Archive for the 'Contextualisation Term 2' Category


Paul Virilio: The Aesthetics of Disappearance…..



Paul Virilio’s The Aesthetics of Disappearance considers the motivations and repercussions of a contemporary society fascinated by speed.

Speed, or velocity, is understood literally as space (distance) mapped against time (duration), reaching its absolute limit in light, which collapses both space and time.  Virilio is attuned precisely to the culturally correlated obsession with moving (driving, flying, riding) at high speeds and viewing (watching) moving (light) images. At this limit, light (absolute speed) dissolves the dualism suspended between these phenomena, that of embodied motion and that of disembodied stimulus.

Entwined within his writings is a socio-political narrative, one that Virilio articulates has a direct relationship between speed and power: a speed that affects invisibility, and an invisibility that affects power. 

When writing of Howard Hughes, who was one of the wealthiest people in the world and setter of multiple air speed records, Virilio notes that for the last quarter of his life Hughes, having pursued traditional avenues of wealth and having indeed accumulated quite a fortune, became a recluse of a particular sort of reclusion predicated on conjuring an inertia via speed. Faced with his impending death and haunted by the seeming transience of his material fortune, Hughes attempted a certain spatio-temporal simultaneity, parking the same unused cars and airplanes at airports across country, watching from his bed the same films again and again, and, in 1938, breaking the world air record for circumnavigating the world and then parking his triumphant airplane in the precise place it had stood before he had departed.

In enacting such loops, Hughes effects a certain omnipresent banality, the effect of remaining same across time and space. In the obsession with speed that occupies the latter portion of Hughes’ life Virilio argues that the real object of Hughes’ desire is not speed but rather an absolute power, a power as much over ones own physical mortality as over other people.

The example of Hughes speaks more generally of the insidious duplicity of speed.  Hughes is himself seduced by the reflexive narcotic of speed and its effectual weakening of embodied consciousness via the sensory dismissal of embodied temporality. 

Reading this book has made me think further about how it is temporal events, accumulative or singular, that shape this space.  I feel that it is these events that give this otherwise anonymous space an identity yet it is speed, movement and continuous transience that counteracts our ability to experience the non-space as an accumulation of our own incidences.


MADA 2: Practice and Contextualisation Essay…..

‘Locating the Personal within the M25: A study of London Orbital by Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit’ 

Foucault’s heterotopias……


I’ve been reading a bit of Michael Foucault to broaden my understanding of space and non-space.  I’ve found his writings on heterotopias to be quite insightful, according to Foucault:

First there are the utopias. Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces.

There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places – places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality.

Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias. I believe that between utopias and these quite other sites, these heterotopias, there might be a sort of mixed, joint experience, which would be the mirror. The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy.

From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.

Foucault separates the basis of all heterotopias into six main principles. 

1) All cultures have heterotopias.

2) They can be given different functions in relation to society changing over time.

3) They can juxtapose several real places into one.

4) They have a temporal dimension.

5) They are isolated through a system of opening and closing.

6) They are related to all other spaces. 

For a more detailed explanation of these principles see this website.

Food for thought….


julian opie, imagine you are driving….

Julian Opie attempts to find new ways of dealing with our world as one of accelerated movement and overabundant information. As representations of reality supplement reality itself, everyday experience is increasingly about a fast-paced flow of imagery.

Society is in flux, buffeted by a constant flow of information and of people. Our lives are channeled through road, air and rail routes, around airports, service and railways stations, dependent on invisible and interconnecting cable and wireless networks.

Auge believes that we do not yet know how to look at this world; it is in fact a world that we read rather than look at, a world through which we pass at speed.  Speed drastically alters our perception of the landscape and Opie’s art is much inspired by the idea of travel and motion.


 Imagine you are driving’ presents us with an endless sequence of images of the road ahead: we have less of a sense of the inspiring and exhilarating pace of movement, and more an expression of the anonymity and monotony of motorway travel. But the obsessiveness of the depiction is compelling. We fix on the white lines marking the tarmac, propelled by the vanishing point towards a horizon we never reach.

Opie attempts to capture the real effects of driving, how the car both liberates and distances us from the world – so that we pass through the landscape quickly and are closed off from direct experience of it. The sights, sounds, tastes, temperatures and smells of the material world are reduced to the two-dimensional view through a windscreen, we find ourselves in a sealed, stable, weightless environment, with our senses impoverished and our bodies fragmented, we fall into a dream-like state.

