SkatePAL charity work in Palestine - Photo by Emil Agerskov

In the context of an estimated nine million Syrians fleeing their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011, and with migration and refugee movements in Mediterranean countries gaining unprecedented momentum, Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth University are collaborating to host a two-day conference this month to examine the issue. 

Traffic: movement / place / flow / mobility will be introduced by a panel including photographer Professor Jem Southam, with a keynote address from renowned poet Professor Tony Lopez, both of the University. Speakers will include Dani Abulhawa, who visited the West Bank of Palestine to work with SkatePAL, a charitable organisation building skateparks and teaching young people to skateboard in the Palestinian Territories. Another speaker will be Ignacio Acosta, whose work investigates the importance of copper to modern life and technology, and the uneasy relationship between capitalism and mining in Chile, which has the largest copper reserves in the world.

The event, being held across Friday 15 April to Saturday 16 April, is co-organised by LAND2, a national creative practice-led research network of artists whose members share common interests in how art can engage with landscape and place research, and Land/Water, a Plymouth University-based research group of artists, writers and curators who interrogate nature, culture, aesthetics and representation, relating to land, landscape and place.

The theme of Traffic is one that resonates with artists worldwide, and papers for the conference were submitted from countries including Brazil, New Zealand and Palestine, based on themes of place, movement and boundaries.

Co-conveners of the conference, Liz Wells, Professor in Photographic Culture, in the School of Art and Media, and Dr Stephen Felmingham, BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing and Printmaking Programme Leader at Plymouth College of Art, said: 

“This is an exciting opportunity to explore the ways in which contemporary artworks understand both place and subjectivity as shifting concepts and examine what agency an artist or group of artists may have in regard to this fluid notion of place.”