‘Banishment, or self-withdrawal, to the margins of the city is a long-standing trope of English history, though it is found in many other cultures. It is there in the fable of Robin Hood, in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in a myriad of fairy stories, as well as in modern horror cinema. What may be different about the modern version of this trope is that where there was once a strict boundary between city and country – especially in the walled cities of medieval society – today that boundary is much more porous, giving rise to a deep anxiety or ambivalence over what can and can’t be allowed to happen in the urban edgelands, as they are now most commonly called.’ So says Ken Worpole in his introduction to Along the Outskirts – a catalogue accompanying a new exhibition at City Galley, Peterborough.
Peterborough-born artist Marc Atkinson spent a year walking and documenting the surrounding edgeland landscape of the city. The resulting film, photographs, website and catalogue reveal the hybrid new landforms and erstwhile woodlands now to be found encircling this rapidly expanding city.
Peterborough, like many English cities, has a complex relationship with its surrounding landscape. The project highlights the multiple uses and evolution of a terrain that appears to be in constant transition. The outer edges reveal the alternative experiences and histories of our cities, whose identities are usually projected from touristic, fixed and centre based perspectives. Through reflection and recollection, our landscapes can still be easily read and reveal to us the traces of our past, the issues of the present and the possibilities of the future.
Exhibited as part of City Gallery’s group exhibition ‘Resident‘, a selection of photographs from the project, as well as a 60 min film, combine material gathered from Atkinson’s excursions, archive film and photographs and interviews with local walkers, residents, itinerant travellers and edgeland workers.
The Along the Outskirts catalogue is available as a limited edition of 500 from the artist’s website, as well as at City Gallery, where ‘Resident’ runs until 28 August. More info here. Watch a clip from the film below: