Preston, Julieanna. “Reconciling Carboniferous Accretions: A performative script” in Architecture and Culture 2015 (forthcoming).


A Reconciliation of Carboniferous Accretions was performed on 14 November 2014 as part of the Architecture and Humanities Research Association’s Industries of Architecture Conference programme held in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. The performance carved a spatial journey through the North Eastern Institute of Mining and Engineering starting at the front door of Neville Hall, through the corridors, and up three flights of stairs to room 210. The space of the event was further activated by a red wool carpet accompanied by synthetic and organic linings, three bags of coal purchased from local supplier ABoC Solid Fuels, a nearby working opencast coal mine in Steadsburn, ten blue plastic battery-powered torches, an iPhone, an audience of approximately fifty conference participants and me, a spatial artist. A faint atmosphere of entertainment hung over the event as Friday night pub-crawlers energised the central city and conversations amongst conference delegates buzzed following a keynote lecture. All of this shaped an event that sought to politicise coal as a live body in a 21st century natural resource-depleted environment.

A Reconcilliation of Carboniferous Accretions: a performative script is distinct from the performance that spawned from its first happening. It is a site-writing that takes into account the hours I spent writing under the library’s vaulted arch, poking my nose into rooms and cupboards, books and archives, walking the city at dawn and ill-fated attempts to visit coal fields. It registers a desire to overcome geographical distance between my home in New Zealand and the building in Newcastle Upon Tyne through internet searches. It mourns over the mountain’s lack of agency to protect itself from a subsequent mining hysterectomy. The performance’s criticality arises from standing inside the space of the issue, welcoming the audience into that space with me, using my body and the building as an affective lever in order to spatialise a contentious political matter that binds my body with your body, the body of coal, the mountain and the coal mining industry. In the performance, there was no escaping the immediacy of those relationships.