Absens (Frauke Materlik and Stephen Crowe)

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An investigative sound installation and immaterial archive in the high mountains of Western Norway

image-1_absens(Photograph by Frauke Materlik)

Absens takes place in the remote mountain regions of Western Norway and involves using sound and space interventions to explore transformations within landscapes and society. The project highlights gradually transforming infrastructures, looking specifically at the formerly agricultural landscape in higher mountain areas.

How do sound, memory, landscape and infrastructure relate?

Absens seeks to make it possible to sense time.

Absens will be translated into a sound installation of recomposed field recordings, an archive, and artist book.

Absens was initiated by artist and landscape architect Frauke Materlik.  Materlik has invited Stephen Crowe, a composer of experimental music, to be part of the process.

Absens receives funding from the Municipality of Bergen and is supported by the Norwegian Tourist Asscociation, an institution comparable with the Alpine Club.


During the summer of 2016, a sound installation on the Hardanger plateau in Norway will feature recomposed field recordings of agricultural processes such as milking machines, engines, and cows, goats, sheep – all with their respective bells – on summer pasture.  Significantly, there are now hardly any animals grazing in these mountains. This is a fairly recent development underscoring drastic changes in land use and infrastructure, thus also affecting the perception of landscape.

Landscape is at the core of memory. Spaces and places can be easier to remember through spatial-sensual perception than simply through time-based events.[i] Absens examines relationships between landscape and memory by using sound to reanimate memory and highlight the distinctive and local in a global context. Accordingly, our objective is to investigate connections in order to discover how one factor, occurrence or process might lead to and influence another, or in turn point toward previous incidents.

Artistic production follows a “logic of speculation”, suggesting that an artwork might become a model for a society – as opposed to simply modeling itself upon a society.[ii] Absens connects audio and the environment, facilitating unexpected encounters between the past, present and future – and between memory and the present. It correlates links and new subjects of observation and imagination, in the outside, and in areas that are rapidly changing.

image-2_absensA mode of succession. These photos were all taken at the same location. Changes in landscape can take time and are therefore often not easily noticeable. One simply gets used to gradual transformation. These photos intriguingly illustrate recent developments. Photographer, Oscar Puschman:

Political, historical and theoretical background

Landscape can tell us about both history and the present, and about human activities that one might not grasp from other contexts and subjects. For American landscape architect Dianne Harris, the “seen landscape is frequently misleading […] We need to look carefully at what is visible but also at what is erased or consciously rendered invisible and for what reasons”.[iii]

For over one hundred years, Norway has promoted itself as a country of outstanding landscapes and beauty. These landscapes are however undergoing radical change. More and more waterfalls are put into pipes for energy production. Fjords serve as tipping place for waste, air pollution increases due to cruise ship traffic. On one hand, landscape functions as a resource, and on the other, as a romantic image.

Absens explores these divergent perceptions, focusing on new ways of conceiving and conceptualizing infrastructure. The project is not a nostalgic ‘looking back’ but rather a questioning of the future.

Absens aims to make it possible to sense time. In the words of Elizabeth Grosz, the goal is to seek “a way to render time sensational, to make time resonate sensibly, for no art can freeze time [..] except through the invention of new forces and energies”.[iv]

The meeting of perceptions: landscape and the environment as resource or romantic image. Photograph by Frauke Materlik.

Since the 1970s, Norway has undergone radical transformations in infrastructure and economic development – most recently at a rapidly increasing speed. This development is primarily due to the substantial oil resources that now form the backbone of Norway’s economy and employment. By contrast, the nation’s economy was formerly based upon farming and fishery. Nowadays, change is increasingly visible in the landscape, with quickly substantially decreasing working farms and local food production. Until only a couple of years ago, it was common to see cattle, sheep and goats summer pastures in the mountains. But due to the restructuring of farm funding and methods, there are now less and less animals in the mountains, which has in turn prompted the land to be covered by new growth and a rapidly changing flora and fauna.

Absens reflects on how changes taking place around us:  What do we see without seeing?


Derelict farm in Western Norway. Photograph by Frauke Materlik

Absens was initially triggered by Materlik’s experience many years ago of working on a Norwegian farm when she spent the summer on the outfarm with cows and goats. The sound of the working farm and the animals with their bells was a distinct and highly evocative experience. This sound has more or less disappeared today. Working in Switzerland last year on a landscape research project, she noticed how high mountain farming still is of great importance for the maintenance of cultural landscape. This has thus become an experience Materlik wants to relate to experience of the Norwegian mountains, and to consequently engage in a discussion around challenges of contemporary infrastructure and future development, and in doing so, link past and present, rendering time and space through the intervention of sound.

image-5_absensCows in Switzerland – a common visual and audio feature in the high mountains, and a mode of maintaining cultural landscapes and tradition. Photograph by Frauke Materlik


The initial stage of the project is a mapping of the current state – i.e. an act of preserving and gathering the immaterial audio and visual features of a landscape.  To do this we will travel large distances on winding mountain roads during autumn 2015 and spring 2016 in order to locate remaining farmers and farm animals. Then, using collected images and the sounds of agriculture, animals and their bells, we will create an archive that will serve as a basis for a newly composed soundscape. The final composition will be installed in a former outfarm area high up in the Hardanger mountains in 2016 as soon as weather permits. Following discussions with the Norwegian Hiking association, we decided to use the surroundings of Stavali cabin as a location for the project. Significantly, until three years ago there was an outfarm at Stavali that dated to the sixteenth century. Today the tourist association operates a location that has become especially popular with hikers during the summer months. The cabin opens to the public in late June, and the equipment for the sound installation will be shipped by helicopter, together with all other essential materials for the summer season.

Around Stavali, loudspeakers will be installed invisibly and sheltered from the elements such that only sounds are perceived at particular times over periods of varying length. The sound will increase and decrease, as if the farm animals were moving, coming closer and then disappearing again. Sound will be amplified at a relatively low volume, such that the perceiver might wonder if s/he has heard or imagined the sounds. Thus, the sound work embraces and interacts with the space, treating it according to its own needs.[vi]

image-6_absens Encounter in the mountains. Photograph by Frauke Materlik

With Absens, we have decided to take the important step to leave traditional exhibition spaces and install the work in situ in the mountains. The context within which the work is experienced is clearly fundamental to its content.[vii] We also wished to create a space for an audience that rarely visits museums and galleries within which to experience contemporary art and music. We also plan to present the project in the city of Bergen, creating further correlations in transporting the remote landscape into an urban context. Furthermore, we envisage building an online archive.  We want the project to be equally accessible and exciting for all age groups; both for those who remember that there were animals grazing on the outfarms some years ago, and for those who are too young to know so much about it. Absens will therefore involve its audiences in a process of highlighting familiar yet forgotten landscapes – facilitating a state of mind combining place and consciousness –’inner’ and ‘outer’ landscapes. Absens hopes to function as a starting point for discussion about that which was common until not so long ago yet already beginning to be forgotten.  For Merleau-Ponty:

Each moment of time calls all the others to witness; it shows by its advent ‘how things were meant to turn out’ and ‘how it will all finish’; each present permanently underpins a point of time which calls for recognition from all the others…[viii]

Absens is not simply a soundtrack for changing landscape.  It is also a questioning of future developments and a mapping of spaces in-between personal and common memories and anticipation. We also envisage substantiating the project within a framework potentially incorporating a seminar and concert in the mountains and a closing event in the city that will bringing together experts from various disciplines and the public.

image-7_absensVisiting one of the remaining dairy farms and recording in the stables. Photograph by Frauke Materlik

The current context

Why do we think that this project is interesting?

Absens is embedded in an ongoing and controversial political debate in Norway surrounding the nation’s future direction and self understanding: How can the material and immaterial heritage be maintained or preserved? How do we want to live, being self-supplied or entirely relying on international markets?

Absens is a poetic and critical response, questioning underlying infrastructures and seeking to both find answers and deepen questioning. We seek to develop a research strategy that will experientially convey transformations by employing sound as a means through which to create ‘inner’ images and time renderings – thus animating personal and collective memories and engage in a debate on future possibilities. Consequently, we aim to reanimate a common memory and presence with a focus on the distinctive and local in an expanded context. In doing so, we consistently return to the questions: What needs to be preserved, discovered, and lived – both now and beyond the horizon of our present? What roles do cultural and personal memories play in this matrix? How might sound and installation practice become a tool for exploring these questions?

Norway is just one example in a global shift. Comparable scenarios can be found in many other former agricultural regions. By participating in Project Anywhere, we seek to evoke and discuss important relationships between sound, memory, landscape and infrastructure, and in doing so, gather and share knowledge and experience at a broader level.

image-8_absensField recordings. Photograph by Stephen Crowe

[i] Simmel, Georg. 1913. Die Philosophie der Landschaft.  In Die Güldenkammer. Eine bremische Monatsschrift, Bremen.

[ii] Sheikh, Simon. 2011. Vectors of the Possible: Art Between Spaces of Experience and Horizons of Expectation.  In On Horizons. A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art.  BAK. Utrecht

[iii] Harris, Dianne. 2008. Sites Unseen  in Landscape Theory . Edited by DeLue, Rachel and Elkins, James. Routledge, London

[iv] Grosz, Elizabeth. 2008. Chaos, Territory, Art.  Columbia University Press. New York

[v] Helle, Siri. 2015. Skal landet gro att?  (trans: Should the countryside become overgrown?). Dreyers Forlag. Oslo

[vi]  Focillon, Henri. 1989. Forms in the Realm of Space.  In The Life of Form in Art. Zone Books.

[vii]  Drabble, Barnaby. 2013. Voices in the Exhibition.  In Smoky Pokership.Perform the Exhibition Space.  Ed. Omlin, Sibylle.Verlag für moderne Kunst. Nürnberg

[viii] Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception . Routledge. London

Calling Athlone (Steve Maher)

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Calling Athlone is a relational, installation and broadcast based art project that makes use of Athlone’s (Co West-Meath, Ireland) deep connection to broadcasting both past and present. The project aims to make this connection through an exploration of the technology and sites linked to the history of broadcasting in the area.  The project will connect communities within Athlone to their rich broadcasting heritage and the empowerment which broadcasting can offer while also addressing the intricate histories which came into being as a direct result of Ireland’s contested past.  The project is to be centred on a series of workshops that will lead to the production of homemade crystal set radios by its participants and the material for a short radio documentary. The radio documentary will later be broadcast in the area and the participants of the workshops will be able to listen to the documentary about their contributions through the radios that they themselves have made. Crystal set radios are entirely powered by radio waves and require no additional electrical source, they are cheap and simple to make. By distributing the knowledge for their construction and linking it to the legacy of innovation that for many years placed Athlone a relatively obscure town in the centre of Ireland on the map I will provoke new considerations amongst the local community regarding the legacy of technology.  The project will culminate in an on-site installation featuring a recording of the broadcast played through the radios the participants of the project have built themselves in their own homes. The project will attempt to position historic research and knowledge regarding broadcasting in the area into the format of an engaged project for the community to provoke new considerations and relationships within the context of one of their most historically significant yet periphery items of legacy.


Athlone is unique by comparison to the rest of Ireland in that it hosts four generations of broadcasting. In 1926, as one of the newly independent Irish States first major public works projects and alongside the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric power station Athlone’s Moydrum transmitter station was built and operational by 1932, while not the only radio station in Ireland at the time it was the most central and highest powered, being capable of reaching far across the country and into far eastern Europe. This centrality later leads to it becoming the consolidated headquarters of Irish broadcasting, later being re-named Radio Na hEireann in the 1950s, up until this point most European made wireless radios featured Athlone on the Dial between major European cities like Helsinki and Moscow. Until the 1970s the site played host to the country’s main broadcaster, later being used as the location of the 2FM broadcast.  Athlone continued to have local broadcasting, today a prominent station in the area is Athlone Community Radio 88.4fm, and a community based station which has won awards for its programming among other things.

The site of the transmitter is on the grounds of the Moydrum estate close by lies ruins of Moydrum Castle. The IRA burned this to the ground in 1921 during the war of independence in response to the burning of several rural homesteads by British Military forces. The ruins of the castle appear on the cover of U2’s An Unforgettable Fire, this further adds to the complex history of the site. Broadcasting continues in the area today through Athlone Community Radio which is now located within the town. The community is currently campaigning to have the Moydrum site and the history of broadcasting in Athlone recognised with the aim of transforming the historic location into a museum. The Athlone Marconi Centre Heritage Group is leading this effort. ACR 88.4fm, with support from the Sound and Vision broadcasting scheme, recently produced a documentary detailing much of this background story. A link to documentary can be found here.

The site’s close proximity to the ruins of the then freshly burned castle in Moydrum, show an underlying contention where the state made use of formerly Anglo-Irish property, whether this was due to its abandonment, a form a re-compensation through purchase of the land is not known to me at this time. The father of modern radio himself Guglielmo Marconi (Italy) had close ties to Ireland through his relations via his grandmother who was Jameson (the same family responsible for the famous Irish whiskey and distillery) and of Anglo-Irish descent (ascendency class in Ireland, Families granted ownership of large estates by British authority during Ireland’s time as part of the United Kingdom), indeed it was this close connection to Ireland that lead Marconi to develop most of his earliest technologies with one of his transmitters still existing on site at the Moydrum transmitter. During his tenure in Ireland pre-independence, families like the Hancock’s at Moydrum would have hosted him as a guest. While the personal motivations Marconi harbored at this time are unknown he continued to work in Ireland as before post-independence.


Radio… gives a voice to the voiceless and is a means for community development.

Mary Lennon, Station Manager Athlone Community Radio

Taking my cue from Athlone Community Radio’s own philosophy of radio having the potential to give a voice to voiceless I aim to host a project, which turns the very technology of radio into an emancipatory form of empowerment. I will facilitate this by giving people in the area the skills needed to harness both the power and information present on radio waves which are both omnipresent and deeply entrenched into the history of the town. By connecting this community to one of its most significant historical achievements I aim to transfer the spirit of ingenuity Marconi and other broadcasting innovators brought to the town from the past to the present. The project will put their accomplishments in relatable terms, in showing how to construct a simple radio we can also show how a radio as a concept in its expanded form works, both in the principals of broadcasting and the technology that allows for it.

The aim of this artwork is to connect the existing communities within Athlone with their rich broadcasting heritage in consideration of the earliest days of the state and its ambitious projects which are in part a result of the momentum generated by the struggle for independence; this project will have several stages and outcomes including an installation on site in the Luan Gallery and a radio documentary. The project will work alongside two pre-contacted organisations through Mary Lennon; station Manager at Athlone Community Radio and Tommy Mollen senior engineer at 2RN on-site at Moydrum Transmitter and Member of the Athlone Marconi Centre Heritage Group.   The project will begin as a series of workshops with members of the community, this community of interest will be invited through local platforms including dissemination through local radio, AIT students union, newspapers, parish diary and social media, it is hoped in this way that a broad demographic of people from the locality will be involved.

