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Cities, Spaces and Sustainability

Research falling under this theme is concerned with encountering, remembering and sensing cities and exploring issues of resonant spaces and sustainable futures.

Having previously published a number of works concerned with art and the city Nicolas Whybrow has recently edited Performing Cities (2014), which brings together an eminent group of international performance makers and scholars including Sue Ellen-Case, Gay McAuley, Mark Fleishman, Matthew Goulish and Freddie Rokem to examine the possibilities of writing as a spatial practice that does justice to the city as a place of multiple movements. Making a shift from the idea of ‘city as text’, the collection promotes a form of situational, relational and performative writing that is premised on the multifarious inflections of bodies and actions in space. Whybrow is also developing a collaborative practice-based project entitled Sensing the City: an Embodied Documentation and Mapping of the Changing Uses and Tempers of Urban Place. In the project, the term ‘sensing’ has a dual application inasmuch as it refers to both the physical apperception of the city (how the body responds) and to an active sensitising or aestheticising of urban sites via the presence of the body. As part of this project Michael Pigott, drawing upon archival research into urban planning and projections of the future city of Coventry, is exploring the use of the camera as a way of navigating, engaging with and investigating the current topography of the city and its everyday uses, flows and patterns. The project will be conducted under the auspices of the University’s Sustainable Cities Global Research Programme (GRP):

Pigott’s practice as research has used documentary, essay and fictional modes to engage with the contested political and aesthetic values of architectural styles and policies, and how these discourses filter into the everyday experience of cities and how we think about and treat our buildings, monuments and spaces. His short film The Future is a Waste of Time (premiering at Arquiteturas Film Festival in Lisbon, October 2015) employs digital video, formal abstraction and science-fiction to examine the aesthetics, significance and legacy of Brutalist architecture and the impending demolition of John Madin’s Birmingham Central Library. He also has an interest in the use of projection in extra-cinematic contexts, including outdoor urban space and as part of the AHRC funded The Projection Project is looking at ‘projection mapping’ and its use as a tool for both protest and commercial advertising. Much of Pigott’s published research focuses on how cinematic representations of cities and urban space provide us with ways to read, remember and experience cities. He has edited two books on film locations in the cities of Venice and Buenos Aires and has written about the way that the artist Joseph Cornell depicts a mode of slow experience within the twentieth century city.

Silvija Jestrovic’s research related to cities, which focuses on political performance and issues of exile, is most evident in the monograph Performance, Space, Utopia: Cities of War, Cities of Exile (2012), which addresses how performance and theatricality became modes of being and acting in the city, even strategies of physical and ethical survival in the iconic cities of Sarajevo and Belgrade during the Balkan conflict. In particular it forwards that exile, both as marginalisation within and exodus from the city, emerges as the defining consequence of living in Sarajevo or Belgrade in the 1990s. More recently, in two essays, ‘Sarajevo: The World City Under Siege’ (2013) and ‘Performing Belgrade: Itineraries of Non-Belonging’ (2014) she has continued her excavation of these two cities in relation to the concept of the global city and the centre/margin dichotomy and through tropes of belonging, alienation and identity.

Extending research on cities and urban space, Susan Haedicke’s research explores the links between eco-performance and sustainable food systems. She is currently working on a monograph Performing Landscapes: Farmlands, which will analyse farmlands through a lens of performance: performances about farmlands, farms in performances, performances on farms, and farms performing. She is also involved in two collaborative practice-based projects focusing on eco-performance practices: Hope is a Wooded Time, an applied theatre project focusing on a protected wooded wasteland in the Murs a Pêches in Montreuil, France and its neighbouring communities (travellers, migrants, working class families). Working through open days, workshops and ‘guided walks’, the research project encourages encounters between ecological processes of biodiversity in this neglected woodland and human interventions by ethnically and culturally diverse populations. ( and

Haedicke is also collaborating with Emeritus Professor Baz Kershaw and Earthrise Repair Shop on Prairie Meander, 2015-16, a large-scale version of earlier ‘meadow meanders’ that explore human ‘econnectivity’ to the earth through performance ecologies, conservation and regeneration and walking taking place on the prairie in Iowa.

  • Selected publications for Cities, Spaces and Sustainability:

    Haedicke, Susan, ‘Hope is a Wooded Time: An Eco-Performance of Biodiversity in Discarded Geographic and Social Space’. Co-authored with Sarah Harper, Friches Théâtre Urbain. Performing Ethos 6.2. Themed issue: ‘Performing Ecos’. Eds. Bronwyn Preece and Jess Allen. (Forthcoming, 2015)

    Jestrovic, Silvija, “Performing Belgrade: Itineraries of Non-Belonging”, Performing Cities. Ed. Nicolas Whybrow. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave (2014) 199-218

    Jestrovic, Silvija “Sarajevo: The World City Under Siege”, Performance and the Global City, Eds. K. Solga and D.J. Hopkins. Palgrave (2013) 202-223

    Pigott, Michael The Future is a Waste of Time, 18 min. HD video, 2015

    (2015) Buenos Aires: Porous City, video installation, at Me, Myself, and Others: A Cinematic Approach to Latin American Encounters symposium, February 2015.

    Pigott, Michael, co-ed. with Santiago Oyarzabal, World Film Locations: Buenos Aires, Bristol: Intellect, 2014,id=5108/

    Whybrow, Nicolas, “Writing Performing Cities: an Introduction”, Performing Cities, ed. N. Whybrow, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp.1-18.

    Whybrow, Nicolas, “‘City’”, Performance Studies: Key Words, Concepts and Theories, ed. B. Reynolds, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp.304-13.

performing cities
Nicolas Whybrow - Performing Cities (Palgrave, 2014)

Michael Pigott - still from The Future is a Waste of TIme (2015)

perf space
Silvija Jestrovic - Performance, Space, Utopia (Palgrave, 2012)

Susan Haedicke - Hope is a Wooded Time (2012-3)