OilScapes Workshop

Bitumen oozing out of the ground near the Oilsands mining project Fort McMurray, Canada.

I will be giving a talk with Andriko Lozowy (University of Alberta) at the OilScapes workshop which is accompanying the OilScapes exhibition at Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen’s Centre for Contemporary Art.
Here are the details:


  • Thursday 18th October 2012
  • University of Aberdeen Library, Meeting Room 1 on Floor 7 MAP
  • 10 – 6pm
  • FREE
  • Places are limited – to book please RSVP to j.stewart@abdn.ac.uk

Confirmed participants include Janet Stewart (University of Aberdeen), Zeigam Azizov (artist, London), Aga Ousseinov (artist, New York), Merle Patchett (University of Bristol), Graeme MacDonald (University of Warwick) and others from Anthropology, Film & Visual Culture, History, Sociology and Theology at the University of Aberdeen. It is intended that the papers and responses discussed in this workshop will form the basis for a journal special issue devoted to a critical appraisal of the concept of the ‘oilscape’.

The workshop has three key aims:

• to assess the contribution that the concept of the ‘oilscape’ might make to existing debates on cultural ecology, petro-culture, energy cities and city-regions, and the energy humanities, focusing on the interrelations and disjunctions between environment and mobility;

• to consider how productive the concept of the ‘oilscape’ might be in understanding the role of the oil industry in motivating and facilitating the cross-circulation of cultures in the contemporary world;

• to investigate the ways in which the concept of the ‘oilscape’ might offer a lens through which to understand the role of visual culture in mapping and constructing (and re-mapping and re-constructing) the ‘imagined worlds’ of the ‘hydrocarbon age’.


Thursday 18 October, University Library, Meeting Room 1, Floor 7, University of Aberdeen

10am – 10:30am
Coffee and Welcome.

10:30am – 12pm
SESSION 1: ‘OilScapes: The Ecology of Oil and the Ecology of Images’.
Speakers: Zeigam Azizov (Artist, Royal College of Art) and Janet Stewart (University of Aberdeen).
Respondents: Tatiana Argounova-Low, Katherine Groo (both University of Aberdeen), Aga Ousseinov (Artist).

12pm – 1:30pm
Lunch Break.

1:30pm – 3pm
SESSION 2: ‘OilScapes/Oilsands’.
Speakers: Merle Patchett (University of Bristol) and Andriko Lozowy (University of Alberta)
Respondents: Laura McMahon; Chris Heppell; Brian Brock (all University of Aberdeen).

3pm – 3.30pm
Coffee Break.

3.30pm – 5pm
SESSION 3: ‘‘Oilscape’: Questioning the Concept’.
Discussants: Terry Brotherstone; David Inglis; Andrew McKinnon; Karen Salt; Jo Vergunst (all University of Aberdeen); Graeme MacDonald (University of Warwick).

5pm – 6pm
Roundtable (with refreshments).

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Conversation Piece by Zeigam Azizov


Sticking on the theme of Oil, the exhibition OilScapes opens tomorrow at Aberdeen’s Peacock Visual Arts center.

The exhibition explores connections between oil, geopolitics and visual culture with particular emphasis on connections between human mobility and the natural environment.

OilScapes exhibits the work of five international artists – Zeigam Azizov, Peter Fend, Melik Ohanian, Aga Ousseinov and Owen Logan; also featuring an audio collage, with voices from the University of Aberdeen’s Lives in the Oil Industry oral history archive. The exhibition was curated by Janet Stewart of University of Aberdeen’s Film & Visual Culture Department in collaboration with the London-based artist Zeigam Azizov and Peacock Visual Arts (21 September – October 2012) more info

OilScapes/Film, presents a series of documentaries and artists’ films accompanying the OilScapes exhibition more info

OilScapes/Film delves into artistic responses to the ecology of oil, exploring the connections and disjunctions between (human) mobility and the (natural) environment as they are shaped by the global oil industry.