Once the community is reached, they will be invited to participate in a guided visit to the historic Moydrum transmitter location and the ruins of the castle. Later in the process they will be asked to participate in evening workshops, which will be located on site at the Moydrum transmitter.  During these workshops the participants will be shown how to construct simple crystal set radios as well as an introduction into the basics of radio electronics, the group will then be asked in response to build their own Radio sets based on these instructions and overseen by the artist on-site. A small short-range portable AM transmitter will be brought on site by the artist to test the newly constructed radios.  This entire process will be recorded in audio and alongside interviews with the community will be used as material for a short half hour radio documentary. A member of Athlone Community Radio, with the aim of using this material to produce a corresponding half hour radio broadcast about the project, will record this process. The participants will be invited to help produce a pre-recorded broadcast and shown the equipment a computer programs used today in modern radio stations.  Athlone Community Radio has committed to have a producer on site for the duration of the project. The broadcast will be transmitted shortly after in one of Athlone Community Radios timeslots, all participants within range of this broadcast will be able tune their newly constructed radios to the broadcast.  The program, which they produced, will play over the radios they built, as part of the workshop while radios themselves will be powered by the very same broadcast.

Later the installation component of the project a selection of these radios will be exhibited on site in Athlone in the Municipal Luan Gallery, the audience will be able to listen to the broadcast itself through these radios with the documentary set on repeat, this will be possible due to a small short wave AM transmitter on site connected to an mp3 player. The radios will be placed in a row either on individual plinths, between 15 and 30 radios may be made as part of this project, the amount on display may need to be decided depending on availability of space. The general public as the audience will be able to interact with the installation by picking up the telephone handsets used as a speaker for the radio sets. The work will exist as both recording and artefact, both in the radios the participants bring home but also as an art installation, later in the year.

Aside from this project’s main mandate, which is to provoke new considerations and relations to heritage amongst the community, project will also attempt help, promote the mandates of its main shareholders in the area.

Athlone Community radio which has been in operation as a volunteer organisation since 2006 and who will by the project’s completion be in the 10th year in operation.

Ÿ The Athlone Marconi Centre Heritage Group who are campaigning to have the location transformed into a museum.

Ÿ  The Luan Gallery, Athlone town center, a municipal art gallery ran by West-Meath County Council.


  1. Project will be promoted on local radio stations, open for all interested members within the community of listeners. I aim to specifically work with the Athlone Marconi Centre Heritage Group as my main community of interest but not exclusively. Project will also be publicized through social networking and through word of mouth within the community with the aid of the projects supporters. Workshop should be maximum 20 participants.
  2. Permission for access to the Moydrum Transmitter will be sought through the official parameters. A carpool may need to be organised in order for people from the area to travel to the site, as the site exists on the outskirts of the town.
  3. The space for the workshop will be secured for an appropriate date, depending on supporter’s calendar and timeframe for producing radio broadcast.
  4. Prior to the workshop taking place the site will be subject to a guided tour either overseen by Tommy Mollen or designed by him.
  5. Workshop is held over half a day from noon till evening.a. Beginning will consist of a presentation, segments of the “Athlone Calling” Documentary produced by Radio Athlone will be played mixed with a presentation summarising the history of broadcasting in Athlone. Referencing this source, which many in the community may be familiar with to expand upon the complicated histories within Athlone with particular relevance for broadcasting.b. A representative from Athlone Community radio will be present and will be asked to give a presentation regarding their work in the area and their connections to Athlone’s broadcasting history. This will ideally be the producer and interviewer of “Athlone Calling” Irena Cvetkovic, as she is intimately aware of Athlones broadcasting history having worked on the project.c. The basics of radio technology will be explained and will be related to the work of Marconi. This will focus on the actual physics of radio waves and broadcast, detailing how this immersive technology works and constantly surrounds us. This section will focus on many interesting aspects of broadcastings history both nationally specific to Ireland and international.d. The participants will be asked to share their own stories and connections to broadcasting, particularly members of the Athlone Marconi Heritage Group. This will be with the intent of creating personal narratives behind the participatory nature of the project and is also with the intent of producing a personalised aspect of the project. These “testimonies” will be edited and contributed to the production of the half hour documentary.e. Construction of the radios will commence overseen by artist, participants will be encouraged to experiment with the form and construction to see the results different designs may create. There is a limitation to the variation of forms and customisation that the radios are capable of hosting while still functionally detecting and playing radio waves. There will be an element of trial and error in this process; potentially some of the constructed radios may not be fully functional without major intervention by the artist. This aspect will be decided on site, on the fly.f. Tuning into local stations will test radios and short distance AM transmitter. I will bring on site. Currently AM broadcasting is being phased out in Ireland, both FM broadcast and the emerging Digital services provide clarity of sound and economy in operation. So the range of AM stations available at the testing stage will be limited, this will be worked around through the operation of a small short range AM transmitter, which will be brought onsite for the production of the project.g. During the process of the workshop, Athlone Community Radio will interview participants.h. Participants will also be invited to attend production of broadcast at a later date.
  6. Production of short half hour broadcast will commence using ACR equipment and artist’s own audio equipment’s. Artist has had previous experience with broadcasting at Wired FM Limerick so will be able to oversee the production at all points.
  7. Participant will be able to engage with this process and will be taught the basics of editing.
  8. Participants will be shown the studios and equipment used in contemporary broadcasting and will be guided in a tour of the station by Mary Lennon.
  9. The broadcast will air over ACR88.4fm and will be listened to by participants and wider community. It will also be available as a podcast from Athlone Community Radio website.
  10. The project will be represented later in the year on-site in Athlone through an existing art space or through a rented/disused shop unit within the town.

Dissemination of the project

The exhibition, in the Luan Gallery is not the culmination of the artwork itself, it is merely an aspect of its dissemination as opposed to the main material. The exhibition is more over an opportunity for the local community and the art gallery audience to interact with the artifacts which exist as a byproduct of the social engagement the project aims to provoke. The documentary, which will be broadcast on loop within the art space (A.M. frequency) and as part of Radio Athlone’s regular programming schedule (F.M. Frequency) will be a porous dissemination of the project throughout the area offering chance encounters outside of the regular parameters of an art audience. This documentary will also be hosted online alongside other supporting materials.

Documentation of site: Moydrum Transmitter, Athlone

The following photographs document the Moydrum Transmitter site. These images provide context for the location in which the workshops will take place.

Figure 1. Disassembled broadcast mast, one of two on-site. Dismantled due to ill repair.

Figure 1. Disassembled broadcast mast, one of two on-site. Dismantled due to ill repair.

Figure 2. Seemingly banal building in rural Ireland.

Figure 2. Seemingly banal building in rural Ireland.


Figure 3. Later model transmitter circa 1972

Figure 3. Later model transmitter circa 1972


Figure 4. Some of the control layout for the Marconi Transmitter (circa 1920)

Figure 4. Some of the control layout for the Marconi Transmitter (circa 1920)

Moydrum 5

Figure 5. Original patent plate and controls on Marconi Transmitter


The Luan Gallery: location for final project dissemination


Illustration 1: The Crystal Set Radios upon their completion will be displayed at the Luan Gallery, a location central to the town of Athlone and located closely to Athlone Community Radio.

Illustration 1: The Crystal Set Radios upon their completion will be displayed at the Luan Gallery, a location central to the town of Athlone and located closely to Athlone Community Radio.


The Deconsumptionists, Art as Archive  (EIDIA – aka Melissa P. Wolf and Paul Lamarre)

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9 exterior view trailer phil

EIDIA – Paul Lamarre, Melissa P. Wolf The Deconsumptionists, Art As Archive 48ft semi-trailer exterior view, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA ©Lamarre Wolf 2011

The Deconsumptionists, Art As Archive originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2009) and later relocated to Bushwick Brooklyn, New York (2012). During this time, three artists’ exhibitions were presented and The Deconsumptionists also participated in “Bushwick Open Studios” events two years running: This was followed by a month long solo exhibition (art engagement residency) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, MOCAD (2014). Here, three hundred museumgoers visited The Deconsumptionist’s trailer and met with EIDIA. The residency incorporated collaborative exhibitions with public programs – with an emphasis on artist run spaces. Panel discussions with invited local artists, galleries, musicians and architects also took place at this time.

At the time of writing, The Deconsumptionists is at FARM gallery in Toledo, Ohio (with further exhibitions and events forthcoming).

His attitude teaches us … that the end of artistic activity is not the finished work but freedom. The work is the road and nothing more. Octavio Paz on Marcel Duchamp[i]

Nothing is thus more troubled and troubling today than the concept archived in this word ‘archive’. Jacques Derrida[ii]

The Deconsumptionists, Art As Archive is physically realized in a semi-trailer 48′ x 13′ x 8′ as an outpost for artistic research and for propagating and promoting the discipline of “sustainable” art practice. With the aid of a solar roof, the project is designed to function independently as an art exhibition / performance site for public engagement and interaction. In a future plan, the structure is to be retrofitted with living quarters for an artist residency accommodating two persons. A distinguishing feature of this (3,184 cubic feet) aluminum and steel rectangle on wheels is an archive of 171 boxes containing the collaborative accumulation of the 30-year art practice of EIDIA. Each box is wrapped in ‘caution orange’ plastic and secured with a royal blue number tag. All contents of each box have been photographed to document the archive’s holdings, evidenced in the resulting ‘nature morte’ images, each titled by the number on its box.

Being a long standing collaborative, we initiated this project as an archive for our collective works for consideration of their preservation, distribution or dissolution. Our intention was to reactivate artworks long since completed—an exercise in recycling and reconsidering the signifier (previously created art) as “new” work (essentially appropriating the self).  This proto-creation through new knowledge and value recontextualizes the existing object—thus transmogrifying it with new meaning.

The Deconsumptionists project is a ‘push back’ – a protest against the ‘control’ inherent in the ‘curated’ mediated (capitalistic) model of ‘white cube’ exhibition space and what defines ‘archive.’ This process involves the merging of mundane objects, or as Antony Hudek puts it “commodities constituting a private, coded language— or in Marx’s words a system of ‘social hieroglyphs.”[iii]

There is an obscure vision of the future. Can we continue as now, or can we invent something really different? It is unclear. We must define a new form of “freedom.” I think today freedom is largely the freedom to buy something or the freedom to have money—the freedom to do what we want when we have the money to do … And so the freedom of today is in fact a material freedom which is a strong dependency on the situation of the “crisis” … We must search and find another definition of freedom which is much more at the subjective level, and on the side of creation, on the side of the possibilities of mankind, in the fields of: new forms of political organization, new artistic creations, new inventions, a new style of life. Alain Badiou[iv]

In effect, The Deconsumptionists seeks to represent a new form of aesthetic freedom – one not defined by the quantity produced and finance invested in the art practice but rather one predicated on collecting and editing preexistent things/objects. Consequently, items once produced as new designs and inventions, later discarded as trash, are then rescued and re-invigorated with value and pertinence of meaning.

Once inside, the trailer visitor experiences a peculiar sensation of the space as a readymade mise-en-scène. Accordingly, they becomes cognisant of ‘new knowledge’ a new experience, a new sensation.

As captured in photographs of the contents each box, The Deconsumptionists place objects in an ‘archival positioning’ denoting particular sociopolitical content and meaning. In this way, The Deconsumptionists semi-trailer and its holdings metamorphose into a radicalized aesthetic context manifested as physical memory of capitalism’s unrelenting production/consumption. In doing so, The Deconsumptionists take the strategy of appropriation to a new level of discourse.

The invention of the readymade represents a tipping point in the history of art, an innovation whose posterity has been prodigious. With this radical gesture, which consists of presenting an everyday object of consumption as a work of art, the entire lexical field of the visual arts found itself augmented by a new possibility: signifying not with the aid of sign but with reality itself. Nicolas Bourriaud; reference to Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, 1913.[v]

The Deconsumptionists, Art as Archive is conceived as a new version of “archive” and as an action of aesthetic resistance. The project is essentially a massive movable readymade that posits the modalities of reassembling, repositioning and reshaping preexistent forms (found objects and ephemera) with a view to provoking a disparate conversation about consumption and production (and an ‘everlastingness’ as art).

The Deconsumptionists, Art As Archive extends the responsibility of ‘cultural producers’ by examining the struggles and contradictions inherent in the production of art within the capitalist economic model. What is the global impact of what we produce economically, ecologically, and socially? Are artists a part of the problem or of the solution? Should we consider that the end product of a life‘s work could end up stored in some foundation’s collection or as landfill? In facing this literal possibility, we seek to alchemize materials of the past designed for a variable means and purposes (a used semi-trailer, random objects of decorative, functional, fashion content, and objects made to entertain), and in doing so, hope to offer new significances and meanings to these objects in a world of crisis and catastrophe.

The Deconsumptionists seek to travel nationally and internationally. On location, local artists, architects, designers, performers and activists are invited to collaborate to create a variety of exhibitions, public programs and events.
Please visit for more information about this project, EIDIA and our numerous other projects.

[i] Paz, O. (1986). Marcel Duchamp: Appearance Stripped Bare. (Donald Gardener trans.) New York: Arcade Publishing, 1990, p.89.

[ii] Derrida, J. (1995). Archive Fever: A Freudian impression. (Eric Prenowitz trans.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, P.90.

[iii] Hudek, A. The Break-Up of New British Sculpture, Essays on Sculpture No.45. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 2005, p.12.

[iv] Badiou A. (2012), On Optimism, The Nexus Institute the Nexus Conference, How to Change the World. Dec. 18, 2012.

[v] Bourriaud N., The Radicant,  (James Gussen and Lili Porten Trans.) New York: Sternberg Press, 2009, p.146.

Time Geography (Tricia Flanagan)

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Tricia Flanagan, Image still from “BODY ecology” 2015, Installation, dimensions variable, Griffiths University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia. Photo courtesy of the artist. © Tricia Flanagan.

In Time Geography, the artist’s role is akin to that of a cartographer, creating tangible social objects to be read as alternative interpretations of our culture in motion.

The project:

– explores the mobilities paradigm by harnessing its potential within wearable soft user interfaces;

– generates dialogue surrounding issues of time, space geography;

– references the ongoing production of textile based systems that archive human journeys;

– offers an alternative model of production to current fashion consumption.


Stage 1: BODY ecology

First, Flanagan created a portable dying/weaving/sleeping machine, guided by principles of Humanistic Intelligence and coupled with the body’s biometrics, in order to generate textiles. Documentation of the machine/body installation in the interactive process of generating blankets – biometric traces as tangible social objects to cover the body – can be viewed via the link below.  The BODY ecology installation and the blankets generated through the performance together form an exploratory response to the activity of tracking twelve months of the body in motion and at rest.

– Time Topography at Timeless Textiles, Newcastle Australia 15 July – 16 August 2015.

Experimental Thinking / Design Practices at Griffith University Art Gallery, Australia 18 September – 7 November 2015. (p.19)

– WearNEXT at AVA Gallery, Choi Hung, Hong Kong, 25 March 1 – 31, 2016.

Tricia Flanagan. “BODY ecology” 2015, Installation, dimensions variable, Timeless Textiles, Newcastle Australia, Photo courtesy of the artist, ©Tricia Flanagan.

Tricia Flanagan. “BODY ecology” 2015, Installation, dimensions variable, Timeless Textiles, Newcastle Australia, Photo courtesy of the artist, ©Tricia Flanagan.

Stage 2: Generative Textile Systems

Flanagan then created a second system in the form of an installation consisting of a portable knitting machine connected to data from walking/geo-tagging/and sensing temperature and humidity in order to generate body coverings.  A collection of twelve garments was produced using the artists’ body biometrics/ location/ temperature and humidity. Corresponding collections are to be produced in collaboration with travellers from across the globe.


Time Geography explores the topography of the body and its tempo-spatial relationship to systems that surround it. Walking and sleeping self-generate clothing and blankets, changes in the environment leave visible traces in colours and textures in textiles – much like the growth rings of a tree or traces of sunburn on the skin. In this sense, travelling generates bespoke garments unique to the body and environments from which they emerge. Time Geography is therefore a system of clothing and textiles production that is determined by the body’s mobility and the environmental climate surrounding it.

Time Geography is built around themes that provoke a search for ontological equilibrium, re-valorising the time of sleep as productive, harnessing the expressive quality of walking, and viewing time as an accumulation of stories captured in social objects and invested in material culture and practices.

Tricia Flanagan. “BODY ecology” 2015, Detail of weaving, 200 x 150 cm, Indigo-dyed Merino lambs-wool, Timeless Textiles, Newcastle Australia, Photo courtesy of the artist, ©Tricia Flanagan.

Tricia Flanagan. “BODY ecology” 2015, Detail of weaving, 200 x 150 cm, Indigo-dyed Merino lambs-wool, Timeless Textiles, Newcastle Australia, Photo courtesy of the artist, ©Tricia Flanagan.

In the artwork BODY ecology, the sleeping state determines the depth of colour of a hand spun merino lamb’s wool thread that is drawn at a constant rate across a portable dying machine. When the artist is sound asleep, the thread dives deeply into the indigo dye bath. When lightly sleeping or stirring, it is drawn shallow or skims the surface. During the day, the resulting variegated coloured thread is woven into a blanket, which in turn becomes a physical embodiment of the ontological experience of sleep.

Across contemporary culture we are facing a sleep crisis. The on-going acceleration of modernity is one in which everything is incrementally speeding up. Consequently, there are always better things to do than sleep. This is an attention economy that we like to think that we are choosing to consume. Our impulse is to consume our own insomnia through the customisation of sleep in order to work around deadlines or lifestyles. Our sleep cycles are therefore no longer in tune with diurnal time. 24/7 electric light, neon cityscapes and the proliferation of electronic screens stimulate us to stay up later every night, and every morning the mechanised time of our alarm clocks wake us. Then, on weekends we binge on sleep in a vain attempt to catch up. ‘Social jet-lag’[i] _is the result of this on-going conflict between biological and social time and takes its toll on the body by manifesting in numerous health issues. Research has linked sleep to memory, learning, metabolism and the immune system. Sleep deprivation leads to health consequences such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cancer, and is linked to diseases such as chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Alzheimer’s disease[ii].

Somewhere at a deeper level, our hermeneutic goal is to return to healthy sleep – yet it seems that the healthy sleeper is not revered in our culture. Critical sleep theory considers the history of sleep culture and acknowledges its problematic contemporary condition. The industrial revolution had the effect of mechanising time as labour and commodified time into productive and non-productive time. Prior to the industrial revolution we slept in different ways. During medieval times, many slept in shorter blocks of three or four hours rather than eight hours a night. In many ways, sleep is considered a weakness that overcomes us. We embrace a work ethic that only sees value in productivity and places taboo on sleeping in public. Homer famously referred to sleep as ‘death’s brother’.


Tricia Flanagan.“BODY ecology”, 2015. Detail of blanket, lambs-wool, indigo, 200 x 150 cm, Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University, United Kingdom, Photo courtesy of the artist. ©Tricia Flanagan.

Tricia Flanagan.“BODY ecology”, 2015. Detail of blanket, lambs-wool, indigo, 200 x 150 cm, Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University, United Kingdom, Photo courtesy of the artist. ©Tricia Flanagan.

BODY ecology is an installation that generates bespoke blankets from sleeping participants. Steve Mann describes humanistic intelligence as the synergy between human and computing systems, where both operate as if they are one organism, circumventing any conscious operative narrative. Each blanket is generated through the process over a month of sleeping and weaving.

Our technological tools continue to evolve the way we think, the way we behave and the way we interact. Technology is increasingly mobile but the current generation of wearables does little to address this new mobilities paradigm. By contrast, its focus is the quantified self-promoting commodified gadgets and competitive individualism. We live increasingly digitally mediated lives, and this environment creates new points of perspective. Technology is increasingly embedded into our everyday lives, in the building blocks of our cities, the textiles on our bodies, and under our skin. Time Geography provokes an alternative dialogue found at the intersection of these multi-layered networks and systems.

What is the body ecology of the digital native? How can we better leverage and augment the affordances of the body? How can we create systems of empathy, cybernetic systems that connect our minds/bodies/environments into emotionally sensitive and responsive organisms? How can we break away from unsustainable systems of endless commodity production and create circular economies, perhaps more like gardeners – seeding growth while fertilising future crops. Imagine our cities as biological bodies and our bodies as wetland eco systems of floating islands. This inversion helps us perceive the extension of our bodies as agentic actors in larger networks.

Central to Tricia Flanagan’s practice are notions of mobility, the nomad, the Shanachie, peripatetic people and interconnected systems. She situates herself, and her work, in cultural borderlands, between East/West Germany and Hong Kong/Mainland China. Like many of her generation she is increasingly mobile and moving around the globe is a normal part of her work and leisure.

Generative Textile Systems is based on a simple equation – one knit stitch equals one step. The end of walking each day is denoted by a buttonhole stitch. Therefore if the body is inactive, the fabric generated will have many holes creating a lace like pattern. By contrast, a very active body will create a plain fabric with few holes overall.  Two additional parameters provide the cloth with a rich texture of meaning.  The thickness of the yarn is determined by the temperature – which is thinner in hot weather and thicker in cold. The system also includes 300 colours, which are inlaid into the knitting machine whilst working, mapping the temperature and humidity across a spectrum of +40 to -40 degrees centigrade.

During 2015, Flanagan visited Australia’s Snowy Mountains, Hong Kong, Lancaster UK, Ireland, Taiwan, Australia, Hawaii, USA, and Canada. In Hong Kong the high temperate humidity gave saturated colours across the blue green spectrum and generated predominantly single ply. Flying from the heat of Hong Kong to Lancaster’s cold weather produced a sudden thick section across a garment and a change of colour. Body worn sensors record biometrics, temperature and humidity and send them via Internet to the knitting machine. The artist then works directly with the data feed, translating the colour and thickness into simple garment shapes designed specifically to suit the style of the participant.  In this way garments are created for the participant that are marked by the memory of the environmental conditions and the activity of the body in a particular space and time.

The co-evolved possibilities of the person as computer are also known as humanistic intelligence[iii] and can be viewed as part of our natural evolution. We have a long history of augmenting our bodies with prosthetic materials. Evidence of wound dressings used to aid healing, for example, has been dated to 1500 BC. Plates from 1597 by Gaspare Tagliocozzi (a surgeon from Bologna) illustrate Autograft procedures for replacing a nose. ‘Materials used in reconstruction of the nose bridge alone have historically included rubber, celluloid, iron, copper, platinum, ivory and gold’[iv]. The future will include on-board interfaces, augmented sensory perception, authentic self, and cloud memory.


Tricia Flanagan. Generative Textile Systems, 2015, Detail of Merino lambs-wool, knitting machine, dimensions variable, Hong Kong Wearables Lab, Photo courtesy of the artist, ©Tricia Flanagan.

Tricia Flanagan. Generative Textile Systems, 2015, Detail of Merino lambs-wool, knitting machine, dimensions variable, Hong Kong Wearables Lab, Photo courtesy of the artist, ©Tricia Flanagan.

Wearable technology enables mobility and changes the way that we live and interact. Flanagan’s research is founded on the premise that current wearable technology design practices represent a reductionist view of human capacity. How do we develop wearables that foster our senses rather than dull them? The democratisation of technology into work, play, home and mobile social networks in recent years, has seen traditional Human Computer Interaction (HCI) design methodology broadened through the integration of other methodologies and knowledge from the humanities such as social science, anthropology and ethnography. The field of HCI is inherently interdisciplinary and its history is one of the inevitable disciplinary multiculturalisms spawned by the expansive impact of technological growth. Rather than traditional functionalist approaches to design, Flanagan’s research engages cultural, experience based and techno-futurist approaches. Wearable technologies are therefore valued in terms of their critical, political, ethical and speculative potential.

Wearables can enhance a relationship between designer and user who can become co-producers, and connect materiality to anthropology and the lived experience of the individual. The self and the social politic of wearable technologies span across macro to micro perspectives. Within this vast space, we might consider wider supply and production chains and regulatory systems – whose existence shapes the production and meaning of wearables (both their material form and design) – and the movement of gathered data from the body into wider dispersed networks of power. In moving from the micro (technology/body) to the macro (systems of production) we might consider where control lies across these networks, at which unit of analysis, and respective impact as they shake out into the world. Significantly, wearable technology can augment our perception, what we are witnessing is the emergence of a new paradigm as our awareness and sensitivity expands to include both macro and Nano perspectives. As wearable technology becomes integrated into our clothing and our bodies it will become our normative environment. In this for-see-able future, we will live with an amplified awareness of the instability, fungability and interconnectedness of things. Flanagan’s research, together with artists such as Nancy Tilbury, Di Mainstone and Thecla Schiphorst, is concerned with exploring ways to enhance the somaesthetic capacities of the body by questioning: How is our embodied materiality affected by emerging technologies? What is the relationship of the self to the proliferating wearable technologies? How is our sense-of-self changing as new technologies mediate the space between our experience of self and the world?

[i] Till Roenneberg Roenneberg, T., Allebrandt, K., Merrow, M., Vetter, C.: Social jetlag and obesity. Current Biology 22(10), 939–943 (2012), doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.03.038

[ii] Puzzuoli, S., Marcheschi, P., Bianchi, A.M., Mendez Garcia, M.O., De Rossi, D., Landini, L.: Remote Transmission and Analysis of Signals from Wearable Devices in Sleep Disorders Evaluation

[iii] Mann, S., Wearable computing: Toward humanistic intelligence. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 16(3), 10-15. doi:10.1109/5254.940020 (2001)

[iv] Tobias, J., Artifical skin: Ingrown and outsourced. In E. Lupton, & J. Tobias (Eds.), Skin: Surface, substance + design, p. 47. Princeton Architectural Press, New York (2002).

Riding Through Walls (Megan Smith)

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Riding Through Walls is a new research-creation project in durational performance in physical computing (a mash-up of terms drawn from fine art and computer science that express the hybrid space that the work sits within). The performance takes shape as a cross-Canada expedition through Google Street-View from behind the bars of a stationary bike. This 18-month performance takes place on an ‘Air Wing’ (a networked stationary bicycle that propels me visually through Google map layers at pedalling speed). I wear a Google Glass, and the performance is broadcast via live stream on YouTube and Google. This physical endurance test and new media performance is, through process, forming an archive of a contrived visual experience and a collection of human sensory data.

The creation of the piece is born from a research practice tied to DIY & Maker Culture and a desire to develop a real-time performance that could humanize the complexity of socially networked space through attempting to physically and metaphorically pierce through the Internet.

The project aims to explore the impact of visual and data driven performance and the social and cultural implication of caching body statistics generated from wearable technologies. It tests new physical computing methods for extension into networked culture.


  • Produce an innovative new art work that generates original knowledge for the area of media arts about creative technology computational research that engages with the situation of living within the networked age.
  • Pushes the limits of how artists are exploring and critiquing major information stakeholders, such as Google.
  • Tell a story about crossing Canada from coast to coast via the Internet.
  • To engage with and contribute to DIY and “maker culture”.
  • To facilitate the formation of new community through the creation of a performance


The project is currently in both performance and continuous development. The journey began on December 1, 2015 on Dallas Road, Victoria, BC (the tip of the Trans-Canada Highway).

The performance is accessible here:

#ridingthroughwalls test post pre-departure

A photo posted by @cawsand on


This research project draws from DIY and “maker culture” – a rapidly expanding network-based subculture that is contributing to the evolution of contemporary art practices and economic systems globally (More than Just Digital Quilting). Makers place emphasis on honing practical skills whilst working with a hive philosophy in order to distribute knowledge and access to information for building and inventing new technologies and creating new applications within society (Sharples, M., et al. 33). Consequently, this movement has increased access to affordable electronic components to produce new tools and economies that support growth within this industry. This industry includes stakeholders such as: and; peer-to-peer web-commerce marketplaces that host the hardware and craft of makers;, and web platforms that offer “places to share… projects, connect with others, and make an impact on the world” (Our Story);;; and (who combine the distribution of free online education with sales of their maker kits, components and products).

Maker culture and artists embedded in its practices and philosophy are maturing into an important powerhouse that amalgamates knowledge across science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics to deliver rich and creative content, solve highly complex problems and to deliver more powerful results across the spectrum of fields. This new area of research practice (advocated by artist and designer John Maeda) is STEAM – a revision of STEM research networks ‘Innovations and Research’. It is now ‘a movement championed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and widely adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals globally. The objectives of the STEAM movement are to: transform research policy [and to] encourage integration of Art + Design in K–20 education, influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation’ (What is STEAM?). As knowledge and problems are communicated across these fields’ creative solutions and innovate work is being achieved and shared within the public domain, which has a ripple effect that is enabling progress in immeasurable ways as knowledge and result circulate through the network. Artwork within this new research sphere is rarely produced from beginning to end by one individual. By contrast, it is through processes of working within the network of hackathons, maker labs, online groups, engaging with DIY forums, and seeking specialist knowledge. The final products are therefore the result of a collective mind evolving within a cooperative system.

Together to the rise of “maker culture”, a remarkable growth in artistic practices that responds to and engages with the effects of post-internet life, is simultaneously occurring. This evolution is heavily influenced by aforementioned systems, new screen culture, access to new tools and knowledge, and the social experience of living within the networked age. In this sense, post-internet art uses the social web as both a tool and a source of inspiration. This leads to re-visioning of established approaches, an uncovering of latent narratives, and the creation of new works of art shaped by both new tools and cultural formations. This evolution also helps to build communities of practice around the making of work – places in which where artists work in teams together with professionals in other fields of research in order to accomplish complex works of art. As a consequence of this exchange and knowledge distribution, practice and research-creation is exposed to and subsequently experienced by far broader audiences and demographics. Artworks produced within this still emerging sphere routinely critique the system from which they are generated. This circular process has led to an astute area of practice situated within a New Aesthetic. In the words of James Bridle (artist, academic and a key figure in identifying this cultural shift):

New Aesthetic [artwork] reproduces the structure and disposition of the network itself, as a form of critique… and why is it important to critique the critique as well? Because we live in a world shaped and defined by computation, and it is one of the jobs of the critic and the artist to draw attention to the world as it truly is. (Bridle: ‘The New Aesthetic and its Politics’)

“New aesthetic” artistic practices typically reference the web and digital culture whilst operating and exhibiting within the same system. Artists working in this way are characteristically imaginative, critical and systematic in terms of technological choices used to tell and distribute human stories. Consequently, it is about learning to creatively perform within data and networked culture in order to amplify and project the situation, to test the limits, advantages and disadvantages of post-internet culture and communal space, and to meticulously tease out of the web new narrative structures (Ruth Catlow).

Riding Through Walls employs a multi-layered approach to pushing through the infrastructure of the corporate web and its tools accessible to the general public. This is exemplified by creating a dramatized, live and participatory performance space. A series of public events will further augment the 18-month durational performance (which utilises Google’s search engine, maps, Internet services and products such as the Google Glass as mechanisms for communicating experience en-route with a worldwide public across multiple social media platforms). Accordingly, I will be concurrently making work, connecting with new communities worldwide, and socially testing the economic system of building art works within this industry force by incorporating YouTube monetization throughout the real-time performance.

Dallas Rd, Victoria, BC., Beginning, December 1, 2015.

Why ride through walls?

For researcher and open-source advocate Catarina Mota, “[a]cquiring preemptive knowledge about emerging technologies is the best way to ensure that we have a say in the making of our future” (Play with Smart Materials). To this end, artists possess an ability to tackle problems from unconventional angles and to contribute or uncover new dialogue.  Such possibilities are exemplified in work being done in new media institutions such as Eyebeams & Rhizome (NY) Ars Electronica (Linz) and Furtherfield (London). In each instance, innovation occurs within networks fostering collaborative exploration across new media and the articulation of experiences of making from within media. Working at this frontier is about accepting that the computer, social networks and interfaces are at once tools, medium and content, with which to produce rich narrative aids for decoding this new era. Bridle describes his processes for understanding the images he produces:

“It is impossible for me, with an academic background in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, with a practical background in literary editing and software programming, with a lifetime of interacting with the internet and other systems, not to look at these images and immediately start to think about not what they look like, but how they came to be and what they become: the processes of capture, storage, and distribution; the actions of filters, codecs, algorithms, processes, databases, and transfer protocols; the weight of datacenters, servers, satellites, cables, routers, switches, modems, infrastructures physical and virtual; and the biases and articulations of disposition and intent encoded in all of these things, and our comprehension of them.” (Bridle)

Riding Through Walls employs a methodology that chronicles and creatively embeds itself in data driven and real-time web-based performance. The project draws upon histories of artists working within performance and body art (such as Chris Burden and Wafaa Bilal, Jeffrey Shaw, Vera Frenkel, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and Thomas Hirschhorn) and also makes theoretical connections with emerging artists working to reveal layers of situational experience negotiated and forced by networked society (such as Jon Rafman and Kyle MacDonald). Riding Through Walls contributes to this rich emerging arena by working to form an interpretation of navigation through both physical performance and the Internet, whilst at the same time developing a story about the social and cultural implications of such spaces. It also contributes to this medium by working creatively with new technologies that test new methods for extension into networked culture while building communities of practice within the region and across the globe. It is envisaged that this will be accomplished by sharing the project as the performance develops, distributing the design and Arduino code files for building a similar networked bike, and by engaging with diverse publics as I travel across Canada. Bridle describes the identification of “new aesthetic” works in terms of the maker’s conscious choice to reciprocate the research within the networked system from which it stems:

…the New Aesthetic project is undertaken within its own medium: it is an attempt to “write” critically about the network in the vernacular of the network itself: in a Tumblr, in blog posts, in YouTube videos of lectures, tweeted reports and messages, reblogs, likes, and comments. In this sense, from my perspective, it is as much work as criticism: it does not conform to the formal shapes – manifesto, essay, book – expected by critics and academics. (Bridle)

Ideas such as “new aesthetic” and “maker culture” are still relatively uncommon within academia and contemporary art more broadly. It is however becoming clearer, particularly as society increasingly functions within networked cultures, that research that specifically critiques and explores such social systems is essential. Operating within the system that produces such communities is by extension fundamental to the task of studying and making new artworks. Here, the artist researcher’s role is to test the limits of computer, platform, and interface alike in order to develop works that identify and critique networked and computationally augmented lived experience. In turn, this process will help us to better understand humanity and the spaces that the web has made symbolically tangible.

Riding Through Walls is live here:

Riding Through Walls is funded by the University of Regina



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Ut Pictura Poesis: Drawing into Space (David Griffin)       

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This is an artistic research project that presents a number of challenging problems, both in terms of the representation of the concept, and in its execution. The thumbnail sketches presented here (Fig.1, for example) are best understood as sketches, that is, as the result of the intricate material process of exploring and experimenting with a preliminary capture or mapping of ideas in visual form. Sketching taps into the artistic intuition, allowing a kind of playful revealing of ideas with all the tics, hesitations and flourishes of the act of drawing itself. These sketches were made in a search for salient characteristics that allowed me to formulate a number of questions that address scale and scaling, and by extension, drawing as a way to know about such things. The sketches began as generative play at the tip of a pencil, but as always in the drawing studio, when it’s good, the play becomes the work. So this project of tracing inconceivable trajectories and spaces turns on a series of humble doodles that have led me to a number of insights into futility and the limits of representation, that overlap mathematics, astronomy and art.

Here is a simple tone-setting observation: emerging from his research on early human artefacts of bone and stone, marked-up with lines and circles, the anthropologist Alexander Marshack (in 1972, p.406) remarked that “The sky is a calendar,” a pithy reminder that we have come to use the apparent features of that mysterious expanse for a kind of codex of other, invisible things. Of course the sky is really only a calendar when its features are drawn together in the mind’s eye, and represented by the workings of graphite on some surface. At that point, the sky enters into the call and response of symbolic exchanges, allowing reading. With this in mind, I will first provide some context for this project, and then attempt to describe some insights gleaned from the sketches, and the implications and entailments for a program of theory and artistic practice.

Context and terms of reference

Key terms in the project are adopted from the literature on art and representation. The difficult term “representation,” for example, is defined here by Nelson Goodman (in 1976, p.43), as a ‘symbolic relationship that is relative and variable;’ while David Marr writes that representation is ‘a formal system for making explicit certain entities or types of information, together with a specification of how the system does this’ (in Riley, 2001). Here, Marr simply recapitulates Goodman’s crucial idea of efficacy, that ‘What matters with a diagram… is how we are to read it,’ (1976, p.170). In this sense, a representation is not some thing, but ‘a process in which the thing is a participant’ (Mitchell, WJT, 1994, p.420). Of course representation is a product as well as a process, and the term “external representation” will refer to such a product, including pictures, writing, and diagrams, any of which may be made or experienced in Mitchell’s dialectical relationship (Cox, 1999).

Stenning and Lemon (2001, p.36) describe diagrams as ‘plane structure(s) in which representing tokens are… directly interpreted as relations in the target structure.’ The research cultures growing around diagrams, denotational drawings (Willats, 1997, p.4), and diagrammatic reasoning, are well documented, and converge on questions of their benefits in reasoning tasks, and their uses in “amplifying the mind’s eye” (Fish and Scrivener, 1990). Simply note their sustained in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering), and then read Goodman, who proposes that the key difference between pictures and diagrams is that, while pictures are freely interpretable along a number of lines. diagrams limit interpretation, seeking a more articulate display.

Anyone who uses drawing in his or her work, either as proposition or presentation, comes to understand that measurement is a primary motivation. In my own practice as a painter, for example, I have identified this value in the representation of entities and forces, or even the felt scaling of body to body in the life-drawing studio. The impulse has its clearest application in geometrical drawing, a visual-mathematical method developed to take a measure of reality as a wireframe diagram of location and passage. A well-constructed geometrical illustration exploits capabilities of the visual system, replacing logical, memory, and search requirements with a perceptually grounded context for making judgments (Stenning and Oberlander, 1995).

It is a well-understood aspect of working with diagrams that they permit users to hold in hand, so to speak, things that are otherwise quite difficult to grasp. As a key example, in 1735 the mathematician Leonard Euler sought a solution to the problem of whether a route could be plotted to cross each of the town of Königsberg’s seven bridges without doubling back. In his work, Euler addressed the question using the simplest of mark-making strategies. He did not actually cross the town’s bridges, but used them as schematic characters to resolve questions of connectivity, after which diagrammatic representations have been understood to permit inductive reasoning in logical problems (Carlson, 2009).

A character-string notation for some posed physical problem writes forward, line-by-line, and depends on important background-symbolic knowledge (of algebraic notations, for example). In contrast, a diagram shows us problem and solution together. As a ready explanation of contemporary interests in data-visualisations, then, by working over such representations, we have gone from exploring natural principles in terms of location and motion, to computational visualizations of vast data-sets, allowing insightful experience of a different kind of organic system — which is to say, information (Lau & Vande Moere, 2007; Bresciani &  Eppler, 2009).

Space-time drawings

Over the past five years, my work has explored drawing as a bridge-building method between sound and vision, seeking a blended visual-musical practice. I have produced graphic music composition systems from bits and pieces of pictorial and diagrammatic drawing systems (for example Griffin, 2013). To underpin that work, I proposed a structural classification of drawing methods that clearly positions music notations relative to other graphics, arguing that music notations are “space-time drawings.”

To “draw music” is to translate from the multi-dimensional space of audition into the secondary space of marking, encoded for further passage in the playing of the score (an instructional element), presented to performers and audiences in a future-subjunctive tense. The paper stands for silence, for Cage’s underlayment of duration (1973, p.19); it is the surface on which we work. But as we calculate the performance, the paper becomes a space of time.  A music notation is therefore a control interface, by which users trace through a conjunctive space of time: a space-time notation.

Of course, all things are both spatial and temporal, but in drawing a tree we do not target temporal dimensions, except as interpretive content (in a tree-picture), or as time-factored sequences (in a tree-diagram). Even Duchamp’s strangely lucid “Nude Descending a Staircase” (1912) can only suggest duration through metaphors of fanning lines, tonal transitions, and repetition across and down: we read Duchamp’s composition from a context of Western painting traditions, in his impish terms. In contrast, the staff music notation is a tally-sheet, generating readouts in which the performance is factored in timeline and pitch-space axes.  Thus music notations are differentiated from the ambiguities of pictures, or the way-finding of maps and other system-diagrams, not because those graphic practices are not temporal in some way, but because time is not a character in their schemes.

Among the insights gleaned from this graphic and scholarly work, a novel stream of research has emerged that oddly, excitingly blends analysis and creativity, extending the focus on drawing space-time into a context of cosmological discourses, rather than artistic performance. The key outputs of the project are a portfolio of three colossal, collaborative drawings with complex timing and execution requirements, expanding views on Fine Art drawing as a conceptual practice. The mark-making tools for each of the drawings in the portfolio harness the coherent light of Laser, here used for its linear values, which is to say, as lines of energy applied to the geometry of space itself as support, in a process of marking-up incredible proportions.


Beyond the systems analysis of Euler’s elegant solution, drawing has long been a core component practice for many disciplines, each of which benefits from the blended space of seeing, thinking, and making that happens on the page. The sketch, once again for example, is a robust research method in design, providing a haptic search space useful for conjecture, for testing against experiential knowledge (Goldschmidt, 1991; Tversky, 2002), and for reconstruction of what design-researcher Nigel Cross has called “ill-defined” problems (2001). But what if the target of such a working graphic (bridging theory and practice) is simply incomprehensible in terms of the handfuls and footfalls to which we are naturally bound? What if we place Euler’s node-links into a context where their pragmatism is met with a kind of senselessness?

The three collaborative, publically performed diagrams that result from this work simultaneously inhabit and trace the spaces of their inscription, perversely smearing the distinctions between “attribute” and “relation” which are key conceptual labels in reasoning with diagrams.

The first of the three is a node-link diagram consisting of a one-second Laser burst, aimed at the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy. This single line will have approximately 300,000 kilometres of length, resulting from questions related to orientation, distance, and other physical matters, in support of an event that taking one second to begin, and something on the order of 25,000 years to complete, assuming a definition for the word “complete” that allows room for the provisional.

The second and much smaller (briefer?) drawing inscribes a network between our small planet and the other planetary bodies in our local physical space — a cascade of metaphors allowing us to extend our grasp to scales that are otherwise incomprehensible in the terms to which we are accustomed. This quasi-semantic diagram actually connects us to those seven mythically charged bodies, for a period of time computed from relative distances. This network will ultimately have the absurd property of around 10 billion kilometres of total length, tied to about four hours of active drawing.

Finally, the third drawing in the portfolio builds from professional principles of multi-view Orthographic Projection, an analytical design-drawing method that constrains to parallel views of an object’s sides. Orthographic projections are spatialized images of distribution, not unlike a music notation in spirit, if different in targeted output. Reading from an orthographic drawing, fabricators are enabled to make the desired object in accord with the compound needs of designer and client. In this final drawing, three bisecting Laser lines are drawn through polar points on the planet, forming twelve “wedges” that flare outward from the Earth, amounting to another set of absurdities, delivered in the soft fiction of metaphor.

In geometrical diagrams “the circle of the proof is drawn, not imagined to be drawn,” writes Reviel Netz, so ‘the action of the proof is literal… for it is only in the diagram that the acts of construction literally can be said to have taken place’ (1999, p.53). In the case of these colossal diagrams, their acts of construction are both in the moment of their performance, but also over spans of time that simply exhaust our descriptive capacities. Inscribed on spaces we can know only in conjecture, these Laser drawings interrogate epistemologies of science, and in some sense, of empiricism.

Location and Duration

The psychologist William Ittelson pragmatically describes a mark as an artefact of human intention, “decoupled” from its real-world source (1996, p.171). And while a fine artist’s marking can be an act of rhetoric and abundance, an engineer generally seeks to reduce the oscillations of meaning; Euler ultimately sought a proof, after all, while the painter Rembrandt (or Cy Twombly, or John Cage in his music notations) sought potential.

Among contemporary artists, working in a post-digital climate of social engagements and institutional support, marks are made with pigment (Felice Varini) or footprint (Richard Long); through the influence of primary physical forces (Haines and Hinterding) or coding for hardware-software systems (Maurizio Bolognini); and with foreknowledge of dissolution (Robert Smithson). But while the linked-to works of these artists hew to Ittelson’s essentialist characterizations of marks, they also blur whatever differences in motivation actually exist between the marking applications of Euler and Rembrandt.

These Laser drawings, however, show Ittelson’s decoupling to be deeply and perversely problematic. In broad terms, pictures represent objects and spaces, while diagrams map systematic relations. But these drawings map space and time in a peculiar form of conjunction, simultaneously tracing and inhabiting the multi-dimensional surfaces on which they are inscribed. They cannot be held in hand, not because they are too big, but because the hand that holds (or the eye that sees) is subsumed in the surface of the drawings themselves.

As experimental drawings, they supply frameworks for a hybrid art-science discourse, but how are we to judge their success or failure? What is the relationship between such drawings and their objects? Entering into flows of metaphor, where are these drawings?

Methods and timeline

What is the significance of an external representation that we cannot interact with, not because it is hidden away, but because it is simply beyond us? We know that our bodily measures actually prohibit direct mappings of our experience onto structures at either end of cosmic scales (Dawkins, 1999). We are prisoners of this incomprehension, but we also know that certain drawing practices have developed which play key roles in recording and understanding challenging relationships in Physics. Well after Euler’s parsimonious road-trip, quantum theories, for example, present us with notoriously strange tableaus to negotiate. Crossing bridges, as Euler did without doing, is the least of our problems in this problem space. Yet Niels Bohr’s simple projection-diagrams of atomic motion (Miller, 1995), or Richard Feynman’s diagrams, mapping probabilities (Feynman, 1983, p.78), have proven themselves useful as simple visual metaphors that illuminate the invisible complexities of natural forces.

The preparatory work is underway, emerging from conversations and collaborations with experts in the physical and mathematical areas that the drawings themselves will overlay. Leaving aside earth-bound issues, for example, I will need to answer questions about diffusion or interference in the spaces between such enormous edges: what are the odds? In brief, there will be the rigorous preparation of a scientific-experimental use of resources, tied to outputs that reach around pragmatism, seeking knowledge that may not be possible to know.

In deliberating how to track and present this work, with their strange timelines and oddly prosaic performance, I offer a bit of collaborative text from the novelist John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts, in which artist and scientist worked together to re-present their experiences sailing the Sea of Cortez, surveying its flora and fauna.

We could, if we wished, describe the Sierra thus: “D. XVVOL.II-15-IX; A. VOL.II-15-IX;” but we could see the fish alive and swimming, feel it plunge against the lines, drag it threshing over the rail, and even finally eat it. And there is no reason why either approach should be inaccurate. Spine-count description need not suffer because another approach is also used. Perhaps, out of the two approaches we thought there might emerge a picture more complete and even more accurate that either alone could produce (Steinbeck J, Ricketts E, 2001).

The fragment gives us a cascade of images, reflecting the needs of the researcher, and the tinkering of the novelist, but also the desire to eat. There is a numerical map of the fish, but also an image of what it is to struggle with, and haul in the animal. In the task of representation of complex relations, character-string notations (D. XVVOL.II…) are powerful instruments for learning; in the case of the Sierra, encoding spine counts to simplify classification and correlation. But for Steinbeck this cannot tell the whole story, and he suggests the incompleteness might be resolved by reflective and analogical approaches from the mind’s eye of the fisherman, and the novelist.  Steinbeck and Ricketts are here engaged in dialectical admixture of their disciplines for that: to include the sea and the struggle to better know the fish.

Drawing into space

Exercising insights from the Steinbeck-Ricketts partnership, then, the performance of these drawings are the culmination of a rich bed of writing, drawing, and other forms of documentation that track their features and development, and ultimately their dis-appearance in space.

Taken as spectacle, what viewers will see at the time of their execution may not be particularly exhilarating. The phrase “point and shoot” about sums it up. But just as watching paint dry is not thrilling, in itself, a deeper understanding of the facts of the matter – for example oxidizing, polymerization, and molecular cross-linking, delivered in a range of representations from microscopy and animations, to time-lapse photography — enhances the experience with a compelling back-story, and an often beautiful, more complete (in Steinbeck’s terms) present of physical knowledge.

In the end, there are three drawings, graphs writ (absurdly) large, with an existence that is actually dubious from the point of view of the traditional consumers of Art production. Yet they are no less marks on surfaces than any other objects of connoisseurship in a frame, even if mark and surface are inscrutable, and the frame is a slurry of words and other representations.

Drawing in this deeply problematized context, the contemplation of their performance generates questions with intriguingly unstable answers — a condition to which any productive 21st art practice aspires. They are external representations with which we can only interact, so to speak, in the plan. In their essential in-visibility, they are free of aesthetics, cannot be directly apprehended (or at least, not for long). They are utterly free of use, cannot be exchanged, cannot exemplify or denote anything but some view on limitations.

And of course they may be wrong. But the diagrams are not merely rhetorical; they are drawn in fact. So we must also recognize a kind of impossibility built into the project. Their marks, somehow incorporated in the surfaces on which they are inscribed, are moving into place, following a deeply flawed plan, formulated under absurdly limited conditions of perspective. Long after artist and viewers are dead, long after their potential is exhausted, they will be tracing the fabricated cosmos of a small set of utterly ephemeral beings. Among other things, they finally represent a kind of romantic futility, reflecting something of the general condition of representation, at least from the perspectives of a painter and a cosmologist.

In short, they are graphical gestures that are equally matters of time and space, and fantasy as a function. Through their application onto the tangle of distortions and misunderstandings between what we know and what we do not, and perhaps cannot know, witnesses will have an opportunity to see drawings of becoming.



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Miller A I (1995), Aesthetics, Representation and Creativity in Art and Science, Leonardo, 28,3, pp. 185-192, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, Accessed, 07/01/2010 10,25 at <http//>

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Netz, R (1999) The Shaping of Deduction in Greek Mathematics: A Study in Cognitive History , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.

Riley, H. (2010) Drawing as Transformation, From Primary Geometry to Secondary Geometry. In XVOL.III Generative art international conference. Accessed 12/12/10 at <>

Steinbeck J, Ricketts E (2001) The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Penguin Classics, London UK

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Referenced website links

Felice Varini (2014); site design by Laurent Chambert; accessed 12/11/14 at <>

Joyce Hinterding (2014) Haines and Hinterding Artworks; accessed 12/11/14 at <>

Maurizio Bolognini (2014) Bolognini.ORG; accessed 12/11/14 at <>

Richard Long (2014) Richard Long Official Website; Web design by Steve Jackson; accessed 12/11/14 at <>

Robert Smithson (2014) The Estate of Robert Smithson; site design by Hoopycake!; accessed 12,11,14 at <>

Watching Paint Dry (2014) Sixty Symbols: videos about the symbols of Physics and Astronomy; Videos by Brady Haran for the University of Nottingham; accessed 12/11/14 at

Up Against the Wall (Susan R. Greene and Art Forces)

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UP AGAINST THE WALL is a project by Art Forces (,  which is an art/activism/research initiative which investigates intersections of trauma, precarity, memory, borders, resilience, resistance and creativity using multimedia mural arts and interdisciplinary action research.  UP AGAINST THE WALL is led by Susan Greene, Director of Art Forces and a practicing psychologist/artist, in collaboration with a large network of artists, photojournalists, community members, organizations and documentarians.

Project Profile

Art Forces, now in its 15th year, tells firsthand stories through interdisciplinary, multimedia experiences accessed through various community mural projects and websites, in locations that include:


  • Refugee camps in Gaza and West Bank, Palestine
  • Refugee camps in Lebanon
  • Urban sites in USA


Art Forces expands muralism through media education strategies, clinical responses to trauma, connections to wide range of international community organizing partners, and a cinematic approach to the visual image based on montage theory and a more recent heritage of San Francisco Bay Area bricolage and tactical aesthetics.  These multimedia/interactive platforms expand the murals’ themes, making context, hidden histories, and narratives easily accessible; connecting participants and viewers across seemingly great distances and concerns.


Art Forces investigates the (im)possibility of understanding trauma associated with ongoing conflict, displacement and precarity, meaning that the refusal to understand trauma can be an ethical and creative act. Claude Lanzman, who made the film Shoah, suggests that what is created in such conditions does not grow out of a knowledge already accumulated but is intricately bound up with the act of listening itself (1995)[1]. As Cathy Caruth writes: “For the survivor of trauma, then, the truth of the event may reside not only in its brutal facts, but also in the way that their occurrence defies simple comprehension” (Caruth,1995). Caruth goes on to say that the impossibility of a comprehensible story, however, does not necessarily mean the denial of a transmissible truth.  It requires that one take the impossibility as the starting point, refusing a certain framework of understanding (1995).


Providing direct audio and visual access to personal stories as well as continued visual inspiration through the public interface of public community murals; the projects move from the local to the global. The site specificity of the mural sites allows for intense community engagement, while the documentary audio and visual materials provide necessary context and support to interpret not just the murals themselves, but the larger psycho-socio-political dynamics and forces.  The media components allow the site-specific murals’ themes to be amplified to a global audience.


Project Proposal


Action Research is defined as a problem focused, context specific and future oriented investigation that describes and interprets social situations while implementing interventions with the goal of improvement and involvement of participants. Action Research is a group activity based upon on a partnership between action researchers and participants – all who are involved in the change process and are part of what is being researched (Waterman, Tillen, Dickson, de Koning, 2001).

Action Research…aims to contribute both to the practical concerns of people in an immediate problematic situation and to further the goals of social science simultaneously.  Thus, there is a dual commitment in action research to study a system and concurrently to collaborate with members of the system in changing it in what is together regarded as a desirable direction.  Accomplishing this twin goal requires the active collaboration of researcher and client, and thus it stresses the importance of co-learning as a primary aspect of the research process (O’Brien, R. (2001).

Research Design

The proposed project will analyze new data in 2015-16 collected in refugee camps in Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and urban Bay Area, CA; in addition to archival data from past projects in Middle East and USA. In an ongoing process, artists, psychologists, sociologists, and journalists facilitate and participate in creation of site-specific murals, sound, video and photographic documentation of histories, interviews, reflections, observation, etc. Among the cultural/research productions are an online archive openly accessible via the project website, via cellphone at the mural sites, and via social media prompts and invitations.


Up Against the Wall seeks to expand global participation in the multimedia aspects of the project in two ways: by partnering with journalists and videographers to publish articles and portfolios in major media outlets; and by actively requesting feedback through the project website and social media to determine the impact of these stories, particularly to ascertain how this impact affects the process of living and coping with trauma associated with ongoing conflict, displacement and precarity.


Research questions include: How can artistic practice affect the building of resilience? How do people ‘learn from experience”?  What is the process whereby people make sense of the senseless?  How can the unthinkable be thought about and/or symbolized? What does it mean to be creative and/or active in dire and catastrophic circumstances? What does it mean to be an artist in these circumstances?

Research format will include investigation of ‘digital scholarship’ to present the work in multifaceted way, along with traditional scholarship presentations.


For the first-time participant, an engagement with the proposed project begins with a walk past a mural site, an event hosted at the site by the project collaborators, media article highlighting the work or an on-line posting, tweet, Facebook, instagram, etc.  Each of these engagements includes a prominently accessible invitation or prompt to call, click, or connect to an audio recording or visual images documenting personal experiences of the participants, from the ‘researched’ to the ‘researcher’.  The complex relationship between the ‘researcher’ and ‘researched’ is an integral part of the investigation. For example: the project looks at the role that witnessing and lack thereof plays in trauma. Up Against the Wall  proposes to bring narratives of people in refugee camps to a global audience with they can be seen, heard, witnessed and responded to.

This addresses some of the isolation and alienation that people who have been traumatized experience and builds upon previous observations and interviews with participants in Art Forces’ Projects. See past research reports:


In the coming year, these experiences will be augmented by a follow-up request for feedback on the experience directly afterwards, and audiences will be provided with resources for staying involved at the end of each interaction. For participants who listen to the stories and view accompanying visual materials, the experience may include the integration of new knowledge and perspectives, a window into the lives of community members who have contributed their stories, and often, the establishment of a personal connection to trauma and/or growth developed through the experience of listening and/or looking and observing others’ narratives. The viewer experiences, in the words of John Berger,[2] ‘another way of seeing’. The feedback process allows for participants to reflect on their experience in a way that is constructive, open and creative. The results for the proposed project will be two-fold, further building the database of participants who voluntarily choose to share their contact information for future events and news, and creating a pool of participant feedback which will anonymously serve as raw data for academic publications and reports on art and trauma and directing attention, once activated, towards action by linking participants with ongoing organizing.


At present, the contact list of interested past participants in events and news related to the existing murals and multimedia archive includes hundreds of names and fifteen organizations. This number has grown by approximately 50 each year of the project’s fifteen year existence. The project collaborators project a growth of one hundred and fifty through the coming year’s activities, and the goal for the year’s efforts to gather feedback and responses is to include seventy-five new participants as listeners and responders to audio and visual documentation from communities surrounding the mural sites. To do this, the project aims to work with two to five new journalist partners as well as new partner organizations. As a result, Up Against the Wall will be able to make available to fellow researchers, artists, activists and mental health professionals information learned through its activities; in journal publications, project events, conference presentations, the project website, and social media.


Specifically in 2015-16 Art Forces projects will include:



I.Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural Project

The Oakland Palestine Solidarity Project (OPSP) completed in August 2014, and organized by Art Forces, NorCal Friends of Sabeel and Estria Foundation, includes site specific, new media/technological and event components to create a cross movement building and educational and organizing project. Focusing on the occupation of Palestine the project makes connections between interlinked histories of colonialism, precarity, environmental injustice, racism and exile in multiple global locations. OPSP aims to reveal hidden histories and relationships, including for example, the history of Ohlone Indians of Oakland CA, where OPSP is physically located, and how their story connects to broader global struggles. OPSP creates multiple portals through which people can identify with and enter into the narratives of others, linking seemingly distant locations and disparate issues. OPSP is especially timely given the current crisis in Gaza and ongoing bias of US media coverage. The majority of Americans are not receiving critical reporting placing the issues within a global, historical or relational context. OPSP, given its public location in the new art district of Oakland CA, has possibility of reaching new audiences.

