the comments exist, but the editor hasn’t yet found time to send them to me.  Hey ho, this is why everything takes such a long time to turn around in academic circles.

First things first, I hooked up with Dan last week to take delivery of the portraits he’s done of the participants in the cycling project.  He’s shot these on medium format, mostly 6×6 though the photo of Nick Crowson that appears on the flier was shot in 6×7.  For the portraits for the Eastside project Dan was using black and white, but he’s chosen to shoot these ones in colour and I have to say, they look pretty fantastic.  I’ll post these up on the main site once the exhibition is over…

…because we are planning to hold the exhibition in the relatively near future, date dependent on which spaces we can get permission to use and when.  Hoping to do this around campus, with 11 portraits by Dan and 11 maps / other visual media produced by me, based on the data produced by the participants.  I have to talk to the Marketing Department about this, apparently, so I’ll say more as soon as I know.  We’re suddenly rushing a bit because Dan is going to be out of the country for 12 months from August, so he’s trying to finish off lots of projects and now that I’m out of the bunker of exam marking, I’ve no excuse for not organising things.

That’s all exciting.  What else?  Back in, oh, April (blimey, where does the time go?) I presented some of the findings of the cycling work at the Association of American Geographers Annual Conference in Washington DC.  I was in a session about bridging the divide between people studying conventional transport geography and those who are working on the ‘mobilities paradigm’.  This makes it sound terribly pretentious, but it was a really interesting session, so thanks go to the lovely Jon Shaw and Jennie Middleton who work at Plymouth, for organising this and letting me ramble on about bikes.  (Jennie, you may remember, organised the Peripatetic Practices workshop that James and I went to a couple of years ago to talk about the Eastside project.)  My paper was based on something I’ve submitted to the journal Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, which has disappeared into the abyss of the reviewing process.  Will chase that up.  I’m also going to give suspiciously similar papers at a workshop on ‘new’ methods in July and at the Cycling and Society conference in Oxford sometime in September.  But that’s fine, because recycling is environmentally friendly…

Well, the exhibition launch was over a week ago now and I almost feel like I’ve recovered.  Astonishing how it all came together so nicely in the end.  All without having a gantt chart which, considering the hassle little Steph gave us over the summer about the need for a gantt chart, simply reinforces my anti-gantt chart prejudices. 

Oyvind was brilliant helping us set up at MADE.  He and Dan hung all the stuff in the front room where Dan’s portraits hung in artistic loveliness.  Myself and James did a bit more of a, ahem, ‘handwoven’ job in the back room with all of our research stuff.  Still it all looked pretty good.  Props also to Jane P for forcing us all to get organised and making sure everything ran like clockwork on the night.  And obviously much thanks to Julia for letting us do it.

We had about 70 people pass through over the evening – including a handful we kidnapped on their way to the opening of Fazeley Studios which was happening just down the road.  I’ve put some pictures up onto Facebook, which I’ve made open access.  They’re some of the worst photos I’ve taken since buying a camera with autofocus – no amount of photoshopping could redeem them, but you get the general idea.  I’d been out the previous weekend shooting a bunch of stuff on the helmetcam and wrapped it all up into a Google Earth file (available from the revamped Download page, as is, incidentally, the exhibition catalogue produced to go alongside Dan’s portraits).  It was quite fun sitting with people, getting them to play with Google Earth projected onto one of the walls.  I lost count of the number of people who said “it’s like the Blair Witch Project” while watching footage of my walk through the bushes next to the River Rea.

So huge thanks to everyone who turned up on Friday.

MADE asked us to take part in their Organic Eastside workshop, which was held at South Birmingham College last Tuesday.  Some really interesting stuff presented – George Fergusson, responsible for the redevelopment of the old Wills Tobacco factory in Bristol gave a really interesting paper.    I gave a brief outline of the RG project, but had to hurry off afterward.  Work has been insanely busy this week as all the stuff I hadn’t been doing in the previous fortnight getting ready for the exhibition finally started to catch up with me.  Plus I really have to send off the End of Award Report to the ESRC to justify the cash we spent.  Actually it’s been quite nice filling in the forms because a lot of the things most social science projects routinely fail to do – particularly regarding ‘end user engagement’ – has been really easy to sort out.  MADE, the gods of networking saw to that.

In a sense the exhibition brings the formal part of the Rescue Geography project to an end, but we’re still working on writing things up, doing more analysis and, of course, applying for more money to do Phase 2.  I think that RG has grown beyond the particular project that we originally applied to do in Digbeth/Eastside and both James and myself are pretty excited about where this goes next.

Oh and we’ve just had a piece accepted by an open access online journal.  It gives some details of different ways to do walking interviews and draws on RG as well as some students who I persuaded to do walking interviews for their dissertations.  I’ll post a link as soon as it’s online.