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Dissecting the site: place, space and memory at the old Manchester Royal Infirmary

Harrison, Anne Elizabeth (2014) Dissecting the site: place, space and memory at the old Manchester Royal Infirmary. Masters thesis (MA), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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In this practice-led research I set out to understand how mapping could be used to both recover and memorialise memories of lost places in the site of the recently redeveloped Manchester Royal Infirmary. Bringing together practiceled, person-centred and experiential approaches, I developed a methodology which fit my personal creative process, aligned with developments in mapping such as performative mapping and the use of mapping to communicate things not normally acknowledged on the cartographic map. Methods of data collection have included walking interviews, archival research, artist’s residency and visual methods, including film, photography, animation, drawing, and performance, with the approaches developed through an iterative process. Following walking interviews with people who had different jobs in the hospital, past and present, I developed my “drawing interview” method in which participants remembered place while creating drawn maps using iPad technologies. The interviews and drawings were edited into a film: ‘Drawing Back’. This research began with the instinct that memories were embedded in place, and with the question of how to recover these memories once places had changed or been demolished. This research shows that counter-cartographic practices can effectively map the lost hospital site, and uncover unrecorded memories. Screening the film in the new hospital shows the contested nature of the space, and the visualisation of memories in the film appears to create effective memorials through adding to the collective memory of the site. This practice-led research has led me to explore process-based working which I have described as ‘arting’ as a recognition that it is ongoing, and involves both participants and viewers of the film. It has also highlighted the implicitly performative nature of my artwork, leading me to explore this aspect of my practice further, and to experiment with performance art.

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