Shock City: Resilience and the Anthropocene

Shock City was a series of events, including an exhibition, practice exchanges, a ‘day of doing’ (with walks and a workshops), and an international conference on Resilience and the Anthropocene.

Shock City | Chelsea College of Arts (UAL) | 28 – 29 October 2015

Events launched the Year of Resilience (YoR) – a programme run by CCW Graduate School during the academic year 2015–2016 – a the wide-ranging discursive educational programme that aimed to present new cultural discourses on ‘resilience’.

Resilience can be understood as the capacity of a bounded network – a person, bacterial culture, a forest, a city or an economy – to deal with change and continue to develop. It is a response to shocks and disruption, like an infection, financial crisis or climate change that spurs creative practice and encourages renewal. Resilience is a means of taking action and creating sustainable ways to co-exist within our biosphere.

Framed by later events, such an unravelling Brexit, a Trump-dominated so-called ‘free world’ and with hurricanes and natural disasters displaying climate change’s impact, this 2015 call for resilient practices is more prescient than ever. Archived here (via the UAL website) is a community of artistic practitioners producing an emergent understanding for the potential of resilience in an attempt to accumulate a shared ethos that we hope will continue on into new, unexpected and divergent practices.

Shock City Programme

The conference included presentations by invited speakers and practitioners from CCC Head in Geneva (an educational programme that develops new vocabularies for articulating the political and social implications of a changing world). Following the themes of YoR – ‘Empathy and Proximity’, ‘Making and Repairing’ and ‘Community and Resilience’ – the conference included practitioners working in the CCW Graduate School as well as others, from those working in architectural performance in Warsaw to the impact of culture on policy-making in Geneva. Together, participants and speakers created a multifaceted community response to the broader changes shaking the foundations of cultural production, including art and design education at that time.

Conference papers

Opening remarks – Marsha Bradfield, Chelsea College of Arts and Design (UAL) / Artfield Projects

Introduction – Malcolm Quinn, Associate Dean of Research and Director of Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon Graduate School


Proximity to Workers in the Network – Charlotte Webb (chair)

More than One Way to Get Somewhere – Edwina Fitzpatrick and Geraint Evans

Towards the Proximity of Collective Action – David Cross

Artistic Research Impacting Policy – Hannah Entwistle


Haptic Tiles and the City – Aaron McPeake (chair)

Inheriting an Existing Circumstance – Ken Wilder

Pointing the Finger: Architecture of Abandonment – Natalia Romik

Who Looks After the Boat? – Robin Jenkins


Finding a Model for a Resilient Society – Ezio Manzini (chair)

#TransActing: A Market of Values – Marsha Bradfield

From the Classroom into the Community – Patricia Ellis and Andrew Graves-Johnson

Creative Practice Cycling Tours

Andreas Lang from Public Works. Photo: Artfield Projects

During two separate day-long tours, groups of UAL students met with artists, designers and others, who discussed experiences setting up successful and sustainable professional practices.


Creative Practice Cycling Tours | London | 16 & 18 June 2014


Tracking transitions over these cultural and artistic locations, participants on the tours were introduced to multifarious and unique ways of organising and structuring working processes, gaining detailed knowledge of the practical and conceptual skills required to make professional projects happen.

More specifically, the tours identified and mapped successful tactics for making together and inhabiting shared spaces, tracing strategies from one discipline to another, in order to provide a learning context in which participants could step outside the parameters of their normal frames of reference, learn from one another and cross-pollinate ideas.


The Good, The Bad & the Ugly

16 June 2014 | Peckham > Deptford | 9.30am – 18.00pm

With the title The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, the first tour explored the attributes needed to make it as a creative practitioner today, with guided insights from some of London’s most exciting creative practitioners working in south east London, who discussed the skills, values, behaviours and knowledge – good, bad, and at times problematic – that give them an edge.

From artists and architects to designers and cultural entrepreneurs, no matter what the creative discipline – each must make complex decisions about the commercial status and organisational structure of their work. For some, the development of an identity is key, while for others, a mastery of the art-funding system is essential.

Studio hosts

Cockpit Arts was founded in 1986 and now run social enterprise centres in (Central and South) London, which provide premises to over 170 small craft-based artists and studios. Maria Hatling, a designer supported by Cockpit Arts and Ellen O’Hara, then Head of Business Development discussed how the organisation ‘incubates’ and supports crafts practitioners in starting, growing and developing their businesses.

Claudia Firth is an artist and cultural theorist, currently based at Birkbeck University London. A member of Critical Waves Radio, she discussed her PhD research project, for which she is writing a short non-linear history of three moments of post-economic crisis (the 1970s, the 1930s and the present). Using Peter Weiss’ historical novel The Aesthetics of Resistance as a model, her research explores the specific conditions of political economy and how the terms history, aesthetics and resistance interact with and correspond to them.

Torti Hoare is a furniture designer who founded the Tortie Hoare Ltd in 2010. This studio creates exclusive, high quality handmade furniture. Each individual piece is carefully crafted with natural aesthetics and sustainability at the forefront of design-process, with the studio finding new ways of using natural materials.

NX Records is a collaboration between Matthew Herbert’s Accidental Records and the Department of Music, Goldsmiths, University of London. Participants on the tour were joined by Simon Deacon and Ruthie Woodward from the project, who discussed how each year NX Records creates a pop-up shop in a university owned building on New Cross High Street in South East London, with the aim of celebrating and supporting independent labels and artists.



18 June 2014 | Hackney Wick > Stratford | 9.30am – 18.00pm

On the second tour, THIS IS HOW WE ROLL participants learnt about experimental approaches that use art, design, architecture and socially engaged practice to meet the needs of climate change.

For many artists today, issues of sustainability have become a central preoccupation in their work. Energy scarcity, climate damage and industrial consumerism are increasingly explored in art and design projects that test and trial new responses to ecological crises. Such practices implicitly question what it might take to move towards a post-carbon society; and it is these issues that will be investigated on the second tour.

In the newly formed post-Olympic landscape of east London, this tour tapped into cultural climate issues at a time when rampant cuts to public funding and precarity were writ large. By getting up close and personal we gained valuable understanding of some of the ways practitioners and arts organisations are making themselves more resilient through sensitive forms of practice taking energy scarcity, industrial consumerism and urban regeneration into account.

The second tour concluded with a ‘manifesto session’ led by artist and activist David Cross at Stour Space in Hackney Wick. Over tea and cake participants reflected on the day’s twists and turns – the sometimes surprising approaches to being environmentally conscious that surfaced. These reflections were developed into a set of guidelines that aim to highlight some of the skills, values, behaviours and knowledge that future-forward practitioners need to not only survive but also to thrive, in the rough and tumble world of cultural production.

Studio hosts

ASSEMBLE are a collective working across art, architecture and design to adapt and re-design reclaimed urban spaces. Embracing a DIY sensibility, their projects are conceived in tandem with the communities who use and inhabit these environments. They were nominated for the Turner Prize in 2015 shortly after the Creative Practice Cycling Tour visited them at Sugarhouse Studios on Stratford High Street. Assemble conceived and built Sugarhouse Studios (a studio and events space) in 2012, in collaboration with the London Legacy Development Corporation. This project uses the concept of a public building as a way of finding private practices (space for research, design and construction).

Richard Brown is Research Director at the Centre for London, an independent think tank and charity. Brown discussed his experiences as Strategy Director at the London Legacy Development Corporation, where he planned the transformation of London’s Olympic Park for the 2012 games and the regeneration of the surrounding area, including Hackney Wick. He also previously worked at the Greater London Authority, in the Architecture and Urbanism Unit amongst other positions, which promoted architectural and urban design excellence in other policies and projects in London.

Ross Butler is a ‘culturepreneur’ who founded Butler’s Gin in 2012. Discussing his experiences as a designer and brand developer, he introduced this unique brand, which adapts an originally Victorian recipe, connecting with London’s East End both historically and today, based in Hackney Wick.

Public works is a critical design practice set-up in 2004 and based in Queens Yard. As they discussed during a session in the Yard Theatre, as well as buildings, they create discursive events and undertake research, planning campaigns and urban strategies, as well as participatory art and architecture that aims to occupy the terrain in-between architecture, art, performance and activism.


Tea Exchange

Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane, Souped Up Tea Urn and Amp / Teapot (Dartford) 2004. Photo: TATE collections

As part of the inaugural programme of the Tate Exchange, students and staff from the BA Interior and Spatial Design at Chelsea College of Arts (UAL) moved their studio into this new space, which occupies an entire floor of the new Blavatnik building (also known as the Switch House) at Tate Modern, Bankside.

Tea Exchange | Tate Exchange, Tate Modern | 22 February – 3 March 2017

Exploring and expanding upon the name of this new initiative, visitors to the museum were invited to share this studio space, taking part in workshops, talks and presentations as part of a curated programme involving with students, tutors and critics. Over the course of the week, participants designed and constructed eight full-scale cardboard teahouses. Exploring themes of social and ritualised behaviour as well as the architectural and cultural significance of tea, these structured considered tea as produce and commodity. Participants drank tea and exchanged ideas, discussing the historical, cultural, social and political significance of tea.

When the teahouses were almost complete, architect Rain Wu performed tea ceremonies that fuse fuse traditions of East and West, using a tea set designed as part of his 2016 artist residency at the Design Museum (down the river). The programme also included a guest lecture by Masayasu Tamiya, exploring the Japanese Way of Tea. On the final day of the Tate Exchange students were joined by a guest critic, who reviewed the Tea Exchange followed by a performative lecture by ISD tutor Marsha Bradfield – Steeped: A Legacy of Tea on the history, culture and politics of tea.

What Happens To Us

Participants, What Happens to Us. Photo: Ben McDonnell, 2017

Curated by Amy McDonnell and Marsha Bradfield, this exhibition examined democracy as a system of community formation.

What Happens to Us | Wimbledon Space | 15 November – 9 December 2016

Communities don’t just happen, they’re made

The exhibition unfolded in the long shadow of the UK’s referendum about whether to stay in Europe or not, as well as the threatening prospect of Donald Trump leading the so-called free world, which compelled many at that time to ask, should we ‘just say no’ to democracy? What if the philosopher Joseph de Maistre was right: people really do get the governments they deserve?

What Happens to Us takes as its departure the exhibition Democracy by the collective Group Material (1988–9), which was determined by round table discussions on the (still) pressing issues of AIDS, cultural participation, election and education. Today, we might add climate change, mass migration and economic disparity to this list. At What Happens to Us we ate together, made decisions and researched collaboratively, and built the exhibition and its ethos over time, hosting daily workshops, talks and screenings in four, weekly phases – ‘Build’, ‘Elect’, ‘Use’ and ‘Account’ to explore the politics in our communities.

With participation from

Acts of Searching Closely, Francesca Baglietto, Manuel Batsch, Brad Butler, Jaya Clara Brekke, Helen Brewer, Georgia Brown, Elliot Burns, Ève Chabanon, Cinzia Cremona, Carla Cruz, Neil Cummings, Neil Farnan, Michael Freedman, Sharon Gal, Naomi Garriock, Alison Green, Isabelle Gressel, Gabriele Grigorgeva, Mark Herbst, Karem Ibrahim, Helen Kaplinsky, Pippa Koszerek, May Project Gardens, Rosia McGinn, Zoë Mendelson, Radical ReThink, Susan Rocklin, Susanna Round, Scott Schwager, Barbara Steveni, Neil Tait, Jessica Tanghetti, Jennet Thomas, Binita Walia, Wright and Vandame

The full programme and archive of the project can be found at

#TransActing: A Market of Values

A bustling pop-up market with artists, designers, economists, civil-society groups, academics, ecologists, activists and others who creatively explore existing structures and actively produce new ones.

#TransActing: A Market of Values | Chelsea College of Arts (UAL)  | 11 July 2015

Organised by Critical Practice, #TransActing took place on the historic Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground, located between Tate Britain and Chelsea College of Arts (UAL). The Market showcased a skillshare, a peoples bureau, organ donation, an economy of promises, commoners, a fablab, a bring your own BBQ, virtuous communities, a speakers’ corner—even a kiosk buying tears. Care, trust, creativity and generosity are forms of exchange that coexist with money but cannot be made equivalent to pounds and pence. It’s wealth beyond capital that was produced at #TransActing.

The Market of Values was hosted in bespoke structures built by Critical Practice, Public Works and others. These stalls were interspersed with other spaces of assembly and exchange: a speakers’ corner, a social cinema, while multiple currencies circulated, not all of them monetary

. Whilst the values of competitive markets dominate contemporary life, including art and its education, other kinds can and do coexist. Some even flourish in alternative communities of evaluation.

#TransActing will nurtured and celebrated these value relations in a spectacular one-day event.

 Critical Practice is Metod Blejec, Marsha Bradfield, Cinzia Cremona, Neil Cummings, Neil Farnan, Angela Hodgson-Teal, Karem Ibrahim, Amy McDonnell, Claire Mokrauer-Madden, Eva Sajovic, Kuba Szreder, Sissu Tarka and many more besides.

This market contributes to a wider project –  Market of Value Research

Further information can be found on the Critical Practice (CCA) research wiki

Funded with assistance from Arts Council England and National Lottery