Activity: Participating in or organising an event › Participation in conference
This is a multi-disciplinary "Ruination & Decay" conference, which has been organised by the Humanities & Arts Research Cluster (HARC) in the University of the Highlands and Islands.The conference features speakers from across a range of disciplines including Cultural Geography; Archaeology; Performance Studies; Art & Design; Visual Studies; Heritage Studies; History; Literature. There is also be an exhibition of photographs by the artist Sue Mara, and a display of research posters.
My presentation explores the recurring and continuing research interest in my practice around the nuclear threat, the Cold War, and, by implication, the second nuclear age (Bracken, Delpech) and the imaginary war (Kaldor). The presentation brings together two “ends” of my career as a research-based artist and/or practice-based researcher, where my practice and research might be seen to address notions of ruination and decay.
I consider my early practice, broadly identified by an on-going body of work, The Nuclear Family, in relation to my more recent and current collaborative practice, Cold War Projects, exploring hidden stories and forgotten, or buried, memories linked to the Cold War period. Work for Cold War Projects is very different in form, addressing the Cold War using methods drawn from socially engaged art practices.
The Nuclear Family physically disintegrated as soon as it was moved from the studio. It was never meant to be permanent, nor did it always appear in the same form. It grew from just four individual pieces to many hundreds of “individual” crumbling objects and dust, symbolic of “human remains”. In the end, we publicly buried everything through a socially engaged (although we didn’t use this term then) ritualistic process of burial and preservation.
I link this early period of work to my current investigation of the Cold War in collaboration with the Shetland-based artist, Susan Timmins. Jointly we work with other artists, historians and members of the public to interrogate strategic sites active during the Cold War period in Shetland, Scotland and the northern and Arctic regions. NATO forces operated these sites and in turn they were earmarked for nuclear attack. Today NATO, including US and British military forces, are returning to some of these sites, perhaps signalling a return to a process of ruination and the threat of self-destruction.