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.



Event Listings; Talks, Workshops and Seminars

Wed 27 January
Introducing Notes from the Field - Alistair Hudson and Graham Harwood in conversation, chaired by Nicola Triscott
Fully Booked

Fri 29 January
Assembly on Useful Art, Science and Technology – with Veronica Ranner, Kit Jones (Centre for Alternative Technology), Dimitri Launder, Graham Harwood, Sylvia Nagl, Jonathan Rosenhead (British Society for Social Responsibility in Science), Gemma Medina Estupiñan, Alec Steadman and Nicola Triscott.
Booking details

Thu 4 February
Socialising Activism - a talk with Lisa Ma
Booking details

Sat 6 February
Sketch a Bioluddite - a science and activism workshop with Lisa Ma
Booking details

Thu 18 February
Inter-species Technologies for Peripheral Contexts (the Bionic Sheep project) - a workshop with Fernando Garcia Dory
Booking details

Thu 18 February
Agroecology a New Kind of Neo Pastorialism - a talk with Fernando Garcia Dory
Booking details

Sat 27 February
Walking and Sensing in the City – a citizen science workshop with Andy Freeman
Booking details

Across March
A Remedy for the City – a workshop with Dimitri Launder
Fully booked

Thu 3 March
Planting in Concrete – A talk with Dimitri Launder
Booking details

Thu 17 March
Invasive Ecology – a working group with Fran Gallardo
Booking details

Sat 19 March  
Explore the Thames Estuary with your Tongue – with Fran Gallardo
Drop in no booking required


YoHa is a partnership between UK artists Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji, which has established an international reputation for pioneering critical arts projects, including Tantalum Memorial, Coal Fired Computers, Invisible Airs and Endless War. Critical Art Ensemble is an acclaimed US-based collective of tactical media practitioners, focused on the exploration of the intersections between art, critical theory, technology and political activism. Their work has been shown in major museums and biennales internationally.

Fran Gallardo is an artist and engineer, whose background includes studies in biochemistry, computing and space systems engineering. He is an active member of the Environmental Art Activism movement.

Andy Freeman is an artist, educator, technologist and former oyster farmer, whose practice that involves the combination of open data tactics and community engagement.

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban installation and performance artist. Her work pivots around issues of power and control. Several of her works interrogate and re-present events in Cuban history. On 2 January 2015, she was freed having had three back-to-back detentions in three days, and after over a thousand artists worldwide signed an open letter to Raúl Castro calling for her release.


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


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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.


James Flint is the author of the novels Habitus (1998); 52 Ways to Magic America (2002), which won the 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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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).


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.


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

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.


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.

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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