Opie feels that when we drive through the city, the streets and buildings become the backdrop to our thoughts, virtual passages through which we move, on the way to another place.  The signs and texts planted along the motorway tell us about the landscape through which we are passing, making its features explicit. This fact might enable us to refrain from the need to stop and really look. 

Because we are constantly on the move we are always in a state of distraction, having to deal with a barrage of visual and social stimuli.  This is where my own practice and Opie’s work overlap.  We are both questioning whether because of our ‘modern’ state, and specifically when within these ‘modern’ landscapes, have we learned to overlook the subtlety and detail of the space? And how does this change our experience of it?

In contrast to the visual stimuli that Opie presents to us in ‘Imagine you are driving’, Opie’s ‘Cityscape’ is an audio recording of a journey through London by car. In it, he and fellow artists Lisa Milroy, Richard Patterson and Fiona Rae recorded what they saw en route, each of them focusing on a specific subject category. Opie listed the brands of cars seen, Patterson identified building types, Rae read from posters and billboards and Milroy described the people he observed along the way.

For me this work emphasises that we are unable to assimilate everything that surrounds us; that we reduce what we do see to the essentials in order to negotiate our way. But on the other hand, the abstract flow of words can be as evocative as actual images, and just by listening to them; we can conjure up images that we know intuitively from memory. 

Our senses are always working and deciphering the world around us.  My task now is to break down these spaces into their component parts, to discover the D.N.A of the space (a phrase that Andy should have credit for!) Once I can understand this, I can use this information to manipulate the environment, to change the code as it were and present a different representation that will attempt to challenge the conventional way most of us experience this landscape.



chris o’shea – “out of bounds”

Chris O’Shea’s ‘Out of Bounds’ installation allows people to see through walls. The experience is made convincing by the artist giving visitors an infrared torch in which to project onto the walls and interact with the work. This works by the software tracking the position of the IR emitter via an overhead security camera, and the whole thing is coded to make the impact realistic.

The software is coded in Open CV (an open-source computer vision library from Intel, in C++) and OpenFrameworks (a lightweight multimedia C++ framework for artists)


Chris O’Shea stated:

‘There is a childlike quality about wanting the ability to see through walls with x-ray vision like a superhero character. I want to encourage visitors to bore through the walls of the museum and engage in a ‘behind the scenes’ experience with an x-ray torch. This playful interaction encourages childlike curiosity in young and old alike, and opens up a portal into the Museum’s forbidden spaces.  Shine the torch at the wall to reveal the secrets hidden beneath. Pay an anonymous visit to the staff office, collection’s store, workshop, roof hatch or plant room.’

I like this idea, it involves the audience and creates an experience for which the viewer can take away from the gallery and savour.  Everyone at some point must has wished that they had some form of superhero power! (I know I have, I keep asking my girlfriend for ‘The Force’ for Christmas, but so far she hasn’t come through) This is a playful and fun installation, what a day that would be when (even though only virtually) you had the ability to see through walls! 



“protude flow” – sachiko kodama + minako takeno

“Protrude, Flow” creates an illusion of sharply tapering mountain peaks; bizarre forms and flowing particle streams give rise to the impression that these shapes were no longer subject to gravity. 

At the basis of this illusion are magnetofluids and sound and image sequences. The black-looking liquid of the magnetofluid changes its form when it interacts with the sounds produced by visitors to the exhibit. A ceiling-mounted microphone records these sounds and a computer transforms them into electromagnetic tension, which regulates the strength of the installation’s magnetic field.

Every change in the magnetofluid is manifested synchronously with variations in the ambient soundscape, and is recorded by a digital video camera that projects the images onto a screen. 

The magnetofluid consists of fine ferromagnetic particles suspended in a liquid such as water or oil; it retains its powerful magnetism even in a fluid state. Three-dimensional organic patterns of great complexity can be produced with this substance.

There is something about Asian art that always seems to have a finesse and beauty that mose Western artists have trouble in achieving.  An innovative installation that although not specifically relevant to my own project, it does give an idea of the different ways in which new technology and the fundamentals of physical science can be combined and displayed to make something new, fresh and interesting. 





Pablo Valbuena – Augmented sculpture…..

I felt the need to research artists that have used innovative methods in projections and interaction. 

More to just get a feel for how his new technology has been utilised and applied in the number of different ways.  I hope for this research to inspire me in ways as to how I may be able to use this technology.


Pablo Valbuena’s work here is a 3 dimensional sculpture that uses projection to change these otherwise inanimate objects into something beautiful.  The cubes that sit almost camouflaged against their backdrop come alive when the projections of colour and light are added to their surfaces, transforming them into a sculpture that at times does not look of this earth.


June 2018
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