OPSP includes a 157 foot by 22 foot international mural in downtown Oakland, CA whose themes are amplified by an interactive website and audio/visual apps accessible by all current technologies and social media. Across the street from the mural is a 7000 square foot space where OPSP and community partners hold meetings, events, art exhibits, film screenings, etc, related to and expanding upon the mural’s themes.

OPSP brought together 12 diverse artists, who, using images of trees as a central motif created a stunning public tribute to the resilience and creativity of the human spirit that thrives despite political oppression and injustice, wherever it is taking place in the world. OPSP artists include, Bay Area artists IROT (Native American); Emory Douglas, former minister of culture for Black Panther Party (African American); Chris Gazaleh (Palestinian American); Erin Yoshi, executive director of Estria Foundation (Japanese American); Deadeyes (African American); SPIE (Asian American); Fred Alvarado (Latino American), Miguel Bounce Perez (Chicano-Pacific Islander American) and Susan Greene (Jewish American). Visiting artists were Nidal El Khairy-invited from Jordan (Palestine); VYAL, three time winner of Estria Graffiti Battle (Chicano-Native American/L.A.) and Dina Matar (participating virtually from Gaza).

The current and proposed proposal is to work with web/media developers and engineers to create an interactive website and audio/visual apps and tours that can be downloaded, viewed on line or phoned.  A prototype of ‘Call the Wall’ can be heard at 510-269-8333, ext. 11-20. The audio files will include interviews with Palestinians living under occupation, giving personal accounts of their lives and experiences; historical information about Palestine and documentation of current experiences by linking to blog and twitter spheres of the West Bank and Gaza.  The video component will include video by Palestinian documentarians living and working in the West Bank and Gaza. The media component of OPSP expands the experience of the site-specific mural providing visitors with contextual information, current events, and historical and personal narratives that otherwise may not be available. Reaching and raising awareness among new audiences about realities on the ground for Palestinians is one of the project’s main goals.

OPSP’s multi-media/interdisciplinary and public approach will allow street level access to analysis and personal narratives about Palestine than is available in mainstream media. OPSP will be able to reach people unfamiliar with the issues and facilitate deeper understandings. These will then be followed up with opportunities to concretely become involved through OPSP’s partnerships with grass roots activist organizations including Arab American Resource and Organizing Center and Middle East Children’s Alliance (USA) and EWASH- Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene (Palestine).

  1. Maia Mural and Media Brigade,
Photo: Hilary Hacker for MAIA Mural Brigade

Photo: Hilary Hacker for MAIA Mural Brigade

MAIA Mural Brigade, #WaterWrites, #Artforces, MECA 2011

Photo: Hilary Hacker

Photo: Hilary Hacker

MAIA Mural Brigade, #WaterWrites, #Artforces, MECA 2011

Photo: Hilary Hacker

Photo: Hilary Hacker

MAIA Mural Brigade, #WaterWrites, #Artforces, MECA 2011

Photo: Hilary Hacker

Photo: Hilary Hacker

MAIA Mural Brigade, #WaterWrites, #Artforces, MECA 2011


Photo: Hilary Hacker

The Maia Mural Brigade (MAIA means water in Arabic) is an

international mural and media project that aims to use art to organize action around environmental justice. The fulcrum of the project is the water crisis in Gaza, Palestine and its connections to global water issues. The MAIA Mural Brigade uses a collaborative community based process to design and execute the murals. To date, nine murals have been completed in towns and refugee camps across Gaza. Eight of the murals were completed in 2011 with Estria Foundation’s #Water Writes Project.  The murals are located at the sites of water purification units being installed by the Middle East Children’s Alliance’  MAIA Project. MECA’s Maia Project is providing clean water to more than 50,000 children and their families. The last mural is 72 feet by 20 feet painted at Al Azhar University. One of the MAIA Mural Brigade’s goals is to raise funds for a purification unit. Art Forces recently was awarded a grant from the Sparkplug Foundation for the MAIA Media Project, which will provide support for the media amplification and contextual narrative research.  MAIA Mural/Media Project will work with Gaza Community Mental Health Programme to assess impact and measure outcomes.


III. Mourning and Action

Mural @ Memorial Borj Shemali Refugee Camp, #Artforces, Al-Jana Center, and Houleh Center, 2013


Photo: Hilary Hacker

Photo: Hilary Hacker


Abu Fadi, shows his wife, one of two survivors of Houleh massacre, where he has written he names of his children who were killed in bombing. #Artforces, Al-Jana Center, and Houleh Center, 2013


Photo: Hilary Hacker

Photo: Hilary Hacker

Mourning and ActionPublic Art in Palestinian Refugee Camps, Lebanon. In 2012 and 2013, Art Forces worked Al-Jana Center for Popular Arts in Beirut, Lebanon, to paint murals in Shatila Refugee Camp and Bourj El Shamali Refugee Camp.  Both camps are sites of massacres by Israeli military in 1982. The murals were designed and painted with camp residents, many of whom have lost family members in the bombings. The murals are memorials and also address current struggles such as shortages of water and electricity. Mourning and Action posits: Who is grievable? What and how are memorials made and how do they impact communities? In 2015 Art Forces will work with Al Jana on the third project in the series, in Narh el Bared, refugee camp in the north of Lebanon and home to 60,000 Palestinian and  Syrian refugees. In progress audio/visual data can be seen at


Literature Review (selected)

The psychosocial dynamic and dramatic life changes in the post 9/11 USA, with its broader implications internationally, and the psychological meanings of living in tumultuous political, economic and social conditions [give us] a traumatogenic globalized culture of crisis (Hollander, 2012).


Levels of violence have increased in Occupied Palestine, and several generations of Palestinians have grown up as displaced refugees under the conditions of military occupation. The quality of life and infrastructure of Palestinian society erodes continually, along with the daily murder of civilians.  Israeli society suffers from extreme militarism, internal contradictions of race and class, and the fear and results of deadly retaliation by Palestinians (B’tselem, 2003; Palestine Monitor, 2003; Hanoun, 2001; Said, 2002, 2003; Reinhart, 2002; Hass, 2002; Hoffman, Leiberman, 2002; Kimmerling, 2003, Hamzeh, 2001; Lockman, Beinin, 1989).


The selected annotated literature review below looks what conditions are needed for a traumatic response to situations and how art and creativity play a role in building resilience.


Drs. El Sarraj and Quota of Gaza Community Mental Health Program wrote on the erosion of traditional sources of protection:


In the literature the recovery of trauma has always been described from a protective and supportive perspective. [In Palestine] the whole community, even the traditional sources of protection (e.g. parental authority) have been undermined. It is unknown how a recovery process develops under these circumstances (2005, Chapter 16).


Psychoanalyst Stephen Riesner (2003) makes the following distinction between         traumatic circumstances and traumatic response:

   Trauma can refer to a traumatic event or circumstance and it can refer to a traumatic response or effect….It is important to distinguish these two because, contrary to the writings of many recent trauma theorists, traumatic circumstances to not always lead to traumatic effect, and calling them each a “trauma” can cause people to believe that they do.


Reisner states that trauma results in part, from a loss of meaning:


…it might be said that trauma results when there is a tearing of the integrity of the psycho-physiological or psycho-social system- and where that system cannot be psychically restored and/or energetically reasserted. But where strong reaction is possible or where a belief system is reasserted, trauma may well be averted.

In order for traumatic circumstances of the past to become useful, making meaning of and symbolizing is necessary. Psychoanalyst Jeanne Wolf-Bernstein (2000) writes in her essay about the   photographer Shimon Attie:


 In order to make the past a useful present and presence, we need metaphors that capture the memorial activity linking the past with the present and future in a meaningful manner.


Another aspect for many psychoanalytic writers is that trauma may be experienced passively and that the conversion to an active experience promotes a sense of mastery (Kris, 1952).  According to Kris, creativity is often shaped by traumatic experience and that an important function of art is to convert a passively experienced trauma to an active experience.


Reisner adds that the promotion of mastery includes reasserting meaning:

…to avoid trauma a person must react to the traumatic circumstance in an active way; a way in which previously held meanings are reasserted, energies are discharged, the social fabric rewoven and belief systems and practices are reinforced.

Another important idea is that an active creative response to traumatic circumstances includes an ‘audience’ or ‘witness.’  Kris (1952) has stressed the importance of the audience to the artist. In Kris’ view the study of art is, to a great extent, the study of communication. Many who study trauma have found that in order to be treated, the subject needs to be seen and witnessed including finding a way witness to one’s own experience (Caruth, 1995; Herman, 1992).

Creativity plays a powerful role in resilience as it allows for the imagining of a different reality. In their article: “Expressive Arts Therapy- Healing the Traumatized- The Palestinian Experience,” Sway, Nashashibi, Salah and Shwieki write in their conclusion:

We have found that the therapeutic space in expressive arts therapy can provide a haven for the Palestinian people who live under constant trauma and fear, and can contribute to their healing process. Acting, moving, singing, art making and playing energize us as individuals and help us build a healthier community of people, even if it is only in the here and now. They remind us that such pleasure is possible and, therefore, that there is something hopeful to look forward to.

Reisner summarizes what the artistic response to trauma may accomplish and why it is preferable to other discharges, such as revenge:

The artistic response to trauma has as its most essential aim to allow the difficult questions to linger, even if unanswered.  But this does not mean that the energy of the pain lingers, it is expressed interrogatively through the work of art itself.

The artistic response, like the therapeutic response, aims to provide a forum for testimony, witnessing, symbolization and transformation of experience that had heretofore been un-symbolizable, because of the very nature of trauma.  Art provides an active response to trauma where the action is a form of language, rather than a form of discharge.  Therefore the artistic standard eschews cliché, shortcuts, or reverence.  The aim of art is to make full use of the moment, including the traumatic moment. (p. 10)

Pulse Project: A Sonic Investigation Across Bodies, Cultures and Technologies (Michelle Lewis-King)

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Locations, Dates, Times:

The Stags Head Hoxton. 55 Orsman Road, London, N1 5RA, UK. April 8th, 7 – 10 pm. See:

Rock House Art School. 49-51 Cambridge Road, Hastings, TN34 1TD, UK. April 10th, 7 – 11 pm. See:

4DSOUND Studio. Warehouse Elementenstraat, Elementenstraat 25, Amsterdam. June 29th -30th and August 19th- 31st.

INFO – DETOX 48. Stadtwerkstatt, Linz, Austria. September 3rd – 7th.

Antenna Space, Room 202, 2nd Floor, Building 17, No.50 Moganshan Raod, Shanghai, China. t.b.a.

4DSOUND: Circadian, E.ON Electriciteitsfabriek, The Hague, 24-27th September.
Consciousness Reframed 2015, TeDao Masters Academy Shanghai, 20th-22nd November.


Project Description:

Pulse Project is a doctoral performance research series exploring the relational interfaces between medicine, culture and technology. In this study, I embody and perform research practice itself through adopting the role of artist­-acupuncturist­-investigator and acting as an instrument or medium between myself and others and between cultural traditions for understanding and mediating the body. Pulse ‘reading’, case histories, notations of pulses and acupuncture point locating are all used together as methods for exploring the cultural encounter between artist, participants and diverse medical practices. Drawing upon my experience as a clinical acupuncturist (with training in biomedicine), I use traditional Chinese medicine and music theories together with technology to compose bespoke algorithmic soundscapes expressive of an individual’s ‘being’ that registers along a spectrum between Asian and Western approaches to the body. These soundscapes are not sonifications of western principles of circulation but offer another perspective to conceive of/listen to the interior spaces of the body­ as each participant’s pulse is interpreted as a unique set of sound­wave images based on traditional Chinese pulse diagnosis (a complex set of 28+ waveform images corresponding to states of being) and also according to traditional Chinese music theory (Lewis-King, 2014).

This Project Description is divided into 4 sections. Section 1 explores the methodologies of Pulse Project. Section 2 outlines the content of the performances as well as the content of the workshops used to explore and disseminate the themes presented in the performances. Section 3 provides a professional and theoretical framework for Pulse Project and Section 4 makes the case for why Pulse Project offers unique contributions to knowledge in the fields of art, science and sound studies.

1. Methods for Conducting Research:

The unique focus of this study that potentially distinguishes it from other sonic and creative practice studies is its exploration of the sonic possibilities within the interior of the body when considered from a perspective alternative to standard practice in western medicine and technology (Lewis-­King, 2013). In using pulse reading to touch upon the internal oscillations of others, touch is used as a method of intensive listening that enables me to translate the oscillations of subtle energies and flowing of blood within the interior universe of another into a uniquely individualised soundscape. The palpation of pulses requires many years of practice to develop the sensitivity to enable the practitioner to read pulses with accuracy (Hsu, 1999).

1.1 A Brief Introduction to Chinese Pulse Diagnostics:

Each wrist has three positions where the practitioner’s fingers are placed in order to palpate the pulse and this makes a total of six positions of palpation altogether (refer to Figure 2). From each position on the wrist, the practitioner registers at least two levels from which the pulse waveform qualities can be felt and are referred to as ‘superficial’ and ‘deep’. These levels are also associated with specific organs and networks (refer to Figure 2 and Figure 3). For the purposes of differentiating the traditional Chinese conception of the organs from those of occidental medicine, Chinese ‘organs’ are capitalised in this text and are not to be confused with the western biomedical understanding of these organs. Each of the organs and networks (known as zàng­fǔ [1]) are also associated with an element, colour, tone, etc (Lewis-­King, 2013).

Figure 2: Pulse Reading Diagram (2013). © Michelle Lewis­-King.

Figure 2: Pulse Reading Diagram (2013). © Michelle Lewis­-King.


Figure 3: Nan Jing Pulse Diagram (2013). © Michelle Lewis-­King

Figure 3: Nan Jing Pulse Diagram (2013). © Michelle Lewis-­King

1.2 Performance, Procedure and Recruitment:

The performance itself is staged in a public space using simple props such as a table, chair, note paper, ink, brushes, acetate, a laptop and a white coat. Participants’ pulses are individually recorded and interpreted. The collection of data is modeled on a medical history or ‘case-­study’ basis. Clinical impressions of participants’ pulses are first notated with clinical descriptions, e.g., ‘bowstring’,’slippery’, ‘replete’, and so on (refer to Figure 4).

Figure 4: Oakland (CA) Clinical Notation 9 (2011). Note paper, ink. Photo: Barbara Butkus. © Michelle Lewis-­King.

Figure 4: Oakland (CA) Clinical Notation 9 (2011). Note paper, ink. Photo: Barbara Butkus. © Michelle Lewis-­King.

