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THINK DEEP: Novel Creative Approaches to the Underground is my €1.95 million project that has been funded through the European Research Council’s Horizon 2020 Consolidator Grant scheme. It will be based at the Centre for GeoHumanities at Royal Holloway, University of London for five years, between 2020 and 2025.

THINK DEEP will explore how artistic research practices can help tackle pressing environmental issues associated with subterranean spaces – such as imagining the future of underground cities, exploring the complexities of extraction, and conserving the heritage of underground landscapes around the world. The project team, including artist Flora Parrott (who has previously been a Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the Centre and is currently completing an AHRC funded PhD), will support a series of artistic residencies and creative commissions, as well as a programme of exhibitions, seminars and arts events.

For over a century underground scholars and practitioners have recognised that ‘thinking deep’ (i.e. thinking about the underground) needs to be ‘thinking interdisciplinarily.’ For urban planners and engineers, environmental scientists and heritage scholars, as well as cultural and literary historians, artists and novelists, the underground has been a subject that demands that we cross disciplinary boundaries. We have as yet, however, largely failed to deliver such interdisciplinarity, and where it has been achieved it tends to focus on science and social science. In an era in which subterranean spaces are both the site of current environmental concerns and the setting for developing solutions to these concerns, it is imperative that we explore the value of the perspectives offered on these spaces by arts practices and the humanities.

THINK DEEP will explore what GeoHumanities approaches that unite artistic practice and geographical research can do to address three key underground problems: (1) the challenges of sensing the underground, an often inaccessible site, (2) the complex and conflicting imaginations of our underground spaces, and, (3) the speculative nature of most of our underground explorations. In doing so, THINK DEEP will demonstrate the value of arts practices and the humanities to our understanding, use and conservation of the underground.

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