Tag Archives: Research

The Ship of Empty Boxes: Symposium & Screening

Still from The Forgotten Space, Allan Sekula & Noël Burch, 2010

Still from The Forgotten Space, Allan Sekula & Noël Burch, 2010

THE SHIP OF EMPTY BOXES: Responses to Containerised Global Trade 
(including 6pm screening of The Forgotten Space by Allan Sekula & Noël Burch)

Saturday, 18 January 2014, 10:30am-8pm, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD London

Free event. Please book via Eventbrite

Delta Arts is co-organising this event with Dr Sophie Hope (Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck and Delta Arts Advisory Panel member), and Dr Alex Colas (Department of Politics, Birkbeck).

The complex maritime routes of containerised trade are perhaps the hidden plumbing of globalisation. Common estimates suggest about 90% of the non-bulk cargo being transported worldwide is moved via container shipping. The economic, social and environmental consequences affect many lives around the world. This one-day symposium brings together the disciplines of art, anthropology, international relations, law and geography to explore the significance of the shipping container, maritime trade and labour conditions in the context of globalisation.

The symposium aims to identify different approaches and understandings of containerised global trade in order to allow overlaps between legal, social, cultural and environmental narratives to occur. The materiality of the container, the labour conditions of those who service the industry, and corporations’ diligent use of multiple legal jurisdictions will be considered. Through presentations, screenings and discussion we will investigate further the impact that the global standardisation of the twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) has had on human and non-human existence and how in turn it might be re-imagined and re-shaped.

The one day symposium includes contributions from artist Simon Faithfull, Dr Douglas Guilfoyle (Reader in Law, University College London), Professor Philip Steinberg (Professor of Political Geography, Durham University), Dr Olivia Swift (economic anthropologist who specialises in seafarer welfare) and will include a screening of The Forgotten Space, by Allan Sekula & Noël Burch.

 The symposium draws on and aims to develop current research into the sea, containerisation and globalisation being carried out by the organisers of the event: Dr Sophie Hope (Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck), Dr Alex Colas (Department of Politics, Birkbeck) and not-for-profit arts collective Delta Arts (Amy Lloyd, Curator, Educator, Emma Smith, Artist, and Oliver Sumner, Curator & Learning Specialist).

The Ship of Empty Boxes is supported by the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and Delta Arts.


Container Ships

Ship in the Solent (Image: Oliver Sumner)

Ship in the Solent (Image: Oliver Sumner)

We have started a new blog, as an offshoot of this main Delta Arts blog, to collect references on the subject of containerised maritime trade. Have a look at http://intermodalflow.wordpress.com/

Delta Arts members have been researching material on this subject from interdisciplinary perspectives, including geography, law, international relations, economics, politics, and anthropology, as well as cultural references in art, film, and literature. For some time we have been exploring the idea of placing artists on a container ship passage between the UK and China, a project we have called Intermodal Flow.

Our idea is to develop Intermodal Flow as a mobile platform for artist exchange using passenger places available on container ships. Our vision is a combination of a site-specific residency, a collective-workshop, and an international artists’ think tank. It follows on from our experience of international artist fellowships in our 2010 project Golden Threads. Further updates on Intermodal Flow will be posted here.

An Architecture of Play – Nils Norman

'An architecture of play: a survey of London's adventure playgrounds', Nils Norman, Four Corners Books, 2003.

‘An architecture of play: a survey of London’s adventure playgrounds’, Nils Norman, Four Corners Books, 2003.

This small book by the artist Nils Norman greatly inspired our interest in adventure play.

‘An architecture of play’ records 59 adventure playgrounds in London with texts, photographs and drawings. Many of the playgrounds mentioned were first established in the early 1970’s, including Somerville Adventure Playground where we are currently working. Nils Norman’s introduction is followed by two short texts: ‘Towards a history of adventure playgrounds 1931-2000’ by Keith Cranwell, and ‘The vernacular of play’ by Paul Claydon. In the book Nils Norman describes London’s early adventure playgrounds as, ‘…embodying “the spirit of adventure play”, a phrase that evokes a creative, anarchic, children-led playscape’.