Figure 5: Cambridge Notation 1 (2014). 8” x 10”. Acetate and ink. Photo: Léna Lewis-­King. © Michelle Lewis­-King.

Figure 5: Cambridge Notation 1 (2014). 8” x 10”. Acetate and ink. Photo: Léna Lewis-­King. © Michelle Lewis­-King.

The qualities of the pulse such as speed, vibratory sensations, fullness, emptiness, etc., are also recorded and form part of the hand drawn graphic notations (see Figure 5). The drawn lines in the graphic notations mainly describe the oscillations of the zàng­fǔ organ­-networks or channels. The graphic and clinical notations are then used as a reference for creating unique soundscapes for each participant using the open source software SuperCollider (SC). Each participant is given their individualised graphic notion during the performance and a SC soundscape file composed uniquely for them is also sent to them post-­event via email. The notations and compositions of each participant constitute individual sample soundscapes that fit into the wider overall research project that is archived online (Lewis­-King, 2013). [2]

Figure 6: Sample SC Code for V&A 1 Composition (2013). © Michelle Lewis-­King

Figure 6: Sample SC Code for V&A 1 Composition (2013). © Michelle Lewis-­King

1.3 The Instrumentation Process of Pulse Project:

I use SuperCollider (SC) [3] to instrumentalise my soundscapes into multi-­channel installations as SC allows me to design each layer of sound, the directions the sounds travel within a given space (i.e., the panning of sounds to and from particular speakers, etc.), assign pitches, tempos and define the shapes of the waves of each sound object. SC plays each composition by systematically evaluating lines of code. Individual sounds can be played/streamed by scheduling each ‘sound object’ to be played at a certain time, for a certain duration, or in other words, by programming these sound objects into an overall ‘routine’ or ‘sequence’. The SC language sound object ‘Routine’ notifies the SC server to evaluate each line of code in a queue of sequential patterns, from top to bottom (see Figure 6 for an example of a standard routine). To give dimensional shape to the ‘body’ of the composition (the body of the composition is in itself a description of a ‘body’ according to Chinese theory), each stream of sound can be routed (via program commands) to specific speakers within a multi­channel speaker system ­ creating an exterior embodiment of the interior rhythms of others (Lewis­-King, 2014).

Figure 7: Programming a Multi­channel Composition at the Digital Performance Lab, Anglia Ruskin University (2014) © Michelle Lewis-­King.

Figure 7: Programming a Multi­channel Composition at the Digital Performance Lab, Anglia Ruskin University (2014) © Michelle Lewis-­King.

2. Pulse Project Performance Study:


Using only a table (large enough for a laptop, a notebook, inkwell, ink brush and a drawing pad) and two chairs (for myself and an individual participant), I read participants’ pulses, take ‘clinical’ notes, create graphic scores and programme algorithmic live soundscapes (each participant has a unique soundscape and graphic notation made specifically for them in situ).


Participants are either recruited by advertisement or by local engagement with the performance. All participants are supplied with ‘Participant Information Sheets’ to ensure that the participants in the research are fully briefed on what to expect and consent to participation.

Timing of Performance:

Performances are flexible to each situation and can be either ‘durational’ (for several days) or for a fixed duration of a minimum of 50 minutes (allowing for 5 participants to take part). Each consultation takes 10 minutes to read participant’s pulses and take notes. Participants have a composition made uniquely for them that is sent several weeks after the performance event.

Technical Logistics:

I supply my own laptop with the audio synthesis software SuperCollider will already be installed (in order to create the ‘live’ soundscapes). During the live performance, I supply headphones to playback the ‘live’ SuperCollider compositions to each participant. For the multi-channel sound installations, I create an ambisonic chamber in order to playback participant soundscapes by  using a room consisting of 4­-8 Genelec 8040s speakers, Firewire cable, 1 Fireface UC sound card, 1 digital projector (for projecting the SuperCollider programming process) and 1 mixer.

2.1 Pulse Project Demonstration Workshop:


Using a room with 6 tables with 4 chairs each, notebooks, tracing paper pads, vintage ink pens, inkwells, ink brushes, and participants’ own laptops, each participant is paired up with another participant in order to read each other’s pulses, take notes, etc. Participants also learn to create graphic scores and programmme algorithmic soundscapes from feeling pulses.

Timing and Content of Workshop:

The workshop lasts for 6 hours (with a break for lunch). The first three hours are spent learning the basics of SuperCollider and the other three are used for pulse reading, building rapport with others through touch and trying to translate pulse data into soundscapes using SuperCollider. This workshop is for beginners.

Preparation for Workshop:

Participants need their own laptops and the open source (free) software ‘SuperCollider’ must be downloaded before the workshop. Participants using a PC instead of a Mac must read the special instructions for PC users on before attending the workshop as it will be taught using a Mac.

2.2 Outcomes of the Performance Study and Demonstration Workshop:

Pulse Project performance study and workshop demonstration explores the alchemical relationship between art and medicine within a socially engaged context. As human touch blurs the distinction between self and other, the development of a new ‘science’ of touch (Hsu, 2000) based on the model of early Chinese pulse diagnostics is being used in this study and workshop to challenge and widen contemporary medical and technological discourse. Touch both establishes a reassuring presence and instantly builds a mutual trust and rapport that no technical ‘instrument’ could produce. Using touch as a means for measuring and mapping embodied sound is an approach which counters recent transhuman trends within ‘interactive’ media that rely on mechanical measures of participants’ vital signs, i.e., sonifying data from biosensors, etc., as the golden mean for representing the interior of the body and embodiment.

This performances series and workshop engages with and includes the complex ‘presence’ of others within its approach to teaching new ways to listen to others and compose a ‘music’ of this encounter. Building rapport is an integral methodology used in the performance that is also explored further in the workshop. The performances and workshops use a form of diagnostic touch that focuses on exploring tactile perception of the curious interior energetic oscillations of participants’ pulses – rather than using touch to simply prognosticate. In trying to listen deeply into the internal vibrations of others from the position of intuitive and corporeal experience, Pulse Project takes the sonic inquiry of the clinic and attempts to open it outwards towards the direction of lived experience. By placing my sonic research into a public setting where the emphasis is on engaging and developing a rapport with others (and in also developing workshops that explore touch as a way to connect with others), in a live and intersubjective situation, this approach allows for the creation of unique sonic portraits of human entanglement and complexity.

3. A Brief Theoretical Context for Chinese Medicine as it Relates to the Composing of SuperCollider Soundscapes:

According to early Chinese philosophical thought, all phenomenal processes are organised into an erotic interchange between yīn and yáng. The interplay of yīn [4] and yáng [5] forces are in turn affected and shaped by the interrelated movements of wŭ xíng [6] or the ‘five elements and seasons’: Earth, Fire, Metal, Wood and Water (Kaptchuk, 2010). The Chinese observed these processes to be animate within all forms of being-­in-­nature (including animals) as a cosmological process (Imrie et al, 2001).

The theories of yīn yáng wŭ xíng are also fundamental to the theory and practice of Chinese medicine therefore this paragraph serves to convey a basic outline of Chinese medicine theory in terms of how it describes the overall systems and substances that comprise the body. There are five zàng organs that are yīn in nature: the Heart (including the ‘Pericardium’), Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys and Liver; and six fǔ organs that are yáng in nature: Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Gall Bladder, Urinary Bladder, Stomach and Triple Heater. The yīn zàng and yáng fǔ organ networks correspond with each other and are paired together to form what is referred to as zàng­fǔ paired networks, i.e., the yīn Spleen network corresponds with the yáng Stomach network to form a yīn-yáng zàng­fǔ paired network. Each of the zàng and fǔ organs possess an associated energetic network or ‘channel’ that runs between the depths of the organ to the outer reaches of the body (Unschuld, 1986, 408). There are six zàng­fǔ organ-­network pairs in all – a total of twelve energetic networks (or channels) when including the yīn Pericardium organ. These twelve channels form the fundamental structural basis for my graphic notations and SC compositions (Lewis­-King, 2013).

Each zàng­fǔ pair is also each associated with one of the following five elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood i.e., Stomach/Spleen = Earth, Lung/Large Intestine = Metal, Kidney/Bladder, Water, Liver/Gall Bladder = Wood, Heart/Small Intestine = Fire, Triple Heater/Pericardium = ‘Ministerial’ Fire. The zàng­fǔ pairs are also associated with fundamental colours: Fire = Red, Earth = Yellow, Metal = Silver/White, Water = Indigo/Black, Wood = Green (Unschuld, 1986, 256). Each element also has a fundamental musical tone associated with the traditional Chinese pentatonic scale, i.e., gōng, shāng, jué, zhǐ, yǔ. The frequencies I use in SC are calculated using traditional pentatonic tones (Cheng­-Yih, 1996, 44-­48; Lewis-­King, 2013). [7]

Instead of using SC to create logical musical arguments (as is standard), my use of SC programming language intensifies its focus on listening as the basis for composing each landscape – adjusting the sine wave shapes and functions within each programming command by ‘ear’ in order to create sounds that match the fluid and electric-­like nature of the vibrations I feel within people’s pulses. Clinical notes, drawings and graphic notations generated from the performance are used to compose each SC command line so that the vibratory qualities of the drawn lines associated with each pulse position can be rendered as faithfully as possible (Lewis­-King, 2013).

In order to faithfully convey the landscape of the body according to Chinese Medicine pulse diagnostics, each sine wave is carefully modulated to exemplify the signature qualities of pulse waveforms as described in the notations (Refer to Figure 6). For example, the command ‘{, mul:, 3).max(0) * 0.009)}.play;’ corresponds to an aspect of a pulse emitting a ‘fine, slow, and irregular’ oscillation along the ‘Spleen’ channel. The gōng tone at the frequency of 262 Hz corresponds to the Spleen and Stomach networks and is therapeutic for these ‘Earth’ networks according to Chinese medicine theory (Gao et al, 2010; Lewis-­King, 2013).

Examples of Work:



Note: Volumes vary to reflect force or faintness of pulse impressions Please adjust your volume for the desired sound.


4. Summary

Pulse Project aims to enact a practical analysis of an expanded sense of rhythmicity (through creating ‘pulse’ soundscapes) by bringing early Chinese medical technologies to inform and rethink contemporary Western artistic, digital and scientific practices and how they can be brought to work better together (Yu, 2003). As my research moves between several strata (i.e., the interpersonal relationship between oneself and others, across cultural practices, across time and disciplinary boundaries, etc.), my project also engages with the idea that composing each soundscape is an act of participation in and contribution to a larger always-emerging composition of ecological being and discourse – as an activity that maintains a connection with the gestalt unfolding of the world (Lewis-King, 2014).

The audio works of this study do not attempt nor claim to be a straight representation of the inside of the body from within the Cartesian logic of the ‘cogito’ (Lefebvre, 2004, 16) but use Chinese medical and philosophical approaches to widen theoretical and practical discourse surrounding the body and cultural emergence. In resisting the representation of embodiment in objective, ‘realistic’ and technoscientific terms, the soundscapes of Pulse Project capture a phenomenal and metaphysical alterity to those currently represented by technoscience.  Pulse Project also uses diagnostic touch as a relational tool, i.e., as a method for deep listening[8] and as a method for portraying the ‘living’ bodies of others as a form ‘rhythmanalysis’ (Lefebvre, 2004). In using touch as an affordance allows me to build a mutual trust and rapport that no technical “instrument” or high fidelity recording could produce. In this way, this study uses the methodology of Chinese pulse diagnosis as a tool to challenge and extend contemporary artistic, medical, social science and sonic studies discourses (Lewis-King, 2013).


Sclang – SuperCollider programming language which uses an object-oriented and functional language syntax similar to C programming language (Wilson et al. 2011).

Scsynth – SuperCollider synthesis server which supports multiple input and output channels and uses a “bus system” to match programming commands with sound objects (Wilson et al. 2011).

Wŭ xíng – Often called the ‘five phases’ or elements (Earth, Fire, Metal, Water and Wood), this term describes a systematisation of phenomena into five distinct movements or phases. These phenomena could describe the movement and characteristics of the changing seasons of spring, summer and so on. These elements have a specific relationship and order in relation to each other. One element may generate or control another, i.e., winter generates spring, whereas autumn is in contrast to spring. These elemental phenomena could describe the phasic interaction between cosmological entities or between the organs of the body – as the early Chinese saw them (Rochat de la Vallee, 2009).

Yīnyáng – Describes two opposing yet interdependent and interconnected primal forces that are characterised by such phenomena that are cyclical or on a spectrum, such as ‘day and night’, ‘hot and cold’, internal and external’, etc. This continually shifting pair of opposites constitutes the fundamental basis for early Chinese philosophy and science. (Sivin, 1995).

Zàng-fǔ – Zàng refers to the five yīn organs of the body: Heart/Pericardium, Spleen, Liver, Lung, Kidney. Fǔ refers to the six yáng organs: Large Intestine, Small Intestine, Gall Bladder, Urinary Bladder, Stomach, Triple Burner. These zàng-fǔ each have an associated channel that extends the energy of the organs along points across the body. As simple definition of the functions of the zàng-fǔ: the five yīn organs are said to “store” and produce essential fluids, while the six yáng organs transform essences into production of movements/energy (Unschuld, 1986).


Baker, Alan. 2003. ‘An Interview with Pauline Oliveros’. American Public Media. January. [online]. Available at [Accessed 15 Aug. 2013].

Cheng-Yih. Chen, 1995. Early Chinese Work in Natural Science: A Re-examination of the Physics of Motion, Acoustics, Astronomy and Scientific Thoughts. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Ede, Sian. 2005. Art and Science. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.

Gao, Dadi., Chen, Andy.G., Gao, YeTao., and Shi, Sanquan. 2010. ‘The Five Organs Harmonise Pitch: Modern research and clinical treatment of the lost theory and technology in “Huang Di Nei Jing”’ Journal of Accord Integrative Medicine. 6(2): 75-92.

Halpern, Megan. 2012. ‘Across the great divide: boundaries and boundary objects in art and science’. Public Understanding of Science. November. 21(8): 1-16.

Hsu, Elisabeth. 1999. The Transmission of Chinese Medicine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hsu, Elisabeth. 2000. ‘Towards a science of touch, part I: Chinese pulse diagnostics in early modern Europe.’ Anthropology & Medicine. 7(2): 251-268.

Imrie, Robert H., Ramey, David W., Buell, Paul D., Ernst, Edzard and Basser, Stephen P. 2001. ‘Veterinary acupuncture and historical scholarship: claims for the antiquity of acupuncture’. The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. 5: 133–9.

Kaptchuk, Ted. 2010. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. New York: RossettaBooks LLC.

Lefebvre, H. (2004) Rhythymanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. New York: Continuum.

