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Common Ground

Bristol 10th November 2007

The Common Ground one-day symposium, organized for LAND2 by Shelley James, took place in the Faculty of Creative Arts, UWE, Bristol and followed the tradition of our on-going inter-disciplinary concerns by bringing together scientists and artists around a common theme. Our aim was to explore the power of landscape as a lens through which to view broader questions, such as the relationship between temporal and spatial representations, and the tensions between our desire for stability and the reality of change.

Five presentations were made to the symposium delegates. These were as follows:

An illustrated paper by Steve Self (Professor of Volcanology for The Open University, and Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii), entitled Rapid Landscape Changes and Environmental Impacts Caused by Volcanic Impact. This paper, which drew on his current research interests in the mechanisms and deposits of volcanic eruptions and the effects of eruptions on global climate and environment, set the context for the day by introducing the audience to the physical power and impact of volcanic activity and its role in landscape formation.

Rapid Landscape Changes and Environmental Impacts Caused by Volcanic Impact

Towards Heilprin Land a lecture/performance by Ilana Halperin (delivered, due to Ilana’s unavoidable absence through illness, by Bronwyn Platten). Ilana Halperin is an artist currently based in Glasgow and is Alchemy Fellow at the University of Manchester. Her work explores the relationship between geological phenomena and daily life so that the geologic history and environmental situation specific to the locale directly informs the direction each piece takes. She has worked with The Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian Institution, The British Geological Survey and Earthwatch and her recent projects take as a starting point a personal experience with an unexpected geological phenomenon and increasingly interconnected events of a political, historical and everyday nature are progressively drawn together to form a narrative that explores the changeable nature of landmass, using geology as a language to understand our relationship to a constantly evolving world.

David Walker-Barker (reading in tandem with Chris Rawson -Tetley) presented an illustrated paper entitled Landscape and Industrial Traces. A lecturer in the Department of Contemporary Art Practice in the School of Design at the University of Leeds, David’s interest in aspects of geology and landscape evolution developed whilst at the Royal College of Art and continue to be a significant preoccupation in relation to his artwork. He recently completed an AHRC research project in collaboration with “Killhope”, The North of England Lead Mining Museum, producing a range of art works relating to the North Pennine Landscape and its extensive hard rock mining history.

Shelley James (who originally studied textiles in Paris before working in international marketing, specialising in corporate image development with clients including Visa International, Shell and Cancer Research, UK), presented an illustrated paper entitled Charts and Channels: currents in medical and maritime representation.

Having recently completed an MA in printmaking, Shelley is currently a Research Associate at UWE and Artist in Residence at the Bristol Eye Hospital. Her current creative practice explores dimensions of perception, considering the power of medical diagnostic maps to define personal narrative and experience. An ongoing research project with the RNIB and University of Bristol considers the interplay of sight and touch in illusion. Her work combines fine art printmaking and experimental glass techniques.

Charts and Channels: currents in medical and maritime representation.

Iain Biggs (Reader in Visual Art Practice, Faculty of Creative Arts, UWE, Bristol) presented an illustrated paper entitled "Landscape - Narrative, Palimpsest, Metaphor? OR: “Landscape as a Provocation”: navigating Doreen Massey’s recent writing by way of visual imagination. The paper focused on Massey’s recent writing on landscape and reflected Iain’s interest in the complex relationship between the approaches of academic disciplines and creative practices to the re-presentation of landscape, a topic that has been an important element in his work since the late 1990s.

'Landscape - Narrative, Palimpsest, Metaphor? OR: “Landscape as a Provocation':

The Respondent for the day was Ruth Jones (currently AHRC Fellow with LAND2 in the Faculty of Creative Arts, UWE, Bristol). You can read her notes on the Common Ground Symposia by clicking here.