International Symposium: 21 – 22 November, Manchester School of Architecture 2017

Formulating a creative rural sector response to the Government’s Industrial strategy.

The symposium documents the emergence of a new set of critical arts practices, architectural interventions and curatorial strategies in challenging rural and agricultural contexts, e.g. art and agriculture, art and pandemics, and art and the policy sphere, etc. Which are also being proposed as part of a wider arts and cultural sector engagement with issues in agriculture, rurality and the countryside; i.e. a reframing of future sustainable agriculture, food and rural development policies from new critical, aesthetic, intellectual and cultural perspectives.

It is also intended as an opportunity for artists, architects, digital practitioners, designers and curators, etc., to meet together and respond to two recent reports, which advocate some quite radical new approaches to our understanding of rurality, agriculture, safe food, environmental sustainability and the countryside.

“Our current preoccupation with the city alone is highly irresponsible.. The countryside is now more volatile that the most accelerated city”

In particular the ‘Countryside’ manifesto issued recently by international architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas (OMA/AMO Rotterdam), in which he argues that the era of urbanism as the dominant focus for architecture, curatorship and arts and cultural policy, is now coming to an end. And that the countryside, rural issues, sustainable food and agriculture, farm animal welfare, etc., are becoming the vital new critical sites for future cultural, art, design and architectural practice.

“What the BSE and FMD (Foot and Mouth) pandemics have also shown us is that agriculture and the rural are now important cultural responsibilities and, as such, they represent urgent and compelling new critical arenas for artists, digital media, architects, designers and cultural policy discourse to engage with.”

Similar arguments are also put forward by the Littoral Arts Trust in the New Creative Rural Economies report (Nov. 2018) which outlines a new strategic role for artists, architects, digital designers and the wider cultural sector in support of rural regeneration and the Government’s (post‐Brexit) Industrial Strategy. The report proposes a national creative rural economy investment programme and a major culture‐led rural regeneration strategy, capable of addressing a wide range of likely future rural issues and challenges. Such as: climate change/flooding, public health/pandemics, rural social regeneration and, also delivering c. £1 billion p.a. for the national creative economy and the Government’s Industrial Strategy by 2023; i.e. the New Economies of Sustainability.


HYPER-RURAL: the end of Urbanism?
Symposium, 21-22 Nov. Manchester School of Architecture


Tuesday 21st November 2017
Day 1 Keynote addresses

6.00 – 9.00 pm Benzie Building, 4th Floor Lecture Theatre, MMU
(Boundary Street West, 
M15 6BR)

Stephan Petermann OMA/AMO. ‘The advent of the Hyper-Rural and the end of Urbanism? ‘The countryside is now more volatile that the most accelerated city’. AMO/OMA’s pioneering Countryside international research programme.

Professor Ou Ning, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and Planning. ‘Chinese cities have become insufferable’. The Bishan Project: “Restarting the Rural Reconstruction Movement”, Post City: Habitats for the 21st Century. The Bishan Project was a community-centered cultural project for rural revival, which was later closed down by the Chinese Government.

Chair: David Powell, David Powell Cultural Policy Research. Contributing to the national cultural policy debate.

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
Day 2 The symposium seminars

Practicing in the Hyper-Rural realm; proposing new aesthetic, and cultural genres for digital, designers, architects, curators and artists in the post-agricultural rural sphere.

9.30 – 11.00 am (morning parallel seminar programme, A – B)

(A) Designing the Future Rural;
future rural landscapes, settlements & economies

Stefan Petermann OMA/OSA – Rem Koolhaas International Architecture practice, Rotterdam; the Post-Urban
Ben Stringer, SL University of Westminster Architecture Department; co-organised the ‘Re-imaging rurality’ conference in 2015. Part of the Alterrurality network a trustee for a city farm.
Dr. Rosemary Shirley, Manchester School of Art ‘Rural Mythologies: A Crisis in Representation’ explores the proliferation of images of the rural that circulate through media, branding and everyday ephemera. It argues that certain forms of contemporary art practice are important in providing alternative, more complex and multiple visions of rurality.
Chair: Richard Povall, Director art.earth

(B) New Rural Mobilities;
rethinking rural tourism, culture and the post-agri. visitor economy

Professor Ou Ning, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and Planning
Dr. Alex Murdin, Rural Recreation Dorset RE-THINKING PLACE: WE ARE RIGHT TO ROAM: Economic, cultural and social strategies that wish to support rural creativity
Matt McDonald, Grizedale Arts Cumbria
Helen Ratcliffe/Alan Smith Allenheads Contemporary Arts, ‘Magnolia pastures’ The discomfort of diversity – Looking through other people’s eyes towards a dysfunctional theme park.
Chair: Dr. Martyn Hudson, Northumbria University Art Dept.

