sensingsite 2015

In This Neck of the Woods

Consisting of paper presentations, performances, and installation works by PhD and post Doctoral researchers from UAL and beyond, In This Neck of the Woods will present a range of responses to the environs of Central Saint Martins and King’s Cross, considered as sites for the production and reception of experimental critical practice and research.

Introductory presentations by:
Anna Minton (University of East London)
Professor Jeremy Till (Head of Central Saint Martins)

Research presentations by:
Sam Burford (Chelsea)
Adriana Cobo Corey (CSM)
Dr Kate Corder
Dr Nick Ferguson
Maria Fernanda Calderón (Wimbledon)
John Hartley (Falmouth) 
Kevin Logan (LCC)
Dr Carali McCall
Dr Pat Naldi
Maria Papadomanolaki (LCC)
Ingrid Pumayalla (CSM)

09:30 – 18:00
Thursday 4 June 2015
Lecture Theatres E002 and E003
Central Saint Martins
Granary Building 
1 Granary Square 
King’s Cross 
London N1C 4AA

Book here


Anna Minton

Ground Control King's Cross
Anna Minton is a writer, journalist,  Reader in Architecture at the University of East London and the author of Ground Control. Her presentation will cover the main themes in Ground Control relating to the growing private ownership and control of streets and public places. The privatisation of public space segregates large parts of the city, creating disconnected, high security enclaves which breed fear and undermine trust between people. King's Cross, which is at the epicentre of these changes, is a key site for study.

Jeremy Till
The Design of Scarcity
This talk will draw on Jeremy Till’s recent research into scarcity, in which he argues that the context of scarcity gives rise to new ways that artists and designers might approach their work. Although scarcity is often defined as an inevitable condition, the lecture will show that it is always constructed in various ways, and that creative practice can and should intervene in these constructions in a productive manner.

Sam Burford 
Bullitt - Re-imagining Space-time and the City

Briefly looking at the varying ways that the interrelated nature of time and space have been depicted in art and literature, the presentation will begin by focusing on some notable artworks before concentrating on how restructurings of Peter Yates seminal car chase sequence from the film Bullit (1968) can be used in the context of a practise based research project to explore the relationship between cinema and representations of the city - both as a distinct location in time and space (downtown San Francisco in 1968) and as a means to produce physical sculptural objects that reference the writing of Laurence Stern and cartographers such as Barbeau-Duborg's "Chronographie" (1753) and Preistley's "A New Chart of History " (1769) which sought to find new ways to chart time. 

Adriana Cobo Corey
The Great Unwashed / Dirty Laundry
l: Lavandera, Cali River, Columbia  r: Launderette, London, UK

Washing and cleaning often become metaphors of class divide. Images of people washing clothes (or themselves) in public fountains or riverbanks evoke deprived communities in Latin America, Asia or Africa, where private access to water is scarce. In the UK, The Great Unwashed refers to the common people, not cleaned or purified by or as if by washing.

Gentrification and the privatization of public spaces in London come escorted by images of the new and clean. Dedicated to the joy of a gentrified public brought by the regeneration project for Kings Cross, the fountains on Granary Square suggest an intervention that could recall the process of cleaning while evoking the presence of occupations past.  By washing clothes in the fountains of Granary Square, this performance will present an uncomfortable yet playful reminder of the divide between the old and the new, the dirty and the clean, them and us. Memories of the great unwashed might temporarily appear prompting a brief dialogue with the new and clean, while recreating the cross-cultural and timeless community building ritual of doing the laundry in public.

Tryouts will take place on two different days and times, with small groups of washers getting to the fountains to do the laundry. Their movements will respond to the changing rhythms of the water rising and falling, marked by the automated (yet un-predictable) design of the fountains. Three batches of clothes will be washed by each group, wringed and laid-out to dry in ten minutes intervals. Tryouts will be video-recorded and edited for discussion at In This Neck of the Woods on 4.6.15, along with a final performance.

Kate Corder
Rocket and Potatoes, Strawberries and Aggregate: Explorations of Kings Cross

This presentation examines plant life through current and past histories in and around Kings Cross through a photo and essay tour. I will search through the built layers of the Kings Cross, examining the place for accumulations of geological material (soil, gravel and concrete), positioned by humans and how plants can germinate in the place through their own seeding or human cultivation. Rapid expansions to Kings Cross happened with industrialization. For almost a century potato traffic and potato markets were once integral to area. Currently, a supermarket is in construction in the former potato warehouse; the building will re-instate the market flow of plant produce to the locality. Exploring the area reveals plants growing wild in sometimes-unexpected places. A balcony of rocket overlooks the railway and other plants extend biodiversity where they can. Alpine strawberries are a detail in a planting structure. Different plants create speculative questions, as to how and why they accumulate to site specificity, (including the introduction of a particular oak tree). Concrete invades the surroundings as humans cultivate the place. The stuck down gravel road (Kings Boulevard) claims vibrancy, echoing a river flowing during glacial melt; the gravel extracted from under soil elsewhere. The amassed built up material shifts from building site to building site, as aggregate regenerates another layer of human utilitarian space and wild life shifts and repositions itself in response to aggravations. The Skip Allotments move from one place to another making them hard to find until the location becomes common knowledge.

Nick Ferguson
Country End/Town End. From Surbiton to Kings Cross

In the form of a narrative with 36 slides, Country End/Town End takes the visitor by train from Surbiton, a dormitory suburb of West London, to Central Saint Martins. The trip takes as its conceptual beginning Robert Smithson’s seminal photo essay A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic (1967), which begins in New York’s city centre and finishes in the suburb Passaic, where the artist sees the decaying but perpetually incomplete suburb of Passaic as “ruins in reverse … all the new constructions that would eventually be built” (p. 72). 

In revisiting these themes, but in relation to the topography of London in the new century, and with a reversed direction of travel, the talk invites a reconsideration of the epistemological relationship between London’s centre and periphery, particularly as it pertains to notions of old and new space. Under consideration is the neighbourhood of King Cross, and the proposition that, though a centre, it is more reminiscent of a suburb – a perpetual building site, and one which lacks qualities expected of a metropolitan centre. For sure, there is the semblance of the urbs: the photogenic ‘old’ provides a kind of spacing – temporal as well as Euclidean. This punctuates the development to create an illusion of what Kenneth Frampton called nearness (1980); a fancy that the corporate present is rooted in an industrial past; an impression of diversity, contestation even, strategically incorporated to reassure publics that this is a genuinely urban space: gritty, irrational and unpredictable. Yet this appearance is undone, not least by the uniformity of the freshly pointed brickwork that unites this former hinterland into a homogenous whole. Indeed, here is a politics belonging to a neighbourhood built on territory that is empty, plentiful, and without a legible past. The earthworks and windowless towers that rise from them are perhaps the present ruins of the future city.

Maria Fernanda Calderón
Remember Realtime

For the past months I’ve been regularly observing a series of webcam streams from the King’s Cross area, available at, set with the premise of watching the ongoing development in real-time. Visiting the physical space and the website simultaneously, I noticed a time delay between the webcam images and my own ‘real-time’. This lapse is the starting point for my research.

Bodies moving through physical space and captured by the webcams, appear as dark pixels, generic beings devoid of character designation; they’re an absence visible throughout the steady flow of the digital image. In cinema, temporal continuity is determined by absence, by the lost interstices in the division between frames. This inter-frame absence separates a past and a future; it manifests a temporal modernism. The absent figures in the webcam images are persistent; they permeate the footage, always there. In these figures past, present and future are collapsed together, there's no discernible separation, not post-modernism, but hyper-modernism; silhouettes traversing networks at digital time-scales: speeds, not just faster than visual perception as in cinema, but faster than thought.

King's Cross is in between frames. As a new future appears in the process of disappearing the past, real-time images of the development make contingencies momentarily emerge. Observing this shifting rift provides a frame for addressing relationships between the past’s presence in the present and the ambivalence of the soon-to-be-built future, and the void of human bodies that occupies both.

During this investigation, I’ve developed a close relationship with this live-streamed view of King's Cross. I’m interested in documenting the integration between architecture, technology and digital infrastructure, and the dispersion-fragmentation of what we experience as the self. Looking both at its always changing -though static- constructions, and at the people moving through them, I’ve been recording unforeseen realities. This collection of contingencies is the source for the creation of new digital-cinematic narratives, a correspondence between my self and the dematerialized, digital other.

John Hartley
Speculating Sediment
Regent's Canal (built 1816), site for Central St Martin's College

I will present a short film made using discarded or redundant electronic film equipment, as a collaborative performance lecture with Sam Thomas, Customer Operations Manager, Canal & River Trust London

The film will be made on the bottom of the Regents Canal that runs past the outside of the Granary Building of Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts London). The canal carries the waters of the River Brent, as well as urban run-off, towards Limehouse and the Thames. The process of making the film will involve waterproofing a number of cameras that are now considered obsolete. The prepared cameras will be lowered towards the bottom of the canal to rest momentarily among the sediment accumulated over 199 years of meteorology, industry, war, trade, collapse, leisure and other - unknowable – histories. The cameras may not continue to work well after this process.

Once the recording procedure is completed, the 'films' including their recording apparatuses, will be brought into the college's lecture theatre. The equipment will be displayed in whatever state it is in. Replaying the recording may result in any number of outcomes due to the canal's contingencies of development and collapse and how they have acted on the equipment. This non-presentation will be accompanied by documentation about with the canal, from the operations manager from the Canal and Rivers Trust.

In one sense, the true success or failure of the film will remain unknowable. But presentation of parts of the 'apparatus' which make the films will aid speculation around the development and collapse that takes place around the sites under consideration.

Kevin Logan
Snap-stick, (Slapstick), Crack and Rustle: locating sonic-signifiers

This presentation is an exploration of particular sonic-signifiers employed in narrative, it looks toward the practice of field recording and phonography for its methodology.
In an obvious reference to the event title ‘In This Neck of the Woods’, I will present a performative reading using a trope that is common within cinema, in particular the genres of horror and thriller. The ‘device’ is the dual sonic-signifiers of ‘a twig crack’ and the ‘rustle of dried leaves’ underfoot. These simple noises are complex indicators of location, mood, and plot in filmic language.

