Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science

Arts Catalyst launches its Centre for Art, Science and Technology with Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science

This multi-faceted project investigates the notion of art as a tool or tactic for action with communities, with a focus on projects involving science and technology or driven by ecological concerns.

Notes from the Field… presents aspects of Arts Catalyst’s ongoing art and citizen science project Wrecked! on the Intertidal Zone with lead artists YoHa, Critical Art Ensemble, Andy Freeman and Fran Gallardo, who are working with communities on the Thames estuary. Alongside this, it presents the Arte Útil archive, a project initiated by artist Tania Bruguera, which chronicles a history of art projects that create tactics to change how we act in society.

In an archive room designed by Collective Works and ConstructLab, housing physical copies of selected Arte Útil case studies, and through exploratory workshops and discussion events, visitors will be able to speak with invited resident guests, undertake their own research, or propose new Arte Útil case studies. Contributing artists, scientists and experts to Notes from the Field… include Alistair Hudson, Dimitri Launder, Lisa Ma, Sylvia Nagl, Graham Harwood and Veronica Ranner.

More information about the 2016 programme can be found on the Arts Catalyst Centre launch press release.

#NotesfromtheField

Event Listings; Talks, Workshops and Seminars

 

Introducing Notes from the Field
Wed 27 January
A conversation between Alistair Hudson, Director of Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) / co-director of the Asociación de Arte Útil, and artist Graham Harwood, chaired by Nicola Triscott, CEO of Arts Catalyst.
MIMA hosts 'The Office of Useful Art' where visitors are invited to join the Asociacion de Arte Util (Useful Art Association) – a membership organisation that promotes and implements Arte Util.
Graham Harwood is one half of artistic collaboration YoHa, along with Matsuko Yokokoji. YoHa’s projects combine groups and individuals with the technologies that surround them, through a socially engaged and research based practice. YoHa produce powerful allegorical contraptions to form an understanding of complex social/technical systems.
 
Assembly on Useful Art, Science and Technology
Fri 29 January
The assembly will host six speakers and two respondents, split across two consecutive sessions. Speakers will be made up of a trans-disciplinary group of artists, scientists, technologists, designers, curators and researchers who use science and technologies to activate social change. Together they will reflect on the possibilities of art as a tool or devise to effect radical change.
Panel 1
Veronica Ranner, Kit Jones (CAT), Dimitri Launder - Chaired by Alec Steadman, Arts Catalyst's Curator
Panel 2
Graham Harwood, Sylvia Nagl, Jonathan Rosenhead (BSSRS) - Chaired by Nicola Triscott, Arts Catalyst's CEO
Respondent: Gemma Medina Estupiñan (Arte Util, Archive Researcher).
Gemma Medina Estupiñan is an independent research curator and Art Historian (PhD in Contemporary Art History) based in Eindhoven. She was part of the curatorial team of The Museum of Arte Útil (Van Abbemuseum), leading the research to build the Arte Útil Archive and co-curating the public program. She conceived the project ‘Broadcasting the archive’ along with Alessandra Saviotti to emancipate the usership around the Arte Útil archive. ‘Broadcasting the archive’ is supported by  Mondriaan Fund.
 
Socialising Activism - A Talk With Lisa Ma
Thu 4 February
“The future of activism isn’t loud. There’s a world of innovation in the field of activism that we are wasting away.”
Lisa Ma has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science, as a resident researcher, speaker and workshop leader. In this talk Lisa will introduce her practice as a design activist, using innovative solutions to think through local social problems across the globe. 
Lisa socialises activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa Ma creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community.
Placing herself as a critical explorer, Lisa Ma has built, for the city of Ghent - a political culture of consuming the invasive species that the vegetarian town would otherwise pay to poison; for a joystick factory in Shenzhen - coined the scheme of Farmification to save the worker community through technology innovation; for London Heathrow Airport - gather opposing communities between planning historians, activists to construct heritage tours of the surrounding villages under threat from the airport expansion. Through sweet storytelling of unlikely events, Lisa Ma bridges organisations with communities and through everyday clashes of values between what we do and what we believe in to make us think deeper about the future.
 
