King’s Artists at Bush House – ROAR’s exclusive commentary on the all-new exhibition.

Artist-academic collaborations interrogate our collective futures: ROAR investigates six artists-in-residence of Kings as they display their innovative, complex and thought-provoking pieces in a brand new exhibition at The Arcade (Bush House) King’s Artists – New Thinking, New Making, commences this October and runs until December 15th, 2018.

The Arcade at Bush House is part of the Cultural Quarter at KCL. Home to a diverse programme of events, installations and exhibitions, The Arcade offers a space in which students and the public can engage with each other, surrounded by a creative space, made up of works by artists and cultural partners. The Arcade aims to offer a direct connection between research and collaborative activity that takes place across the University, providing a new space on the Strand for conversation, reflection and engagement.

Over the past year, six contemporary artists have collaborated with leading King’s academics as part of ‘King’s Artists’, an innovative project which enables artists to develop their practice in parallel with academic research. An exhibition of creative responses to these collaborations opened on Tuesday 23 October at The Arcade.

Artist Gen Doy, a resident in the Department of Classics, works in collaboration with Professor Michael Trapp, Professor of Greek Literature & Thought. Together they have explored the history of Strand Lane ‘Roman’ bath and cultural mythology from its origins as a 17th Century cistern to its reinvention as ‘Roman’ through colourful urban myths. We learned from the exhibition that The Strand Lane ‘Roman’ Bath, a National Trust site, has been a long-running puzzle for historians and architects. Its identity and origins are clouded by the fact that, in its current layout, it remains separate from the familiar structures with which it once belonged, and which it depended on to contextualize its history. Thus, we may regard The Strand Lane ‘Roman’ Bath as a historical anomaly, unanchored by its surroundings and figuratively floating in a sea of the past…

(Gen Doy and Lynn Dennison, Mare Nostrum, in King’s Artists – New Thinking, New Making. Photo credit: Alex Lloyd © King’s College London.)

The exhibition outlines how: “The project, titled Layers and echoes: sounding imagined pasts in the Strand Lane Roman Bath, focuses on artistic processes (such as the use of text, sound, voice, and projection) and their potential to uncover the layering of the bath’s physical structure, its decoration and its various meanings.” 

Thus, the project’s ultimate aim lays at the inherent need that the artist feels to explore histories through physicality, aesthetics and decoration. From an outside perspective, it is interesting to consider how a creative and imaginative artistic intervention in and around the ‘Bath’ could inspire different responses from students and members of the public.

Creative-writer-in-residence, Rebecca Lynch worked with Professor Elizabeth Sklar, Head of the Centre for Robotics Research at King’s to develop experimental short films imagining technological futures for human-robot societies. The artwork was inspired by King’s state-of-the-art robotics research and explores the design, development and testing of future robotic technologies.

(Rebecca Lynch, Dreaming Machines, Humans in Residence, in King’s Artists – New Thinking, New Making. Photo credit: Alex Lloyd © King’s College London.)

Details from the artist specify that: “CoRe specialises in the advancement of robotic manipulators and sensors and intelligent, adaptive and interactive controllers. Working with Prof Sklar and researchers at CoRe, as well as other staff and students across King’s, Rebecca had access to state-of-the-art robotics research and an opportunity to observe the design, development and testing of robotic technologies up close and in depth.”

We discover that, during her residency, Rebecca engaged researchers in the Department of Informatics and the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences in two-way exchanges. These discussions were the catalyst for Morphologix, a series of experimental short fictions exploring imagined technological futures for human-robot societies, accompanied by a series of imagined artefacts to illustrate the stories and ideas in visual form. This part of the exhibition creates an opportunity for staff and students at King’s to interact with a new way of thinking: considering futurism, robotics and technology in the context of our modern day, millennial access to media is thought-provoking indeed.

 

Artist, curator and researcher Dr Kai Syng Tan worked with Professor Philip Asherson in the Department of Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry. Together they created a tapestry, titled ‘We sat on a mat and had a chat and made maps! #MagicCarpet’, which weaves together research, narratives and questions about mind-wandering.

(Dr Kai Syng Tan touches the #MagicCarpet in King’s Artists – New Thinking, New Making. Photo credit: Alex Lloyd © King’s College London.)

Dr Kai Syng Tan outlines the aim of her project: “Decorative yet grotesque, the tapestry bears shades of Perry, Bosch, Chagall, ‘outsider’ artist Henry Darger, concrete poetry and Hindu iconography, paying particular attention to how every line/mark/pixel/passing thought relates to the physical weave.”

Through their piece, Dr Tan and Professor Asherson aim to examine how ‘lofty’ art can help the medical world reimagine mental health. We sat on a mat and had a chat and made maps! #MagicCarpet is a direct means by which such discussions can be made tangible, approachable and easier to address. The project directly highlights some key questions that are important to consider in our modern world and in the context of mental health. For example, In what ways could a science-art collaborative exploration of mind-wandering open up spaces of ‘productive antagonisms to extend existing understanding of the boundaries between normal/abnormal behaviour, creativity and pathology? How to visualise and make visible the invisible, including spontaneous thoughts and hidden disability and difference? In what ways could visual art contribute to and complicate dominant discourses on wellbeing? What are the limitations and possibilities of thinking about and making ‘neurodiverse art’?

The viewer is able to consider such musings vicariously through physical touch as part of the ‘We sat on a mat and had a chat and made maps! #MagicCarpet’ exhibition, an important aspect that combines deep contemplation and direct sensory stimulation.

 

Design engineer Nassia Inglessis – whose work was displayed in the central courtyard at Somerset House during the London Design Biennale 2018 – has been resident in King’s Department of Informatics, working in collaboration with  Dr Richard Overill, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science. Examining what happens when artificial intelligence behaves unpredictably, Nassia’s immersive interactive sculpture, Disobedient AI, explores inversions of the future where human and artificial entities coexist.

(Nassia Inglessis, A Disobedient Intelligence for a Disobedient Space in King’s Artists – New Thinking, New Making. Photo credit: Alex Lloyd © King’s College London.)

As we learn from the exhibition: “Multi-sensorial and multi-material interactive works are an integral part of the feedback loop in Nassia’s human-centric design practice that studies logic and matter in the context of human cognition. Her installation pieces act within that process as an alternative platform for live experimentation and direct provocation. For Nassia, a crucial purpose of design is to contextualise scientific and empirical research so as to challenge predefined ideas and inspire new perspectives and prototypes of behaviour.”

Similarly to Dr Kai Syng Tan’s work, Nassia’s creative work emphasises physical interaction by means of providing participants with a visceral and tangible experience of AI agents by through direct interaction. The artist’s immersive interactive sculpture essentially aims to explore inversions of the future where human and artificial entities coexist, projecting future possibilities and urging the reader to consider futurism and the rise of artificial technologies not only as potentiality but as a real possibility.

 

Multidisciplinary artist Teresa Albor worked with Professor Sir John Strang and Dr Sally Marlow in King’s Department of Addictions. The sound/video/visual installation created for the exhibition is based on conversations with heroin users and the scientists and individuals who work with users and their families. The piece aims to give voice to the emotions of the people in close relation to heroin users.

(Teresa Albor, a visitor listens to Unconditional in King’s Artists – New Thinking, New Making. Photo credit: Alex Lloyd © King’s College London.)

We read: “Teresa has created a series of research-based art projects which were produced in collaboration with the Addictions Department and families supported by the charity Adfam. Teresa has been audio and video recording and transcribing conversations with these families.”

We learn that this research-led approach has led to new lines of enquiry: creative outputs have materialised as the collaboration and the process unfolds. The onus is put on the exploration of the subject as a central figure; the output of the project is a direct result of this process. One of Albor’s pieces is a video documentation of individuals (some with a lived experience of heroin use) who first sing a lullaby (as a signifier of unconditional love) and then re-enact rage triggered by someone they love. The project urges the viewer to ultimately consider and the relationships they have in their lives, either with loved ones or substance. By directly contrasting substance abuse against love, security and friendship, Albor is able to achieve a poignant message that emphasises the importance of each decision we make in our lives, and how impacting these decisions can be in our futures.

 

The Brooke Roberts Innovation Agency (BRIA) and Dr Matthew Howard, Department of Informatics, explored digital knitwear design and ‘wearable’ smart textiles that sense, actuate and capture human behavioural data through embedded sensors.

(BRIA, detail of Experimental Smart Textiles in King’s Artists – New Thinking, New Making. Photo credit: Alex Lloyd © King’s College London.)

The Brooke Roberts Innovation Agency details how: “Experimental smart textiles is a collaborative project focused on combining the project team’s expertise in digital knitwear design and sensor-embedded yarns with the ongoing ‘wearables’ research of Dr Matthew Howard and his team at King’s.” 

The project involves experimenting with various materials and knitting techniques to create a variety of textiles using industrial knitting machines. The ‘wearables’ will sense, actuate and capture human behavioural data through embedded sensors in the materials. Thus, the project examines complex relationships between movement, clothing and human activity, resulting in an interesting and thought-provoking thought process through which the foundations of true wearability, and the practicalities of clothing origins, are brought into question.

Events

6 November, 18.00 – 19.00: Teresa Albor and Dr Sally Marlow Unconditional film screening and discussion with Danielle Imara. Book tickets here.

26 November, 17.30 – 19.00: Gen Doy and Professor Michael Trapp Shades of the ‘Roman’ Bath in the Strand Lane ‘Roman’ Bath. Book tickets here.

4 December, 18.00 – 20.00: Dr Kai Syng Tan and Professor Philip Asherson Brisk / Risks open mic event. Book tickets here.

11 December, details TBC: Rebecca Lynch and Professor Elizabeth Sklar event. TBC.

 

The Exhibition will remain in The Arcade at Bush House: (South Wing, King’s College London, Strand WC2B 4PJ)

23 October – 15 December 2018

Monday – Saturday: 10.00 – 17.00

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