Rob is giving a keynote lecture at Mobile Utopias at Lancaster University here
Proving Grounds – Earth Lab
This colloquium brings together a number of artists, inventors and thinkers who re-imagine the earth, sea and sky from a bottom-up, post-anthropocene position, in a wide-ranging, broad-brushtroke survey of current thinking about Earth as a living laboratory. The speakers consider the sky, the oceans and the land to pursue a number of themes that investigate social and artistic approaches to scientific knowledge in a rapidly changing world.
John Beck, Director of The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture and part of Proving Grounds, describes the aims of ‘Earth Lab’: ‘Unless the grand schemes of aspiring space colonists turn out to be achievable, whatever work there is to be done remains here on Earth, where, for now, the limits of the atmosphere mark the limits of our habitable world. Earth is the first, and perhaps the last, laboratory, the object, material and context for experiment, for trying out ways of living and knowing. Earth is our proving ground and the site of our contested survival’.
Chair: Lucy Reynolds, artist, writer and lecturer in the moving image at Westminster University
Bronislaw Szerszynski, Reader in Sociology at Lancaster University, who has published widely in environmental sociology and humanities, will discuss his research on geoengineering and his ongoing work on ‘planetary mobilities’ that treats all kinds of mobility occurring in the Earth as achievements of a planet that is far from equilibrium, self-organising over deep, geological time. In particular he will discuss ‘the Drift Economy’, an imagined alternative mobility system inspired by Tomas Saraceno’s work, in which moving things are powered solely by ambient energy – the energy that surrounds an object due to its specific location in the flows occurring in a dynamic Earth system.
Tomas Saraceno, artist, will join by skype to discuss Aerocene: a multi-disciplinary project that foregrounds the artistic and scientific exploration of environmental issues. In the wake of the Anthropocene, the project promotes common links between social, mental, and environmental ecologies – inflated only by air, lifted only by the sun, carried only by the wind, towards a sustainable future.
Nicola Triscott, cultural producer, curator, writer and researcher, specializing in the intersections between art, science, technology and society, founder and director of Arts Catalyst and Principal Research Fellow in interdisciplinary art and science at the University of Westminster, will respond to the above, drawing on her experience of Saraceno’s Aerocene human flight in White Sands desert.
Naveen Rabelli, in his Project Tejas, attracted worldwide attention last year when he drove a Solar tuk tuk overland from Bangalore, India to London, in an attempt to create awareness of alternative mobility solutions for passenger vehicles in Asian and European countries using renewable energy in a mix of solar and electric power, stopping en-route in a 10,000 km route across Asia, the Middle East and Europe to inspire local communities with his journey.
Rob La Frenais, independent curator, writer and organiser of the ‘Earth Lab’ colloquium, will respond to Naveen Rabelli, drawing on his involvement with the Future of Transportation project. His recent exhibitions include ‘Exoplanet Lot’ and ‘No Such Thing As Gravity’, recently showing at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art.
Jennifer Gabrys, Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded ‘Citizen Sense’ research project, will discuss her book Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet, which examines how sensor technologies are programming our environments as new ‘technogeographies’.
Lise Autogena, Professor of Cross Disciplinary Art at Sheffield Hallam University and Joshua Portway, an artist, will discuss ‘Foghorn Requiem’, a musical performance to mark the disappearance of the foghorn from the UK’s coastal landscape with three brass bands and an armada of vessels at sea, sounding their horns in a requiem for the de-commissioning of foghorns, a melancholic and very human sound that connects the land with the sea.
Carlos López Galviz, Lecturer in the Theories and Methods of Social Futures at Lancaster University, looks at futures thinking and future forming through the lens of cities, ruins and infrastructure and discusses his co-authored book Global Undergrounds which charts the global reach of urban underground spaces, collecting 80 stories of subterranean sites around the world to reveal the profound – but often unseen – ways they have changed our lives.
Uta Kogelsberger, artist and Lecturer at Newcastle University, works with specific sites where human interactions with landscape become physical and visual manifestations of a society’s ideology and belief structures. Her ‘Off Road’ documents a Californian landscape of sand dunes regularly covered in a heavy fog where thousands arrive with their trailers, SUVs, self- built cars, quads and bikes living out a fantasy of autonomy and freedom – instrumental in sustaining the political system that houses it.
John Beck is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Westminster and Director of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture. He is the author of Dirty Wars: Landscape, Power, and Waste in Western American Literature and co-editor of Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theory, Aesthetics.