Sketch a Bioluddite - A Science and Activism Workshop with Lisa Ma
Sat 6 February
For every technological era, there are sub-cultures that resist the flow and whose critical perspective inspires the rest of society. This workshop invites the general public and scientists to a comic forensic sketch to identify an emerging subculture called Bioluddites.
What does society look like when you put historic activists with future science? Lisa Ma invites scientists, biohackers and the general public to an open forensic sketch session.
Lisa believes that designing a cultural memory of activism in technology is an essential part of public engagements with science. She provokes the scientific community by asking everyone to imagine how Luddism would affect society in the Biotechnological era. Rather than portraying these historical activists as criminals of the past, Lisa Ma argues that they are in fact the engaged citizens of the future.
This workshop will ask:
Why should scientists anticipate activism with their technology?
What might the general public celebrate in Luddism?
How could biohackers socialise activism for a result that is more productive than political engagement?
 
Inter-species Technologies for Peripheral Contexts (the Bionic Sheep project) - A Workshop with Fernando Garcia Dory
Thu 18 February
Artist, Fernando García-Dory, has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science to present his Bionic Sheep project, part of the Arte Util Archive with a workshop and talk.  Join Fernando and guests for a discussion and workshop on his concept how art can connect with territories, native cultures and other species, and about the specific system shepherd-sheep-wolf today . In this workshop there will be the chance to draft models for a 21st century shepherds hut and learn the inner workings of the ultrasonic Flock Protection System for sheep, as well as gain insight into the behaviour of wolves.
Fernando will be joined by specialists Sue Hull (Co-Director of the UK Wolf Conservation Trust) an expert in animal behaviour and Paolo Cavagnolo, a hacker and electronic engineer who will dissect the technical details of the Bionic Sheep prototype.
The wolf has captured imaginations for as long as humans have been living in settled communities, appearing in different guises in folk tales and peasant songs as a wily predator and a fiendish seducer. Today they are seen by urban societies as a paradigm of wholeness and freedom. In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on protecting wolves and other predator species and even re-introducing them into certain rural areas. This is creating an increased conflict between what is left of the pastoralist cultures and domesticated animals and this wild species.
Since 2006, artist Fernando Garcia Dory has produced various prototypes of 'Bionic Sheep', In collaboration with shepherds and engineers. The 'Bionic Sheep' project is a portable, solar-powered, ultrasonic flock protection system for sheep. The system provides a technological and creative solution to the age-old pastoral rivalry of the shepherd and the wolf so that wildlife and farmers can co-exist in harmony.
Fernando’s work engages specifically with the relationship between culture and nature now, as manifested in multiple contexts, from landscape and the rural, to desires and expectations concerned with identity, through to (global) crisis, utopia and the potential for social change.
As the artist states; "From the frozen tundra where Sami reindeers graze, to German prairies to Portuguese remote mountains, the war between wolf and shepherd is increasing, with it, worldviews and ecosophies's clash. There is a gulf between the re-wilding ideology and deep ecology, on the one hand, and social ecology and agroecology ideas on how to solve culture-nature frictions, on the other."
 
Agroecology a New Kind of Neo Pastorialism - A Talk with Fernando Garcia Dory
Thu 18 February
Artist, Fernando García-Dory, has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science, as a resident researcher, speaker and workshop leader. His work engages specifically with issues affecting the relation between culture-nature now, embodied within the contexts of landscape, the rural, desires and expectations related with aspects of identity, crisis, utopia and social change. He studied Fine Arts and Rural Sociology in Madrid, Spain and Ritveld Akademie Amsterdam.
In this talk he will discuss his work on agroecology and his current sociological and technical collaborations with engineers, communities and  other specialists.
His work stems from an interested in the harmonic complexity of biological and technical forms and processes, his work addresses connections and cooperation, from Microorganisms to social systems, and from traditional art languages such as drawing to collaborative agro ecological projects, actions, and cooperatives.
Engaging directly with issues affecting rural communities, García-Dory develop his "ethical-aesthetical" agroecological projects, such as working with shepherds who are trying to preserve their rights and way of life in the face of EU and tourist industry pressures, directing a Shepherds School there, and building huts open for newcomers; seed savers networks linked to hackers working to counteract patents on life forced by agribusiness and genetic engineering firms; and diverse interventions projects in Europe, India, Mauritius, Equator and other places.
Recent projects have been with Casco, Utrecht, Insite Casa Gallina, Mexico, Betonsalon, Paris,  Istanbul Biennale and he is working towards the upcoming intervention for Gwangju Biennale. 
 
