Site-Reading Writing Quarterly

Mary Modeen and Iain Biggs read
Michael Hirschbichler’s Spirit Grounds (Verlag für moderne Kunst GmbH, 2022),
a publication that accompanies an exhibition

Michael Hirschbichler reads
Creative Engagements with Ecologies of Place: Geopoetics, Deep Mapping and Slow Residencies
edited by
Mary Modeen and Iain Biggs (Routledge, 2020)

Reader’s Biography

Books pile up on my bedside table (which is actually an appropriated chair). Poetry, literature, theory etc. – old and new. The stack itself has been there for quite a long time, constantly changing, with new additions and, very rarely, finished books that move back to the shelf. In Mary Modeen’s and Iain Biggs’ words, I consider my reading habit to be transversal, navigating different regions of the book stack – that I regard as a site of engagement – in a slow residency, very close to my head and dreams.

Readers’ Biographies

Iain is and always has been an insatiable, omnivorous, and wholly unsystematic reader (and very occasional reviewer). He has accurately described himself as, academically speaking, a ‘polite trespasser’ across numerous fields. However he has a particular interest in writing by authors whose testimonial imagination enquires in places and their times with one eye on the present, in science fiction in the tradition of Ursula LeGuin, and with novelists and scholars concerned with folklore and related ethnographic topics. That said, he has spent much of the COVID-19 pandemic reading the poetry and prose essays of women Irish poets. 

Like Iain, Mary is also a voracious reader, and someone who seems inevitably to be a connection-maker, both in writing and art. Partly, this stems from a lifelong peripatetic wandering across the world, facilitated by education and research. Encounters inevitably seem to bring new people, places, stories, and learning into combination with other places and traditions. This plays out in books as well, with stimulating novels, poetry, and histories, which are generative of new connections, much in the way that Olivia Laing applies her astute perceptions to art and literature, and E.B. White wrote of the profound in everyday occurrences. 

Reader’s Abstract 

In light of the apparent ecological urgency to develop other ways of environmental thinking and action, Mary Modeen and Iain Biggs suggest the three interconnected concepts ‘geopoetics,’ ‘deep mapping’ and ‘slow residencies.’ Embedded in a wider framework of interdisciplinary, more-than-individual collaborative, and communal modes of working, these are powerful approaches to creatively and responsively engage with ecologies of place. 

Readers’ Abstract 

Spirit Grounds presents combinations of photographs, some of which are dark and obscure almost to the point of abstraction, and surface images of light material with stains and scratches, interspersed, and which sometimes frame photographs of discernable places, urban settings, woods, and water. Text is included in two forms, one as five numbered poetic insertions in German, English, and Japanese. And the other one is a short prose text. The reader enters without title page, or other book conventions, plunged as a direct experience demanding participation, reflection, and ultimately interpretation, into this publication accompanying a physical exhibition of these artworks.


Michael Hirschbichler
Spirit Grounds
(Verlag für moderne Kunst GmbH, 2022)


Mary Modeen and Iain Biggs (eds.)
Creative Engagements with Ecologies of Place: Geopoetics, Deep Mapping and Slow Residencies
(Routledge, 2020)


… this is neither an academic textbook nor an ‘art book’ as these are usually understood. Instead, it combines some of the functions and conventions of both. In addition to being an informal manifesto of sorts, it is intended to be a point of reference for a range of ideas, practices, histories and contexts, including an argument for the importance of ‘fieldwork’, all ultimately seen as necessary components of any genuine democracy. The result is a loose weaving-together of related and mutually informing strands of material, rather than a linear argument designed to deliver a particular conclusion or an authoritative overview. (p. 13)

Author’s Biography

Michael Hirschbichler works on the threshold of art, architecture and anthropology. He has been an artist-in-residence at the German Academy Villa Massimo in Rome, YARAT Contemporary Art Space in Baku, the Cité internationale des arts in Paris, Binz39 Foundation in Zurich, Villa Kamogawa (Goethe Institut) in Kyoto, and SACO (Goethe Institut and Institut Français) in Antofagasta. Michael completed his doctoral dissertation on ‘Mythical Constructions’ at Berlin University of the Arts UdK (published with Wamuth & Zohlen, 2021). He has lectured at ETH Zurich and HSLU Lucerne, directed the Architecture Program at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology, and was a Visiting Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at TU Delft, Goldsmiths and Aarhus University. 

Editors’ Biographies

Professor Mary Modeen is Chair of Interdisciplinary Art Practices at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, Scotland, and Visiting Senior Research Fellow of the University of Minnesota. She is an artist/academic and author whose works cover a broad range of place-based interests and issues, including environmental ecologies, Indigenous studies, literature, and philosophy. She founded several undergraduate and postgraduate multi-disciplinary courses. As a PhD supervisor, external examiner, and network co-convenor, she advises researchers whose work combines creative practices, with academic studies. Recent publications include Decolonising Place-Based Arts Research (2021), and work with Caiçara fishermen of Brazil. 

Dr Iain Biggs RWA works as a writer, educator, network co-ordinator, advocate of deep mapping, occasional curator, and visual artist. Formally an editor of the Journal of Visual Art Practice and the Director of PLaCE at UWE, Bristol, he is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Environmental Humanities Research Centre, Bath Spa University. Other recent publications include chapters in The Routledge Companion to Art in the Public Domain (Routledge, 2020) and Walking Bodies: Papers, Provocations, Actions, (Triarchy Press, 2020).

Author’s Abstract

An autumn foray leads through a contemporary city. In this city – which in many ways resembles numerous other cities – a muddy body of water opens up in the midst of well-kept residential areas, of which one recounts that it contains a passage into the otherworldly world of demons. In the same city, highways lead over former fields of corpses and in remote underpasses the ghosts of the dead crowd at night. Using photography and film, experimental painting and texts, Michael Hirschbichler explores the mythological ground on which our contemporary life unfolds. 

Editors’ Abstract

Creative Engagements with Ecologies of Place explores a range of creative engagements with ecologies of place, using geopoetics, deep mapping, and slow residency to propose broadly-based collaborations that indicate how visual art and the concept of the artist are shifting through engagement with ecologies of place. The book proposes a ‘disciplinary agnosticism’ as an alternative to interdisciplinarity. Using examples of specific established practices in the UK, Australia, and USA, and emergent practices from across the world, it provides the reader with a rich illustration of the ways in which ensemble creative undertakings are reactivating art’s relationship with place and transforming the role of the artist.

About Issue 10

Site-Reading Writing Quarterly celebrates reading and writing as situated practices, releasing a special pair of seasonal reviews four times a year. 

Each solstice and equinox I invite writers to swap recently completed written works and to provide a situated ‘review’ of each other’s work. This involves raising a shared issue/concern, connecting out to another work/text/set of ideas, and/or producing a creative response to an aspect of the writing which might be fictional, prose, visual, sonic, filmic … These acts of exchange open up ways of ‘reading writing’ differently, generating multiple modes of engagement with words, and exploring the practice of ‘reviewing’ from a situated perspective, one that critiques and experiments with the genre of the ‘critical review essay’, creating something far more entangled.

For this 21 March 2022 issue, Mary Modeen and Iain Biggs read together Michael Hirschbichler’s Spirit Grounds (Verlag für moderne Kunst GmbH, 2022), a visual feast of a publication, while Michael Hirschbichler re-views Creative Engagements with Ecologies of Place: Geopoetics, Deep Mapping and Slow Residencies edited by Mary Modeen and Iain Biggs (Routledge, 2020) in all kinds of embodied ways. Their subtle ‘readings’ of each other’s work are attentive and generous, offering a way of treating one another that is gentle, and much needed as we witness the violence of war, not only in Ukraine, but around the world.

The 21 March 2022 issue of Critical Spatial Practice shares Christine Bjerke’s Dissolving the Dwelling (2021–2), Vienna and Copenhagen, an exhibition by the architect and educator, which explores how the domestic realm, often seen as a place of privacy, enclosure, constancy, and safety, is disrupted and transformed by the invisible and visible layers of global connectivity.

While for the 21 March 2022 issue of Site-Writing, Chia-Ying Chou’s artist’s book, Nothingness Beyond Blossom (2021), Isle of Grain, Kent, UK, takes Robert Smithson’s words ‘Each landscape, no matter how calm and lovely, conceals a substratum of disaster’ as a guide for exploring how traces of military practice and architecture are only temporarily covered by summer’s floral ‘sugar-coating.’

A short essay, ‘Figuring Feminisms,’ presenting issues 1–7 of SRWQ, has just been published in a special issue of ARCH PLUS on gender and architecture, edited by Torsten Lange, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Daniela Ortiz dos Santos and Gabrielle Schaad.

If you have a written work that you’ve recently completed and someone you’d like to read it, or would like to write a response to a new book, or contribute a project to either Critical Spatial Practice or Site-Writing: please let me know: – And if you don’t want to receive these updates, then do let me know, and I can take you off the listing.

Wishing you all a beautiful spring.


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