From the Cromarty Firth to small-town Pennsylvania, from Oil Rocks (Stalin’s city of oil rigs built in the Caspian Sea) to the building sites of Dubai, these works bear testimony to the cross-circulation of oil imagery that makes connections between disparate locations and across time. Many of these works also reflect on their own materiality as it relates to oil, meditating on questions of sustainability, decay and entropy, and so attending to the ecology of images.

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SIGHTING OIL – special issue

Andriko Lozowy and I recently contributed a collaborative piece to this great special issue on the theme of Sighting Oil which was based on our trip to photograph and take sound recordings in and around the Alberta Oil Sands (click here for the original post documenting the trip)


Sighting Oil

Guest Editors Andrew Pendakis and Sheena Wilson

Table of Contents

By Andrew Pendakis and Sheena Wilson
By Ursula Biemann and Andrew Pendakis
By Warren Cariou
By Allan Stoekl
By Imre Szeman and Maria Whiteman
By Mike Gismondi and Debra J. Davidson
By Peter Hitchcock
By Lance Duerfahrd
By Tracy Lassiter
Curatorial Essay by—Merle Patchett
Photographs and Creative Text by—Andriko J. Lozowy
By Jonathan Gordon
By Michael Truscello

Book Reviews

Review of Nadia Bozak, The Cinematic Footprint: Lights, Camera, Natural Resources
By Georgiana Banita
Review of Reza Negarestani, Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials
By Tim Kaposy
Review of Timothy Mitchell. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil
By Mark Simpson
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Fabstractions: Artist-led Walk by Elastic City Director Todd Shalom

For those of you lucky enough to be based in NY, Elastic City’s Director Todd Shalom has created a new participatory walk –  Fabstractions – that is not to be missed!

Elastic City commissions emerging and established artists to create participatory walks in cities around the world. These walks tend to focus less on providing factual information and more on heightening our awareness, exploring our senses and making new group rituals in dialogue with public space.


Fabstractions by Todd Shalom


Image courtesy Elastic City


Fabstractions is an evening walk nearby and inside Prospect Park. Participants will use poetic techniques to create abstract responses to found imagery on the walk, crafting solos, duets and collective performances as we go. The group will construct a dance that glows, a light-play from car reflections, fresh dirt theatre and a waterfall sonata.

This walk holds 10 people. Fabstractions will be held in English but Todd also speaks Spanish. Feel free to bring a camera or videocamera, but please do not use a flash. Light will be provided.

Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012 at 8:30pm (sold out)
Thursday, Aug 23, 2012 at 8:30pm
Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 at 8:30pm

Walk Starting Point
43 Lincoln Road in Brooklyn, NY

90 minutes



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How to Revitalize the Strip Mall: a Design Charette

A hands on workshop to explore the planning, design and business implications of proposals for new approaches to suburban neighbourhood retail. This charette will help participants implement insights from strip-appeal.com, an international design competition to reimagine the strip mall.

The presenters and facilitators have experience with urban design and retail planning. The workshop is offered by Dr. Rob Shields, the Director of the City Region Studies Centre, who has a background in architecture and is a leading expert and author on shopping malls and consumption culture, and Dr. Merle Patchett, postdoctoral fellow at the City Region Studies Centre and geographer with a specialization in material culture and new approaches to urban problems.

This charette will be of interest to planners, developers, designers and architects, community organizers and those in retail businesses. A certificate of participation will be given.

Date: June 21st
Location: Enterprise Square (room 2-167)
Facilitated by: Professor Rob Shields and Dr Merle Patchett
Price: $75, plus fees (includes refreshments)

To book visit: http://www.tixonthesquare.ca/event/detail/4987/

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Antennae – Alternative Ornithologies Special Issue

To coincide with the opening of the exhibition Fashioning Feathers: Dead Birds, Millinery Crafts and the Plumage Trade at the Royal Alberta Museum I guest-edited a special issue of Antennae: the Journal of Nature in Visual Culture dedicated to art, plumage and birds.

