Bill Marshall’s Keynote on the Charms and Perils of Verticality

Bill Marshall will be giving the opening keynote address at a 2-day conference on ‘City Margins, City Memories’ to be held at the Institute of Modern Languages Research in London on 7 April. The conference is organised by colleagues at Bangor University, including our former Stirling colleague, Gillian Jein, and includes papers on topics ranging from the Cité Universitaire in Interwar Paris to freed slaves and discursive constructions of space in early 19th-century New York.

Bill’s paper (‘Charms and Perils of Verticality’) will explore tensions in the concept of the vertical to be found in theorists such as Benjamin and de Certeau as they apply to the contemporary (counter)-cultural urban practices of parkour and buildering. The former will be examined mainly in its representations by (participant) photographic artists, for its resistance to a panoptic, totalising view of the city in favour of a view not only from below but one that drills down into domains of haptic perception but also where past and future potentially converge, awakening memories but also discovering new pathways through the city. The related phenomenon of buildering (along with its photographic representations) seems to stray into panoptic territory, but when it is combined with urban sculpture it may point to new arrangements of art, built environment, perception and bodies.

Bill was responsible for the organisation of a 2-day parkour event at the University of Stirling in June 2013 which included public lectures, parkour displays and a longer-term exhibition of photography.Parkour-by-andy-day-710wide