Walking and Sensing in the City – A Citizen Science Sorkshop with Andy Freeman
Sat 27 February
Artist and technologist Andy Freeman has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science, as a resident researcher, speaker and workshop leader. In this event Andy takes participants on a part walking tour – part citizen science workshop in Camden. Freeman considers that citizen science practice is a form of ‘tactical living’ drawing together different knowledge sources (scientific, governmental and localised knowledge) meaning that we can monitor the environment we live in and become informed of changes that affect our health and other forms of life in the city.
You will learn how to monitor air quality, test soil and water for toxicity and discover historical, biological, industrial, technological and hidden and situated knowledge in the borough.
Please note this workshop involves a 1.6 mile round walk.
 
A Remedy for the City – A Workshop with Dimitri Launder
Across March
Dimitri’s projects as Artist Gardener offer a gentle provocation to an apocalyptic view of urban ecological sustainability. His work often explores the liminal issues between public and private use of space, aspiring towards transformative urban propagation. Launder’s project Apothecary Arboretum is featured in Arte Util’s archive the aim was to create a garden both medicinal and edible, in a concrete neighbourhood. From this living eco-system of vertical, apothecary sculpture: prototype 1.0, he discusses his approach to his merging medicinal, historical, social knowledge in an urban context.
Over March 2016, Dimitri, along with Calthorpe Project (community garden) will investigate growing natural remedies in 'living pills' of ingredients - Kokedama. They will question the liable and liminal practices of home grown and foraged remedies and its challenges in our age of commercial medicine and whether the diseases of our city relate to medicinal plants in our locality? Together they will investigate and record stories of the traditional use of plants from members of the community whilst planting medicinal moss-balls.
Dimitri's experience in this grafted practice has developed over 15 years expertise as a garden designer and as an artist with inherent interests in ecology and socially engaged practices.
 
Planting in Concrete – A Talk with Dimitri Launder
Thu 3 March
Dimitri Launder has been invited to contribute to Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science, as speaker and workshop leader. In this talk Dimitri will talk about his work as Artist Gardener.
Dimitri’s projects as Artist Gardener offer a gentle provocation to an apocalyptic view of urban ecological sustainability. His work often explores the liminal issues between public and private use of space, aspiring towards transformative urban propagation. Launder’s project Apothecary Arboretum is featured in Arte Util’s archive the aim was to create a garden both medicinal and edible, in a concrete neighbourhood. From this living eco-system of vertical, apothecary sculpture: prototype 1.0, he discusses his approach to his merging medicinal, historical, social knowledge in an urban context.
His experience in this grafted practice has developed over 15 years expertise as a garden designer and as an artist with inherent interests in ecology and socially engaged practices.

Invasive Ecology – A Working Group with Fran Gallardo
Thu 17 March
As part of a weeklong residency artist researcher Fran Gallardo, invites you to join in a group led discussion on invasive species.
We will be joined by Dr Shonil Bhagwat: Senior Lecturer in Geography at the Open University and Environmental Geographer, with broad research interests at the cross-section between natural and social sciences. His research centers on the links between environment and development. In particular, it engages critically with discussions on a variety of key environmental concerns: agriculture and food security, biodiversity conservation, climate change, ecosystem services, and sustainability. It addresses these perceived grand environmental challenges within the context of growing discussion on the Anthropocene, the age of humans.
About the workshop:
Non-native plants, animals and organisms can have detrimental effects on our environment, health and ecology – they are considered to be a form of biological pollution.
The debate and discussion will explore whether we should elevate species such as the Transexual Mitten Crab and Japanese Knot weed, to fine dining ingredients when they attack and corrode the structural integrity of our concrete landscapes and affect our boats and flood defences. Shipping industries as well as oceanic currents and global warming are often held responsible for transporting species across the globe. With Dr Bhagwat we will discuss how to think differently about invasiveness, and how to apply new tactics to engage and live with ‘novel ecosystems’, whilst also leaving space for wildness in a human-dominated planet?  
 