Contributors include: Amanda Boetzekes, Kate Foster, Liz Gomez, Kirsteen Greer, Hayden Lorimer, Kate MccGwire, Marine Pacault, Merle Patchett, Rachel Poliquin, Perdita Phillips, Andrea Roe and Maria Whiteman.

Their papers deal with the intersections of fashion and taste; capitalism and colonialism; science, crafts and popular culture; species, bodies and imagined creatures; and exhibitions and pedagogy via objects as well as materiality and virtuality.

For more details on the Fashioning Feathers project visit: www.fashioningfeathers.com

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Strip Appeal Public Vote

Have Your Say in the Strip Appeal Strip Mall Design Competition Public Choice Vote!

You can vote for your favourite from the shortlist and have your say in the Public Choice Winner.

Voting runs till Mon Jan 16th 12 noon MST

How the vote system works on the website:

1. each submission has a vote icon.
2. votes are made by clicking on the icon of a chosen submission and voters will be asked to give their email address.
3. an email will then be sent to the provided email address where voters will be asked to confirm their vote, directing them back to the website.
4. only one vote from an email address will be counted.

To inform your choice you may want to read some of the recent press coverage for Strip Appeal:

Rooftop soccer, outdoor movies: the new strip mall? –   Globe and Mail

Strip Malls getting extreme makeover   –  The Chronicle Herald (Halifax)

Mall Stripped Bare – National Post

Canada’s Strip Malls Crumble Towards Extinction  –  National Post

U of A asks designers to rethink ’50-era strip malls  –  Edmonton Journal

Redesigning the strip mall – Metro

Strip appeal – UofA Research

Also if you are in the Edmonton area

Please join Dr. Rob Shields and myself for the announcement of winners for Strip-Appeal in the Atrium, Enterprise Square, 10230 Jasper Ave, Monday Jan. 16 2012, 5-7pm.

Snacks are being provided from Nomad Food Truck and wine from Devine Wines (cash bar).

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Strip Appeal – International Design Competition

As Postdoctoral Fellow at the City-Region Studies Centre I am currently curating an international design competition to re-imagine the strip mall.

News about the competition recently made the front page of the Edmonton Journal where they covered a submission to the competition by Industrial design student Larry Kwok and collaborator Jim Morrow who have come with an inventive model to diversify the current retail model for strip malls by recycling shipping containers:

Click here for the full story.

Competition Info

Initiated by the City-Region Studies Centre, University of Alberta, Strip Appeal is an ideas design competition intended to stimulate creative design proposals for the adaptive reuse of small-scale strip-malls (or mini-malls).

In many neighborhoods across North America, small 5-8 store strip-malls, once anchors of local retail activity, have become today’s suburban blights: envisioned as community hubs of consumption and services, many of these places are being abandoned, becoming underutilized and dilapidated as the services move out of local neighborhoods in favour of larger-scale shopping districts serving greater catchment areas.

We ask: how might the small-scale strip be reinvented and redeveloped to local advantage?

With creative thinking and design experimentation, we believe there are many ways to transform these ever-present yet ailing built forms to promote walkability, sustainability and community as suburban experience.

The winning and shortlisted submissions will form a travelling exhibit, with accompanying bookwork, that will tour planning departments and architecture/design schools across North America.

The deadline is Nov 30th 2011.

For more info and to download a competition brief visit the Strip Appeal website www.strip-appeal.com

Posted in Architecture and Aesthetics, Creativity in the City, Curation as Spatial Practice, Events, Presentations, Happenings etc., Exhibitions, Experimental Geographies | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remotely Sensing Cape Farewell

I recently gave a presentation at the RGS-IBG annual conference where I creatively presented a series of  35mm slides from my dad’s 1972 mountaineering expedition to Cape Farewell, Greenland. I gave the presentation in a session entitled “Me, my self and the archive: reflections on encounters and enchantments”.

Entitled “Remotely Sensing Cape Farewell” in the work I explored how my dad’s explorer impulses (he also went to Everest and all over the Alps) shaped my ‘geographical Imagination’ (the overall theme of the conference).

My presentation was framed by the question:  How do you attempt to value and disclose the legacy of life lived?

This question has both personal and academic significance for me, as in one sense it is an attempt to deal with the loss of my father and in another it is a strategy employed to open up space for consideration of non-representational responses to the use of archives.

Nigel Thrift posits that such a question ‘requires a consideration of the politics of what Phelan (1993) calls the ‘unmarked’, that, is, an attempt to find, value, and retain what is not marked as ‘here’, yet palpably still reverberates; invisible dust still singing, still dancing’. (Thrift 2000a: 214)

Derek McCormack argues a modified understanding of remote sensing can be employed as a means to sense and make sensible the persistence and circulation of these traces. Revisiting a specific episode in my father’s life – his 1972 Greenland (Cape Farewell) mountaineering expedition – provided a vehicle through which to investigate and expand upon McCormack’s claim.

The expedition could be revisited through those things my father kept and left behind relating to it, including: several boxes of photographic slides, correspondence letters, maps and a report of the expedition.  In my hands these remains have become generative of an afterlife, what McCormack describes as: “a distributed field of affective materials that circulates through specific configurations of object, text, and image” (McCormack 2010: 37).

Working through this field can best be undertaken, according to McCormack, as a modified kind of remote sensing, “where remote sensing is understood not so much as a technology of distanced, elevated image capture but as a set of mobile and modest techniques for sensing the unsettling geographies of the spectral” (ibid).

Enacting this process of remote sensing, however, requires the cultivation of distinctive modes of narration according to McCormack. In my presentation at the Royal Geographical Society I therefore aimed to creatively engage with and re-present the affective remains of the expedition in order to both suggest non- representational responses to the use of archives and to explore our ability, or perhaps inability, to elaborate loss.

The presentation aptly took place in the Royal Geographical Society’s Foyle Reading Room which houses it maps and archives. The RGS is the institutional home of the expedition presentation, where so many of Britain’s celebrated ‘hero explores’ have returned to to regale the triumphs and hardships of their journeys by lantern slide. Rather than speak (something I felt unable to do and, more to the point, that words would simply fall short), and following in the tradition of the lantern slideshow – I decided to create two visual presentations:

One using the original 35mm slides from the expedition, which were projected using an old-school slide projector.

An  another series of slides that I produced: here I projected quotes from key figures in the history of academic geography over the map showing the route of the expedition. These quotes were from key figures in the discipline of geography who write about and critique cultures of exploration.

My dad and his fellow party members went to Greenland to climb and name ‘virgin’ peaks in the Cape Farewell area. While I wanted to celebrate my dad’s influence on my geographical imagination, as an academic geographer my discipline has trained me to be critical of the imperialist impulses of the ‘hero explorer’. To explore this tension (daughterly love and academic training), instead of doing an expected academic written critique to be read aloud, I decided to make two visual projections (the slideshow and the quotes) to be played in tandem together.

While it impossible to recreate the experience I created in the RGS Foyle Reading Room, I have put together two mock-ups of the two projections that ran side-by-side in the RGS presentation:

The actual 35mm slideshow:

The series of quotes:

Their running time is not in sync but hopefully you’ll get the idea.

With the two visual presentations I played a sound composition – Energy Field – by the sound artist Jana Winderen that is made up of recordings of she made using a hydrophone while visiting Greenland. I made a short presentation for the RGS online Gallery that also included snippets of Jana’s sound recordings which gives you an idea of how visuals and sound worked together:

Click here to go directly to the RGS online Gallery

By way of introduction to the presentation I produced a postcard for which the geographer (and my ex-supervisor) Hayden Lorimer contributed the opening statement. These are presented at the top of this post.

The presentation was dedicated to my dad, Jim Patchett (1950-2010).