11.30 am – 1.00 pm (Sessions C and D)

(C) Art and agriculture;
cultivating new metaphors for environmental and economic sustainability

Presentations by some of the pioneers of art and agriculture projects in the UK and Australia – the new rural economies and landscapes of environmental sustainability.
Dr. Richard Povall, Director art.earth
David Buckland Director Cape Farewell and FarmArt
*Dr Lucas Ihlein, ARC DECRA Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Creative Arts at University of Wollongong & Laura Fisher, Postdoctoral Researcher Sydney College of the Arts. Sugar vs the Reef? and the Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation (KSCA). Reimagining land ethics through artist-farmer collaborations in rural Australia.
Chair: Ed Fox, HoD Landscape Design, Manchester School of Architecture

(D) Creative rural communities;
promoting new rural crafts and cultural partnerships

Joss Allen Deveron Arts (Aberdeenshire) ‘The Town is the Garden’
Laura Mulhern, Culture+ Business Skills Coordinator Dorset Arts Development Company
Zoe Fletcher, “the Woolist”, PhD Researcher, Manchester School of Art
Chair: Chris Bridgman, Artistic Director, Kirkgate Arts Cumbria (National Rural Touring Forum)

1.00 – 2.00 pm LUNCH

2.00 – 3.30 pm (afternoon parallel seminar programme, I and II)

(Session I) RIOT, Big/Agri Data, and CaDRE;
The Creative and Digital Rural Economy initiative

The emergence of rurally specific IoT – i.e. RIOT, the use of Big DATA in a wide range of rural service provision (health/telemedicine, education, transport and flood prevention); introduction for practitioners in the cultural sector to new developments in advanced agri-research spheres; e.g. e-Agri., precision agriculture, New Harvest bio-tech/agri-tech, AI, agri-robotics, etc.
Daniel Heery Cybermoor
Chris Carr Director B4RN
GROW Observatory, Drew Hemment (FutureEverything, Univ.Dundee)
Suzannah Brecknock Geospatial Innovation Lead | CGI UK
Heath Bunting digital media and environmental activist, Bristol.
Chair: Iain Bennett BoP Consulting

(Session II) After Agnes Denes: curating agriculture;
towards a new rural art practice and aesthetic discourse

Dr. Deirdre O’Mahony, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Speculative Optimism : An archival Enquiry.
Steve Messam, rural artist and curator
Paul Chaney PhD researcher Falmouth University
Chair: Jane Scarth Curator: Public Programmes Whitechapel Gallery, London

3.45 – 4.45 pm The creative countryside;
Policy and practice in the rural cultural economy

Key note presentation by Professor David Bell University of Leeds
Professor Michael Woods*, University of Aberystwyth ‘The Global Countryside‘ research project. Two leading UK Georgaphers and rural advocates address the concept of.. “the Future is Rural”. Respondents: Iain Bennett, BoP Consulting, Suzannah Breaknock CGI UK, and David Powell, GPS.

4.45 – 5.15 pm Symposium plenary

*pre-recorded presentations


Symposium registration and fees

Full rate £45
Concessions (student rate) £15

To make reservations contact the symposium organisers directly:
Littoral Arts Trust (Ian Hunter & Celia Larner)

00 44 (0) 1539437309


The full rate includes the Tuesday evening lectures and reception, as well as the Wednesday 22nd Nov. seminars. Concessions only include the Wednesday seminars.

Symposium organised by the Littoral Arts Trust in partnership with Manchester School of Architecture

The symposium is partly intended as a response to the outcomes of two recent publications and research projects. It also aims to document the emergence of a radical new programme of art and agriculture and critical rural arts practices which, in turn, propose a cultural reframing of agriculture and rural development in the post-­agricultural era. Including the New Creative Rural Economies initiative (and a conference proposed for 2018) which will further outline a wider strategic role for art, architecture, digital design and the cultural sector in support of rural regeneration and the Government’s (post‐Brexit) Industrial Strategy.

The HYPER RURAL: international architect Rem Koolhaas predicts the end of urbanism. Culture-led rural regeneration and the new economies of sustainability

Rem Koolhaas ‘The Countryside’ the Charles Jencks Award lecture presentation at RIBA in London, 20th December 2012. In this Koolhaas contrasts what he describes as the increasing hyper­‐Cartesian re(de)formation of the countryside, with what he also views as the regressive tendencies of the discourse of urbanism**, and the increasing whimsicality and detachment of some urban public art, architecture and design.

“Our current preoccupation with the city alone is highly irresponsible.. The countryside is now more volatile that the most accelerated city”

“Architects are attracted by contradictions ..we must also look to new ideas and new ways of thinking.. particularly when the old ways of thinking and working beginning to break down.. [at] OMA we look to the countryside and what is happening there is extraordinary..”

The New Creative Rural Economies report. The symposium is also proposed as a platform and a response to the Littoral Arts Trust’s publication; The New Creative Rural Economies report (2018).

New Creative Rural Economies – Summary Report
(PDF – 3.5Mb)

“What the BSE and FMD (Foot and Mouth) disasters have shown us is that agriculture and the rural are now also important cultural responsibilities and arenas and, as such, they also represent urgent new critical spheres for artists, digital media, architects, designers and for future arts and cultural policy discourse.”

** However, Koolhaas also has his critics: “Don’t waste your time in the countryside” -­ Patrik Schumacher (AD, August 2016)

VISIT THE ARCHIVE (Rural Cultural Forum 2005 – 2015)

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