Taking leave: art and closure

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
187 Downloads (Pure)


Centred around an action research project in collaboration with English Heritage at RAF Coltishall, this book chapter reflects on the experience of documenting the closure of an iconic military airfield and suggests approaches derived from visual arts methodologies to the understanding of transformation from active site to abandonment. It also looks at the relationship of the pastoral to Cold War technology and self-image in the military. I suggest that a ‘toolkit’ based around four conceptualisations became a useful framework for the project,.
First, Sign Into Abstraction referred to the changing qualities of signs and functional objects, which become enigmatic over time as personnel familiar with their functionality receded. This process became key to my main photographic production on-site.
Second, a green world/closed world dualism denoted the combination of tranquillity and alertness
embodied by the rural fighter interception network, which was particularly intense at Coltishall
due to its history. Pastoral, technological, networked and entropic tendencies all combined,
forming a very particular genus loci. These elements are also useful in consideration
of landscapes of training, as for instance in the work of Patrick Wright.
Third, GeoMirroring as Geography referred to the disposition of individual sites in a Cold War system where each side reflects the other,sometimes in surprisingly exact ways. Former Russian airfields in East Germany echo the architectures and design of NATO facilities in an extraordinary super-symmetry. This becamea key focus of Angus Boulton’s work on-site.
Finally, Mirroring as Simulation referred to the virtual airfield and missions conducted in the Jaguar Flight simulator, operated as a privatized concern by Thales Defence contractors and staffed by former RAF personnel.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Military Research Methods
EditorsAlison J. Williams, Neil Jenkings, Rachel Woodward, Matthew F. Rech
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315613253
ISBN (Print)9781472442758
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2016


  • Military research
  • Visual art
  • Site investigation
  • Video art
  • Photography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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