In this workshop, Gail Davies and artists Neal White and Steve Rowell from The Office of Experiments, worked with invited participants to explore what constitutes an ‘experimental ruin’ within the fabric of our urban centres. This collaborative engagement was between geographers, artists and others interested in the experimental geographies of science and technology.
In their initial field research project for the exhibition Dark Places, Office of Experiments focussed attention on the rural landscapes of Southern England, documenting spaces in which large-scale scientific and intelligence facilities are sited, ranging from research centres to military proving grounds. For this, the second in an ongoing series of enquiries into the experimental spaces of science and technology, London becomes the setting, a space that requires a different method of enquiry.
The Office of Experiments state: ‘we are aware of the effect of social, technological and scientific progress as a form of rapid geology in urban centres, with new sediments concealing old forms, as new systems and structures continually replace the old. This is the progressive effect of a technical and rational culture, the search for increasing traction on space and matter, as virtual spaces take the place of the indeterminate traces of human and animal life. Models replace organisms, simulators supplant laboratories, and movement of atoms are integrated into networks of bits. To explore experimental ruins is to engage with the range of knowledges, materials and sites relating to such developments and their histories. From experimental practices, to standard research methods, from archives to archaeology, from conspiracy theory to hard scientific fact, we want to use
this material to explore the realities and myths that are the remainders of progress.’
The workshop encompassed discussion of the ways we might identify: the material traces of biological, technological, informational and radical experiments in London; the temporal and spatial imaginaries embodied in such experimental sites, whether open, closed, subterranean or aerial; the methods for encountering and expanding engagements around these spaces, and the stakes involved in doing so.
Discussion and exploration of these idea was explored between geographers, artists, historians of science and technology, and the archivists and archaeologists of contemporary history. This discussion was interspresed with an experimental field trip to a local site which could be considered as an experimental ruin, thereby combining subject, method and practice.
Our aim to contribute to ongoing discussions around the ‘geographies of experimentation’ and the nature of experimental aesthetics was very successful; shaping future forms of enquiry around these experimental remainders that are both collective and contested.
Keep watching for posts relating to the projects developing from this starting point.
The workshop is supported by the Arts Catalyst, UCL Department of Geography
and the ESRC fellowship of Dr.Gail Davis