Re-imagining the margins: the art of the urban fringe

Rupert Griffiths

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Urban margins have long formed sites of artistic intervention and imagination. This thesis develops three artist case studies to explore how contemporary visual artists are re-imagining these fringe landscapes, attending in particular to the gaps, interstices, wastelands and incidental spaces of the city that elude easy categorisation. Methodologically, my thesis brings together resources from geography and art theory, with my own artistic practice to investigate the imaginaries of two artists, and to create and critically reflect on the imaginaries of subject and landscape that inform my own practice as an artist, here through photography and film.
The theoretical lens through which these geographical imaginaries are analysed is formed from the key coordinates of contemporary landscape theory; namely questions of materiality, practice, mobility and embodiment. I argue that such perspectives offer new material through which to reflect on urban margins as zones of ambiguity, and of distinctions and indistinctions between the creative-subject and the landscape.
The first case study I explore, examines my own photography and film-making practices, discussed as an uncanny landscape imaginary. I then turn to the work of Michael Landy to explore imaginaries of contamination. The final chapter explores the organismic landscapes of Stephen Gill. In each case I focus as much on the practices of the works’ production as I do on the finished works, attending to questions of materiality, the embodied experiences of the landscape that these works are based on and the tools and equipment used in the production process. The thesis concludes with three sets of reflections; i) on the re-imagination of the urban margins that exploring these artists’ work through landscape theory has enabled; ii) on the benefits of artistic practice for thinking through the ambiguous characteristics of these territories; iii) on the value of creative artistic practice as a geographical research method.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Cresswell, Timothy, Supervisor
  • Hawkins, Harriet, Supervisor
Award date1 Jun 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

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