Mutable Matter is a blog about matter and materiality, as seen from a geographer’s point of view. Matter is that which we have in common with everything around us, but it is also that which divides us and makes things different. It is this tension that is being explored, and in particular how it is part of the struggle over the geographical imagination.
Originally, Mutable Matter was the name of an experimental public engagement prototype that I developed as part of my PhD research in Geography. The project focused on the imaginations of matter at the atomic and molecular scale and their impact on the ability of different publics to participate in risk governance. This blog was established as a way to communicate issues around this project to project participants and audiences beyond the academy.
I am a geographer with a background in art and design. I began my academic career with a BA and MA in Fashion, originally ‘to do something practical and creative’, but then started becoming interested in the environmental and social issues of design. I started addressing these in my design practice, and later art practice, and eventually in writing. After working for a few years as an artist, I obtained funding for an MSc in Geography at the Open University, and was subsequently awarded an ESRC PhD Studentship at the same institution. My geography research focused on public participation in risk governance, and the ways in which art practice is (mis)used or could be used as part of this process. In particular, I looked at ‘invisible risk’, which includes air pollution, radiation, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and other risks that cannot be perceived so well without the use of scientific instrumentation.
After my PhD, I continued to focus on the topic of risk governance during my ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at University College London (2011-2012), but increasingly started to focus on another invisible risk: climate change – a theme that I also explored during my visiting lectureship on the MA Art & Science at Central Saint Martins (2011-2013). Climate change represents a challenge not only because of the material difficulties it poses to perception, but because of its scale and complexity. Dealing with the planetary scale also led me to deal with different scales of politics, such as geopolitics, which I was able to explore during a second postdoctoral fellowship at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow. In particular, I became interested in North-South relations, which I began to explore by developing two projects, ‘Between Geopoetics and Geopolitics’ and ‘Parallel Institutions’. These projects both looked into different ways of contesting geopolitical narratives: one through redescribing human-environment relations from apparent peripheries, and the other through redescribing institutional relations and questioning our idea of ‘development’. These projects are continuing in different iterations beyond my postdoc.
This blog was based at the Open University from 2007-2011, University College London from 2011-2012, Central Saint Martins from 2012-2013, University of Glasgow from 2013-2016.