Projects of the Document and Location Research Group
This page provides an overview of the variety of research projects that the Document and Location Research Group have led on and contributed to, illustrating the breadth and scope of our expertise.
Project lead: Aaron Schuman
If you opened the local newspaper in the small New England town of Amherst, Massachusetts, as Schuman did one day, you might find a section entitled “Police Reports” – succinct and extraordinarily anticlimactic accounts of crimes, suspicious activities, events and non-events reported in the area during the previous week.
In SLANT, Schuman interweaves a selection of these
clippings published between 2014-2018, with quietly wry photographs
he made within a thirty-mile radius of Amherst from 2016-2018, in
response to their unintentionally deadpan descriptions. What began
as a genuinely affectionate, tongue-in- cheek take on the small
towns where Schuman spent his childhood steadily came to reflect
the disquieting rise of “fake news”, “alternative facts”,
“post-truth” politics and paranoia in America following the 2016
Aaron’s subtly offbeat combination of images and words, however, was always inclined to create a foreboding sense of unease. In SLANT, the relationship that has been constructed between photography and text takes its inspiration from a poetic scheme called ‘slant rhyme’, notably espoused by the nineteenth century poet, Emily Dickinson, who also happened to live and write in Amherst. In such a rhyming scheme, “there is a close but not exact correspondence of sounds, often using assonance or consonance; generally it is used in poetry to give variations and an inharmonious feeling.”
Appropriating this literary device to similar but alternative ends, SLANT serves as a wider reflection upon something strange, surreal, dissonant and increasingly sinister stirring beneath the surface of the contemporary American landscape, experience, and psyche.
Days of Action
Project leads: Sophie Warren and Jonathan
Days of Action is a series of works in progress that respond to and exposes latent forces within political, architectural and cultural locations. They bring the well-rehearsed moves of different spatial and social logics into productive tension to document and reveal what may be inherent or imagined within a place but typically lies unseen.
Within the series, movement is understood as a social, spatial and political act. Central to this understanding is the exertion of power – power to move and power over the movement of individual and collective bodies, whether this is exerted by a social group in pursuit of a common goal, or by architecture and its associated social codes and rituals that shape the choreography of everyday movement.
Days of Action currently consists of four works:
- Revolution Between Two Points and Uprising, created during the artists’ residency at The French Communist Party Headquarters in 2016;
- Solidarity Line and What is the Building Calling For, created for the Tate Modern in 2018.
The works use formal motions to enact political devices, such as the artist enacting revolution as she spins back and forth within the curvilinear underground corridor of the Communist Party Headquarters in Revolution Between Two Points, 2016, or use collective devices from civic resistance and direct democratic assembly to explore particular relations of ’them’ and ‘us’, ‘I’ and ‘we’, as in Solidarity Line, 2018. This work enacted in Tate Modern used the bodily formation of the defence line that instead of defending territory became a transient line – a moving border, a living architectural element.
Project lead: Dr Mike
Dr Ricketts’ The Vessel shared the story of the UK’s only prison ship of modern times, Her Majesty’s Prison The Weare. Like its subject, the artwork The Vessel was an assemblage of diverse components, and has had several different iterations, ranging from a performance on a cliff top overlooking a former berth in Portland Port to a film and exhibition of artefacts detailing the artist’s attempts to access, photograph and track this barge, and explores the strange status the vessel has developed over its eventful life. The Vessel’s offshore status and questions of legality and visibility are central to the project.
Decommissioned in 2005 and for several years located in Portland
Harbour (Dorset, England), the vessel, now known as Jascon 27, was
last known to be home to five hundred oil workers in the Niger
Delta. The project’s film took the audience from Sweden to the
Falkland Islands, from Germany to Manhattan, and involved
engineers, ship spotters, prisoners, soldiers, and the artist’s
brother, Chris. Composed entirely of appropriated material, Dr
Ricketts’ film was framed in an exhibition using sections of
television news footage about the vessel, ephemera and a small
curated display of other artists’ paintings of the prison ship,
specially loaned for the exhibition.
Together, this interwoven set of personal artistic studies and sightings of the barge in popular media portrayed the vessel not simply as a dumb container for the pragmatic housing of men but as a peculiar object of fascination for artists, journalists and enthusiasts that has grown in both intrigue and a peculiar potency the more we scrutinise its mute exterior.
Project lead: Sophie Hayes
Hayes’ Storage explores the secret life and unintentional narratives of the non-public spaces of major museums across Europe. The composition of Hayes’ images, their peculiar lighting and juxtapositions, conspire to make us question whether her images are purely documentary in nature or contrived stagings composed for the camera.
Storage began when Hayes gained the opportunity to record the Natural History archival collections from the National Museum in Prague when on a residency in the city in 2004. The objects were being transported from their long-term city centre home to an out of town, purpose-built, storage facility. Hayes was able to slip as an interloper into this flux to capture the transitional spaces and relationships created between origin and destination.
Over a period of almost 15 years, Storage has explored
other museums’ non-public locations, including the labyrinthine
archival departments of the Natural History Museum, London. Despite
the different idiosyncrasies of each institution, the spaces Hayes
interrogates in Storage are always incomplete and
invisible to public observations. The objects wait for us in these
supposed non-places, anticipate, and reflect on their own
condition. Or are just piled up on top of each other, inert, until
they are granted a role in public again.