Talking Dirty: Tongue First Research at the Mouth of the Thames Book Launch
Fri 18 March
Join us for enlivening evening with refreshments such as Earth Cola with Mycobacterium vaccae (M. Vaccae is a non-pathogenic species of Mycobacteria) and Edge Cordial made from Britain’s most valuable wild resource. Refreshments made by Fran Gallardo.  
Talking Dirty: Tongue First! was a series of public events in Leigh-on-Sea, Southend involving local foods, their source, preparation and consumption, which lead to the recipe book produced in collaboration with the situated knowledge of South Essex people. It contains instructions for cooking with estuary ingredients: from Grey Mullet Sashimi with Hair Soy Sauce and to Invasive Species Soup. The recipe book concentrates on local foods, ecology, environmental and toxicity and how interconnected webs of industry, culture, living beings and pollution form the estuaries complex ecosystem.
 
Explore the Thames Estuary with your Tongue – With Fran Gallardo
Sat 19 March
Join Fran Gallardo for a day of tasting, sensing and thinking through the Thames Estuary .
Fran will present intriguing recipes that represent and re-imagine webs of connections between gastronomy and ecology within many environments: from mud, human microbiomes, ships, landfills and human-made islands.

 

Artists

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of five tactical media practitioners of various specialisations including computer graphics and web design, film/video, photography, text art, book art and performance. Formed in 1987, CAE's focus has been on the exploration of the intersections between art, critical theory, technology and political activism. The group has exhibited and performed at diverse venues internationally, ranging from the street, to the museum, to the internet. Museum exhibitions include the Whitney Museum and the New Museum in NYC, Corcoran Museum in Washington D.C., ICA in London, MCA in Chicago, Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and the Natural History Museum in London.
 
YoHa (English translation 'aftermath') is a partnership between artists Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji, formed in 1994. YoHa's graphic vision and technical tinkering, has powered several celebrated collaborations, establishing an international reputation for pioneering critical arts projects. Harwood and Yokokoji co-founded the artists group Mongrel (1996-2007) and established the MediaShed a free-media lab (2005-2008). In 2008 they joined Richard Wright to produce Tantalum Memorial shown in nine countries and 15 cities over four years. In 2010 YoHa produced Coal Fired Computers before embarking on a series of works about the lived logics of database machinery including Invisible Airs (2011) and Endless War (2012).
 
Tania Bruguera is a Cuban, politically motivated performance artist that explores the relationship between art, activism, and social change in works that examine the social effects of political and economic power. By creating proposals and aesthetic models for others to use and adapt, she defines herself as an initiator rather than an author, and often collaborates with multiple institutions as well as many individuals so that the full realization of her artwork occurs when others adopt and perpetuate it.
 
Fran Gallardo’s background is in systems engineering. He is a member of the Environmental Art Activism movement. Fran's work explores interfaces for culture in technology and ecology. In 2015, he lead the Arts Catalyst project Talking Dirty! Tongue First: Experiments at the Mouth of the Thames. This was a series of public events including citizen science workshops, involving local foods, their source, preparation and consumption.
 
Andy Freeman is an artist, educator, technologist and former oyster farmer. Andy has worked with software and community arts projects and was founder member of the Australian Network for Arts and Technology. Based on his arts practice and his teaching at Goldsmiths College, Andy has developed a practice that involves the combination of open data tactics and community engagement.
 
Dimitri Launder’s projects as Artist Gardener offer a gentle provocation to an apocalyptic view of urban ecological sustainability. His work often explores the liminal issues between public and private use of space, aspiring towards transformative urban propagation. Launder’s work has been commissioned by organisations including Tate Modern with his Apothecary Arborimum and RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show for Tales Of The NOOSPHERE recently featured in the Arte Útil archive. His ideas cross pollinate between commercial private gardens, public commissions and emergent ideas in his art practice. His experience in this grafted practice has developed over 15 years expertise as a garden designer and as an artist with inherent interests in ecology and socially engaged practices.
 
Veronica Ranner is a designer, artist and researcher living and working in London. She researches the burgeoning domain of the bio–digital — a converging knowledge space where digitality and computational thinking meet biological matter. She dissects and creates tangible and immaterial manifestations of such collisions, examining hereby the polyphonic potential of alternative technological futures. Her current doctoral work explores paradigm shifts in reality perception by coupling speculative (bio)material strategies and information experience through design research.
 
By combining fringe communities, ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa Ma socializes activism through unusual platforms of engagement. These social events are perceived as activism but function as services and deeply resonate with the global technological community.
 