Christine Handte is Expedition Leader of the RV Heraclitus, a floating platform for scientific studies, ecological understanding, and multicultural, multidisciplinary projects, inspired by Heraclitus’s saying: “You cannot step in the same river twice. Neither the river nor the human, is the same.” The ship has sailed over 270,000 nautical miles through six oceans for 42 years, continuously exploring traditions of those who have lived on the sea, with the aim to create an onboard cadre of contemporary sea people and stewards of the oceans.
Neal White is an artist, director of the Office of Experiments and Professor of Art and Science at the University of Westminster. He will discuss the Office of Experiments work in exploring issues such as time, scale, control, power, cooperation and ownership, highlighting and navigating the spaces between complex bodies, organisations and events that form part of the industrial, military, scientific and technological complex.
Admission to the Colloquium is free. There are limited places and priority will be given to staff and students of the University of Westminster. There will be the opportunity for participation in a selected pecha kucha and poster session over drinks. Please register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/proving-grounds-earth-lab-tickets-36695153191 and send a 100 word statement of intent to the organiser at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be considered for a pecha kucha or poster.
Read and download the catalogue for No Such Thing As Gravity, Taiwan, here: 萬無引力-內頁-1
This is a compilation of all Rob’s criticism, papers, catalogue writing and other articles from 2014-2017. Please feel free to download and quote where you like but please credit his name and the publication in which it first appeared.
Hull, March 25, London April 27. More details here
No Such Thing As Gravity, Rob’s exhibtion at FACT Liverpool closes on February 5 2017. You can also hear him speak about the exhibition with Professor Chris French on January 28 here
Click here to see it.
Download the press release here: press-release-no-such-thing-as-gravity-at-fact-2016
No Such Thing as Gravity
Exhibition at FACT, Liverpool
11 November 2016 – 5 February 2017
Press Preview and Artist Talks: Thursday 10 November 2016, 11am – 12.30pm, The Box
The opening of the exhibition coincides with Day of Collisions, a programme of events by FACT and Arts at CERN, including talks and workshops around art and science.
This autumn, FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) presents the ambitious new exhibition No Such Thing as Gravity, exploring the ever-changing limits of science, through art. Showing at FACT from 11 November 2016 until 5 February 2017, the exhibition will feature a wide range of works merging art with scientific experiments, new and future technologies, and exploring the borders between life and death, as well as the limitations of our consciousness.
Curated by Rob La Frenais, No Such Thing as Gravity will exhibit both new commissions and existing works by artists including Tania Candiani, Yin-Ju Chen, Gina Czarnecki / John Hunt, Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand, Nick Laessing, Nahum Mantra, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Helen Pynor and Sarah Sparkes. Artworks include a car fuelled by water, a ghost inducing robot, and portraits made of skin cells.
No Such Thing as Gravity explores the idea of science being a continuing quest for knowledge, rather than a fixed framework. The exhibition is formed around the areas of science where the absence of established facts leave room for new theories, alternative science, conspiracy theories and irrational beliefs.
The Ghost Formula (2016) by Sarah Sparkes (UK) takes inspiration from Marcel Duchamp’s artwork, A GUEST + A HOST = A GHOST (1953), and is one of the artworks exploring mysteries surrounding the relationship between the living and the dead. Sparkes’ aim is to create a research archive which investigates the nature of ghosts and their ‘hosts’, and the conditions in which ghosts may be made. The archive draws on Liverpool’s historical and contemporary ghost narratives with input from experts within various fields and also includes two visually mesmerizing ‘infinity portals’ inviting spectators to visit two separate locations, and a robotic machine attempting to create a ghost. Another example is the new research project The End is a Distant Memory (2016) by Helen Pynor (AU/GB), which explores the ambiguous borders between life and death at cellular and experiential levels by studying ‘marginal’ cells that remain alive inside dead tissue, and experiences of people who have survived clinical death. Similarly, Heirloom (2016) by Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt (UK) tests the limits of medical science and the possibility of using cell growth to recapture eternal youth. Looking at the potential impact of innovation on personal identity, and being able to ‘make’ ourselves, artist Czarnecki and scientist Hunt have created a living process of growth tissue, where delicate skin cells frame portraits of Czarnecki’s daughters. Visitors will also be able to explore the rapid prototyping used to develop the bases for these masks, and 3D print model versions of their own faces.
One of the artworks investigating the laws of physics is Water Gas Car (2013 – present) by Nick Laessing (UK/DE), which questions what energy really is. Drawing on his research into the alternative energy community, Laessing has been attempting to build a car that is fuelled only by water.
The three-channel video installation Action at a Distance (2015) describes a universe where science and pseudoscience are simply two complementary routes to understanding human life, and is the third chapter in a series of work by Yin-Ju Chen (TW), supported by the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture. This chapter addresses the body, governments, and state violence. The second chapter in Chen’s project, Extrastellar Evaluations II: A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems will be displayed at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester from 21 October 2016 until 15 January 2017, partially coinciding with No Such Thing as Gravity. Inspired by and borrowed from Galileo’s book A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, the second chapter discusses the order and the meaning of the consciousness of the solar system.
Curator Rob La Frenais has spent 17 years working with artists in scientific environments through the science-art organisation The Art Catalyst. Having accessed places such as space agencies and nuclear facilities, La Frenais says: “Contemporary art and science collaborations have now reached a state of unprecedented maturity, with artist residencies at CERN, European Space Agency, Antarctica stations, and other places previously closed to outsiders. Is it now a good time to examine some of the admitted fault-lines of knowledge, and for artists to work creatively with scientists to suggest some more transformative and less conventional approaches?”
No Such Thing as Gravity will be accompanied by a comprehensive public programme of performances and talks, including Sarah Sparkes’ continuation of her programme of research seminars – Ghost Hostings – with an interdisciplinary seminar and performance event exploring the concept of ‘a formula for ghost making’. An extensive film programme of both popular cinema and artist-made, and selected, film will also be offered throughout the exhibition.
Additionally, there will be a live programme focusing on the use of technology within music, showcasing female producers who work within this field, and the ‘magic’ of hardware and software will be unlocked through a series of learning sessions with local coding club Liverpool Girl Geeks. Family friendly activities such as playful hands-on experiments introducing coding, arduino technology, and basic robotics will also be happening at FACT alongside the show.
The preview of the exhibition on 10 November coincides with the FACT and Arts at CERN event Day of Collisions, which will offer a range of activities investigating the relationship between art and science.
The event is part of the three-year COLLIDE CERN FACT Framework Partnership, which includes workshops, events, and the International Residency Award COLLIDE, granting an artist a fully funded residency split between CERN in Geneva, and FACT in Liverpool. Day of Collisions will include an Arts at CERN roundtable discussion with South Korean artist Yunchul Kim, the winner of this year’s COLLIDE International Award, and his partner scientist from CERN, who will discuss Kim’s residency project Cascade and their experience of, and the possibilities for, a meaningful art and science collaboration. This will be the first public presentation of the residency, and the revelation of Kim’s partnering scientist.
Day of Collisions will also present a No Such Thing As Gravity Artist Talk, where a number of artists will discuss their work in the exhibition, followed by a panel discussion with curator La Frenais. The yearly Roy Stringer Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Amaze, will host writer, political commentator and broadcaster Will Self to give a typically provocative lecture on the relationship between art and science, and host a Q&A session with the audience. There will also be opportunities to participate in the event Voyage: A session for remembering, where artist Nahum Mantra uses hypnotism to explore the possibilities of producing an intimate experience of travelling to the Moon. Additionally, a Tarot Card workshop with artist Yin-Ju Chen will teach participants the art of tarot cards, introducing mystic symbols to encourage participants to develop their trust in their intuition. This workshop will also take place at Godlee Observatory, University of Manchester on Tuesday 18 October 6pm – 7.30pm, as part of Chen’s exhibition Extrastellar Evaluations II – A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems at CFCCA.
FACT’s Gallery 1 will host a variety of works by artists motivated by how theoretical physicists are still not in agreement about fundamental concepts, and artists who use bio-medical research as part of their examinations and artworks.
A selection of works by Evelina Domnitch (NL/BY) and Dmitry Gelfand (NL/RUS) will be on display, including the new commission Quantum Lattice (2016), which is based on experiments with an ion trap, a scientific instrument which at the end of the 20th century enabled physicists to investigate the quantum behaviour of single isolated atoms for the very first time. Thirty years later, the ion trap has become a key instrument in experimental physics and quantum computing, and provides the only means to capture and store antimatter. Using pulsed laser illumination to reveal the ceaseless oscillations of trapped particles, this new work investigates the subtle interactions between light, electrodynamically levitated matter, and gravitational forces. Quantum Lattice was produced in collaboration with FEAT (Future Emerging Art and Technology).
