Test Sites: Assembly

Arts Catalyst presents Test Sites: Assembly, an exhibition and co-inquiry asking how we can respond collectively to social and environmental challenges.

We invite people from art, science, academia, activism and various communities to come together to explore methodologies for developing cross-disciplinary research and building community resilience. In doing so, we introduce and open up Test Sites, Arts Catalyst’s ongoing programme of environmental co-inquiries around the UK. 
The major challenges facing us today intertwine environmental, social, political and psychological factors. Challenges such as flooding, species loss, and pollution, and complex health issues like diabetes, mental illness and cancer, interweave large-scale global forces with the small-scale and the personal, and are inextricable from the social and political systems in which they unfold. Realising that empirical science on its own is not enough faced with these complex systems, many scientists and thinkers are calling for transdisciplinary approaches and for fresh thinking about conducting science and research in new ways. Critically, we need to involve those whose lives are directly affected – not just make assumptions about the causes, the impact, and what might be the best paths towards resistance and resilience. 
The term Assembly indicates the intention of our programme, which is to gather tactics, practices and theory to create “commoning tools”, creating social and cooperative alternatives for co-producing knowledge and taking control. Through workshops, study days, field trips, reading groups, talks and discussions, we will examine, practice and discuss possible approaches to ecology and society that centre on collaboration and co-creating knowledge, highlighting radical and progressive practices from the UK and internationally. 
An exhibition of works-in-progress by Test Sites artists Ruth Levene and Neal White will be shown at Arts Catalyst’s Centre, drawing on their research in the Calder Valley and Poole Harbour. Ruth Levene presents Working Waters, an installation of maps and models created from her investigations into the flows and stewardship of water in the Calder Valley. Neal White meanwhile presents Brownsea: An Imaginary Island (An Island of the Imaginary), comprising a vivarium containing fauna and flora of an island in Poole Harbour alongside an archive of local knowledge, interrupted by industrial frequencies.
The programme will introduce and focus on issues, concepts and methodologies in a format that blurs the divides between expert and non-expert, those who make decisions and those who are affected by them. We will explore a set of approaches that include active citizenship, planetary commoning practices, co-inquiry processes, and collective governance and policy making, as well as making tactical use of concepts such as the negative commons. These terms are defined further down.
Confirmed programme participants include architect Godofredo Pereira, complexity scientist Sylvia Nagl, social anthropologist Megan Clinch, public science expert Tom Wakeford, interactive theatre company Coney, artist Tom James, artist Luigi Coppola, theorist and editor Shela Sheikh, artist Åsa Sonjasdotter, sustainability expert Rokiah Yaman and artists Ruth Levene and Neal White.
Active Citizenship - a philosophy that people have a responsibility to their society and the environment that encourages participation in local communities and democracy at all levels. We extend this to participation in research and environmental monitoring.
Planetary Commoning Practices - tactical actions towards asserting, enabling, connecting and networking local commoning practices relating to the use or stewardship of common-pool resources within transnational and extraterritorial spaces and natural resource domains, such as the atmosphere, biodiversity, the Arctic, the electromagnetic spectrum, outer space, the lithosphere, and the oceans (Triscott, 2017).
Co-inquiry Processes - Arts Catalyst has been developing a curatorial model of critical and transdisciplinary co-inquiry. The key principles of our model include focusing the inquiry on a shared “matter of concern”, the intentional co-production of knowledge - including artistic, scientific and situated - that is context-specific, and fostering an ecology practices that is sensitive to how particular practices relate to and impact on other practices.
Collective Governance and Policy Making - aimed at shifting the balance of power away from the regimes of commerce and strategic interests that seek to enclose the commons, and instead towards networked grassroots movements working for increased equity and environmental justice.
Negative Commons - the waste of capitalism’s operation, such as debt, epidemics, industrial wastes, and pollution including radiation, which becomes the burden of society once it is of no further value to commerce (Kohso, 2012).
Test Sites is Arts Catalyst’s series of inquiries into matters of concern relating to environmental issues, such as flooding, pollution, and species loss, and their impact on local culture and the health of ecosystems and communities. Initially taking place in three sites around the UK, we are inviting local people and groups to be part of art-centred co-inquiries, working with artists, scientists and other experts. Test Sites represents a significant step in Arts Catalyst’s curatorial model of transdisciplinary co-inquiry