Making parallels with the well-known Situationist slogan, “Sous les pavés, la plage! “ (Under the paving stones, the beach), my working title could be along the lines of “Les branches mortes craquent sous mes pieds” (Dead branches cracking under my feet). I will briefly look at how the sonic can re-site the imagination, playing off ideas of urban and rural sonorities against each other.

This playful performance-lecture explores the language of cinematic sound and its relationship to site, in particular through the sonic-event. It examines the 'obstinate-object', a specific area within my recent research, whilst addressing the traditional rift between ‘performing’ and ‘knowing’. As the straightforward lecture format is antithetical to my research premise my presentation will take this pedagogical model as an incitement. Touching upon theoretical areas that are currently under close scrutiny by such disciplines as Sound Studies, Performance Studies, and Philosophy, I intend to de-academicize and re-punk. This is not done with the intention of ridiculing these fields of study, but rather to add to them through forms of embodied knowledge sharing.  

Carali McCall
Running up the Side of the Building

As preliminary steps to the proposed performance, Running up the Side of the Building, this work will present collated material of experimental videos working at height and running with a camera. From studying other artists who use rope and various pieces of equipment, these videos begin to show how the runner can move vertically and help to form new relationships between running as performance and the moving image.

Questioning the role of the body as a drawing tool, and how gravity and energy (invisible materials) can impose physical limitations, I aim to extend the possibilities of the body in time and space. Further, the KX setting (during this unsettling time of construction, re-claiming land and promoting it as both national and international property) influences how the runner negotiates space and can experience a heightened sense of adrenalin and drive to address empowerment. Preparing to elevate the body and scale the Granary Building, these earlier works start to paly with the fabrication of unconventional running routes and use the city to gain both height and distance for the marathon runner.

Pat Naldi
The real [e]state

The King’s Cross private estate is the largest urban redevelopment taking place in Europe. Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, is the flagship building and tenant of the estate. The site is an example of the neoliberal corporatisation of the urban that coalesces public and private space. Redevelopment is carried out at the expense of ‘giving up’ open ‘public’ spaces for ‘privatised’ open spaces. In this current scenario James C. Scott’s (1989) theory of ‘seeing like a state’ (he contends the state makes society legible through standardisation, organisation and design of cities in order to have command and control over its citizens), is being replaced by ‘seeing like an estate’ in which citizen spatial participation and contestation is regulated by the capitalist ideology of estate owners. 

The King’s Cross developer’s assertion is that these open ‘private’ spaces put people first. This presentation argues however, that this assertion is a fictitious ploy predicated on agenda ridden profiteering based on privatised capitalist concerns of a neoliberal society in which regeneration projects are invested and manifested as sites and sights of economic consumption. These are capitalist concerns, I contend, materialised and imbricated into the fabric of the King’s Cross estate. So much so that in March 2015 a group of art students – Occupy UAL – faced with ‘no alternative’, turned, through their occupation, the Central Saint Martins building into a symbolic and actual site of political contestation. It was through this occupation, I will argue, that, albeit temporarily, a democratic participation and contestation of space was in fact actually realised. For in our neoliberal society that privileges private spaces, as Don Mitchell writes, ‘what makes a space public’, one in which there can be political representation, is when a group ‘takes space and through its actions makes it public’ (Mitchell, 2003: 35).

Maria Papadomanolaki
Kings Cross: a certain geography

King’s Cross: a certain geography is a site-specific performance combining live sound-streaming, text and audience participation. After working extensively for a week with Central Saint Martin’s environs, I will create a text-based video response that will be projected in the auditorium on the day of the performance. Drawing on the cinematic aesthetics of the subtitle, the text will consist of a series of sound and site-sensitive words, phrases echoing different moments of the visited spaces and the perspectives encountered. These subtitles will also form the score of a  soundwalk that will be performed outside of the auditorium while being streamed live inside. During the performance, the audience will have the opportunity to use the text as a prompt and contribute to the piece by interacting with me. These responses will ultimately complete the score and the performance will conclude when I enter the auditorium space where the audience is located.

Ingrid Pumayalla
Interrupted Landscape

video 5:39

The Granary Building is an institutional structure whose aim is to encourage the creative process. The building itself and the area around it has been in continuous change over the last four years, at the same time the students who inhabit the building have also undergone processes of transformation. What is the relationship between the spaces and the individuals who inhabit this space? How does the building and the people within it affect one another?

Part of my research is based in an understanding of loss, which is part of the migration process; this involves a restructuring of identity, which can cause fragility and fear. How are processes of loss and change transformed by the experience of art? Through making art, can we transform loss into new experiences, which then lead to an enhanced relationship with the new environment?

As part of the experience of loss and change, I have been working within the space of the university, where I feel I have protection and the security to place my body as part of the landscape as performance. The structure of the architecture of the building establishes the physical bond between myself, the physical materials of the building, and the social institution. This institution is home to many artist like my self. This video is an example of the works I have been making here.