affiliation: Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London
Shibboleth Shechter, is a Senior Lecturer on BA Interior and Spatial Design and University of the Arts London Senior Teaching Scholar. She combines pedagogy, research and practice through ‘in curriculum’, ‘live’, collaborative projects.
The Millbank Atlas is part of an ongoing collaboration that manifests as live projects developed in response to local desire and needs. Staff and student researchers of Chelsea College of Arts (a constituent college of University of the Arts London) come together with residents and others of the Millbank neighbourhood in Westminster to bring the Atlas into being. As both process and outcome, the Atlas creates meaning through conceptualising Millbank as comprised of reciprocal relations among the College and surrounding businesses, residential blocks, civil society groups, transportation links and other amenities, infrastructure and further aspects of this built and natural environment. Central here is the lived experience of Millbankers - those who reside, work and study in this London locale.
In what follows we revisit The Millbank Atlas to draw out a nascent aspect of our paper for VI Art of Research (AoR 2017). This begins with scoping our presentation for this conference, which was titled ‘The Millbank Atlas: Catalysing Practice-based Research in a Spirit of the Civic University’ to refresh our interest in the agency of collaborative practice-based research. We review our claim that as a community of practice < > practice of community, the Atlas catalyses through chiasmus. With this established we turn to our immediate concern: the catalytic role that mapping plays as the core practice in The Millbank Atlas. Drawing on Denis Wood’s sense of mapping as an alternative to mapmaking, we go on to propose the Atlas as an instance of counter-mapping. Aspects of the Atlas’ production, exhibition, dissemination and other impact are discussed with reference to counter-mapping as an emerging field with political purchase. Evidence of this includes the vital work of the Argentinian collective, Iconolasistas and the Counter\Mapping campaigns out of Queen Mary University in the UK.
The third part of this paper returns to the three core questions of AoR 2017. These we addressed at the conference with reference to the Atlas’ catalytic potential to generate communities through collaborative, practice-based research. In what follows here we consider the questions from a fresh perspective: the agency of counter-mapping to produce new understanding that is not only communicable but also critically compelling. Drawing as both a literal act of inscription and as figurative language proves vital in this regard (e.g. mark making but also drawing metaphors, such as drawing together, drawing out). The paper concludes by insisting that the catalytic value of counter-mapping resides between the critical and creative process of making the maps and their outcomes as evidence-rich artefacts. Finally, we indicate a direction for future enquiry: probing the agency of counter-mapping as practice-based research that gains traction through the maps’ discursive production as they are read and negotiated.