Week 7 //// Atelier Session 1
Our next three weeks together will form a self-contained Atelier – an extended workshop that provides an opportunity to apply some of the concepts and methods introduced in the module’s first four weeks through a specific practice-based project.
Our atelier will form around Feral Atlas, an online and interactive platform co-edited by a cross-disciplinary team of anthropologists and artists that maps “feral” ecologies – ecological worlds created when nonhuman entities become tangled up with human infrastructure projects, ecologies which Feral Atlas frames as “the non-designed consequences of imperial and industrial infrastructure”.
Central to Feral Atlas are a series of field reports, each focusing on a particular feral entity – things (some living, some not) that have been nurtured and transformed by a human-made infrastructural project, assuming a trajectory beyond human control. Over the course of Atelier, you will build an understanding of Feral Atlas and then develop your own field report for a feral entity in an Edinburgh environment of your own choosing. See the Atelier Assignment information included below.
Feral Atlas is presented as both an example of, and an argument for, the necessity for “close-up, field-based and historically grounded observations” to study and map the mechanisms that produce the Anthropocene. This way of working is not unique to Feral Atlas, rather Feral Atlas can be seen as one example among many that form part of a much wider body of contemporary research and practice focusing on ecological themes and issues in the context of climate breakdown. As such, the Atelier is also an introduction to work in the fields of contemporary art and anthropology (and beyond) that are thinking through the complex social, material, and environmental entanglements of the Anthropocene and to the interdisciplinary and translocal modes of practice that are being developed to do this work.
A note on terminology: Feral Atlas uses a particular vocabulary and, as such, some of the terms in the information on our Atelier may be unfamiliar to you or may be being used differently to how you would normally understand them. There is a glossary at the end of this information which defines some of the key terms and, in our first week together we’ll add to this, compiling a collaboratively produced glossary to support our work in the Atelier.
Atelier Session 1: Exploring Feral Atlas
Monday 6 March, AT_2.11, Appleton Tower, Central Campus.
In advance of our second session, you should:
- Read the information provided on our activities for each of the three weeks of the Atelier (Weeks 7, 8 and 9).
- Visit Feral Atlas and explore. As you are doing this, make notes on the following:
- How you navigate through the site – what do you choose to follow and why?
- The different forms in which materials on the site are presented;
- Any key terms as well as any words that you are unfamiliar with or do not fully understand in this context.
- Read the Introduction to Feral Atlas.
Our first Atelier session is focused on building our understanding of Feral Atlas. We’ll start in the classroom, working in groups to explore the different categories and forms utilised within the atlas. We’ll then head outside to find examples of these in the environments around us and consider how we might document them. .
Group activity: Understanding Feral Atlas
Each group will focus on one of the three “axes of analysis” – Anthropocene Detonators, Tippers, and Feral Qualities – within Feral Atlas. Each group should work together to answer the following questions for their assigned axis:
- Write a definition for your axis of analysis. How is it described in Feral Atlas? How would you explain it to someone else?
- Describe the relationship between your axis of analysis and the feral entities studied in the field reports.
Red Group: Anthropocene Detonators
Green Group: Tippers
Yellow Group: Feral Qualities
Class activity: A collaborative glossary
We’ll collate a list of key terms from those gathered during your pre-session preparation and write definitions for these, creating a co-authored glossary to support our work in the Atelier.
Class activity: Taking Feral Atlas out
Together, we’ll head out of the classroom and into the city. We’ll look for potential feral entities and consider different ways we might document these .
Esche, C. (2023) Charles Esche on Qiu Zhijie. [Online]. 3 February, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh. Available from: https://www.trg.ed.ac.uk/event/charles-esche. This has a focus on Qiu Zhijie’s use of mapping.
Tsing, A. (2015) ‘Arts of Noticing’ in Mushrooms at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life at the End of the World. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, pp. 17-25.
You will each create an original field report focusing on a feral entity in an Edinburgh environment of your own choosing. The feral entity you report on could be one that is already represented within Feral Atlas or a new feral entity you have identified but remember that the field report must be based on research that arises from field-based observations and must include all the elements listed below.
Your report should take the form of an academic poster. Your poster must include a representation of your feral entity and identify the relevant feral qualities, along with the appropriate Anthropocene detonator(s) and Tipper(s). Your field report can include text, images, and diagrams. Study Feral Atlas to see the range of potential forms and genres available to you.
In Week 9, we’ll hold a poster presentation session. For this, you need to bring a printed version of your poster field report to the seminar. Note, you do not need to prepare any spoken presentation; the poster is your presentation. A digital copy of your poster should also be uploaded to your Art + Anthropology blog.
The academic poster form
The academic poster is a commonly used form to share information and research, most regularly seen at academic conferences and seminars.
PhD students at ECA present posters relating to their research projects as part of their first year methods course. You can see some examples from this year’s presentations:
- Translating Music Into Images: Practice-based methodologies and methods, Wushang Tong.
- Suffocating Softness, Conceptualising cuteness to address unspoken emotional wounds in East Asian intergenerational relationships, Hiu Tung Yip.
The Institute for Academic Development has guidance on how to prepare effective presentations and posters: Effective Presentations and Posters.
Information Services has some useful information on how to prepare and print large-format posters: IS uCreate user guides and advice on poster printing
The Anthropocene is a (currently) unofficial unit of geologic time, used to describe the present period in the history of the Earth when the human impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems has become significant enough to constitute a distinct geological change.
Feral Atlas contains a useful overview of the concept of the Anthropocene and its application within the project in the short essay What is the Anthropocene. (https://feralatlas.supdigital.org/?cd=true&bdtext=what-is-the-anthropocene). .
Anthropocene Curriculum (2022) <https://www.anthropocene-curriculum.org/>.
Haraway, D., Ishikawa, N., Gilbert, S,. Olwig, K., Tsing, A., and Bubandt, N. (2016) ‘Anthropologists Are Talking About the Anthropocene’, Ethnos, 81, pp. 535–64.
The physical and organisational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.
This short article on infrastructure from the anthropology journal, Cultural Anthropology, is a useful overview of infrastructure as an object of study in anthropology.
Star, S. (1999) ‘The Ethnography of Infrastructure’, American Behavioral Scientist, 43, pp. 377-391.