Ian Nesbitt and Ruth Levene’s research was concerned with what it means to the people of a city when the decisions made about its changes are beyond their control. Considering the importance of ‘spiritual’ and ‘ritual’ approaches to connecting with places, in relation to the more mainstream ‘bureaucratic’ and ‘metric’ methods of surveying and representing the land, the artists developed a number of projects, which encouraged more expansive and collective ways of examining and understanding Preston’s changing landscape.
The artists gained an on-the-ground understanding of the city’s geography through a process of ‘close looking’, which involved walking Preston’s political boundaries, and initiating conversations with residents about its social identity. Struck by the precarious nature of the landscape, in which profound change is being driven by external market forces, Nesbitt and Levene developed other events, including a bus tour of the area. They also curated Notes from a Precarious Landscape – a community exhibition in a vacant house in a new development in Cottam, North Preston, which included contributions from residents of Preston and its surrounding villages. The exhibition explored the ways in which the land around the city is changing or has changed in the past, through prints, poems, maps, sound recordings, photographs and watercolour paintings loaned from the John Weld collection (a naturalist who documented the changing Lancashire landscape between 1830 and 1886) at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery.