The Networked Condition Case Study #6 with On-Trade-Off

At the start of 2020, Fast Familiar, Abandon Normal Devices and Arts Catalyst began The Networked Condition, an ongoing collaborative research project exploring the environmental impact of digital cultural production.

The project is part of The Accelerator Programme (led by Julie’s Bicycle and Arts Council England), which supports organisations to advance sustainable practices and share insights with peers and the wider sector.

As part of The Networked Condition, we’ve been speaking to artists and researchers whose work uses and/or critically reflects on digital tools and environmental challenges, to gain insight into a range of ideas and approaches. We are publishing these case studies as we go along, with the intention that they will be a source of shared knowledge, inspiration or reflection for others too.

The sixth case study is with On-Trade-Off - Jean Katambayi Mukendi and Maarten Vanden Eynde who have traced the raw material lithium and its crucial role in the global transition towards a ‘green' and fossil fuel free economy.
Could you start by telling us a bit about your individual practices and how your collaboration through On-Trade-Off came about? 
Jean Katambayi Mukendi: 
It started with Atelier Picha, Centre for Art in Lubumbashi City. We are collaborating with Enough Room for Space in Brussels. But firstly, we are artists, myself and Maarten. The core topic in my practice is a kind of social algorithmic criticism. One day I met Maarten and Enough Room for Space, and found that we have very similar concerns. We make criticisms of the world, of our society in relation to energy, through algorithms and mathematical approaches. During our meeting, we decided almost immediately to collaborate and now we are making a project.  
We developed this concept On-Trade-Off about extractivism in Congo. Lubumbashi City especially is a place of many interests — one of materials and minerals, of extractive activities, but Congo is living in precarity as a result of this economic approach. I have to separate the responsibility from the international side, in terms of my population, my public, to establish our own responsibility about the poverty and about our situation. And this kind of separation is very deeply algorithmic. And we have to talk about that differently. One of my main research topics is electricity, because we are using electricity, data as energy, but without being able to manage it correctly. 
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
Like Jean says, we were both interested in this connection between digital technologies, but also the material ingredients that make it possible. We both don't see it as something that exists individually, but something that is interconnected with the materials that make it possible. You don't have software without hardware. It's not individual entities, but they are interconnected. That's also how we got to know each other.  
I went for the first time to Congo in 2015 when I was doing research on the origin of raw materials that are used in technologies that represent technological inventions, and that might find a place in a future geological layer. What kind of material traces will we leave behind and also how will we read them? What are they communicating? And you have, first of all the material remnants. What could be found in this future geologic layer, but then afterwards also what they mean or what they represent, and then in order to figure that out, I started mapping these material ingredients and tracing where they come from. So I made several works with raw materials that come from an original site, either in a mine or in nature, where this raw material has been extracted. So that's how we got to know each other, and then immediately because we had similar interests and topics we worked on, we stayed in touch and worked on things together.  
We joined forces and started the project On-Trade-Off in the framework of the Contour Biennale in 2018. And that focuses specifically on lithium as one of the main ingredients for the “Green Revolution”. But immediately, although we focused on lithium as a starting point, and also a geographic location, in Manono, Democreatic Republic of Congo (DRC), where possibly the largest lithium reserves in the world have recently been recently found, we also expand to a broader field of rich research relating to energy in general, and electricity as Jean says, because it's all interconnected in that sense. And then also other ingredients come in because if you look at lithium as a material that is used in batteries, it's almost always in combination with cobalt, which is another kind of raw material that is very much connected to Congo. So there are other artists that are more focused on that. That's something that we've been working on since then.  
We’re now preparing for the first time a really large exhibition in Z33 (Belgium) that will open in March 2022, where most of the works of the participating artists will be shown together for the first time. There are 11 artists and two people, Lotte Arndt and Oulimata Gueye, who are both curators, writers and thinkers who work in the group more as an editorial board, but they are part of the collective of On-Trade-Off.  
So will that be the first time that all of the On-Trade-Off practitioners have been brought together to show work in an exhibition? 
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
Yes, that's a bit how these projects work. They are being built up gradually, and they exist as multiple presentations, residencies, working periods, talks, and so on. So if you look on the website On-Trade-Off from Enough Room for Space you can find the past history of the last three years of all the public events we did. We did already do a few exhibitions with works that were being finished along the way, but this is the first time that most of the participants will have works, and a few will be also newly produced for the occasion of the exhibition. So a big moment for the project. 
Jean Katambayi Mukendi: 
I remember the LUNÄ Talk at Contour Biennale, and before that the Lubumbashi City Biennale.   
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
Yeah, there was an exhibition in Amsterdam, and one in Paris. And then there have been multiple residences, both here in Belgium, and then quite a lot of artists have been also to Manono where this lithium mine has been found. First me and Jean Katambayi and Gulda El Magambo, and then Alexis Destoop and then Georges Senga and then Pamela Tulizo, so quite a lot of artists have been there because it's a particular context and because you're part of a history that is unfolding. It's not a functional mine yet. There is no lithium coming from Congo yet. It is still part of speculation in a material sense.
Most of the time if you visit a mine, it is already functioning, but in Manono it is still a site of speculation. And there's also Femke Herregraven who works with financial speculation and digital twin mines, and this is very much connected. First you need to know how much material is there, how much it’s worth, who will put money in it and it's all speculation before they actually start the work on the ground. 
Jean Katambayi Mukendi: 
It would be strange for us to speak about Manono and lithium without directly connecting with the locality, and that’s why even on our website, we try to translate what we can in the local language from Manono to try to make more connections with the area.
Thinking about the contexts in which On-Trade-Off’s work and research has been presented — for example gallery exhibitions and biennales — could you talk more about the relationship between your projects and the people who are directly affected by these questions that you're looking into and by the activities that are happening in those areas? What is the relationship like between yourselves and the communities living in and around the area of the mine? Is there an ongoing dialogue happening? 
Jean Katambayi Mukendi: 
One of our main goals is to establish a public dialogue between our project in Manono and Lubumbashi, because Lubumbashi City is where cultural activities and academic research is happening, whilst Manono is the centre of material extraction and mining, situated almost 600 kilometers from Lubumbashi. So our aim was to build an infrastructure for a relationship between Lubumbashi and Manono through the website, with the intention that we can then create more connections through artworks, culture and education.  
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
The recurrence or the revisiting is something which is really important, and that's why there have been four trips to Manono by different members of the team of On-Trade-Off. We connect with the same people that are locally there on the ground. When we were there, we had a lot of ambitions about opening an art centre and having an open-air museum and so on, but of course, the local complexities do not always allow for such a fast change. But there is a continuous contact, like there are two people that I'm in near monthly conversation with.
It's small things but sometimes for people, it makes a whole difference. There was a young guy who was helping with audio recording when we were doing interviews, and then he went from Manono to Lubumbashi to get his driver's license for a truck to drive materials around. I helped him to finance his driver's license, and its small things, but it is also a way to keep in touch. When we go back, there is a possibility to work with him, not just as a help for interviews, but that he would be a driver to go somewhere. 