Lewis-King, Michelle. 2013. ‘Touching as Listening: Pulse Project’. Journal of Sonic Studies. 4(1). [online] May. Available at

Lewis-King, Michelle. 2014. ‘Pulse Project: An Investigation Across Bodies, Cultures and Technology’. Reflections on Process in Sound. 3. September. [online]. Available at < >.

Rochat de la Vallee, Elizabeth. (2009) Wu Xing. Taos, New Mexico: Redwing Book Company.

Sivin, Nathan. 1995. Science in Ancient China. Researches and Reflections. Aldershot: Variorum.

Unschuld, Paul. 1986. Nan-Ching: The Classic of Difficult Issues. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wilson, S., Cottle, D., Collins, N. 2011. The SuperCollider Book. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Yu, Ning., 2003. ‘Metaphor, Body and Culture: The Chinese Understanding of Gall Bladder and Courage’. Metaphor and Symbol. 18(1), pp.13 -31.

[1] Refer to the Glossary for a description of this term.

[2] To hear more audio samples of the project visit the link: and­landscapes­2/ Note: Each of these soundscapes are composed with low frequency sounds, so please turn the volume up to the desired frequency to obtain the full texture of sounds.

[3] SuperCollider is defined in Wikipedia as a programming language and environment that enables users to create ‘real time’ algorithmic compositions. SC uses an object-­based language that is split into two components – a server (scsynth) and a client (sclang) that communicate through using an Open Sound Control object: ‘Osc’. See: Please also refer to the Glossary for further definitions of ‘scsynth’ and ‘sclang’.

[4]  Refer to the Glossary for a description of this term.

[5] ibid.

[6] ibid.

[7] For an explanation of the classical Chinese pentatonic scale and methods for tuning used in these compositions, please refer to:

[8] American composer Pauline Oliveros is credited with coining the term in 1991 according to an interview conducted by Alan Baker for American Public Media in January 2003.

Mutant Space, Metsamor (Atif Akin)

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Mutant Space is a large scope visual art project about nuclear power and radioactivity. Research consists of visual surveys around power plants and physics research and development on radioactivity. It aims at contemplating the politics of nuclear energy through artistic practice. It crosses over multiple forms of visual media and is embodied as installation, in online publications and as print material.


An inspirational moment within the development of this project was visiting Chernobyl. The Ukrainian city was evacuated in 1986 due to the disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, one of our first encounters with the subject in childhood via cold war mass media. The power plant was within Chernobyl Raion, but the city was not the home for the power plant workers. When the power plant was under construction, Prypiat, a town larger and closer to the power plant, had been built as home for the power plant workers, which today attracts tourists of ostalgie and ruin photographers. The catastrophe in 1986, turned into a spectacle as a sign of cold war, mythically spread to Europe, Asia and Anatolia regarding epidemiology. Today, the site is a temple of ostalgie.

Chernobyl area is restricted (from the visitors and for the visitors) by the Ukrainian government and admission process is very similar to entering a state from an airport or a highway. The space, which evoked indescribable pain and changed the ecological and political strategies of the cold war period, is now mutated and forfeited.

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photographs from the entrance of Chernobyl region in Kiew, artists archive.

At that time we were also looking into the theories of Marc Auge concerning supermodernity and space, in which he uses the concept of supermodernity to describe a situation of excessive information and excessive space. Chernobyl and Pripyat was consisted of excessive amount of time and space. According to Auge, the individual entering the non-place is temporarily distanced from daily concerns by the environment of the moment and this anonymity provides a passive joy of identity-loss. This was the main motivation for us, with Can Pekdemir, to make this research trip to the ‘Zone’ in 2010. During the trip to Chernobyl area we could not help but thinking of visuals with reference to the plot of Stalker, 1979 science fiction film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, with a screenplay written by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. Also, Chris Marker, in his 1982 film Sans Soleil, may refer to Tarkovsky’s Stalker through the use of the term ‘Zone’ to describe the space in which images and their attached memories are transformed.

Mutant Space is an ongoing large scope research driven art project that comprises an installation along with online publications and printed matter. Its ongoing web component is online at:

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views from abondened city of Pripyat Chernobyl region in Kiew, artist’s archive.

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views from abondened city of Pripyat Chernobyl region in Kiew, artists archive.

By now there is a blog that hosts up-to-date news and commentary on the issues of nuclear power and radioactivity and ZONE: Mutant Space, Chernobyl is one of the online components of the project produced with the grant provided by Terminal, a space sponsored by the Department of Art and the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University.

screenshots from the .js based online work titled Mutant Space: The Zone. online at


Nuclear power and radioactivity are political in many ways. How to assess the dangers it poses? How should a non-scientist evaluate the risks? When and how to respond to an emergency, every moment, every action about it is political. Also, radioactive waste with half life more than a couple of hundred thousand years, and the way this information is conveyed to the future generations while humanity is incapable of deciphering a couple of thousand year old alphabets, is political. Contemporary art is one of the few surviving avenues of daily life which can genuinely host politics and art that deals with such political issues deserves to be on the scene.

“That is simple my friend: because politics is more difficult than physics.” So answered Albert Einstein, when asked why people could discover atomic power but not the means to control it. His thesis can still be applied to atomic energy which became more popular after his times. Mutant Space aims at demystifying technology with its lo-fi approach to research on physics of radioactivity. As will be further explained in the following section the installation component of this project combines good old radiation detection methods with today’s “high-end” data visualisation techniques. The installation contains the uranium element in its core as the driving source of the whole exhibition.

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Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

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Salem Nuclear Power Plant

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Oswego Nine Mile Point Nuclear Stationo.

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Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station

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Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station

evacuation zone maps superimposed on large format photographs of nuclear power plants.

The project operates in various visual contexts such as installations in exhibition spaces and as online publications and in print. Particularly, the installation component of Mutant Space refers to the American installation art of 1960s. The systematic component driven and manipulated by the radioactive waste and its relationship to spatial perception is a direct reference to James Turell and closed recursive feedback mechanism can be thought as a radioactive and electronic version of Hans Haacke’s condensation cube. Its indebtedness to Haacke is not only a formal or structural one but it is also about how Haacke’s interest in real-time systems propelled him into his criticism of social and political systems.

Although this project is not in a direct conversation with other contemporary work that deals with radioactivity, still there are a number of artists and projects which can be mentioned. Smudge Studio’s “Repository: A Typological Guide to America’s Ephemeral Nuclear Infrastructure” project is exemplary to the research component of this project however Mutant Space aims at being less didactic in the way that the research is laid out. Robert B. Lisek as an artist who deals with systems and processes using the radioactive disintegration of Tor to create light-sound impulses. In his installation nuclear radiation is used as a random generator. Although the installation component of Mutant Space involves a similar technical infrastructure, the concept of the A/V component is mutation rather then randomness. Besides, in Mutant Space the installation component is just a metaphoric space to mark the visual representation of layers of research.

At a theoretical level, the installation piece, particularly the found waste and light component is directly related to theories of Timothy Morton on ecology and hyperobjects. He radically argues that the very idea of “nature” which so many hold dear will have to wither away in an “ecological” state of human society and approaches this paradox by considering art above all culture, politics, science, etc. In The Ecological Thought, Morton introduces the concept of hyperobjects to describe objects that are so massively distributed in time and space as to transcend spatiotemporal specificity, such as global warming, styrofoam, and radioactive plutonium. Among these Mutant Space is charged with radioactive hyperobjectivity in relation to ecologic and gallery space.

Mutant Space neither employs nor suggests any form of activism in the form of contemporary art.

Mutant Space is neither partial to any anti-nuclear movement nor takes part in the heated energy policy debates. Nevertheless, it will still be engaging for enthusiasts and critical thinkers of the subject matter.

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evacuation zone of Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, Armenia.

One of the archaeological sites that I visited in 2008 throughout a workshop trip to Yerevan was Metsamor, the “Black Swamp”, 50 kilometers west of Echmiadzin. We drove to Metsamor, with views across the fertile plain to the snows of Ararat and, topping seemingly endless lines of telegraph poles, untidy bundles of storks’ nests complete with their temporary residents, young and old. I vaguely remember seeing the cooling towers of the Metsamor nuclear power plant stand sentinel on the plain on the north of the site.

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views of Mount Ararat from Yerevan – Metsamor road, artists archive.

Metsamor power plant was temporarily closed in 1989 after the 1988 Spitak earthquake for safety reasons. However, economic and transportation blockades by Azerbaijan and Turkey, which created energy shortages in Armenia, caused the Armenian government to reopen the plant in 1993. The unit 2 reactor was brought back into operation on October 26, 1995. Nowadays, the Metsamor plant generates 40% of Armenia’s energy needs. And as announced by Armenia’s energy minister Armen Movsisyan, the reactor recently got a ten year extension to operate until 2026.

Metsamor is known as operating on the most insecure reactor still functioning on earth. One of the reasons for this insecurity is the location of the power plant. It is located on Mountain Ararat fault line. The following image displays all the earthquakes which have occurred over the magnitude of 6 within the area of the reactor since its construction.

Another part of the insecurity of this power plant is a more technical one. Like its counterpart Chernobyl, Metsamor does not have a container installed. In case of a meltdown in the core, there is no secure layer to contain the leaking core.

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map of Metsamor Power Plant along with Turkey – Armenia natural and official borders

As an ongoing environmental issue, the reactor uses Arpacay and Aras rivers for cooling water and later dumps back the radioactively contaminated water to the rivers after use.

Noah’s Ark is one of the many cultural values shared by Turkish and Armenian societies. The Bible writes that it landed on the mount of Ararat. The history as it pertains to religious myths and political populism at a national level is re-written numerous times. All are stories, but the fact is that the Noah’s Ark has a great potential to come true as the end of the world for the people of the region in the future.

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visualization of radioactive mobility of Uranium – 235 ore.


Mutant Space, Metsamor is an exhibition proposal as a part of the ongoing Mutant Space Project. It will exhibit Metsamor and the region at large, its radioactivity by means of data visualizations, photographs, videos, maps and sensory information coming from local sources. The project will take chances to present information at local and global scale, such as panels or presentation sessions but most importantly online publishing. This aspect will engage local communities. I also believe that it will be well received in high-tech progressive art/design community.

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floorplan for Mutant Space installation.

The form of Mutant Space, Metsamor is driven by its core content, which of course is radioactive material. The half-life of this material can vary from 24,100 years to millions of years, which is a fascinating idea to think about in the art historical context. Similarly, recycling of waste material in sculptural forms is a common practice in art. Mutant Space with its recursive, self enclosed mechanism articulates the waste in its core by creating a dynamic space.

One component of the project is a multimedia installation. It consists of photographic prints and fine art digital prints of data visualizations, sculptural form and a CAVE (Computer Aided Virtual Environment). The installation requires a gallery space of around 400 metres square (~4,500 sq.ft) and dry wall material. In the core of the installation is a sculptural lead structure, a container that contains radioactive waste at trace amounts. Geiger probes will be inserted inside this container. Gamma radiation emitted by the active material is detected by the Geiger counter. The measurement data will then be fed to the computer using I/O prototyping boards, possibly an Arduino board and this data is visualized to transform color and fed back to the system in forms of light that alter the perception of space.

The amount of the active material will be at trace amounts just enough to trigger the system. So the space will be safe for anyone. Just to give an idea, the risk of over exposure will be less than encountered in flight in an airplane cabin.

The sculptural form in the core which contains trace amounts of nuclear waste to be collected from the area represents a reactor core. The restless nature of this material and its real-time oscillations are sensed by the counter probes and fed to the computer as raw data in which it is processed to create videographic deformations and glitches. These video projections on semi transparent surfaces create a closed space which is visually mutated by the radioactive material. The print material on the walls are fine prints of large format photographs and maps superimposed with data driven graphics.

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visualization of radioactive mobility of Uranium – 235 ore.

In summary, Mutant Space, Metsamor is a project that deals with containment, radioactivity, border, catastrophe, and archaeology. It employs scientific monitoring and imaging techniques as well as photographic/videographic documentation.

At a practical level, some aspects of this project (such as time, space and budget) are negotiable. Nevertheless, given that 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, this is a remarkable year for the project to be realised. Also, taking the regional and cross border character of the idea into account, I believe the exhibition would make most sense at the foothills of the Ararat.


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On the steps of Antigone: poetic forensics of the disappeared, its body and land (Livia Daza-Paris)

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Location:              Venezuela
Dates:                   May 2015 – September 2017.


This project investigates unresolved and fragmented memories linked to non-official history of un-grieved state political violence in Venezuela in the 1960’s. It proposes to give evidence of a particular story and place set within the Latin American leftist uprising amidst the global Cold War climate. This multi-year project uses participatory artistic processes within art-based research, disciplines of narrative inquiry and poetic interventions to address historical trauma. Geographic, social and personal markers are being created and registered in a many-media poetic forensic archive. By poetic forensics I refer to a subtle non-linear process of investigating this story after the fact and  presenting it in a public forum. The questions driving the project are firstly, could working sensitively with historical-social trauma be seminal for change and igniting the imagination towards an affirmation of life?  Secondly, can artistic processes become tools for providing insight into such a premise? Thirdly, how do personal stories extend into a collective story that becomes history and how do we embody land and memories linked to historical trauma that have been made-to-disappear?  The title of this work, references Sophocles’ Antigone, who defied the established power so that her dissident rebel brother could be given proper funeral rites.



The issue of unresolved grief due to the disappearance of political activists in Latin America and specifically in Venezuela has seldom been addressed. This “historical amnesia”[1] has contributed to a great silence around the experiences of loss and trauma caused by organized state violence. A few years ago, I began an artistic personal investigation that focused on how grief and mourning may come to be expressed with the support of the imagination. My work, At the edge of the (far-)End, specifically looked into complicated grief: disappearance, trauma, and sudden ruptures of reality by incidents of violence (Stroebe & Schut[2]) and how this complicated grief can become manifested in one’s life as a state of melancholia (Freud). The melancholic suffers from an abyss separating language and its referents, suggesting that a new language form is required; in this way, the work itself developed by using the imagination, poetic narratives and artistic processes to make sense of the loss and discover, at least partially, truth surrounding the disappearance of my father by the Venezuelan state in the 1960’s.

[1] Galeano, E. We say no. (Mark Fried, Trans.) New York: Norton, 1992, p150.

[2] Stroebe M. and Schut H., “The dual process model of coping with bereavement: rationale and description.” Death Studies 23, no. 3 (April 1999), p.197-224.



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Sánchez G, Adriana (2012). «Antígona. Performance y género. Mujeres en la plaza» de Patricia Ariza, Memorias de Jalla Colombia, X Jornadas de andinas de literatura latinoamericana, Universidad del Valle, Cali.

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