Heirloom (2016) by Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt (UK) tests the limits of medical science and the possibility of using cell growth to recapture eternal youth. Looking at the potential impact of innovation on personal identity, and being able to ‘make’ ourselves, artist Czarnecki and scientist Hunt have created a living process of growth tissue, where delicate skin cells frame portraits of Czarnecki’s daughters. Visitors will also be able to explore the rapid prototyping used to develop the bases for these masks, and 3D print model versions of their own faces. It imagines and offers a cultural laboratory for the future of the face. Heirloom is created by Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt, with Saskia and Lola Czarnecki-Stubbs, and developed for display with Medical Museion as part of the EU Creative Europe funded project, Trust Me I’m an Artist. Heirloom is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and is a Forma Arts touring production.
Action at a Distance (2015) is the third chapter in a series of work by Yin-Ju Chen (TW), addressing the body, governments, and state violence. Like previous chapters, this three channel video installation expands and summarizes the metaphysical threads between invasive surgeries and instances of state violence. This chapter and its previous iterations ultimately describe a cohesive and interwoven universe, where science and pseudoscience are merely two complementary routes to understanding human life. The project is supported by the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture.
Water Gas Car (2013-present) by Nick Laessing (UK/DE) questions what energy really is, and if it always adheres to the laws of physics. Investigating theories about free energy, cold fusion and new forms of propulsion, Laessing has spent a decade visiting backyard inventors, and is attempting to build a car that is fuelled only by water, neither accepting nor rejecting the idea that his experiments might work.
Studies in Applied Falling / Hammer and Feather (2012) by Agnes Meyer-Brandis (DE) will also be on display in Gallery 1. The point of departure of the project is the exploration of gravity in the tradition of Galileo’s famous theory of free fall. The legendary proof, delivered by the astronaut David Scott on the Apollo15 lunar mission in 1971, serves the artist as a metaphor for the inscrutability of reality and the obscurity of scientific research methods. Agnes Meyer-Brandis sees Scott’s experiment as an artistic directive – her laboratory re-enactment of the hammer and feather experiment is just one of numerous apparent studies of objects and phenomena that oscillate between falling and floating: fallen stars, space debris, interstellar dust, gravitational interference and meteor craters. The video Hammer and Feather drop, Braunschweig was realized in cooperation with the Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics (IGEP) of the TU Braunschweig.
Gallery 2 will host the new research project The End is a Distant Memory (2016) by Helen Pynor (AU/GB), exploring the ambiguous borders between life and death at cellular and experiential levels. Working as artist in residence at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden during 2015, Pynor has studied ‘marginal’ cells that remain alive inside dead tissue, considering the implications of a breakdown between living ‘subject’ and dead ‘object’, and investigated the experiences of people who have survived clinical death. This project is supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.
Gina Czarnecki’s project MyPod, by The Lastwish Company Ltd. will be displayed on The Wall on the first floor at FACT, responding to how coffins remain as expensive, environmentally harmful and old-fashioned as they were 300 years ago, even though the rest of the world has moved on inextricably. Czarnecki’s affordable MyPod is the only ‘coffin’ made out of a new, strong, 100% natural and biodegradable material, whilst also being suitable for all crematoriums and burial grounds. Designed to empower people at their most vulnerable, whilst making a statement about our relationship with the world, people can personalise the MyPod, using photographs, personal messages, tickets, and mementos, helping to process grief through art, design and remembrance.
Housed on the ground floor, the new commission The Ghost Formula (2016) by Sarah Sparkes (UK), taking inspiration from Marcel Duchamp’s artwork, A GUEST + A HOST = A GHOST (1953), aims to create a research archive presenting an interrogation of the nature of ghosts and their ‘hosts’, and the conditions in which ghosts may be made. Drawing on Liverpool’s historical and contemporary ghost narratives, contributions have been collected in collaboration with local paranormal research groups, psychologists, neuroscientists, academics, spiritualist churches as well as the wider community. Chris French, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, has also contributed his expert knowledge on the psychology of paranormal beliefs. The archive doubles as an interactive installation, and includes two visually mesmerizing ‘infinity portals’ inviting spectators to visit two separate locations, and to consider the nature of their material movement through time. Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre has commissioned Sarah Sparkes to undertake a residency, workshops and new commission on site supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, in partnership with FACT and National Museums Liverpool. A robotic machine will also be designed by the artist, attempting to create a ghost.
The large-scale projection Machine For Flying Besnier 1673 by Tania Candiani (MX) was made in zero gravity in Star City in Russia, as part of the Matters of Gravity project. Candiani, who represented Mexico at the Venice Biennale last year, works with disappearing projects and the poetic uses of engineering. Projected onto Ropewalks Square, this new work, shown for the first time in the UK, is based on pioneering anti-gravitational devices and marvellous inventions that were ahead of their time.
No Such Thing as Gravity will tour to National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art (NTMoFA), from April until June 2017.
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