A series of interviews with SPACE Art + Technology artists in residence
What were you doing in the year leading up to the residency?
My practice has become more collaborative and discursive in recent years. Most of the work I have done in the last year has been collaborative in some way. I am part of two working groups, Laboria Cuboniks and A.S.T. I’ll describe them briefly in turn.
Laboria Cubonics is a group of 6 women across 5 countries. Together we developed the idea of Xenofeminsim (XF), a techno materialist, anti-naturalist form of feminism that sees abstraction, complexity and the human capacity for reason as a means to construct a future. In 2015 we collectively wrote a manifesto called Xenofeminsm: A politics for Alienation. In the time since writing it we have been working both independently and together on a range ideas we introduced in the original text. My focus has been on the question of alienation. How are we using, and in some ways re-tooling the term, what do we mean? How, where and when is it a productive force? So this has meant I have been doing a good deal of reading, writing and talking...along with making work that tries to articulate some of these ideas in visual form. This included an exhibition at The Treignac Project called Xenogenisis after Octavia Butler’s book. The show was an installation designed by me in collaboration with Sam Basu and Liz Murray who run the space and included some of Butler’s text as well as work from Sophie Calle.
The other collaboration is A.S.T (Alliance of the Southern Triangle). It consists of myself, two architect/artists in Miami and a curator in New York (Elite Kedan, Felice Grodin and Patricia Margarita Hernandez). Together we develop interdisciplinary projects that address global climate change, cities, real-estate development, taxation, insurance schemes, terraforming, statecraft and art. The work takes a range of forms including painting, sculptural and architectural work as well as video installations that explore how speculative art and design can develop thought appropriate to current geospatial, political, urban, ecological and cultural realities. Most recently we did a seven screen video installation at the Sharjah Biennale in collaboration with Keller Easterling.
What are you working on at the moment?
My focus at the moment is split between two projects.
The first is with A.S.T. We are organising a summit in Miami in October. As a group we are interested in using art as a platform to think about what cities are and how they function, in particular with regard to climate change. The summit will bring together professionals from a range of fields with the aim of producing new knowledge and lines of thinking for the future of coastal cities. We hope to develop ideas that while being very speculative will be grounded in realism and science. Participants will include a climate modeller, the city engineer, the mayor of south Miami (who is also a biologist) and fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson. We are bringing them together in the context of art in the hope that the purported ‘freedom’ available within an art context, can allow them to think together outside the usual rigour of their fields whilst still remaining grounded in the real. We believe this is what Art can do as a political agent. It can function as a synthetic medium through which ideas (and by extension realities) can be constructed. This is the primary aim of the summit but also of A.S.T. more generally. We also hope that the event in October will just be the start of the collaborative process with this larger group. It is such an exciting line up of people, coming together around such an urgent issue, we would very much like to think of this as the beginning of a longer term project.
The other project is with three other members of Laboria Cubonics in collaboration with HAUS robotics lab at the TU in Vienna. It is part of a series of events called Vermögen that will take place over the first week of November ’17 in Vienna. We are still working out the format of the whole thing but I am pretty clear at this point that I will be designing a video installation and writing a script with my colleague Helen Hester addressing questions around robotics, cybernetics, automation and gender. I have been looking at the work of Charles and Ray Eames, both the IBM World Fair Pavilion and their films for inspiration. A particular favourite is a 1953 film called A Communications Primer. I admire the ability to communicate complex ideas, profound ideas, clearly and matter-of-factly, The Eames really were the masters of this.
How did you find the residency?
It was really fantastic. Generally speaking, time in the studio is always haunted by a feeling of trying to crunch in as much as possible into the least amount of time, that time is really precious, but the residency allowed me to relax a bit, allow myself to have conversations and to understand that the interaction in the studio was an important part of the residency and the work. I think it was really well curated. I was in the studio space during the second half of the residency which meant I was there with Ilona and Gary. We were really well grouped! There was a lot of crossover of interest and references. It was a real treat and I think made a good foundation for long term friendships even if the UK is losing Gary to MIT....!
What’s coming next?
In the short term, there is the summit in Miami and the Vermögen event in Vienna that I mentioned above. I do hope to develop something from the summit so it has a life beyond the event itself. We will definitely do a publication of some sort and are currently negotiating a couple possibilities but even beyond that, I would love to be able to do a much larger project, perhaps building another pavilion (I did one in Essex with Commissions East in 2008 with Roman Vasseur) A.S.T. is comprised of two licensed architects and I also have a background in architecture and though much of what we do is in the context of art, we would love to have the chance to actually build something at scale!! It could function like the Serpentine Summer Pavilion, housing a series of conversations on the issue of how will cities cope with the near and long term realities of climate change. What possibilities could it provide? Looking at it from this almost constructivist angle rather than just looking at the idea of trying to hold back the sea which seems like kind of a losing battle, the species plays Sisyphus for our final act. That obviously won’t do.
In addition to this there is a long term project I have been trying to develop for some time that rests in both theory and practice. It is the idea of Xenotemporality. The first practical step will be a short stint as a guest artist at CERN in early 2018 which I am very excited about.
The idea itself proposes that an anthropogenic conception of time is too parochial for our current needs. The primacy of human phenomenological experience of time is no longer sufficient for how we organise, inflect and orient the systems we have created because these systems function on scales beyond the experiential capacity of the human. GPS satellites and High Frequency Trading provide two examples that I have looked at and my hunch is that some of the work done at CERN could provide another example. I would like to use my time at CERN to understand better how time is thought of for both theoreticians and experimentalists there and then in turn use these conversations as a basis for a video work that operates at the meeting point of human knowledge of time, how it operates outside of the human, and our experience of it...in short what does time do when we aren’t looking and how does it change when we do?
My sense is that this is primarily a question of scale. Due to our physiology, we are confined to a particular temporal experience with regard to scale, but due to our technology we have the capacity to ‘know’ reality beyond this scale. I am interested in where knowledge and experience meet and how the two form our understanding of the universe and the human as a product of its constituent forces.
The idea of Xenotemporality demotes our instinctive historical understanding of time, endorsing a productive alienation between our experience and our knowledge that broadens how we think about the very idea of ‘the future’ and how we might go about constructing one.
As said, this is a long term project that will likely take many forms. It is a project that I have already done countless funding applications for and likely will do countless more, so much so that funding applications seem a large part of what my practice is...but they do serve the purpose of forcing me to regularly clarify what it is I am interested in and what my commitments are.