It's also a slow, gradual building up of local relationships that enforce the project, but it is difficult to continue doing that in practice in real life because of the distance, even from Lubumbashi, it's really far away, so it is not that you can visit each other easily and work together. If you take the road to get to Manono in the rainy season you might not arrive, or it might take so long that when you arrive you need to turn back already. So there's a lot of other practical things that make it difficult, but it is something that we keep working on.  
There is now a new project that we're working on which is in the proposal phase. I don't know yet how we need to realise it, whether it includes a direct connection with Manono or if, for instance, we are working on the website or publication in the future, but we will also include the translation in the local language when it arrives there, so that it's also accessible. And that would be something we give out when somebody else is going to Manono, so that we bring specific things for certain people that we met before. That way there is a longer continuous relationship and exchange that is being established. 
Jean Katambayi Mukendi: 
When we thought about making a big outside museum in Manono, we were thinking about the challenges of trying to develop something in a place that has been so exploited and how it could provide an alternative local economy in Manono. It’s something we have been dreaming about, so maybe one day.  
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
It’s also an old dream, it seems. Yesterday I went to the archive of the Africa Museum in Tervuren, and I found a thesis of a history student at the University of Lubumbashi, which is there in the archives, and it's written in the 90s, about Manono. And he was saying exactly what we said, but he was saying it as a kind of proof of what it was turning into. He said, “This place is slowly turning into an open-air museum, with all the objects, all the remnants that are there, and it can actually generate tourism in the future. People will come and look at these archaeological remnants of the industrial site of Manono.”  
With Manono being a site of speculation, how do you think your work in that area might change once it becomes an operational mining site? 
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
I'm not sure. One of the things that needs to happen first is going back there. For me, that’s always very important to be there myself and to work with actual materials from there and to meet people, to see the situation myself. That's why I still have this continuous contact with people there, to know what is going on and how the situation is evolving. Because the situation changes and because more information becomes available, this longevity is really important.  
You have different conversations, and that sparks a new idea, a new concept, and in that sense it is continuous. And also, for Z33, we're still not nearing the end of the project, because Z33 is the first major exhibition within that research project. But then afterwards, there’s Lubumbashi biennale in 2022, and then a big exhibition with a lot of other discursive elements in Framer Framed in Amsterdam in 2023. So we're talking about at least another two to three years that we will be within that project and other things that might emerge, Also new works are being made hopefully within that timeframe. There will also be a lot of progress in Manono itself and that we can incorporate or relate with and work with. 
Jean Katambayi Mukendi: 
I will just put on the table my preoccupation — how can a city [Manono] which provides minerals for infrastructure and electricity, exist without electricity and education itself? We are sharing the research on the website, but people in Manono and some people in Lubumbashi are not able to browse or search the website because of the lack of infrastructure. Because of this, we have thought about making a physical book so that we can reach more people.  
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
That is something that again, we share, as other people in the group [On-Trade-Off] are much more in favour of making a website whereas me and Jean are more interested in hardware, more fond of a book or something that you can hold in your hand and take with you, and that you can access also without the presence of electricity, because it's such a different medium and something that I guess speaks more to us. So I'm also very much in favour of that. But it depends on the possibilities we will have in the coming years if we can realise that.  
Could you talk a bit more about your methods or research process? 
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
The research periods and residencies are part of working as an artist. Making work and showing that work, and together with other works, whether it's in an exhibition or an artist talk, it's all part of the communicative aspect of art making, which is part of the research as well. So, it's a kind of a continuous loop that feeds in one episode after the other. So that's why within On-Trade-Off, and I would say within our individual practices as well, it is something that is interconnected that one thing follows the next. It is not so clearly divided between a research stage, a production stage and then a presentation stage. They all somehow merge into each other and feed into a kind of a thought process that continues. 
Jean Katambayi Mukendi: 
The meeting point of all our practices [within On-Trade-Off] is artistic research into the societal implications of extraction of raw materials. We bring different methods and approaches that build a body of work and can reach people in different ways.  
What do you feel are the key questions driving the research of On-Trade-Off?  
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
One of the difficulties that we encountered, and it's a bit of a catch 22, is that we use a lot of digital technologies to talk about problems relating to digital technologies. We were working on a proposal for the Belgian pavilion in Venice in 2020, and the only way to work on it together, because there's also a participant in Australia, was to use these digital technologies and zooming and emailing and whatnot, to work together to talk about the issue. On the one hand, it's a little bit perverse, but on the other hand, it's also not necessarily something you need to throw out. It's not the technology in itself, that is bad. It's the way that it is being used or built or how it is made possible in an unequal and socially unjust way. And it's the same with a lot of technologies or materials in that way. It's not per se the technology or the material that is bad, but it's the way it is being implemented and distributed and so on.  
That's one of the key issues, but another one that Jean already mentioned briefly is also this absurd outcome in the DRC of having an abundance of raw materials that are necessary to make this technology but on the other hand, the realities of extremely limited presence or infrastructure that they enable elsewhere — not only of the internet, but even electricity. It's one of the most bizarrely expensive things. A copper wire extension cable in Congo costs easily four times as much as what we're used to in Europe, but the copper is coming from the DRC. So how is that possible? These are all touching upon big geopolitical issues that we won't be able to solve but that we definitely have to deal with within our project. 
Jean Katambayi Mukendi: 
This is the dichotomy. We are ourselves in some kind of trap to try to resolve something, but we have to draw attention to these issues. Our goal is to make issues visible and communicate them through our work. As artists we have a responsibility to do the research and draw attention to the problems.  
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
We're not politicians, and we're not necessarily activists either. Although sometimes we are. 
Jean Katambayi Mukendi: 
Sometimes it is necessary for us. In our own process, we are invested in showing the problems to society so that policymakers could solve them.  
The question of how do you not trap yourself with the tools that you have to hand is a key one for cultural organisations and artists. This is also a complexity presented by funding opportunities which often ask; what can an artwork or a project can do? What can it solve or what intervention can it make?  
But as you’ve both alluded to, the ultimate long-term intention of artistic research that responds to urgent issues is its ability to grow wider critical awareness through working consistently with a research question or an issue and growing a community of co-thinkers in this. It shares a methodology with activism and movement-building, with the intention that growing critical consciousness might mobilise a wider cultural shift that policymakers and people who are able to make systemic and structural changes can't ignore.  
Maarten Vanden Eynde: 
In that sense, a very critical and pertinent question can be the best answer to give. And it's something that this freedom you have as an artist, rather than as a policymaker, or businessman, or an an inventor, where it's very much answer-oriented, solution-oriented. But sometimes the question is the best answer, if it's a good critical and mind-opening one. 
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Living Assemblies - Design Your Silken Self

‘Living Assemblies’ is a hands-on workshop, led by designer and researcher Veronica Ranner, investigating the coupling of the biological material silk with digital technologies. 

This workshop is organised in partnership with The Arts Catalyst and in cooperation with Furtherfield.

We invite participants (experts in their own field – artists, designers, scientists, writers, technologists, academics, and activists) to join a weekend-long workshop, in which we will experiment with silk and a range of transient materials to imagine potential future applications for combining biological and digital media.

Traditional methods of crafting silk have barely changed in 5000 years, but recent explorations by scientists are uncovering extraordinary new potential uses for this material.  Reverse engineered silk is one of the few biomaterials not rejected by the human body. Rather, able to be fully absorbed by human tissue, it allows for a range of applications within and interacting with the body, including human bone and tissue replacements, biosensors and biodegradable electronics opening the potential to imagine new wearables and imlantables with a range of functions.

During this two-day workshop, participants will collaboratively explore the potential of reverse engineered silk, currently confined to laboratories. Taking the body as the first site for investigation, Veronica Ranner will ask participants to consider themselves as living assemblies that can be hacked, enhanced and patched into through using bio-digital materials. Activities will involve material experiments combined with a narrative design process to speculate on silk's possible future use in the world.

Workshop details

Day 1

With Veronica Ranner, Clemens Winkler and Luke Franzke, participants will be introduced to transient materials — such as reversed engineered silk — through hands-on experimentation with a range of materials, including agar-agar, gelatine, fibroin, glucose and silk-fibres. They will use digital methods and circuits and combine them with silken materials, to then begin forming their own ideas into speculative objects and artworks.

Day 2

Innovator, scientist and intermedia artist, Gjino Sutic will introduce the concept of ‘bio-tweaking’: improving and hacking living organisms, for example through metabolism hacking, neuro-tweaking, tissue engineering and organ growing. Participants will work together with science writer Frank Swain to construct narratives around their work. In the final session, participants will map out their ideas in discussion with the group.

Workshop Leader

Veronica Ranner is a designer, artist and researcher living and working in London. She researches the burgeoning domain of the bio–digital — a converging knowledge space where digitality and computational thinking meet biological matter. She dissects and creates tangible and immaterial manifestations of such collisions, examining hereby the polyphonic potential of alternative technological futures. Her current doctoral work explores paradigm shifts in reality perception by coupling speculative (bio)material strategies and information experience through design research. Veronica holds a degree in Industrial Design from Pforzheim University, a Masters in Design Interactions (RCA), and has worked trans-disciplinary with a variety of science institutions and biomedical companies, and she teaches and lectures internationally. Her work is exhibited internationally, including at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem (2012), Science Gallery, Dublin (2012), China Technology Museum, Beijing (2012), Ventura Lambrate, Milan (2013) and French Design Biennale, St. Etienne (2013). She is currently pursuing a PhD at the Royal College of Art’s Information Experience Design programme and is interested in complex networked cycles, emerging (bio-) technologies and biological fabrication, systems design, material futures and new roles for designers.

Co- facilitators

Clemens Winkler, designer and researcher at the Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland.
Luke Franzke, designer and researcher at the Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland.
Frank Swain, science writer and journalist.
Gjino Sutic, innovator, scientist and artist; Director of the Universal Institute in Zagreb, Croatia.
Other experts joining discussions during the workshops will be Bio-informatician Dr Derek Huntley (Imperial College).

Partners & Support

The project is a collaboration between The Creative Exchange Hub at the Royal College of Art, Tufts University (Boston, MA), The Arts Catalyst (London), and Imperial College (London), and hosted and in collaboration with Furtherfield (London). The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The Creative Exchange is a national initiative that brings together the best creative and digital minds from leading universities with dynamic and entrepreneurial companies, to create innovative new digital products and services. The Creative Exchange is led by Lancaster University, Newcastle University and the Royal College of Art; funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Find out more at 

Furtherfield is the UK's leading organisation for arts, technology and social change. Since 1997 Furtherfield has created online and physical spaces and places for people to come together to develop and create critical and experimental art and digital technologies on their own terms.

Resources & readings:

[1] Primo Levi (1984), Periodic Table, New York: Schocken Books Inc. (
[2] High Low tech instructions for circuits (
[3] Floridi, L. (2009). Against Digital Ontology in Synthèse,168(1): pp. 151-178. Available at:
[4] Hu, T. ; Brenckle, M. A., Yan, M. et al. (2012). Silk-Based Conformal, Adhesive, Edible Food Sensors in Advanced Materials, vol 24, nr 8, 1067-1072. DOI: 10.1002/adma.201103814.
[5] Hwang, S-W., Tao, H., Kim, D.-H., et al. (2012), A Physically Transient Form of Silicon Electronics. In Science 337(6102): 1640–1644. DOI:10.1126/science.1226325.          
[6] Transient Electronics (2012),
[7] Fiorenzo Omenetto: Silk, the ancient material of the future (2011),
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Republic of the Moon, London

A major exhibition in which artists consider their visions for a Republic of the Moon.

It's four decades since humans walked on the Moon, but it now seems likely that we will return there this century – whether to mine for its minerals, as a ‘stepping stone’ to Mars, or simply to do scientific research. In a provocative pre-emptive action, a group of artists are declaring a Republic of the Moon here on Earth, to re-examine our relationship with our planet’s only natural satellite.

After two decades working with space dreamers from the European Space Agency to anarchist autonomous astronauts, The Arts Catalyst transformed Bargehouse into an Earth-based embassy for a Republic of the Moon, filled with artists’ fantastical imaginings. Presenting international artists including Liliane Lijn, Leonid Tishkov, Katie Paterson, Agnes Meyer Brandis and WE COLONISED THE MOON, the exhibition combined personal encounters, DIY space plans, imaginary expeditions and new myths for the next space age.

Marking the start of its twentieth anniversary year, The Arts Catalyst animated the exhibition with performances, workshops, music, talks, a pop-up moon shop by super/collider and playful protests against lunar exploitation.  A manifesto declaring the Moon a temporary autonomous zone, with responses from artists and scientists to novelist Tony White’s call to “Occupy the Moon!” was published in print and e-Book formats to coincide with the exhibition.

The artists in Republic of the Moon regard the Moon not as a resource to be exploited but as a heavenly body that belongs to us all. The exhibition asks: Who will be the first colonisers of the Moon? Perhaps it should be the artists.


Agnes Meyer-Brandis’ poetic-scientific investigations weave together fact, imagination, storytelling and myth, from past, present and future. In Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, the artist develops an ongoing narrative based on the book The Man in the Moone, written by English bishop Francis Godwin in the 1630s, in which the protagonist flies to the Moon in a chariot towed by ‘moon geese’. Meyer-Brandis has actualised this concept by raising eleven moon geese from birth in Italy, giving them astronauts’ names, imprinting them on herself as goose-mother, training them to fly and taking them on expeditions. The artist has built a remote Moon analogue habitat for the geese, which will be operated from a control room within the gallery. (* Neil, Svetlana, Gonzales, Valentina, Friede, Juri, Buzz, Kaguya-Anousheh, Irena, Rakesh, Konstantin-Hermann).  Moon Goose Analogue: Luna Bird Migration Facility the documentary film of this project was Ars Electronica award of distinction winner 2012.

Katie Paterson Second Moon and Earth–Moon–Earth.  Second Moon is Paterson's project tracking the cyclical journey of a small fragment of the Moon as it circles the Earth, via airfreight courier, on a man made commercial orbit.  Second Moon makes an anticlockwise journey; orbiting at approximately twice the speed of our Moon, it orbits Earth about 30 times in one year.  The journey could be followed on a free App. Earth–Moon–Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon) involved using a form of radio transmission whereby messages are sent in Morse code, from earth, reflected from the surface of the moon and then received back on earth. The moon reflects only part of the information back – some is absorbed in its shadows, ‘lost’ in its craters. For this work Paterson has translated Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata into Morse code and sent it to the moon via Earth-Moon-Earth (EME). Returning to earth fragmented by the moon's surface, it has been re-translated into a new score, the gaps and absences becoming intervals and rests. In the exhibition the moon–altered score is performed on a self-playing grand piano.

Liliane Lijn’s moonmeme explores the repeating cycle of the Moon’s phases, projecting the word 'SHE', an epithet for the Moon, onto the lunar surface so the letters slowly emerge and then disappear as it wanes. Since lunar projection is so challenging technically, Lijn has worked with an astronomer to present a real-time animation of the projection accompanied by a sound work and by quotations from sources including Pliny and the Talmud to illustrate the profound connections between the Moon and the feminine principal of transformation and renewal.

Leonid Tishkov’s Private Moon tells the story of a man who met the Moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. In a series of intimate photographs, the artist pairs images of his private moon with verse which describes how the Moon helps us to overcome our loneliness in the universe by uniting us around it. Tishkov and his illuminated moon have travelled the world for almost ten years. He has a dream to fly with her to the Moon.

WE COLONISED THE MOON (Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser) were the Republic of the Moon’s artists in residence throughout the exhibition, creating work and running talks and workshops. Corke and Betzwieser’s graphic art and installation projects embody a child-like wonder at the universe. Employing a range of DIY production techniques, their partnership is rooted in absurdism and theatrical performance characterised by slogans and catchphrases. At the Bargehouse, they coordinated protests against the exploitation of the Moon and working with scientists to help us look afresh at our closest celestial neighbour.

Moon Vehicle (Joanna Griffin and ISRO scientist P Shreekumar) a presentation of a project devised by the students at Srishti School of Arts, Bangalore, India, with artist Joanna Griffin. Its focus was to reclaim a cultural connection with the Indian Chandrayaan space programme challenging the now-dominant scientific narrative of the Moon and reasserting other imaginaries inspired by Indian narratives of self-determination and agency.

Pop Rock Moon Shop designed by super/collider sold all manner of discerning lunar ephemera.

A Manifesto for the Republic of the Moon published to accompany the exhibition, edited by curator, Rob La Frenais and including Tony White's specially commissioned short fiction Occupy the Moon!, it is available in print, or for free download in .epub and .pdf formats.

Artists websites
Agnes Meyer-Brandis
Katie Paterson
Liliane Lijn
Leonid Tishkov

Republic of the Moon is a touring exhibition, commissioned by The Arts Catalyst with FACT. The first version of the exhibition was presented at FACT Liverpool in winter 2012. The exhibition and residency has been made possible with Grants for the Arts support from Arts Council England and Science & Technology Facilities Council.

Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility links directly to Meyer-Brandis's, Moon Goose Colony, 2011, a project during her residency at Pollinaria, Italy, the site of the remote analogue habitat where the artist has raised and houses the colony of moon geese.  With thanks to Z33 co-producers of Moon Goose Analogue, shown In Space Odyssey 2.0.

Second Moon has been commissioned by Locus+ in partnership with Newcastle University and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.  Supported by Arts Council England, Adelaide Festival and Newcastle City Council

Bargehouse is owned and managed by social enterprise, Coin Street Community Builders:

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The Urpflanze (Part 2)

A new commissioned body of work and installation by Melanie Jackson, shown in Transformism at John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton in January 2013, and as a solo show at Flat-Time House, London, in March 2013.

In a series of moving image works and ceramic sculptures, Melanie Jackson continues her ongoing investigation into mutability and transformation, which takes its lead from Goethe’s concept of an imaginary primal plant, the Urpflanze, that contained coiled up within it the potential to unfurl all possible future forms. Contemporary science likewise imagines the potential to grow or print any form we can envisage, by recasting physical, chemical and biological function as an engineering substrate that can be programmed into being. These emerging technologies present new possibilities for the instrumentalisation of life on a previously unimagined scale.

In March 2013, Jackson's multifaceted work was installed throughout the ground floor of Flat Time House, the former home and studio of artist John Latham (1921-2006).

In the eighteenth century, the development of sophisticated techniques of ceramic production signified a victory of chemistry, culture and capital over formlessness. It pushed the capacity of the material to accommodate highly detailed representations, to radiate colour and sheen, to perform. Like clay, liquid crystals also have a visceral biological and mineral morphology that can collapse into formlessness, whilst harbouring the potential to assume (or emit the image of) any form. The mastery of the material is played out in a desire for the real in high definition, and a longing for the appearance of unknown and fantastical forms.

Jackson’s exhibition extends fairytale themes of absurd disruptions in vegetal scale, from Zola's ‘revolutionary’ carrot to the fantasies of remediation that science may have in store for us. The work begins in the botanical garden and leads us to the laboratory, from the clay pits to the factory floor, from its own animated voxels to the interior of the screen, and the forms and processes of its own production.

Melanie Jackson has collaborated with writer Esther Leslie on the production of a text that has informed the work and a publication that will be distributed as part of the exhibition.

In her essay for the exhibition guide, Isobel Harbison describes: “Jackson’s is an expansive, ambitious and intuitive work not easily reducible to cursory description. Her attention to the illusory surface textures of protean forms is not solely attentive to liquid crystals but extends metaphorically to other social and scientific developments (a fictional Jack-and-the-Beanstalk becomes a modern genetic scientist, or crystals self-organise into a palace whose display function changes consumer society forever). Perhaps most interestingly, her work carries within it a reflection on the new nature and task of the contemporary artist. Jackson’s real enquiry seems to be about the modified face of representative sculpture in the digital age, from Greek mythology’s morphology to natural biology, and from the produce of the clay factory floor to the process of 3d printing.Significantly, her sculptural inquiry is brought forward in video in conjunction with three-dimensional form embodying both kinds of contemporary physical encounter, now as often on screen as in the flesh.”


Melanie Jackson inhabits different tropes of art making to interrogate possibilities of representation against the engaged practices of the world. She is interested in ways in which thought and affect is conducted through the material, and much of her work has explored this against the context of work, production and the flow of international capital.  She is currently investigating the relationships between nature and technology through a series of experiments with fauna and flora, and the technologies available to her. Melanie is a lecturer at Slade School of Fine Art, her solo exhibitions include The Urpflanze (Part 1), The Drawing Room, London (2010), Road Angel, Arnolfini, Bristol (2007), Made In China, Matt’s Gallery, London (2005).  She won the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2007.


Melanie Jackson's commission has been supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award and the Slade School of Fine Art. The exhibition is supported by Arts Council England.

Website links

Melanie Jackson

Flat Time House


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Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility

An ambitious commission that tells the story of the artist's project to raise and imprint her colony of Moon Geese and train them for life on the Moon

Agnes Meyer-Brandis’s poetic-scientific investigations weave fact, imagination, storytelling and myth, past, present and future. In Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, a major commission, the artist developed an ongoing narrative based on the book The Man in the Moone, written by the English bishop Francis Godwin in 1603, in which the protagonist flies to the Moon in a chariot towed by ‘moon geese’. Meyer-Brandis actualised this concept by raising eleven moon geese from birth within her project Moon Goose Colony at Pollinaria in Italy; giving them astronauts’ names*, imprinting them on herself as goose-mother, training them to fly and taking them on expeditions and housing them in a remote Moon analogue habitat. (* Neil, Svetlana, Gonzales, Valentina, Friede, Juri, Buzz, Kaguya-Anousheh, Irena, Rakesh, Konstantin-Hermann)

The remote analogue habitat simulates the conditions of the Moon and was accessed and operated from Meyer-Brandis’s control room installation within the gallery, where instructional videos, photographs and vitrines of the geese’s egg shells and footprints were displayed.

Meyer-Brandis developed the contested history of Godwin’s original fiction – posthumously and pseudonymously published as if the genuine account of the travels of Domingo Gonsales.  She wove a narrative that explores the observer’s understanding of the fictitious and the factual, with a nod to notions of the believably absurd.

Oxford academic, William Poole [1], in his Preface to the 2009 edition of The Man in the Moone [2], explains the importance of Godwin’s work, “First, it is a work of literary sophistication.  It is narrated by a slightly implausible figure who does a number of very implausible things, not least fly to the moon and back.…its supposed time-frame further heightens readerly problems about who and what to trust in this text, and why… its finely integrated discussion of various state-of-the-art ideas about astronomy and cosmology – magnetic attraction, diurnal rotation, and the possibility of interplanetary travel and extraterrestrial life.  The dramatisation of these discussions in The Man in the Moone is at once a form of popular science and also a form of popular fiction.  This is the age-old problem of fiction – the probable impossible intermingled with the possible improbable."

The Moon Goose Colony

A film in 19 installments by Agnes Meyer-Brandis tells the story of the artist's project to raise and imprint her colony of Moon Geese and train them for life on the Moon, watch the introduction here.

Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, 2011 links directly to Meyer-Brandis's, Moon Goose Colony, 2011, a project during her residency at Pollinaria, Italy, the site of the remote analogue habitat where the artist has raised and houses the colony of moon geese. 


1 William Poole is John Galsworthy Fellow, New College, Oxford, and author of The World Makers: Scientists of the Restoration and the Search for the Origins of the Earth (2010).
2 The Man in the Moone (1638) (Broadview Editions) by Francis Godwin and William Poole (Paperback - 1 Nov 2009), preface

Reviews and blogs about the show

    The Rhizome

    Art Monthly (February 2012) review 

    Liverpool Daily Post, Moon Goose Analogye interview 

    BBC World Service - The Strand, Agnes Meyer-Brandis interview - Moon Goose Analogue 


      Commissioned with FACT and first shows in Republic of the Moon, Dec 2011-Feb 2012 at FACT, Liverpool

      Presented with AV Festival, Newcastle-Gateshead, 2012

      Pollinaria, Italy

      Supported by

      Arts Council England Grants for the Arts


      Agnes Meyer-Brandis is an artist based in Berlin, Germany and has been involved in two major Arts Catalyst initiatives. Meyer-Brandis’ artistic practice is influenced by scientific research focused on the exploration of new worlds. Meyer-Brandis is the founder and director of the Research Raft for Subterranean Reefology (FFUR) which has explored deep in the dark zone above the earth and ice. In March 2011, Meyer-Brandis attended The Arts Catalyst’s Kosmica evening to talk about art, science and weightlessness. At this event, the artist explained details about her project Cloud-Core-Scanner, which involved a microgravity-generating flying manoeuvre carried out with the DLR (German Aerospace Centre). In late 2011, Agnes Meyer-Brandis was commissioned by The Arts Catalyst for a project with the touring exhibition “Republic of the Moon” curated by Rob la Frenais. This project was entitled “The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility”. For this project, Meyer-Brandis was inspired by the book “The Man in the Moone” written by the English bishop Francis Godwin in 1603, in which the protagonist flies to the Moon in a chariot towed by “moon geese”. To make the “moon geese” concept a reality, the artist raised eleven moon geese from birth in Pollinaria, Italy. The geese were named after the astronauts Neil, Svetlana, Gozales, Valentina, Friede, Juri, Buzz, Kaguya-Anousheh, Irena, Rakesh and Konstantin-Hermann. Additionally, Meyer-Brandis taught the geese to fly, took the geese on expeditions and housed them in a remote Moon analogue habitat which simulates the conditions of the moon. For the Republic of the Moon exhibition, the artist constructed a control room installation within a number of galleries around Europe and America, where visitors could interact with the geese. This exhibition also displayed instructional videos, photographs and vitrines of the geese’s egg shells and footprints. “Moon Goose Analogue” was exhibited at the following galleries; Culver Center of the Arts in Los Angeles USA, GAK Gesellschaft fur Aktuelle Kunst in Bremen Germany, Kunstmuseum Bonn in Germany, Zuivelmarkt 33 in Hasselt, Belgium, FACT in Liverpool UK, Great North Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne UK and Exhibition Cyberarts in Linz, Austria. In April 2013, Agnes Meyer-Brandis attended the Yuri’s Night Kosmica at Zuivelmarkt 33 in Belgium to talk about how she started the Moon Goose project and exhibited the control room of Moon Goose Analogue as part of Space Odyssey 2.0.

