Listening to the Fern-owl: Poetry as Field Recording

This online workshop focuses on the experience of listening, through writing. With artist Nastassja Simensky and Mina Gorji, writer and Associate Professor at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge

 
Drawing on artist Ashley Holmes’ Sonic Walk in Gleadless Valley, and Breakwater’s listening meditation in Ecclesall Woods earlier this year as part of the Emergent Ecologies programme, this online workshop focuses on the experience of listening, through writing. 
 
This talk and workshop begins by exploring how a number of poets described the sound of the fern-owl, and the eerie experience of hearing its cry. We’ll listen to a couple of poems together and think about the challenges of recording, listening and describing sound in language. 
 
In the workshop, we'll work with field recordings and writing exercises to explore how we can create different effects, dynamics and sonic spaces through writing sound. Together, we will develop ideas and approaches to describing and recreating sound in words, as well as thinking about how we might focus and enhance our own experiences of listening to the environment around us. By thinking through the challenges of distinguishing and articulating what and how we hear, we can consider how listening is culturally informed.
 
No experience or identification as a poet or writer is needed. A longer break is built into this workshop so participants can get a break from their screens.
 
SCHEDULE
6 - 7pm Workshop Part 1
7 - 7.30pm - Screen Break
7.30 - 8.15pm - Workshop Part 2
 
‘Poetry as Field Recording’ is part of Leaky Transmissions, a project by Nottingham-based artist Nastassja Simensky that explores changing land-use, and the potential of collaborative fieldwork involving artists and archaeologists. Find out more about Leaky Transmissions which will culminate in a series of podcasts for Radio Arts Catalyst. 
 
Participants are invited to develop a short response to the workshop and contribution to the third Leaky Transmissions episode, which will also include recordings taken at artist Harun Morrison’s Mind Garden and extracts from a conversation with artist Rachel Pimm about the ideas that resonate through their work for the Emergent Ecologies programme. 
 
ACCESS: The workshop takes place online, with a 30-minute break built in away from screens. It will be captioned, and key instructions and links will be typed into the chat. Materials will be sent in advance to participants. 
 
About the facilitators
Mina Gorji is Associate Professor at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. She is currently writing a book about Romantic Poetry and Listening, and has published a study of John Clare's poetry as well as essays on weeds, littleness, mess and listening. As a practicing poet her most recent collection, Scale (Carcanet, 2022), has been described as a work of "deep sonic attention" (Irish Times).
 
Nastassja Simensky is an artist who often works collaboratively to make writing, place-specific performances, events, sound work and films as a form of ongoing fieldwork. Leaky Transmissions is an ongoing body of artwork and research Nastassja is developing through a PhD at the Slade exploring changing land-use and the potential of collaborative fieldwork involving artists and archaeologists
 
Tickets are free but please reserve a place so you can receive the zoom link. If you can no longer make it, please cancel your ticket so your place can be reallocated.
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Kitchen Club: Mind Garden Open Day

Artist Harun Morrison and his collaborators have been busy transforming Sheffield Mind's outdoor space as part of his project with Arts Catalyst, called Mind Garden. 

 
Join us for a vegetarian BBQ prepared by Niamh Riordan, artist and curator of Chopping Club, planting sessions with Fran Halsall (Regather and Sheffield Woodland Connections), tasting sessions with Hannah Fincham (Social Pickle) and a series of guest DJs. During this family friendly event there will also be teas on offer made from herbs sourced from the garden.
 
Kitchen Club brings together people who care about food including its circulation and production, to collectively reflect on what it means – culturally, socially and environmentally – to prepare and share food. 
 
Kitchen Club is connected to our Emergent Ecologies programme. The first season of Kitchen Club is co-curated with artist Harun Morrison in the context of his project Mind Garden.  
 
All activities, food and drinks are offered for free. If you would like to donate to support the work of Arts Catalyst, you can add a donation when booking, or donate with cash on the day. 
 
TICKETS: Although this outdoor event is free, we would encourage you to register for the event for one of the timed slots to help us manage capacity (who knows how many veggie sausages we’ll need!) and also to receive updates in case of bad weather or unforeseen Covid issues. 
 
We have three 'arrival' times. You can help us to make sure we can accommodate and feed everyone, by booking for one of the slots by choosing the appropriate ticket. You are welcome to stay as long as you want, but arriving around the time on your ticket is appreciated. 
 
Alternatively you can just drop in on the day, but please check our social media the day before in case of bad weather. You can drop in anytime between 12 - 4pm, but please note, that the vegetarian BBQ ends at 3pm. 
 
ACCESS: The workshop takes place at Sheffield Mind, which is accessible for wheelchair users with a disabled toilet.  Some of the surfaces are uneven, but the garden has level access. Most  activities will take place outdoors, so please come prepared for the weather. We will provide seating.
 
Regular bus services are in place along London / Abbeydale Road. 
 
If you are attending in a wheelchair or for more access information please email: admin@artscatalyst.org 
 
We are taking extra precautions to manage the risk of COVID-19.
 
We ask everyone attending this event to wear a mask indoors unless exempt. We are limiting capacity and any indoor areas will be well ventilated. Please wear layers should you feel the cold. 
 
Please note: If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 such as sore throat, continuous headache, dry cough, runny nose, loss of taste of smell, or high temperature, or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please do not attend. We want to keep everyone as safe as possible. Thank you for your understanding. 
 
If you develop symptoms of COVID19 after the event please email us at admin@artscatalyst.org and mark it 'URGENT'. This way we will be able to contact those who attended the event.
 
About the artists
 
Harun Morrison is an artist and writer based on the inland waterways. He is the 20/21 recipient of the Wheatley Fine Art Fellowship, hosted by Birmingham School of Art, Birmingham City University and Eastside Projects; where his recent solo exhibition 'Experiments With Everyday Objects' ran this summer. His forthcoming novel, The Escape Artist will be published by Book Works in 2022. Since 2006, Harun has collaborated with Helen Walker in the collective practice They Are Here.
 
Harun is currently resident at Delfina Foundation & Horniman Museum and forthcoming Designer and Researcher in Residence at V&A Dundee. He is also a trustee of the Black Cultural Archives (est. 1981).
 
Niamh Riordan is an artist and producer based in Liverpool. She produces and curates Chopping Club: a monthly programme of communal cooking and eating in Sefton Libraries alongside artist Gregory Herbert, for the Rule of Threes' project Human Libraries, working with library users and librarians to create delicious communal meals alongside opportunities to think about local food systems, reciprocity and sustainability. Her practice encompasses writing around food and cultural history, and she has been a regular contributor to FEAST Journal. Niamh also collaborates with artists, designers and cooks Francesca Ulivi and Brenda Kearney as Fairland Collective.
 
Hannah Fincham’s work often uses vegetables as a tool, tapping into the social life of food, working around themes of creativity, care, waste, and health. Her practice thrives on working with a genuine connection to nature and humans through story, local history and lore. The natural world or public landscapes and domestic settings, all being contexts to explore. Hannah is particularly interested in the crossovers between these spaces – from concrete gardens, wild hedgerow larders, to curbside first aid cupboards.
 
Fran Halsall has been gardening since age ten, beginning with a herb patch that ignited her interest in ‘useful’ plants. Training as an artist led Fran to a career in landscape photography, where she learned about different habitats and plants across the British Isles. It was a passion for both nature and design that led Fran to study for an MA in Landscape Architecture at The University of Sheffield. Here she specialised in ecological design and landscape management, meaning that she is capable of working at all scales: from back gardens to public parks.  Fran's particular skill lies in creating wildlife-supporting and nature-friendly food gardens.
 
Please note: A photographer will be present to document this event. By registering for this event, you give consent to be photographed. Photos will be used by Arts Catalyst for documentation and marketing purposes. If for any reason this does not feel comfortable, please let one of the organisers know at the start of the event and we'll make sure you do not appear in any photos. 
 
Mind Garden is supported by Arts Council England, The Freshgate Foundation and The JG Graves Charitable Trust
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Radio Silence - Online Poetry Workshop

Radio Silence is a poetry workshop facilitated by artist and writer Emma Bolland for people to write experimentally about the spaces, metaphors, and struggles of ‘transmission’.

 
‘I was interested in vibration. I was interested in what happens when you don’t say anything at all’. — Bhanu Kapil, from Ban en Banlieue (2015)
 
‘The static is like the sound of thinking... It's like the sound of thought itself, its hum and rush’. — Tom McCarthy, from C (2010).
 
In relation to analogue radio, the term ‘static’ is associated with faulty transmission or faulty reception—static is communication gone wrong. But what if ‘static’ is thought of as a rich space, a generative space, where the effort and struggle of communication is valued as a thing in itself?
 
No experience or identification as a poet is needed—the workshop is a generative ‘thinking space’ where ongoing process will be valued over finished product. A longer break is built into this workshop so participants can get a break from their screens.
 
Schedule
6 - 7pm Workshop Part 1
7 - 7.30pm - Screen Break
7.30 - 8.15pm - Workshop Part 2
 
Radio Silence is part of Leaky Transmissions, a project by Nottingham-based artist Nastassja Simensky that explores changing land-use, and the potential of collaborative fieldwork involving artists and archaeologists. Responding to Arts Catalyst’s Emergent Ecologies programme, Leaky Transmissions includes spatial and sonic workshops, talks and walks that will culminate in a series of audio works on Radio Arts Catalyst.
 
Tickets are free but please reserve a place to help us manage capacity. 
 
ACCESS: The workshop takes place online, with a 30 minute break built in away from screens. It will not be captioned but key instructions will be typed into the chat.
 
For more information please get in touch with us. 
 
About the Artists
 
Emma Bolland is an artist, writer, and lecturer based in Sheffield. Recent work includes an experimental ‘audio guide’ for the exhibition imPerfekt, at Mewo Kunsthalle Memmingem in Germany, and their book Instructions from Light, a hybrid prose-poem / novella / screenplay, is published by JOAN later this year.
 
Nastassja Simensky is an artist who often works collaboratively to make writing, place-specific performances, events, sound work and films as a form of ongoing fieldwork. Leaky Transmissions is an ongoing body of artwork and research Nastassja is developing through a PhD at the Slade exploring changing land-use and the potential of collaborative fieldwork involving artists and archaeologists.
 
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Kitchen Club 2: Spring Bitters

Kitchen Club brings together people who care about food including its circulation and production, to collectively reflect on what it means – culturally, socially and environmentally – to prepare, share and consume in the kitchen. Each month artists and cultural practitioners will share their practice connected to food, and engage participants in sensory experiences around a kitchen table.  

 
What is the knowledge, memory and medicine held in bitters? If we sat with bitterness, what might emerge?
 
A morning of tasting herbs and thinking aloud together will be facilitated by writer and researcher Priya Jay. She will invite participants to explore the taste, sensation, memory and medicine of bitter herbs. Taking time with a flavour that many of us avoid or aren’t used to, this will be an opportunity to sit with the power and potential of bitterness.
 
Kitchen Club It is connected to Arts Catalyst’s Emergent Ecologies programme of work. The first season of Kitchen Club is co-curated with artist Harun Morrison in the context of his project Mind Garden
 
Tickets are free but please reserve a place to help us manage capacity. If you can no longer make it, please request a refund so your place can be reallocated. 
 
ACCESS: The workshop takes at Sheffield Mind, which is accessible for wheelchair users with a disabled toilet.  Regular bus services are in place along London / Abbeydale Road. 
 
We are taking extra precautions to manage the risk of COVID-19.
 
We ask everyone attending this event to wear a mask indoors unless exempt. We are limiting capacity to enable social distancing and the room will be well ventilated. Please wear layers should you feel the cold. 
 
We ask everyone attending this event to take a Lateral Flow Test on the day of the event. 
 
Please note: If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 such as sore throat, continuous headache, dry cough, runny nose, loss of taste of smell, or high temperature, or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please do not attend. We want to keep everyone as safe as possible. Thank you for your understanding. 
 
Priya Jay's current practice encircles writing, study and somatics. Her work is rooted in grief, re-enchantment and technologies of healing. She takes cracks in the archives as her point of departure and arrival, experimenting with what wants to emerge or stay hidden. Priya’s academic background is in anthropology and she has worked in a curatorial capacity with several arts institutions. As a facilitator, Priya holds grief gatherings, is a guest lecturer in a course for Death Workers and is a yoga teacher in training.
 

 

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Kitchen Club #1 with Social Pickle

Launching in April 2022, Kitchen Club brings together people who care about food including its circulation and production, to collectively reflect on what it means – culturally, socially and environmentally – to prepare, share and consume in the kitchen. Each month we invite artists and cultural practitioners to lead a two-hour gathering at Sheffield Mind. They will share their practice connected to food through their unique lens and engage participants in sensory experiences around a kitchen table.

Kitchen Club forms part of Arts Catalyst’s Emergent Ecologies programme. This first season is co-curated with artist Harun Morrison in the context of his project Mind Garden. 

 

Kitchen Club #1 - Learning to Trust the Gut; Fermentation as Collaboration

“When we eat, we are not sitting at the top of a food chain. We are participating in a messy entanglement of living beings with whom we share “metabolic intimacy”. - The Convivial Table, Kelly Donati

In Kitchen Club #1 Artists Hannah and Ross from Sheffield's Social Pickle will be sharing lessons in microbial relationship therapy they’ve learned from their fermentation pot. Participants will get to know their bacteria collaborators through an olfactory and taste based tour of fermented aromas and flavours. Harnessing the emotions that thoughts conjured in the process you’ll be invited to use creative writing to explore this symbiotic relationship further.
 
Humans live in symbiosis with bacteria through all areas of life, 90% of the DNA in our own bodies belongs to microbial organisms. Fermentation is a process where we are particularly conscious of our role as caretakers of the environment needed by those microbes so that they can thrive, and in turn help us to fend off mould, transforming ingredients into deliciously sour flavours. Fermentation is a collaborative and caring process. 
 
When it comes to our meals, many of us have become reliant on labels and sell by dates to direct us as to what is good and what is bad. But learning to preserve your own food means to sharpen your instincts, getting to know and love the pungent smells of these metabolic processes. Extending these empathetic notions out to the food that we eat could radically affect the way we feed ourselves and care for the conditions of all the contributing bodies to the dinner plate.
 
Tickets are free but please reserve a place to help us manage capacity. If you can no longer make it, please request a refund so your place can be reallocated. Book via Evenbrite here. 
 
ACCESS: The workshop takes at Sheffield Mind, which is accessible for wheelchair users with a disabled toilet.  Regular bus services are in place along London / Abbeydale Road. 
 
We are taking extra precautions to manage the risk of COVID-19.
We ask everyone attending this event to wear a mask indoors unless exempt. We are limiting capacity to enable social distancing and the room will be well ventilated. Please wear layers should you feel the cold. 
 
We ask everyone attending this event to take a Lateral Flow Test on the day of the event. 
 
Please note: If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 such as sore throat, continuous headache, dry cough, runny nose, loss of taste of smell, or high temperature, or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please do not attend. We want to keep everyone as safe as possible. Thank you for your understanding. 
 
If you develop symptoms of COVID19 after the event please email us at admin@artscatalyst.org and mark it 'URGENT' . This way we will be able to contact all who attended the event.
 
About Social Pickle
Hannah Fincham and Ross Bennett’s collaborative work often uses vegetables as a tool, tapping into the social life of food, working around themes of creativity, care, waste, and health. Having moved to Sheffield in 2020, they found community through Foodhall and along with other volunteers they cooked meals that were being delivered around the city as part of the mutual aid and community response to the pandemic. 
 
Whilst doing this, a small group of fermentation enthusiasts realised that even with cooks processing every day there was still surplus in a surplus kitchen. So it made perfect sense, to add more life, or at least try to preserve the life that was in these ingredients and begin pickling. Social Pickle was born, bringing people together to share the joys of foraging, pickling and producing. Social Pickle explores fermentation as a human and non-human collaborative process, seeking to create better access to nutritious food and create less damaging practises to the planet. The process is one of shared learning, and they see it as a space for community members to empower each other through knowledge and build resilience!
 
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Downstream - Interdisciplinary Outdoor Workshop

An interdisciplinary workshop exploring sound and ecology in Woodhouse Washlands.

Devised and hosted by artist duo, a place of their own, this interdisciplinary event, as part of the Wet / Land / Dwellers project, will explore sonic and ecological histories and imaginaries of the Woodhouse Washlands on the border of Sheffield and Rotherham. 

 
The event brings together sound artist Gary Stewart, ecologist Dr Phillip Warren and the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust to explore different relations, connections and interdependencies of these watery lands and those that dwell there, human and non-human. 
 
The  whole workshop will take place outdoors and will involve a walk across Woodhouse Washlands. Participants will have the opportunity to record sound as they walk. No previous experience needed.  This event is aimed at ages 13+. Young people under 18 need to be accompanied by an adult.
 
This event is free but please book a ticket here.
 
ACCESS: The workshop takes place outdoors, at Woodhouse Washlands which is only accessible in some parts for wheelchair users. Paths are likely to be muddy. We advise getting in touch with us to request more information on routes for wheelchair users. Please note there are no toilets or parking on site.
 
For further information on the meet point, please see Eventbrite via the link above or if you have a ticket, check your emails.
 
EXTRAS: We advise wearing suitable warm, waterproof clothing and sturdy footwear in case of rain and likely muddy paths. 
 
We are taking extra precautions to manage the risk of COVID-19.
We ask everyone attending this event to bring a mask, and wear if stepping indoors at the start of the event. We are limiting capacity to enable social distancing. We ask everyone attending this event to take a Lateral Flow Test on the day of the event.  
 
Please note: If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 such as sore throat, continuous headache, dry cough, runny nose, loss of taste of smell, or high temperature, or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please do not attend. We want to keep everyone as safe as possible. 
 
WET / LAND / DWELLERS
Wetlands are complex, environmentally important, ecosystems, and their loss inextricably connects legacies of colonial expansion with current environmental challenges. Up to 75% of the world’s wetlands are now lost, and so is the rich biodiversity that inhabits them as well as the histories that they carry.
 
Situated across Shire Brook Valley and Woodhouse Washlands in South Yorkshire, Wet / Lands / Dwellers brings together communities, scientists, environmentalists and artists to interrogate the specificities of these sites through a critical spatial art practice. Find out more about Wet / Land Dwellers.  
 
The Wet / Land  / Dwellers project seeks partly to raise awareness of the global destruction of wetlands. World Wetlands Day 2022 is on the 2nd February. Please see more info here. 
 
The Wet / Land  / Dwellers project acknowledges that wetland destruction is fundamentally connected to global racial capitalism and settler colonialism. One contemporary example of struggles against these forms of violence is the Unist’ot’en Camp and the larger Wet’suwet’en Nation who are, in their words, “standing up to the Canadian government and corporations who continue colonial violence against Indigenous people”, taking action to protect their lands from the establishment of new pipelines and from new fracturing projects. Please see more on their struggle here.
 
A more in depth discussion of those issues will be explored through a future event in Sheffield in February. Sign up to Arts Catalyst newsletter to hear more.
 
A place of their own is an experimental contemporary art and spatial practice, conceived by artist duo Paula McCloskey and Sam Vardy, that investigates contemporary conditions and create new spaces, imaginaries and subjectivities. Based in Sheffield, UK and Ballyshannon, Ireland, together they make performances, spatial interventions and audio-visual art and research. Their projects explore the transformative potential of art and spatial practice to suggest other worlds yet to become.
 
Gary Stewart is an artist concerned with social and political issues, particularly with reference to history, identity and culture, working across sound, moving image and performance. Collective practice is key to his work using experimental media practices and technologies to explore the unique spaces emerging in public spaces, art galleries and museums formed by the shifting intersections and blurred boundaries between audiences, authorship and participation. Currently Lecturer in Fine Art (Studio Practice) at Goldsmiths, University of London, he is a founder member of interdisciplinary artist, research and performance group Dubmorphology and Artist Associate at People's Palace Projects based in the Drama Department of Queen Mary University of London working with activists and academics on projects that address a wide range of social justice and human rights issues.
 
Philip Warren is an ecologist with particular interests in freshwaters and the way these are influenced by the landscapes, and histories of the landscapes, that surround and connect them. He has taught and researched ecology at University of Sheffield for 30 years and is interested in exploring different ways of communicating ideas about nature and environmental issues, and our part in both.
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WET / LAND / DWELLERS

Situated across Shire Brook Valley and Woodhouse Washlands in South Yorkshire, Wet / Lands / Dwellers brings together communities, scientists, environmentalists and artists to interrogate the specificities of these sites through a critical spatial art practice. 

 
Wetlands are complex, environmentally important, ecosystems, and their loss inextricably connects legacies of colonial expansion with current environmental challenges. Up to 75% of the world’s wetlands are now lost, and so is the rich biodiversity that inhabits them as well as the histories that they carry.
 
By navigating local stories, with their social, ecological, political and geological histories, and expanding to a planetary dimension, the project explores how communities understand their relation to wetlands and how they could be the site of new social/ecological relations.
 
This project is a collaboration with Sheffield-based artists Paula McCloskey and Sam Vardy (a place of their own) and Arts Catalyst as part of the Emergent Ecologies programme.
 
The Wet / Land  / Dwellers project seeks partly to raise awareness of the global destruction of wetlands. World Wetlands Day 2022 is on the 2nd February. Please see more info here. 
 
The Wet / Land  / Dwellers project acknowledges that wetland destruction is fundamentally connected to global racial capitalism and settler colonialism. One contemporary example of struggles against these forms of violence is the Unist’ot’en Camp and the larger Wet’suwet’en Nation who are, in their words, “standing up to the Canadian government and corporations who continue colonial violence against Indigenous people”, taking action to protect their lands from the establishment of new pipelines and from new fracturing projects. Please see more on their struggle here.
 
A more in depth discussion of those issues will be explored through a future event in Sheffield in March. Sign up to Arts Catalyst newsletter to hear more.
 

A Place of Their Own is an experimental contemporary art and spatial practice, conceived by artist duo Paula McCloskey and Sam Vardy, that investigates contemporary conditions and create new spaces, imaginaries and subjectivities. Based in Sheffield, UK and Ballyshannon, Ireland, together they make performances, spatial interventions and audio-visual art and research. Their projects explore the transformative potential of art and spatial practice to suggest other worlds yet to become.

 

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fud

fud is a new body of work by Gary Zhexi Zhang, drawn from the artist's research into the role of insurance in shaping the times and spaces we inhabit, commissioned by Arts Catalyst and Bloc Projects, Sheffield, in partnership with Medialab Prado.

Insurance has long been practiced as a form of protection from individual life and loss. However, in today’s era of deep financialisation, insurers and reinsurers manage hazards at a planetary scale, connecting storm surges in Florida to nuclear reactors in Asia through global capital markets, hungry for risk. What were once “acts of God” become calculable, exchangeable resources to be mined from an uncertain future. 

Over the past year, Zhang has been researching the "catastrophe industry", the billion-dollar market for insurance against hurricanes, earthquakes and droughts, priced through climate simulations and financial modelling. Over three episodes, fud explores the catastrophe industry as an elaborate work of science fiction, in which the business of underwriting the earth begins to resemble the shaping of possible worlds.
 
This 18-month project comprises a digital commission (launching online 16 October 2020), an exhibition at Bloc Projects in Sheffield (April 2021), a residency at Medialab Prado in Madrid (2021) and an accompanying publication. A public programme (online and in person) will accompany the project throughout its development, engaging audiences through study groups, workshops and talks.
 
The first episode, a web-based artwork developed in collaboration with Agnes Cameron, will be launched online on 16 October. Zhang describes the work as a “simulation play”, a computer-generated narrative to be performed over the total duration of fud. On a website imagined as a catastrophe market observatory, human and software participants argue, speculate and negotiate over the value of emerging planetary disturbances. The moods and desires of the characters in Zhang’s generative narrative respond to live climatological activity and market signals. Over an anonymous chat server, their drama invokes the dynamics of online prediction markets, where bets are placed, contracts are exchanged and debts are underwritten over future scenarios. Over several months, their interactions veer from the banal to the prescient to the absurd, as each player seeks new ways to game the market in the face of global uncertainty.
 
The second episode, an exhibition taking place at Bloc Projects, Sheffield, will bring together a selection of real and fictional artefacts gathered over the course of Zhang’s research and interviews with simulation engineers, existential risk analysts, loss adjusters and financial astrologists. Through encounters with its materials and practitioners, the exhibition will engage with the making and shaping of catastrophic time.
 
While fud was originally conceived in late 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the fragility of global infrastructures into plain sight. In the third episode, a residency at Medialab Prado, the artist will explore risk in relation to locality and statehood from a Southern European perspective. If insurance is a form of mutual security, how can its operation shift towards one of planetary accountability? And what will become of the anthropocene’s uninsurable hinterlands, cities and communities that find themselves beyond the calculus of financialised time and space?
 
fud forms part of the programme for Ungovernable Machines, Arts Catalyst’s ongoing strand of research investigating the social, political, economic and ecological implications of the intangible networks and systems that govern our daily lives, and the structures of power which underlie them.
 
PROGRAMME EVENTS
 
Two study groups led by the artist on the theme of “Catastrophe Time!”, exploring the temporality of global uncertainty and finance, will be held on 25 September and 2 October, both at 6 – 8pm UK time. If you are interested in joining, please send an email to admin@artscatalyst.org outlining in one paragraph your interests and why you would like to join. Participation is free.
 
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist interested in concepts that interface between concrete and abstract worlds, such as ecology, finance and information. Recent group exhibitions and screenings include Participation Mystique at Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai; the Swamp School at the Venice Architecture Biennale; Cross-feed at Glasgow International 2018, vdrome.org (online) and All Channels Open at Wysing Arts Centre. Recent residencies include Delfina Foundation, Schloss Web (with Agnes Cameron), SPACE Art & Technology, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Praksis Oslo, CCA Glasgow and Wysing Arts Centre.
 
Established in 2002, Bloc Projects is a contemporary arts organisation in the centre of Sheffield focusing on the support and development of contemporary artists at pivotal points of their careers. Bloc Projects provide a safe and stimulating environment that is free for the public to explore ideas and creative practices and regularly works closely with other local art organisations, universities and charities to ensure that their activities welcome a diverse and intergenerational demographic. An expansive programme provides opportunities for cross-disciplinary and participatory learning, meaningful arts engagement, and skill development for creative practitioners as well as wider publics. Over the past two decades, Bloc Projects has developed a range of pivotal projects led by artists such as Beatrice Gibson, Joy Labinjo, Joey Holder, Rachel Adams, Ben Jeans Houghton and Alex Farrar. 
 
Based in Madrid, Spain, Medialab Prado is a laboratory for experimentation and cultural diffusion promoted by the Government Department of Culture and Sports of the Madrid City Council. It is a space that favours the encounter and the collaboration around open cultural projects. Activities are structured around work groups, open calls for the production of projects, collaborative research and learning communities that address a very wide range of topics.
 
SUPPORT
fud is supported by the Elephant Trust, the Henry Moore Foundation and Arts Council England.
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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.
 
EVENTS AND INQUIRY PROGRAMME
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.
 
SCROLL DOWN FOR THE FULL LIST OF PROGRAMME EVENTS
 
KEY TERMS
 
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
 
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
 
 
ABOUT THE ARTISTS 
 
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.
 
SUPPORT
 
Test Sites is supported by Wellcome Trust, University of Westminster, Bournemouth University, Canal and River Trust, and Arts Council England.
 
PROGRAMME EVENTS
 
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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