And… back again! It seemed like an appropriate time to break the silence of the last few months, which as always, really was quite unintended. Having relocated from London to Tokyo in March, the first few months of the year were spent planning and packing for the move and the weeks since arriving in Japan have been, well, hectic to say the least. Now that I’m somewhere slightly closer to having adjusted to the change of life (and climate), I thought I’d reignite In:Sites. This blog started as a way of keeping me writing whist I was making little headway with my thesis. Having an outlet so to spew words onto page, without the anxiety that precluded working on the doctoral research, allowed me to explore ideas and moreover places, that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Furthermore, having a space away from both research and paid employment engendered a sense of freedom, a way of mapping out thoughts away from the demands of an impoverished, semi-academic existence in a city I’d come to despise (sorry London!). Flash forward six months and I’m reminiscing from the window seat of one of Kichijoji’s myriad Starbucks. I’ve spent the last few weeks switching between the four or five immediate writing tasks I have to complete, unable to make progress with any of them. I’m keen to write and each of the projects excites me…nevertheless, they ain’t moving forward. So, I’m back to blogging.
I’ve been invited to give a talk at the China Academy of Art’s Place, Space, Art International seminar later in June (18-19th). The geographic leaning reflects a wider interest in the spatial which has gathered momentum across the arts and humanities and I’m very much looking forward to hearing how each of the speakers has interpreted the organiser’s abstract. The abstract for my own paper is copied below. As you will see, the primary focus of my talk will be on ‘deep mapping’ in the creation of a biography of place. I’ve referred to this subject elsewhere and am excited about developing it further for the event in Hangzhou. Further details on the various talks and speakers later in the month.
Geo-interventions: walking art, ‘deep-mapping’ and the biography of place
Dr. James Thurgill, University of Tokyo
As interest in spatial intervention continues to spread among scholars of geography and cognate disciplines, creative encounters with topography and attempts to ‘record and represent the grain and patina of place’ become of growing importance. Creative methods and visual practices appear ever more prevalent amongst studies of the landscape as new methods of producing representations in and of place continue to evolve. Whether reflecting, depicting or politicising place, Art represents a set of intrinsically spatial practices. One such practice is the method of walking, of roaming through place(s). Walking allows for an inherently physical connection with the landscape through the placing of the body in the environment and the necessary contact between body and earth. Walking affords the practitioner an opportunity to narrate place from the inside, to challenge boundaries, to reimagine margins, and to intervene in place(s). This paper looks at the role of the artist as cartographer, as mapper of places and their particularities. Looking specifically at the practices of walking artists and the process of ‘deep mapping’, I will discuss the role of the practitioner in the creation and narration of a biography of place.
 Mike Pearson, and Michael Shanks. Theatre/Archaeology. London: Routledge, 2001.