      Artist's website

      Agnes Meyer-Brandis


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      CleanRooms, London

      New works by Gina Czarnecki, Neal White, Critical Art Ensemble with Beatriz Da Costa, and Brandon Ballengee challenge our responses to biotechnology and explore its origins and implications

      Exploring ideas of contamination and containment, ethics and accountability, the works in the CleanRooms exhibition ask the audience to decide how far they themselves would go with the emerging powers of genetic manipulation.

      CleanRooms included major installations by Gina Czarnecki, Neal White and Brandon Ballengee, with performances of GenTerra by Critical Art Ensemble.

      In Gina Czarnecki's Silvers Alter, life-size human forms "live" within a large video projection in the gallery. They are the subjects for you to manipulate and mate. The 'beings' you create have never existed before. Silvers Alter raises a simple question; to what extent are we prepared to participate in all that we have made possible and that we aspire to make possible for ourselves?

      Neal White's Uncontrolled Hermetic recreates one of the controlled areas or clean rooms used in industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. You, the visitor, fulfil the final part of this system, as the contaminating or contaminated body, the weakest link in the ultraclean technology chain: a human being.

      US group Critical Art Ensemble with Beatriz Da Costa present their participatory performance GenTerra. Lab-coated representatives from the GenTerra biotechnology corporation introduce their transgenic bioproducts. An installation and a video of the performance explains their work and explores the pros and cons of transgenics

      Brandon Ballengee's installation From Farm 2 Pharm, created as a participatory project alongside the Oldham exhibition of CleanRooms, traces the history of humankind's struggle for dominance over natural evolutionary forces with a gallery installation of images of domesticated/engineered organisms.

      Events programme

      The exhibition was part of the extensive programme of associated Darwin Centre Live events including artist residencies by Brandon Ballengee and Michael Carklin and the Working with Wetware forum.

      Working with Wetware, 20 June 2002.
      This forum explored the work of artists who work directly with living biological systems. Speakers included Steve Kurtz (US), Oron Catts (Aus) from SymbioticA, Marta De Menezes (Portugal), Ruth West (US), Sandy Knapp (UK), Brandon Ballengee (US) and Gina Czarnecki (UK). The forum was chaired by Kodwo Eshun.

      GenTerra performances by Critical Art Ensemble, 21-22 June 2002

      Biotech drama workshops led by Michael Carklin 7 - 18 July 2002



      For over 20 years, Neal White has critically explored art in relation to new ideas, forms and technologies. As part of numerous collaborative endeavours – he has been developing projects, research and artworks, publications, archives, fieldworks, critical excursions as bus tours and exhibitions with academics, architects and activists. His current work explores situated practices and knowledge - drawing together environmental and ecological matters of concern with marine biologists, ecologists, coders, architects and volunteers in Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island, Dorset for Arts Catalyst's Test Sites programme.

      Gina Czarnecki is a British new media artist born in Immingham in 1965. She studied painting and film-making at Wimbledon School of Art 1984-87 and a Postgraduate Degree in Electronic Art at Duncan of Jordanstone College Dundee from 1991-2. Her work spans a variety of mediums, including film, video, sculpture and installation art. Through a varied and often unconventional practice her work engages us with the visceral, psychological and biological grey areas, hybrids and developments that provoke questions on so many levels. Her research focuses on technologies and culture.

      Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of five tactical media practitioners of various specialisations including computer graphics and web design, film/video, photography, text art, book art and performance. Formed in 1987, CAE's focus has been on the exploration of the intersections between art, critical theory, technology and political activism. The group has exhibited and performed at diverse venues internationally, ranging from the street, to the museum, to the internet. Museum exhibitions include the Whitney Museum and the New Museum in NYC, Corcoran Museum in Washington D.C., ICA in London, MCA in Chicago, Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and the Natural History Museum in London.

      Beatriz da Costa was an interdisciplinary artist, based in Los Angeles, who worked at the intersection of art, politics, engineering and the life sciences. Da Costa’s work usually took the form of public participatory interventions, locative media, conceptual tool building and critical writing. In 2010, Beatriz presented “A Memorial for the Still Living” at the Horniman Museum in London, a project commissioned by The Arts Catalyst as part of the Dark Places project. The exhibition showcased British animal and plant species on the edge of extinction, focusing on “still living” species. The ‘dark place’ refers to the storage rooms of the museum and consequential oblivion, sparingly illuminated by memories of the dwindling few who have encountered the specimens over the years. To realize this exhibition, da Costa worked in collaboration with collection curators at the Horniman Museum and the Natural History Museum in London. In the exhibition, taxidermied specimens of endangered animals lay alongside botanical samples of plants under threat. Each specimen was given a “birth date” (the date of classification and inclusion into the corpus of western science) as well as a “death date” (the date of projected extinction).

      New York artist Brandon Ballengee creates multidisciplinary works from information generated by ecological field trips and laboratory research, exploring the boundaries between art, science and technology. Since 1996, Ballengee has collaborated with numerous scientists to conduct primary biological research and advanced imaging procedures. His works have been exhibited in New York, Beijing, Vienna, London and other cities.



      The CleanRooms catalogue is available to buy online from Cornerhouse Publications

      Price £11.95
      ISBN 9780953454617
      Pages 48, Binding softback, illustrated in colour and b&w
      Dimensions 220mm x 200mm, Weight 


      Gallery Oldham, Oldham, Greater Manchester, UK

      5 October - 30 November 2002

      Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7, UK

      20 June - 3 August 2003

      Stills, Edinburgh, Scotland

      Gina Czarneckis's Silvers Alter was also show as part of the Designer Bodies: The Future Of Human Genetics exhibition at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, 3 April - 6 June 2004


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      Astro Black Morphologies, Flow Motion

      Immersive sound and image installation using transformed x-ray data from a black hole

      Astro Black Morphologies is an immersive dub, techno, and avant garde electronic sound and image installation and sound performance, created using transformed x-ray data from the black hole Cygnus-XI

      In 2002, scientist Phil Uttley at the University of Southampton announced that data readings of X-ray detritus from black hole Cygnus X-1 showed variations which were implicitly musical in structure.

      Working with Uttley and astronomer Tim O’Brien from Jodrell Bank Observatory, artists and musicians Flow Motion (Anna Piva and Eddie George) used X-ray data gathered by NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer satellite and, using technologies and techniques for subtracting, reshaping, and resounding sound sources particular to granular synthesis, Dub and electronica, Flow Motion have made audible the music of black hole Cygnus X-1. With generative design by Adrian Ward, the resulting installations transform Cygnus X-1’s data into a multi-sensory experience of colour, light and sound.

      A sound performance by Flow Motion took place at the Dana Centre on 8 June 2005

      The discussion event Deep Space Poetics was held at the Dana Centre on 16 June 2005 with Eddie George and Anna Piva (Flow Motion), astronomer Tim O'Brien and Doug Vakosh from SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), chaired by Nicola Triscott.

      Astro Black Morphologies was funded by Arts Council England and organised by The Arts Catalyst in association with John Hansard Gallery - with thanks to SCAN.

      Flow Motion Anna Piva and Edward George’s interest in the cosmos has its autobiographical roots in the cold war space race of the 1960’s and the landing of the first man on the moon; in black music and its traditions of the exploration of space in sound; in metaphysical and scientific writing on the nature of our universe.
      These concerns with the cosmos have surfaced in a number of ways and in a variety of permutations, though their art as Flow Motion, and their music as Hallucinator. Running through their work is a constant weaving of different senses of space, which oscillate around and sometimes blur the line between sonic space and the space of the cosmos.


      The Arts Catalyst

      Arts Council England


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      Sailing for Geeks 2 : Ship-to-Shore

      Sailing For Geeks 2 @ Fadaiat took place in the framework of "Fadaiat : freedom of knowledge, freedom of movement" event

      Sailing for Geeks 2 : Fadaiat : ship-to-shore took place in the framework of "Fadaiat: freedom of knowledge, freedom of movement" event : a political, technological and artistic laboratory that took place in Tarifa (Spain) & Tanger (Morocco), on both sides of the tense frontier dividing Europe from Africa. Fadaiat means "through spaces" in arabic. Fadaiat 2005 had the theme of exploring ideas of open borders.

      Sailing for Geeks 2 established a link between the two sides by sailing boat. On the boat, a crew of activists and artists physically explored the roads of migration between Morocco and Spain. From Gibraltar (UK) to the enclave of Ceuta (Spain), from Tarifa (Spain) to Tangier (Morocco), we entered each country from the sea, cooperating with the processes of immigration control. We traced and documented our course via GPS, radar and radio communication.

      The idea of Sailing for Geeks 2 was to try to give a representation of what a border really is. Crossing the Straits of Gibralter by sailing boat is dangerous, with high winds, strong currents and a busy shipping channel, which made it possible for the crew to have some idea of what it is to cross this zone in one of the “pateras”, the boats of fortune of the illegal migrants.

      The sailing boat also tested technologies of counter-surveillance deployed on shore by the Makrolab team. At Tarifa, radio ham Aljosa Abrahamsberg fastened an antenna on the Tarifa fortress to intercept maritime communications between cargo liners and Tarifa traffic.

      In Tanger, the crew met two Moroccan Fadaiat-Tanger representatives, Hicham Limrami and Youssef Hbib from a Larache organisation which works with immigrants and particularly their children, trying to give them "a boat for life", a craft to succeed in Africa rather than to seek happiness beyond the sea. Both took part in the three day Fadaiat workshop animated by Indymedia Estrecho. "Indymedia enables us to have a support, to connect our local associations to the rest of the world. Here, in Morocco, there is no freedom of speech."

      Sailing for Geeks 2 was about physical reality, its visibility and its connections to digital perception - about the collision of representation and the concrete world. Hence mapping the physical space, navigation challenges, fragments of historical and symbolic traces, police control systems and power relations taking place in the straits.

      Sailing for geeks from Bandits-Mages on Vimeo.

      For more detail, maps, logs of the crossing, etc, see the project web-site

      This project was supported by The Arts Catalyst (UK), Ellipse (Fr) and Projekt Atol (Slo).

      Nathalie Magnan is an artist and theorist, working mostly in France. Magnan is the president of the Paris Festival of Gay and Lesbian Films and her theoretical work mostly focuses upon feminism and media. Magnan has organised several conferences related to these subjects.
      In 2005, Nathalie Magnan participated in The Arts Catalyst project “Sailing for Geeks 2: Ship-to-Shore” where activists and artists boarded a boat, physically exploring the roads of migration between Morocco and Spain.
      Sailing for Geeks 2 established a link between the two sides by sailing boat. From Gibraltar (UK) to the enclave of Ceuta (Spain), from Tarifa (Spain) to Tangier (Morocco), the artists and activists entered each country from the sea, cooperating with the processes of immigration control. These actions were traced and documented via GPS, radar and radio communication.
      The project explored the idea of physical reality, its visibility and its connections to digital perception; for example, how do digital representations of the world collide with reality?


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      2nd International Artists Airshow

      Three years after the first Artists Airshow, a day of art and flying in and around Europe's largest wind tunnel at Farnborough, the 2nd International Artists Airshow took place at Gunpowder Park.

      The 2nd International Artists Airshow reflected both the explosive and ephemeral nature of Gunpowder Park and investigated the artists' almost impossible dream of flight.
      Two performance works started the day: Ben Blakeborough's
      Winged Self was a flying platform designed and flown by the artist, then, in Eagle, Ruth Maclennan encouraged a trained eagle to document the moving public on the ground. In Gunpowder Park's dense woodland, Sonia Khurana's video installation Bird explored the possibility of flight through the constraints of the human body, and Hehe's Smoking Lamp responded to the direct pollution caused by cigarette smoke, whilst on a nearby hill their Air De Londres was an observation point from which people viewed and listened to the polluted skies over London. In the field station, Rachel Chapman, in her project Mapping the Air, collected spores from visitors clothing throughout the day. By examining airborne spores, the trajectory of a person's journey and their activities were be traced.
      The day's finale was Anne Bean, Mark Anderson, Nick Sales (UK)'s Black Mass, in which they made a large scale pyrotechnic work which launched a sky bourne sculptural mass of dense black smoke which aimed to block out the sun.
      Late in the evening, following the 'Aesthetics of Impossibility' symposium, visitors went on a night field trip to view the insects attracted by Brandon Ballengee's ultra-violet Love Motels for Insects.
      The 2nd International Artists Airshow was a collaboration between The Arts Catalyst and Gunpowder Park.

