Summary of the conference: (Re)Visioning the Urban Imagination: The Art and Politics of Redevelopment
Richmond hosted a one-day international conference, entitled (Re)Visioning the Urban Imagination: The Art and Politics of Redevelopment at its Kensington campus on 14 November 2014. The conference was organised by Dr Nicola Mann and Dr Sue Pell, and supported by the International Visual Arts and Cultures (IVAC) and State, Power, and Globalisation (SPG) research clusters, and the University’s Provost and Dean of Research. Speakers came from the United States, Spain, Ireland, and Qatar, and from Oxford, Birkbeck, Manchester, Goldsmiths, and Queen Mary in the UK, to discuss urban transformation at the intersection of aesthetic and political concerns. The conference consisted of three panels: ‘Methods of Mapping’ chaired by Dr Dom Alessio, ‘Reimagining the Past and Future’ chaired by Nick Ferguson, and ‘Contesting Representations’ chaired by Dr Paul Rekret. Dr Alison Rooke, co-director for Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) and lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths College (UL) gave the keynote address, entitled, “The Uses of Culture? Ethical Entanglements in the Austere City.” The presentation addressed uses of participatory arts projects within urban redevelopment schemes, and the complicated position artists must negotiate in light of competing interests involved in these processes. There was also a film screening of Larry and Janet Move Out (2013) about the displacement of residents of the Heygate Estate in South London, and discussion with directors David Reeve and Patrick Steel. Themes that emerged over the day included the contradictory changes in cities over the past 50 years as told within photographs, murals, digital representations, and the built environment; the diversity of aesthetic and political strategies residents use to intervene and direct the redevelopment of their neighbourhoods; and approaches to understand competing visions of the future of the city. With engaging conversations between the speakers and the audience, the day provided a nuanced analysis of the relationship between the art and politics of urban transformation, and the power that underwrites these relationships.