Ruth Levene is an artist based in Sheffield, Yorkshire working in video, performance, events, digital drawings, walks, installations and participatory work. Curious and concerned by the complex systems we live by, she is currently exploring water systems, farming and market driven developments of the countryside. Recent projects have included a research residency in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Sheffield, engaging with engineers about urban water systems; and A Field of Wheat with Anne-Marie Culhane, a 42-person strong collective and a Lincolnshire farmer, growing a 22-acre field of wheat. She is currently completing a collaborative work alongside Ian Nesbitt entitled Precarious Landscapes commissioned by In Certain Places. Recent exhibitions include Everything Flows at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Formations, curated by Site Gallery as part of Abandon Normal Devices Festival, Castleton. Ruth was known by her nickname Bob Levene until 2015. 
For over 20 years, Neal White's work has critically explored art in relation to new ideas, forms and technologies. As part of many 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 Test Sites. Neal White is a Professor at University of Westminster, where he also directs the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM), a UK leader in research in art, design and media.
Test Sites is supported by Wellcome Trust, University of Westminster, Bournemouth University, Canal and River Trust, and Arts Council England.
Tuesday 27 March, 6:30 – 8pm
Arts Catalyst Centre
£5, booking essential
Tuesday 10 April, 4 – 7pm
Arts Catalyst Centre
Free, booking essential
As part of Test Sites: Assembly, artist Kat Austen will lead a workshop on microplastics exploring both the different plastic types and the different plastic identification techniques.
Microplastics have been gaining more and more public attention over the last few years. These small plastic particles have been shown to pervade the marine environment, and have been found to affect the wellbeing – and possibly even the behaviour – of marine species, and maybe even those that consume them. Much microplastic in the environment comes from the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic pollution. In this workshop we will explore different types of plastics, where they are commonly found, and methods of identifying them. We’ll also explore what it would mean to live without plastic. 
As an artist Kat deals with themes of environment, social justice, communities and human relations to digital culture. She creates experiences, stories and playful installations, mixing fact and fiction closely, so troublesome. Kat holds a PhD in chemistry from UCL and worked as a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Cambridge. Her writing has appeared in Nature, The Ecologist and The Guardian, and she consults widely on the intersection of science, art and technology, including as a Futureshaper for Forum for the Future, for the European Commission and UK water regulator Ofwat.
Thursday 12 April, 4 – 6pm
Arts Catalyst Centre
Free, booking essential
Thursday 19 April, 4 – 8pm
Arts Catalyst Centre
Free, booking essential
Friday 20 April, 4 – 8pm
R-Urban, Poplar
Free, booking essential
Monday 23 April, time TBC
Arts Catalyst Centre
Free, booking essential
Wednesday 25 April, 2 – 6pm
Calthorpe Project, King’s Cross
Free, booking essential
Saturday 28 April, 10am – 6pm
University of Westminster, Regent Street
£5, booking essential
Tuesday 1 May, 6 - 8pm
Arts Catalyst Centre
Free, booking essential
Tuesday 8 May, 6:30 - 8:30pm
Arts Catalyst Centre
£3, booking essential
As part of Test Sites: Assembly, activist and researcher pantxo ramas (aka Francesco Salvini) is joined by researcher Nicholas Beuret for a conversation on the subject of caring ecologies and infrastructures.
Taking the radical practice of institutional destruction and reinvention realised within the Trieste psychiatric asylum (Italy) as a starting point, pantxo ramas will consider various forms of commoning infrastructures in a process of “recovery” as emancipation. 
Nicholas Beuret will give an introduction to the affects and practices of chemopolitics and toxic entanglements, a research interest that stemmed from a routine blood screening test that for Beuret, brought about a personal revelation: the quiet horror of toxicity and the saturation of everyday life within the endless loops of the uncanny and the eerie. What does it mean when our capacities to act and know, the basis of what it means to be social and to understand, are transformed by the very things we come to act on and know? What does it mean to live within the horror of late industrialism with its never-quite-confirmed allegations and conspiracies?
Francesco Salvini (pantxo ramas) is a Wellcome Trust Research Associate, at the Kent Law School where he works in a project on the modern boundaries of healthcare. Pantxo is also an activist and has been actively involved in social mobilisations around the contemporary crisis of care in Ecuador, Italy and Spain.
Nicholas Beuret is a lecturer at the University of Essex. Previously he has been a researcher on green chemistry and climate migration, and environmental campaigner and community organiser. His research explores the politics of environmental catastrophe and how our lives are shaped by both the more than human world and technoscience.
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Test Sites: Poole Harbour

Test Sites is Arts Catalyst’s series of inquiries into matters of concern connected with environmental change – such as flooding, pollution, and species loss – and their impact on local and their impact on local culture and the health and well-being of our ecosystems and ourselves. At each site, we invite local people to be part of art-led co-inquiries, working with artists, scientists, and other experts.

Test Sites: Poole Harbour was inspired by the idyllic landscape of this natural harbour with its serene wooded islands and beaches, a site of outstanding natural beauty, which boasts numerous Sites of Scientific Interest, the start of a UNESCO world heritage park, and countless European Union protected environmental habitats, and the contrast with the almost invisible network of oil industry activities and varied commercial and military interests that also characterise the area.During 2017 and 2018, Arts Catalyst has organised field trips, workshops and platforms bringing together artists, scientists, students and wildlife experts, many of whom lived locally to Poole, to explore the ecology and economy of the harbour area and Brownsea Island, and the shifting tensions between private land use and ecological needs, between scientific and amateur understanding of wildlife patterns, and between the competing needs of leisure boat users, tourists, shipping, the military, and the oil industry.

Core team members are artists Neal White and Anna Troisi, marine biologist Rick Stafford from Bournemouth University, and Anna Santomauro, Nicola Triscott and Claudia Lastra from Arts Catalyst. Other contributors include the Alternative School of Economics.

More information about future workshops, events and opportunities will be announced here and through our mailing list.

The project will gather pace during 2019 with workshops, residencies, situated knowledge and citizen science research leading to the creation of site-specific artworks, events, and alternative archives of knowledge.

Supported by EMERGE, Bournemouth University and the University of Westminster, in collaboration with Dorset Wildlife Trust, Lighthouse Poole and the Arts Development Company.

Image: Design by An Endless Supply

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A Public Hearing – Cromer Street Lyric

As part of Everyday Urbanism: Architecture as Social Process postgraduate students from Goldsmiths Centre for Research Architecture, University of London have been in residence at Arts Catalyst’s Cromer Street Centre throughout May and June 2016. During this time, they have developed a project titled A Public Hearing in which they have used the form and function of the public hearing as an aid for investigating a number of contemporary experiences. This has produced a eight channel sound installation, and a range of events examining different aspects of speaking and listening.

For the final event of the project on Saturday 25 June the group have invited local choir groups, singers and musicians for a new lyric to be composed; distilled from conversations with local people and sounds heard in and around the environs of Cromer Street in King's Cross.

This final installation of A Public Hearing, organised by students from the Centre for Research Architecture, looks at oral histories and the means by which knowledge can be altered and passed along. The process for composition will be collaborative – dialogue, consensus and disruption will be made evident in the final choral arrangement. Simultaneous to the performance a live recording with feedback will play in an adjacent room suggesting the configuration of Arts Catalyst as a sensing organ attuned to and bearing witness to unfolding events.

Event schedule

Saturday 25 June, 12 noon – 7pm
12 noon – 6pm Exhibition and performance
5pm – 7pm Closing Drinks reception

This event is FREE no booking required


A Public Hearting is supported by the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England. 

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A Public Hearing – How to Speak

As part of Arts Catalyst's current programme A Public Hearing, MA students from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, host a workshop exploring different ways of speaking in public with vocal coach Christopher Holt and local Kings Cross barrister Ousman Noor

Drawing on procedural documents from public hearings* as a starting point, this workshop, organised by students from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, looks at the conditions and protocols under which public speaking is conducted. Beginning with a review of speaking in formalized settings – such as court, council chambers or in parliament – we will then look to different, informal, modes of speaking – such as gossiping, complaining, whispering – and invite participants to draw up an alternate set of instruction manuals that give priority to such forms of speech. The latter part of the workshop will review how formal instructions are registered and performed, revealing the impact this has on what gets said and who gets heard, and how architecture changes the register of sound, affecting the ways speech is delivered and supported.

*Public hearings originated from the process of the enclosure of public lands in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were held in order to create a petition to parliament to enclose the land, and then later to hear objections to the act created by Parliament. Today, public hearings are still used when dealing with both public lands and private properties.

This workshop is aimed at residents and workers of the Kings Cross Area. Open to all ages but 16+ preferred unless accompanied by an adult.

Event Schedule

1pm Lunch (Free)
2pm Workshop (Free)
Vocal exercises, discussion and rewriting manuals plus an introduction on court procedures. 


Christopher Holt is an actor, a theatre director, a lecturer, a voice coach and a disability arts practitioner, and he has a 20 years experience in teaching, training and developing singing and speaking voices. Holt has lead vocal workshops and taught voice for professional actors, singers and dancers, students of theatre and groups of senior citizens.

Ousman Noor is a Barrister with extensive experience in representing individuals in immigration detention, making bail applications in Immigration Tribunals on their behalf. This experience led to a strong conviction that immigration detention was often performed unlawfully with insufficient transparency or accountability to the rule of law. In 2014 he set up The Habeas Corpus Project, a non-profit organisation that provides pro-bono legal representation in challenging unlawful detention of individuals in the UK.

Arts Catalyst's Centre will be open to the public for A Public Hearing as part of Everyday Urbanism: Architecture as Social Process
Thursday 2 June – Friday 24 June 2016
Thursdays & Fridays, 12noon – 6pm



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For the last 10 years, artist Ariel Guzik has searched for a way to communicate with whales and dolphins. Guzik’s project has encompassed the creation of underwater instruments, expeditions to contact whales and dolphins off the coasts of Baja California, Costa Rica and Scotland, and sound recordings of these remarkable encounters.
Guzik's Holoturian was a new work commissioned by Arts Catalyst and Edinburgh Art Festival in 2015. It was an installation of a new underwater resonance instrument, specially designed to communicate with whales and dolphins in the deep seas, and incorporated objects, drawings and films from the artist’s decade-long research project, which included a field trip by the artist and his team with Arts Catalyst to the Moray Firth in the North of Scotland to encounter the population of bottlenose dolphins that live there.
The Holoturian is planned to be launched for the first time in 2017 in the Gulf of California, following extensive underwater tests in a water tank.
To mark this exciting development, Arts Catalyst launches a new book, available as an ebook, on Issuu and as a print book by print-on-demand, which records the project to date and explores the ideas underlying it, bringing together artistic, scientific and environmental reflections on Guzik’s work, the language and culture of cetaceans, and the challenges facing these intelligent creatures in our threatened oceans today.
It comprises images of the research and installation with texts by curator Nicola Triscott and marine scientist and conservationist Mark Simmonds OBE.
“The cetaceans, who belong to a civilization parallel to ours, are the interlocutors who motivate this research. We are interested in building an approach to them without limiting their freedom and without any intentions of intrusion, training, or domination.” - Ariel Guzik
Ariel Guzik - Holoturian
ISBN 978-0-9927776-8-5
Edited by Nicola Triscott
Published by Arts Catalyst, March 2017 in UK
Designed by Margherita Huntley
Pages 44
It is available as an eBook (.pdf and on Issuu) and print-on-demand.
Binding Perfect-bound Paperback
Weight 0.11 kg 
Dimensions (centimetres) 14.81 wide x 20.98 tall
Black & white inside
Full colour cover
eBook - FREE
Print copy - Print on demand, £6

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Media or publication

Talking Dirty: Tongue First! Experiments at the Mouth of the Thames

Calling people of Essex join us for a Southend tongue first experimentation and citizen science workshops!

'Talking Dirty: Tongue First!' is a series of public events involving local foods, their source, preparation and consumption, leading to a recipe book produced in collaboration with the situated knowledge of South Essex people, containing instructions for cooking with estuary ingredients: from Thames fish to back garden elderflower cordial.

Through public, cooking and eating workshops in Leigh-on-Sea, we will create public tastings that explore environmental change. Alongside these tastings, citizen science workshops will investigate the traces of waste disposal on the 'unnatural' nature reserve of Two Tree Island in Leigh-on-Sea.

The project is led by local Southend artists Fran Gallardo, YoHa and Andy Freeman with environmental chemist and food scientist Mark Scrimshaw.

The citizen science workshops will involve using digital and mobile technologies to investigate the legacy of generations of industrial use (and misuse) in the estuary landscape.

Talking Dirty is part of Wrecked on The Intertidal Zone, an art and citizen science project that will uncover and highlight local knowledge about the changing ecology, society and industry of the Thames estuary. Artists YoHa, Critical Art Ensemble, Andy Freeman and Fran Gallardo, with The Arts Catalyst, are collaborating with local people in Southend and Leigh-on-Sea.

See the project website for more information: http://www.tonguefirst.com/

Events & Workshops

Open Jamming at Leigh-on-Sea Maritime Festival. Come one, come all!

Date: Sunday 2 August 2015, 11am – 4pm

Location: Victoria Wharf, Leigh-on-Sea, Southend
Booking: No booking required
Join local artists Fran Gallardo and YoHa at Leigh-on-Sea's annual Maritime Festival. You will find us somewhere among the sea shanties and Maldon oysters. We encourage you to bring berries and edible flowers samples from your garden, park or elsewhere to create an 'Open Jamming' (please bring the postcode as well). We will prepare jam, cordials and other seasonal cocktails on which you can choose from where berries have the sweetest earthy taste, which elderberries tickle your tongue the most, and create collective jam and cordials!
PS: We would love to hear about your recipes using local ingredients
Fluids and Mud Science (citizen science workshop 1)

Date: Saturday 15 August 2015, 10am – 5pm
Meeting Point: Fishermens Chapel, New Road, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9

Booking: please email admin@artscatalyst.org
Investigate Two Tree Island in this day workshop led by Andy Freeman with Two Tree scientific expert Dr Mark Scrimshaw (Reader in Environmental Chemistry at Brunel University) to explore the use of scientific testing outdoors. Participants will learn about and make observations of a range of gases and contaminants found in the air and water in the Thames estuary using testing kits. Observations will be geotagged using mobile phones and then uploaded to a custom digital map of the locality and shared online.
Wildlife and Not So Wild Life (citizen science workshop 2)

Date: Saturday 22 August 2015, 10am – 5pm

Meeting Point: Fishermens Chapel, New Road, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9

Booking: please email admin@artscatalyst.org 
Andy Freeman and Mark Scrimshaw with local reserves manager Marc Outten (Essex Wildlife Trust) lead this workshop, which will bring together wild life spotting, digital technologies and scientific testing of the elements. Get to know your fellow organisms, animals and local inhabitants of this complex nature reserve, including the people and industries that surround it.
Public Tasting: Explore your Tongue

Date: Sunday 30 August 2015, 7pm - 8pm)
Location: High Street, Belton Way Beach, Leigh-on-Sea, Southend (follow the railway line along High Street towards the cockle sheds)
Fran Gallardo will lead an open air cooking experiment for using local ingredients (menu released on the day). Fran will present intriguing recipes that represent and re-imagine webs of connections between gastronomy and ecology within many environments: from human microbiomes, eels, fungi, geese, ships, landfills and human-made islands. Come and taste, smell and dive into the sensorial experience of the estuary and all its complex delicacies!

Leigh Regatta: Chachacha with Local Ingredients

Date: Sunday 20 September 2015, 10.30am – 5pm

Location: High Street, Belton Way Beach, Leigh-on-Sea, Southend (follow the railway line along High Street towards the cockle sheds)
Before Autumn sets in, the artists and The Arts Catalyst will present one more chance for a tongue first exploration. Come and join us for a sensory undressing of the estuary where you can try a mixture of ingredients collected and prepared from the estuary! Artist Andy Freeman will be conducting scientific testing of local edible plants and food between 2pm - 4pm. Please drop by!

Artists Residency: Tongue First Research Centre

Date: January 2016 (exact dates announced soon)

Location: The Arts Catalyst, 74-76 Cromer Street, London WC1H 8DR

Fran Gallardo will lead a week long residency at the Arts Catalyst's Centre for Art, Science and Technology. Further details announced in September.
Talking Dirty is supported by a Wellcome Trust People Award, Arts Council England and Leigh Town Council.
 Many thanks to the Institute of Environmental, Health and Societies (Brunel University), Belton Way Small Craft Club, BioHackspace LondonEssex Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Leigh Marina Secure Measures Ltd., Southend Council and Metal (Southend).
Please note we do not encourage large groups of people foraging or collecting plants from local areas along the estuary. The Two Tree Island is considered a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (see https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/natural-england) and is a National Nature Reserve (see  http://www.essexwt.org.uk/reserves/two-tree-island) where wildlife is not to be disturbed.   


Fran Gallardo’s background is in systems engineering. He is a member of the Environmental Art Activism movement. Fran's work explores interfaces for culture in technology and ecology. In 2015, he lead the Arts Catalyst project Talking Dirty! Tongue First: Experiments at the Mouth of the Thames. This was a series of public events including citizen science workshops, involving local foods, their source, preparation and consumption.
Andy Freeman is an artist, educator, technologist and former oyster farmer. Andy has worked with software and community arts projects and was founder member of the Australian Network for Arts and Technology. Based on his arts practice and his teaching at Goldsmiths College, Andy has developed a practice that involves the combination of open data tactics and community engagement. In 2015, he lead citizen science workshops alongside Fran Gallardo, YoHa and Arts Catalyst on the project Wrecked on the Intertidal Zone. Andy has been invited to partake in a research residency in 2016, as part of Arts Catalyst's multi-faceted project Notes from the Field: Commoning Practices in Art and Science. 
YoHa (English translation 'aftermath') is a partnership between artists Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji, formed in 1994. YoHa's graphic vision and technical tinkering, has powered several celebrated collaborations, establishing an international reputation for pioneering critical arts projects. Harwood and Yokokoji co-founded the artists group Mongrel (1996-2007) and established the MediaShed a free-media lab (2005-2008). In 2008 they joined Richard Wright to produce Tantalum Memorial shown in nine countries and 15 cities over four years. In 2010 YoHa produced Coal Fired Computers before embarking on a series of works about the lived logics of database machinery including Invisible Airs (2011) and Endless War (2012).
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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 www.thecreativeexchange.org 

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. (http://www.amazon.com/The-Periodic-Table-Primo-Levi/dp/0805210415)
[2] High Low tech instructions for circuits (http://highlowtech.org/?p=1372)
[3] Floridi, L. (2009). Against Digital Ontology in Synthèse,168(1): pp. 151-178. Available at: http://www.philosophyofinformation.net/publications/pdf/ado.pdf
[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), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnmHZXvJhlk
[7] Fiorenzo Omenetto: Silk, the ancient material of the future (2011), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqqWw3xkMzA
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Sterile / Sensei Ichi-Go

A two part commission by Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen

Albino goldfish engineered to hatch without reproductive organs. They were not conceived as animals but made as objects, unable to partake in the biological cycle. An edition of 45 goldfish was produced for the artists by Professor Yamaha Etsuro in his laboratory in Hokkaido, Japan, following an intricate collaboration process which began in 2011.

Commissioned by Arts Catalyst and Schering Stiftung. With thanks to Professor Yamaha Etsuro, Kimura Sizuo, Kyoko Tachibana, Dr Rachel Rodman, Michiko Nitta, Charles Duffy, Arron Smith, Oliver Coles, Leon Eckert, Hannah Fasching.

Sensei Ichi-Go
A machine capable of producing sterile goldfish in an automated reenactment of Yamaha-Sensei’s movements and actions. Physically articulating this fabrication process, its mechanisation allows for the standardisation of both sequence and animal. A contraption with its own (dormant) choreography, the machine is an assembly line, a printer, a puppet master, a potential.

Commissioned by Arts Catalyst and Schering Stiftung. With thanks to Professor Yamaha Etsuro, Kimura Sizuo, Kyoko Tachibana, Ben Ditzen, Frank Verkade.

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Parallel Universe

Experiments and reflections on science from non-Western cultures, with a major new commission, CAT by Ansuman Biswas, and performance-lecture by Paul Wong

CAT - Ansuman Biswas

In CAT, Ansuman Biswas performed an experiment / demonstration drawing on the image of Schrödinger's Cat, the famous paradox in quantum physics. The work arises from a comparative study of modern scientific methodology and the 2,500 year old Indian science of vipassana. It lasted for ten days, during which time the artist remained sealed and meditating within a light and soundproof chamber. He attempted to maintain continuous, detailed observation of all sensory phenomena.

Dead Man Talking - Paul Wong

A multi-media presentation by Paul Wong (Canada/China) on Western science and Chinese medical practices, with reference to cultural attitudes towards death.

Programme of events:

Fri 20 March:
Lecture/performance by Luis Eduardo Luna (Brazil) on the link between sound and shamanic practices in the Amazon.
Sat 21 March:
Dead Man Talking, multi-media presentation by Paul Wong.
Sun 22 March:
Presentation about Islamic science by Professor Ziauddin Sardar of Middlesex University followed by a discussion of CAT between theoretical physicist David Peat and Jungian analyst Chris Hawke


Ansuman Biswas was born in Calcutta and trained in the UK. He is an artist with an international practice encompassing music, film, live art, installation, writing and theatre. He is actively engaged in bridging the gap between science and art. In 2002-2003 he was artist-in-residence at the National Institute of Medical Research. He has an on-going research interest in consciousness studies, in particular the subjective emotional correlates of objective physiological states.
Ansuman has shown visual and time-based art at Tate Modern, South London Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, IIC New Delhi, Headlands Centre, San Francisco, and many other galleries and museums around the world. He has worked as a composer and musician in a wide range of contexts from jazz to Indian Classical music, pop songs to industrial noise. He has been commissioned by the Sonic Arts Network, the National Theatre, the Royal Ballet, the English National Opera and Guangdong Modern Dance Company in China as well as numerous other ensembles, film makers, theatre and dance companies. His theatre composition credits are numerous as are his film and acting credits.


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MIR Flight 001

One of the most fascinating aspects of manned space flight is the state of zero gravity or weightlessness: astronauts and objects floating in air. But it is only recently that this extraordinary 'by-product' of the space programme has been recognised as a rich scientific resource, with a multitude of experiments queuing up for the space agencies' parabolic flight programmes and for the new International Space Station. To date, the aesthetic possibilities of zero gravity have barely been explored, in part due to the exclusiveness of the environment, accessible only to astronauts and scientists.

In September 2001, the Arts Catalyst took a group of London and Russian artists, scientists and philosophers to Star City, Russia, to undertake projects in zero gravity, utilising the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre's parabolic flight programme.

The Russian Federation is a nation with a large space programme. To carry out this programme it is necessary to train cosmonauts in real conditions of space flight - zero gravity. To achieve zero gravity in earth conditions, the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre uses the flight of a special flying laboratory - the Ilyushin-76 MDK - on a parabolic trajectory. They have extensive experience of these flights. The IL-76 MDK is a very large aircraft specially adapted for parabolic flight.

After the parabolic fligh, Flow Motion gave a free concert of electronic music for the people of Star City at the Cosmonauts Club.

London and Russian artists and scientists selected for the MIR flight 001 (some flying, some ground-based) were:

  • Anna Alchuk, artist and poet
  • Ansuman Biswas, artist and musician
  • Alexei Blinov, engineer and member of Raylab
  • Anthony Bull, biomechanics scientist, Imperial College London
  • Jem Finer, artist and musician
  • Kevin Fong, doctor, lecturer in space medicine, University College London
  • Edward George, musician and member of Flow Motion
  • Andrew Kotting, film director
  • Trevor Mathison, musician and member of Flow Motion
  • Judith Palmer, freelance journalist
  • Anna Piva, musician and member of Flow Motion
  • Mikhail Ryklin, scientist and philosopher
  • Morag Wightman, dancer
  • Louise K Wilson, artist
  • Andrey and Julia Velikanov, artists

Resulting projects

  • Gravity: A Love Story - Morag Wightman & Craos Mor
  • Zero Genies - Jem Finer & Ansuman Biswas
  • Wave Particle - Jem Finer & Ansuman Biswas
  • Kosmos in Blue - Flow Motion
  • Too G - Andrew Kotting
  • Universal Substitute - Andrei & Julia Velikanov


Ansuman Biswas was born in Calcutta and trained in the UK. He is an artist with an international practice encompassing music, film, live art, installation, writing and theatre. He is actively engaged in bridging the gap between science and art. In 2002-2003 he was artist-in-residence at the National Institute of Medical Research. He has an on-going research interest in consciousness studies, in particular the subjective emotional correlates of objective physiological states.
Ansuman has shown visual and time-based art at Tate Modern, South London Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, IIC New Delhi, Headlands Centre, San Francisco, and many other galleries and museums around the world. He has worked as a composer and musician in a wide range of contexts from jazz to Indian Classical music, pop songs to industrial noise. He has been commissioned by the Sonic Arts Network, the National Theatre, the Royal Ballet, the English National Opera and Guangdong Modern Dance Company in China as well as numerous other ensembles, film makers, theatre and dance companies. His theatre composition credits are numerous as are his film and acting credits.

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.

In 2001, Trevor Mathison was involved in MIR Flight 001 in which The Arts Catalyst took a group of London and Russian artists, scientists and philosophers to Star City, Russia, to undertake projects in zero gravity, utilising the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre's parabolic flight programme. Mathison was part of Flow Motion, a band of musicians and dancers who gave a free concert of electronic music for the people of Star City at the Cosmonauts Club.
Also in 2001, Flow Motion created a three part work entitled “Kosmos in Blue”; a three part work comprising of a sound sculpture taking a parabolic flight in zero gravity, a live performance mixing the sounds of radio astronomy with Sun Ra's music and a CD of these recordings. The artists were concerned with questions of troubled subjectivity, isolation, freedom and melancholia, focusing on the figure of Sun Ra.
Both films documenting MIR Flight 001 and Kosmos in Blue were screened at The Arts Catalyst's “Artists and Cosmonauts” film screening in 2002, included in the film, Gravitation Off! In 2004 and included in the publication “Zero Gravity: A Cultural User's Guide”.
In 2011, Trevor Mathison was involved in the “Specimens to Superhumans” event “All That Happened To Us” at the Roehampton University Dance Faculty in London. “All That Happened To Us” explored the implications of biomechanics of ageing and contemporary dance practice.
While traditional dance science looks at how to enable an elite dancer to achieve perfection in both performance and aesthetics, this participative event explored what we can learn from the science of ageing about how a disabled or older dancer’s body works and what they need in order to perform to full capacity and to unlock their body’s full potential.For both older and disabled dancers, achieving elite standards may be neither possible nor what they are striving for, and this event explored the nuances between the social model of disability and the medical model of ageing, to see what common ground emerges from.
Dr Kevin Fong is co-director of the Centre for Altitude, Space and Extreme environment medicine, an honorary senior lecturer in physiology at University College London and a Consultant Anaesthetist at UCL Hospitals. He had a special interest in the medical and physiological challenges of long duration human space missions.
Kevin has worked with research groups and senior figures at European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA’s Human Adaptation and Countermeasures Office, forming part of their artificial gravity pilot study team. He has also worked as part of the NASA team developing medical procedures for the X-38 Assured Crew Return Vehicle (ACRV ) – a spacecraft that was once set to become the world’s first space ambulance.
Kevin is also a passionate science communicator and is a regular on Horizon and BBC productions as well as delivering the 2015 Christmas lecture at Royal Institution of Great Britain.
Back in 2001 Kevin travelled with Arts Catalyst to Star City in Russia along with a line up of London and Russian artists, scientists and philosophers, to undertake projects in zero gravity, utilising the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre's parabolic flight programme.


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