Displacement–assemblage: an exhibition of research practice

John van Aitken

Material Questions

The work utilises digital photography as an imag(in)ing technology to open up discussions about creative destruction when employed in neo-liberal programs of urban redevelopment. Part of the larger Studies in Creative Destruction series the work engages an expanded approach to photographic production. Drawing inspiration from the processes of unmaking, rough stacking and loose reassembly encountered on various Salford demolition sites it puts images of their materiality through a series of post-production processes, creating hybrid compositions and forms. The work comments on the cannibalistic ecology of redevelopment, examining how the old city is demolished and its aggregates form the foundations of the new in the rebuilding process. In the wake of problematised realist documentary strategies these hybrid photographic forms attempt to instigate new dialogues about the emerging social and political ecologies at the heart of redevelopment and alternative ways of representing it.  


John van Aitken is a cultural worker exploring urban gentrification through the dynamics of creative destruction. His current practice-based PhD is centred on the transformation of Salford’s landscapes through housing-led redevelopment. It explores how expanded photographic practices can visualise new ways to open up debate about the consequences of such changes. Co-founder of the Institute of Urban Dreaming (https://iudblog.org) with Jane Brake (MMU), their recent publication explores the use of atmospheres and sensory spaces in the marketing of new vertical apartments https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1472586X.2020.1840091. He currently works as a Principal Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire.

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