Posted in art in place and the place of art, Cultural Cartography, Cultural Geography, Curation as Spatial Practice, Curatorial Concerns, Exhibitions, Experimental Geographies, Experimental Historiography, Geographer-artists, Maps and Mapping, Sound Art, Spatial Theory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Very Modern Ruin: St Peter’s Seminary

As part of my Strip Mall activities I am currently researching innovative strategies for the adaption and reuse of built forms which have fallen out of use.

One excellent example I want to bring to your attention is the repurposing, or ‘making safe’, of St Peter’s Seminary in Glasgow, Scotland.

Image: NVA, Glasgow

The building was designed in the 1960s by modernist architects Gillespie, Kidd and Coia for the Archdiocese of Glasgow. It was used for training priests, but after being used by the Catholic church for only a few years, the building fell into disuse and is now a famed ruin and place of pilgrimage for graffiti artists and urban explorers.

Image: NVA, Glasgow

Despite being regarded as one of the most significant modernist buildings in the UK, it has fallen into a near-ruinous state with previous plans to renovate the building coming to nothing.

NVA ( a Scottish arts charity interested in a non-gallery based democratisation of presentation) is now beginning a two-year fundraising plan to raise the £10m needed to complete the development of the building and the surrounding area.

NVA’s vision for St Peter’s (and its surrounding woodland estate) is for it to become an integrated public rural artwork, accessed on foot. The site would be partially restored, stabilising the structure to make a safe living ruin, and the internal spaces and woodland would be utilised in a variety ways to host extensive artist-led cultural and educational programmes.

The charity’s plans to convert the Seminary building into an ‘intentional Modernist ruin’ is particularly innovative because it is only a ‘partial’ restoration as NVA explains:

“Acknowledging the recent history of the building as a ruin whilst making safe what is left by partially restoring the internal spaces within an exposed and strengthened superstructure, St Peter’s seminary will adapt and evolve incrementally within its shrouded setting.”

Essentially they are turning architectural entropy into a form of heritage strategy. Angus Farquhar, the creative director of NVA, notes the approach has been inspired by similar restoration projects such as the Duisburg-Nord Landscape Park in Germany (where a former industrial wasteland has been transformed over more than 10 years into parkland) and the El Matadero in Madrid, a former slaughterhouse that is now a cultural centre.

NVA’s longterm hope for the site is that it will:

“both function as a unified artwork combining the built and un-built environment in a walked narrative and work with academics from different disciplines to advance the site as a long term source of knowledge and inspiration that will be shared with wider audiences through the experiential teaching within a working and productive landscape.”

NVA recently presented a programme of public events, entitled To Have and To Hold, responding to the themes of restoration and reuse of our built heritage at La Biennale di Venezia’s 2010 International Architecture Exhibition.

NVA delegates also debated the future of St Peter’s and their plans for the site in a discussion session. They reconnected with the radical roots of Ruskin’s nineteenth century conservation theories, and their influence on the great architect Carlo Scarpa and his remarkable fusion of ancient and modern elements in schemes, still seen around Venice.

The discussions were documented in the following film:

The contributors that took part in the discussion were:

Gordon Murray, Gordon Murray Architects/Strathclyde University (Moderator)
Adam Sutherland, Grizedale Arts
Alan Pert, Nord Architects
David Cook, Wasp’s Artists Studios
Ed Hollis, Edinburgh College of Art
Gerrie van Noord, Freelance Project Manager
Hayden Lorimer, Glasgow University
Henry Mckeown, JM Architects
Moira Jeffrey, Scotland on Sunday
Murray Grigor, film maker
Rolf Roscher, ERZ Ltd
Tilman Latz, Latz + Partner Architects
Ranald MacInnes, Historic Scotland
Angus Farquhar, NVA

Luke Alexander also produced a great short film about St Peter’s for his project called “Concrete Britain”, which looked at the history (and present state) of Modernist architecture in Britain. In the film original film footage from Space and Light (1972, dir. Murray Grigor) is combined with new footage of the building in its now derelict state.

Posted in Architecture and Aesthetics, Biennial Culture, Cultural Geography, Experimental Geographies, Spatial Encounters, Spectral Geographies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment