Experimental Ruins: West Edition was a critical excursion and an artwork devised by Neal White of The Office of Experiments (OOE). It is part of a series of artworks by OOE which use a technique called Overt Research to explore the UK landscape as a multi-layered territory that can be interpreted through aesthetic, archaeological, geographical and techno-scientific interpretations. This participatory project focused attention on the history and geography of post-1945 scientific research, and the facilities and spaces created to house technological advances, that were developed around the periphery of London and especially the corridor to the west. Participants explored the often improbable, underground or unremarkable suburban settings in which scientific research institutions have pushed the frontiers of investigation.
Neal White, with Lala Thorpe, Luce, Choules, Lisa Haskell and Roy Stevenson from the Museum of London, welcomed over 20 volunteers in a preliminary experimental fieldwork session for “overt researchers”, mapping and documenting a single site, an archive of 17000 corpses closed to the public in the Ossiary at Museum of London.
A few weeks later this group were joined by a further 30 people for a critical excursion that took in sites of interest across West London. Starting at Churchill’s underground bunker on a suburban housing estate in North London (a tour led by volunteers from SubBritannia), after viewing cold war archive footage, an extract of Bruce Connors 'Operation Crossroads' and nukewatch protest films, the excursion arrived at atomic weapons establishments at Burghfield and Aldemaston. Here we met our anonymous guide to sites used by the UK nuclear peace protestors, taking in sites of their camps at both venues. After stopping for a brief chat with the MOD Police, we set off to a site of victory for the protestors, Greenham Common, where we took time to ponder the low level industrial park as a potential site of ruin and heritage. Further footage included representation by psychogeographers, informational and promotional films from the sites we visited.
A collaborative publication, Field Guide, of our experiences collated with Luce Choules of 'folded sheet' can be ordered here.
Experimental Ruins is a long-term project lead by Office of Experiments' Neal White (NW) and Steve Rowell (SR). Project activities include Experimental Ruins Workshop at UCL (NW / SR), Dark Places - group show (NW&SR), the Secrecy and Technology Tour (NW & SR) all commissioned and curated in collaboration with The Arts Catalyst. Other related projects include independent tours and fieldwork; Secrets of Portland (NW), TelePort for the 2010 Falmouth Convention (SR) and two excursions into military and post-industrial terrains in the Northeast during Steve's 2010 HaSS Fellowship at Newcastle University.
Experimental Ruins: West Edition is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.