Sylvia Nagl is a transdisciplinary complexity scientist who works on the interdependence of human and natural systems. She is interested in how the dynamic interactions of people with each other, with wider social, economic, political, and technological systems – and with ecological and earth systems – form ever more complex networks of relationships. 'Health' depends on these relationships acting together in a life-enhancing way. Interconnectedness is central to the health of individuals and communities, and the well-being of the living planet Earth.
 
Ben Vickers is a curator, writer, network analyst, technologist and luddite. He makes a living and finds a vocation in understanding how systems of distribution, both human and other, come to affect our personal perception of reality. Vickers is currently Curator of Digital at the Serpentine Gallery, co-runs LIMAZULU Project Space, is an active member of EdgeRyders, leads Brighton University’s Professional 'Reality' Development Program and facilitates the development of unMonastery, a new kind of social space designed to serve the local communities of towns or small cities throughout Europe in solving key social and infrastructural problems.
 
Fernando García-Dory is an artist that engages specifically with the relationship between culture and nature now, as manifested in multiple contexts, from landscape and the rural, to desires and expectations concerned with identity, through to global crisis, utopia and the potential for social change. He studied Fine Arts and Rural Sociology, and now prepairing his PhD on Agroecology.
 
For over 20 years, Neal White has critically explored art in relation to new ideas, forms and technologies. As part of numerous collaborative endeavours – he has been developing projects, research and artworks, publications, archives, fieldworks, critical excursions as bus tours and exhibitions with academics, architects and activists. His current work explores situated practices and knowledge - drawing together environmental and ecological matters of concern with marine biologists, ecologists, coders, architects and volunteers in Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island, Dorset for Arts Catalyst's Test Sites programme.
 
The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), situated in Wales, is an education and visitor centre demonstrating practical solutions for sustainability. It covers all aspects of green living: environmental building, eco-sanitation, woodland management, renewable energy, energy efficiency and organic growing. CAT is concerned with the search for globally sustainable, whole and ecologically sound technologies and ways of life. Within this search the role of CAT is to explore and demonstrate a wide range of alternatives, communicating to other people the options for them to achieve positive change in their own lives.
 
The British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS) was the centre of a 'radical science' movement in the 1970s. The society was formed out of a campaign in 1968 against university research on chemical and biological weapons. Some of those who joined in the early days had a previous record of activism against nuclear weapons, through Scientists Against the Bomb, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, or in other left movements.
 

Support

This project is supported by The Arts Council England, with in-kind support from The Block.

 

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Exhibition

Dark Places

Dark Places uncovers sites of secrecy and technology across the UK

New works by Neal White of the Office of Experiments, Steve Rowell, Victoria Halford & Steve Beard, and Beatriz da Costa explore spaces and institutions below the radar of common knowledge. Dark Places examines how artists are evolving strategies for art as a form of knowledge production, challenging accepted patterns in contemporary culture and society.

The Office of Experiments’ (OOE) Overt Research Project sets a background for Dark Places as it maps and records advanced labs and facilities that are unwittingly – or purposefully – concealed from public view. Developed by a team of independent researchers, 'Dark Places - South Edition', will feature an interpretive slideshow as well as field guide to local sites through an information kiosk. Elsewhere in the gallery, OOE celebrates the openness of knowledge through The Mike Kenner Archive. Revealing years of campaigning by one man into the public biochemical warfare experiments conducted by Porton Down (Salisbury), the work explores how 'Dark Places' throw their shadows onto those that question them.

Victoria Halford and Steve Beard's film Voodoo Science Park traces a secret geography of the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, where train crashes and industrial accidents are re-created to examine their destructive pathways. Mixing fact and fiction, the film imagines a delayed encounter between poet William Blake and political philosopher Thomas Hobbes. The result is an uncanny meditation on science and popular memory.

Exploring the ‘dark places’ of zoological science, Beatriz da Costa’s A Memorial for the Still Living is a sombre reflection on endangered species of the British Isles. Presenting a selection of rare animal, insect and reptile specimens, including loans from the Natural History and Horniman Museums, da Costa identifies these collections – and the bleak future they imply - as sites of hidden knowledge.

Steve Rowell from the US group the Centre for Land-Use Interpretation (CLUI), in his project Ultimate High Ground, uncovers shared US-UK spaces of military power. Realised as a multi-screen film installation, the work focuses upon RAF Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire, a communications intercept and missile warning site, known for its distinctive raydome structures. Steve has also worked as a key researcher on the OOE Overt Research Project.

Dark Places also featured a filmed interview between Stephen Foster, Director, John Hansard Gallery and the exhibiting artists. A new publication, featuring a project introduction, artist contributions and an essay by Sally O’Reilly, will be available throughout the exhibition.

Events

The Culture of Enthusiasm - Passion & Technology.  Monday 23 November 2009 4-6pm.  A discussion around the love, fascination and nostalgia for technology with Bee Thakore, Professor David Perrett and Neal White chaired by curator Rob la Frenais.

Secret Spies - children's workshop.  Saturday 12 December 2009 11.30am-3.30pm. A free workshop for children to create and document their own endg=angered species  using mixed media and sculpture.

The Cold War Legacy in the South - Secrecy and Technology bus tour. Saturday 23 January 2010 10am-6pm.

Artists

Beatriz da Costa was an interdisciplinary artist, based in Los Angeles, who worked at the intersection of art, politics, engineering and the life sciences. Da Costa’s work usually took the form of public participatory interventions, locative media, conceptual tool building and critical writing. In 2010, Beatriz presented “A Memorial for the Still Living” at the Horniman Museum in London, a project commissioned by The Arts Catalyst as part of the Dark Places project. The exhibition showcased British animal and plant species on the edge of extinction, focusing on “still living” species. The ‘dark place’ refers to the storage rooms of the museum and consequential oblivion, sparingly illuminated by memories of the dwindling few who have encountered the specimens over the years. To realize this exhibition, da Costa worked in collaboration with collection curators at the Horniman Museum and the Natural History Museum in London. In the exhibition, taxidermied specimens of endangered animals lay alongside botanical samples of plants under threat. Each specimen was given a “birth date” (the date of classification and inclusion into the corpus of western science) as well as a “death date” (the date of projected extinction).
 
For over 20 years, Neal White has critically explored art in relation to new ideas, forms and technologies. As part of numerous collaborative endeavours – he has been developing projects, research and artworks, publications, archives, fieldworks, critical excursions as bus tours and exhibitions with academics, architects and activists. His current work explores situated practices and knowledge - drawing together environmental and ecological matters of concern with marine biologists, ecologists, coders, architects and volunteers in Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island, Dorset for Arts Catalyst's Test Sites programme.

 

Media Coverage

The Guardian, ArtDaily

Exhibition Supported

Arts Council England

The Office of Experiments’ Overt Research Project is supported by UCL Department of Geography and The Media School, Bournemouth University. Led by Neal White with Steve Rowell and Lisa Haskell.

Dark Places is commissioned by The Arts Catalyst and co-curated with the Office of Experiments, John Hansard Gallery and SCAN.

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A Field Users Guide to Dark Places - South Edition, Office of Experiments, 2010

An evolving, experimental database of techno-scientific and industrial sites in the UK. This first phase covers the South of England.

A Field User's Guide to Dark Places - South Edition Now Online.

This is an Arts Catalyst commissioned online database of sites of secrecy, science and technology in the UK by the Office of Experiments. The South Edition of the database was created and presented as part of our exhibition Dark Places, in 2009-10, curated by Office of Experiments, The Arts Catalyst, John Hansard Gallery, and SCAN.

It is part of the ongoing Overt Research Project, run by Office of Experiments. to map and record advanced labs and facilities around the UK, and to involve the public in this exploration and revealment. 'A Field Guide to Dark Places' is the first of these experimental resources. It draws on and develops responses to the vast infrastructure of the techno-scientific and industrial/military complex, probing aesthetic, political and philosophical questions around spaces that are inaccessible or in some cases secret. It is focused on physical sites in the South of England (with reach of Southampton where the exhibition was shown).

Participate

The initial research was conducted by artists Neal White and Steve Rowell. The artists' aim now is to extend the scale of this work by opening up this resource to enthusiasts, amateur scientists and urban explorers and extending it across the UK. If you would like to take part, we ask that you attend a physical event. We run a number of events at which you can register to become an official Overt Researcher. These have most frequently included 'Critical Excursions'.

In order to register here as an Overt Researcher, we ask that you attend an Overt Research Project event. For more information on these events, please use the contact form.

Critical Excursions

The form of a Critical Excursion is experimental and varies depending on context. Recent Critical Excursions have included an intellectual and emotional tour of physical sites by vehicle "Secrecy & Technology: Legacy of the Cold War' around Southampton, with around 50 attendees. We utilised an experimental mix of factual, historic -informational and conspiracy video / audio on board a coach whilst moving around physical sites. Exceptional highlights were entry into a former Nuclear Bunker, a drive-past of Porton-Down and lunch and lecture at ISSEE (International School of Security and Explosives Education) at the Department of Homeland Security. More information and responses to the Critical Excursion are available at the following links.

New Scientist Blog - New Scientists take.
Angela Last Blog - A Mutable Matter reflection.
Geoforum Editorial - Theoretical Framing by Dr Gail Davies for the Scholarly Journal Geoforum.

 

For over 20 years, Neal White has critically explored art in relation to new ideas, forms and technologies. As part of numerous collaborative endeavours – he has been developing projects, research and artworks, publications, archives, fieldworks, critical excursions as bus tours and exhibitions with academics, architects and activists. His current work explores situated practices and knowledge - drawing together environmental and ecological matters of concern with marine biologists, ecologists, coders, architects and volunteers in Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island, Dorset for Arts Catalyst's Test Sites programme.
 

Media

BLUEPRINT has published an extensive six page full colour featureon office of Experiments Dark Places project in the April 2010 Edition. Only available as a printed publication.

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Dark Places: artists investigations of technological history

A session at the British Rocketry Oral History Project (BROHP) conference 2007

Arts Catalyst presented the work of contemporary artists who explore the cultural and architectural legacy of the Cold War nuclear and space programmes as part of the British Rocketry Oral History Project (BROHP) conference 2007.

Speakers included the novelist and journalist James Flint, artist Louise K Wilson, and curator Rob La Frenais. The session was chaired by Nicola Triscott, Director of Arts Catalyst.

James Flint discussed some of the issues raised in his novel The Book of Ash which wove American development of nuclear science into a gripping story of art, atoms, alchemy, politics and paranoia, and was inspired by the American “nuclear sculptor” James L. Acord. Louise K Wilson‘s artworks explore perceptual, social and cultural aspects of science and technology. In A Record of Fear, she created sound and video works for Orford Ness, Suffolk – formerly a secret military testing site. To create Spadeadam, she investigated a UK Cold War test site, now used by Britain's Royal Air Force as an electronic warfare training range. Rob La Frenais reviewed some of Arts Catalyst’s art projects in the fields of space research and nuclear science and its work negotiating artists’ access restricted sites of science and technology in the UK and abroad.

Speakers

James Flint is the author of the novels Habitus (1998); 52 Ways to Magic America (2002), which won the Amazon.co.uk Bursary Award for the year 2000; and The Book of Ash (2004), winner of a 2003 Arts Council Writers’ Award. He has also published a short story collection Soft Apocalypse – Twelve Tales from the Turn of the Millennium (2004). His short fiction has appeared in collections published by Penguin Books, the New English Library and the ICA. When it was published in France in 1992, Habitus was judged as in the top five foreign novels of that year's Rentrée Literaire. Time Out called it "probably the best British fiction début of the last five years". He has worked as a section editor for Wired UK and science editor of the technology and art periodical Mute, and has written features and reviews for many national newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, Time Out and Arena.

Louise K Wilson is a visual artist, whose work includes installations, sound pieces and video. Her recent work which springs from a curiosity into how the technology of flight affects our physiological states and psychological selves. To this end, she has participated in a movement experiment in zero gravity, co-opted a team of air traffic controllers in formation cycling on Newcastle Airport runway and been a passenger in an aerobatics plane repeatedly looping the loop. Previous associations have included the Montreal Neurological Institute, the Science Museum, London, the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Russia, the RSPB and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service. Exhibitions have included Artists Airshow, RAF Farnborough (2004); Arena, Baltic (2003); Blue Streak, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle (2003), Runway/ Spadeadam, Gallery TPW, Toronto (2003) and A Record of Fear, Orford Ness, for Commissions East (2005). Her video Spadeadam is in the Archive at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Rob La Frenais, Curator, Arts Catalyst

Nicola Triscott, Director, Arts Catalyst

 

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