Art, Geography, Geopolitics

Restricted airspace above the Brecklands Military area, Matthew Flintham (2014)

Restricted airspace above the Brecklands Military area, Matthew Flintham (2014)

I recently spoke at an event at Newcastle University’s School of Geography, Politics and Sociology on geography and art that had a particular geopolitical bent to it. Organised by Allison Williams and chaired by Rachel Woodward the event brought together geographers and artists interested in geography art collaborations, especially those that engage with themes of the geopolitical.

The day was really structured by two themes, firstly the wider theme of geography art relations, especially those of collaboration, and secondly concerns with the geopolitical.

Following a more general critical and cultural turn geopolitics has recently added arts practices to its concerns with visual culture, especially films, comics, cartoons and video games.

Alan Ingram, who has been leading the way in geography in thinking about art and geopolitics talked about the trajectories of these art and geopolitical relationships, noting the emergence of these studies, their varied themes, thinking about ideas of collaboration and also of exhibitions as experiments, as well as concerns around the problems and challenges of these engagements.  In doing so he followed Born and Barry’s proposition of an art-science with queries around what would an art-geopolitics look like and what might it do. He also explored questions of the relationship between geopolitics’ engagements with art and those that have been going on in surveillance studies and IR.

The really interesting event combined talks with a gallery tour by the artist Matthew Flintham’s  of his exhibition “Martial Heavens” produced during his time as Leverhulme artist in residence at the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle.  Working with Allison and Rachel he had produced a series of sculptures, images and a video exploring military air spaces above the UK mainland. In a fascinating gallery tour Matthew introduced us to the works and their engagements with the vertical ariel dimensions. Projecting scaled volumes onto landscape photographs, or superimposing red-wide volumes, created in outline onto ordnance survey maps, Flintham explored the temporal and spatial dimensions of these territories. His geometric imaginary superimposed over mapped and pictured landscapes making present these otherwise invisible ariel terrains.

The afternoon concluded with two artist discussions showcasing the work they have been doing as residents and fellows in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology. The first Rachel Gardfield, Ass. Prof of Art at Reading has been working with Rachel Woodward on military families as part of the production of the second of her trilogy of films “The Struggle”, the second was Michael Mulvihill, current Leverhulme Artist in Residence, who is also working with Rachel discussion his current work on show at the Baltic.