Composting Estate seminar: Fay Hoolahan and John Wild 7 February 2020

A series of seminars examining processes and materials of composition and decomposition of site and place.
Room A002 Central Saint Martins 
10.30am  – 1.00pm
7 February 2020 

Fay Hoolahan

After the Park: Reflections on ‘Estate’ as a Site of Recollection

My work is concerned with the recording of the transient experience of place, investigating the temporal nature of landscape and exploring processes of disruption within ordered functional space. I am interested in how the site of the public park can be understood in terms of Robert Smithson's concept of "a thing for us" and how it is possible to represent the ways that we engage with place as a practice of "complex spatial wandering" (Yves-Alan Bois).

This presentation discusses the findings of ongoing research into the making and archiving of 'projected meanderings' in the form of moving image content and audio recordings. The project is part of my wider investigations into film as spatial practice which utilises a concept of 'creative geography' to describe the process by which place is mapped in moving image art through the dimension of time. The practice challenges notions of 'place' as a fixed point and explores the idea of equivocality in terms of how place is constructed, created, documented and ultimately defined. I am concerned about the varied and sometimes conflicting functions of places: the patterns of design and control, the processes of natural and human intervention.

Developing from my ongoing research into the filmic mapping of natural spaces within the urban environment, I describe a performance/workshop at Approaching Estate, which centred on the specific site of Furtherfield in Finsbury Park. Around the park is part of an ongoing series of film and sound pieces responding to particular sites, entitled Talking Line Walks. The work investigates the experience of a place as explored as projected travel, something by design yet also random, unexpected due to the temporal nature of landscape. Relating to notions of the picturesque, Smithson describes how we experience landscape via 'manifold relationships', not as isolated instances. This work seeks to explore how these different levels of experience are juxtaposed in relation to both immediate memory (the experience of the location as a site of engagement) and wider recollections (internal landscape of associations): how, as participants, we undergo the process of being transported into a more mythical or mytho-geographical space. 

The work uses moving image of four compass viewpoints from the centre of Finsbury Park with four independent soundtracks: one being sounds recorded on location at the time of filming, while two others are specifically designed soundtrack 'Walks' relating to the site of Finsbury Park. The fourth soundtrack is a constructed 'Walk' representing the different but related site of an unnamed park in south London. Each of the three 'Walks' consists of atmosphere sounds, voiceover descriptions and stories relating to the sites. In presentation, they were played independently, that is, not synchronized, while one of the Walks was mobilized, via a blue tooth speaker, which I transported myself through the space of Furtherfield Commons. The aim was to create disruption and discontinuity, at odds with the designed auditory environment. Participants were to write down comment on their thoughts and recollections, which might be precipitated by the experience of the work. The presentation discusses the outcomes and related research developing from this performance.

Fay Hoolahan is an artist and filmmaker, whose practice engages with questions of place, landscape, memory and identity. Recent projects include Great North Way and Talking Line Walks.

Around the Park (Trailer)
A02 On the hill Talking Line Walk 2:
A03 To the marsh Talking Line Walk 3:

John Wild 
Psychogeography in the Digital City

How does it feel to walk the streets of East London when the city has been expanded by technologies that blur the boundary between the physical world and the digital realm, between physical objects and their representations in the digital field as data?

Psychogeography is the study of the geographical environment’s influence on the mind or behaviour using walking techniques from avant-garde art. Psychogeography in the Digital City develops an original psychogeographically-inspired art practice to research the convergence of digital technology and the physical space of the city. The investigation aims to discover whether the knowledge produced from psychogeography’s creative practices can critically inform and enhance the discourse around the role ubiquitous and mobile computing plays in the production of space in East London. 

Digital technology is rapidly converging with the physical space of the city, constructing a material infrastructure of cables that feed an invisible infrastructure of wireless signals, connecting a multitude of digital devices. This convergence between digital technologies and the city has enabled a reconfiguration of the spaces that exist within the city and the creation of new types of space. Digital technology can now be shown to play an active role in the production of the space of the city through digital representational practices. The infrastructure of mobile and ubiquitous computing also impacts on city space, from the siting of mobile phone masts within the city to the digging up of the roads to lay optical fibre networks that link large anonymous data centres. The relationship between digital technology and the city is a complex one in which the convergence of digital technology and the city can be shown to have expanded not just the space of the city but what the space of the city is. 

Psychogeography in the Digital City, investigates the spatial impact of these new circuits of digitality on the felt experience of East London. Psychogeography in the Digital City is conceived both as a method of research and a practice of resistance.

John Wild holds a Ph.D. from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Queen Mary University of London.