      Artists' Projects

      Winged Self, Ben Blakeborough (Australia)
      Blakeborough has been training himself to fly 'winged self' for several years, a real flying platform that hovered according to the artist's body movements.
      "The theory of the Winged Self has developed from concepts elucidated by Charles Zimmerman in the 1950s. His chief concept was simple; every human possesses the necessary built in balance and reflex control within the middle ear, nerves and muscular system - if man could create a controlled, powerful downward column of thrust below his feet, he could easily balance and hover in one place. By leaning in the direction one wanted to travel, one could tilt the thrust vector and hence move in that direction. Many novel and ingenious concepts from this period were funded by defence budgets but the findings and aircraft eventually fell by the wayside. Thankfully Zimmerman’s ideas of the free flying self have survived due to the documentation of his ideas and flying apparatus." Ben Blakeborough

      Eagle, Ruth Maclennan (UK)
      Mclennan encouraged a trained eagle to document the moving public on the ground, with the results transmitted live on screen. Eagle looks at the communication between hunter and eagle, while the audience is in a strange position as both witness of the flight, and object viewed by the ‘eagle-camera’. The eagle plays the role of a machine (a flying camera), while still retaining the autonomous will of a wild bird of prey.
      "Eagle is an ongoing art project that explores the symbolism and experience of the co-operation between birds of prey and humans, in particular the relationship of eagle hunter to trained eagle which originated in Central Asian nomadic cultures. Falconry is a dance of death: a ritual that represents the complex interdependence of humans and animals. In eagle hunting, the eagle stands in for the human hunter, the human killer. This surrogate role is the sign of culture, of the ritualisation of death.”

      Bird, Sonia Khurana (India)
      Khurana’s video installation was constructed in Gunpowder Park’s dense woodland, in a small shed, similar to those used for bird hides, as a site specific work that explored the possibility of flight through the constraints of the human body.
      “Bird is about being a body. It is about an encounter with failed flight. It is an investigation of two kinds of limitations: the body confronting its own flesh and the forces of gravity, and a discrete questioning of accounts of the body which overlook sexual difference.”

      Air De Londres and Smoking Lamp, Hehe (Helen Evans and Heiko Hansen, France)
      Hehe take one step beyond the notion of flight by looking at the air itself and its quality. Continuing with a project started in Paris using public air-monitoring equipment, they utilised an automated monitoring station not far from Gunpowder Park, in Ponder's End in Enfield, that measures ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). At Gunpowder Park they made an observation point where people viewed and listened to the 'coloured skies' over London. Smoking Lamp was an interactive installation which responded to the direct pollution caused by cigarette smoke, which also marked the end of smoking in public in England on 1 July 2007.

      Black Mass, Anne Bean, Mark Anderson, Nick Sales (UK)
      Following on from a massive 'sky drawing' created for Artists Airshow 1 with adapted parachute rockets, a co-ordinated detonation device and 100m ribbons, Bean, Anderson and Sales were commissioned to make a large scale pyrotechnic work which reflected the history of munitions manufacture at Gunpowder Park and launched a sky bourne sculptural mass of dense black smoke which aimed to block out the sun.

      Mapping the Air, Rachel Chapman (UK)
      Chapman set up a mobile "spore extraction laboratory" where spores were collected from visitors clothing throughout the day. By examining airborne spores that collect on skin, hair, clothing the trajectory of a person's journey and their activities can be traced, revealing the ecology of the environment that person has passed through – sometimes quite specifically. Collating what is collected from a set of people on a given day generates a kind of ecological 'map' of the air for that particular day, interrelated to the topography of land below.

      Rachel Chapman's Mapping the Air


      New York artist Brandon Ballengee creates multidisciplinary works from information generated by ecological field trips and laboratory research, exploring the boundaries between art, science and technology. Since 1996, Ballengee has collaborated with numerous scientists to conduct primary biological research and advanced imaging procedures. His works have been exhibited in New York, Beijing, Vienna, London and other cities.
      Ruth Maclennan is a video artist who is interested in the use of public spaces, a fascination which stems from her days studying Russian at Maurice Thorèse Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow in 1989-90. Here, the artist witnessed conceptual art installed and performed in squatted Baroque studios and unofficial public spaces.

      Links to artists' websites:

      Anne Bean
      Rachel Chapman
      Ruth Maclennan


      Grant for the Arts from Arts Council England, the Henry Moore Foundation, and ANAT

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      A Field Users Guide to Dark Places - South Edition, Office of Experiments, 2010

      An evolving, experimental database of techno-scientific and industrial sites in the UK. This first phase covers the South of England.

      A Field User's Guide to Dark Places - South Edition Now Online.

      This is an Arts Catalyst commissioned online database of sites of secrecy, science and technology in the UK by the Office of Experiments. The South Edition of the database was created and presented as part of our exhibition Dark Places, in 2009-10, curated by Office of Experiments, The Arts Catalyst, John Hansard Gallery, and SCAN.

      It is part of the ongoing Overt Research Project, run by Office of Experiments. to map and record advanced labs and facilities around the UK, and to involve the public in this exploration and revealment. 'A Field Guide to Dark Places' is the first of these experimental resources. It draws on and develops responses to the vast infrastructure of the techno-scientific and industrial/military complex, probing aesthetic, political and philosophical questions around spaces that are inaccessible or in some cases secret. It is focused on physical sites in the South of England (with reach of Southampton where the exhibition was shown).


      The initial research was conducted by artists Neal White and Steve Rowell. The artists' aim now is to extend the scale of this work by opening up this resource to enthusiasts, amateur scientists and urban explorers and extending it across the UK. If you would like to take part, we ask that you attend a physical event. We run a number of events at which you can register to become an official Overt Researcher. These have most frequently included 'Critical Excursions'.

      In order to register here as an Overt Researcher, we ask that you attend an Overt Research Project event. For more information on these events, please use the contact form.

      Critical Excursions

      The form of a Critical Excursion is experimental and varies depending on context. Recent Critical Excursions have included an intellectual and emotional tour of physical sites by vehicle "Secrecy & Technology: Legacy of the Cold War' around Southampton, with around 50 attendees. We utilised an experimental mix of factual, historic -informational and conspiracy video / audio on board a coach whilst moving around physical sites. Exceptional highlights were entry into a former Nuclear Bunker, a drive-past of Porton-Down and lunch and lecture at ISSEE (International School of Security and Explosives Education) at the Department of Homeland Security. More information and responses to the Critical Excursion are available at the following links.

      New Scientist Blog - New Scientists take.
      Angela Last Blog - A Mutable Matter reflection.
      Geoforum Editorial - Theoretical Framing by Dr Gail Davies for the Scholarly Journal Geoforum.


      For over 20 years, Neal White has critically explored art in relation to new ideas, forms and technologies. As part of numerous collaborative endeavours – he has been developing projects, research and artworks, publications, archives, fieldworks, critical excursions as bus tours and exhibitions with academics, architects and activists. His current work explores situated practices and knowledge - drawing together environmental and ecological matters of concern with marine biologists, ecologists, coders, architects and volunteers in Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island, Dorset for Arts Catalyst's Test Sites programme.


      BLUEPRINT has published an extensive six page full colour featureon office of Experiments Dark Places project in the April 2010 Edition. Only available as a printed publication.

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