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Transmissions

Symposium 

May 2022

London, UK

Brown, Jonathan Kumintjarra. 'Poison Country'. 1995, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
Brown, Jonathan Kumintjarra. 'Poison Country'. 1995, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

Transmissions, conceived in a paradoxical climate of hyperconnectivity and restricted mobility, seeks to explore how various mediums of communication have enabled close encounter, tender gathering and urgent collectivism, in a time of quarantine and its attendant isolationist and individualising registers of foreclosure.

We are interested in forms of social encounter alongside the matter that has served as its conduit, taking in our scope transmission mediums of varying material qualities and relationships to Earth and body (cables, broadcast, waves, satellites, viruses, voice, gesture, post, messaging, wire, ghosts, utterance, etc.).

The symposium is conceived and led by the Fiction Feeling Frame research collective in the Royal College of Art School of Architecture.


Participants

Nicky Coutts

DJ Savarese

Gemma Blackshaw

David Burns

Mark Campbell

Delfina Fantini van Ditmar

Elise Misao Hunchuck

Eleni Ikoniadou

Adam Kaasa

Thandi Loewenson

Rosa Whiteley

Morning Session

Keynote

Nicky Coutts

Man Stupid: Interspecies transmissions

Man Stupid is a drawing project centering on the captive gorilla Koko’s short sign language speech at the COP21 climate change conference in 2014. Coutts’ drawings explore the trauma of a primate put in this position, walking the many lines between gesture and representation.

Dr Nicky Coutts is Research Lead in the School of Fine Art at the Glasgow College of Art. Until recently, she was PGR Lead in the School of Arts and Humanities (SoAH) at the RCA and before that SoAH MRes Pathway Lead and Tutor in Print also at the RCA. Her inter-disciplinary research and practice centres on human relations to non-human animals and innovations in ‘language’ to rethink potential interactions. Coutts’ work has been shown widely including at Kunsthalle Mainz, Fotografisk Center, Copenhagen and Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid. She is currently working on a book project also titled ‘Man Stupid’ to be published in 2023.


David Burns

'Poison Country'

In the years following the decommissioning of the nuclear test sites at Maralinga, South Australia, Aboriginal artists began incorporating the atomic tests into their practices. In the paintings of Jonathan Kumintjarra Brown, nuclear iconography of mushroom clouds, radiation symbols, and people in protective suits became juxtaposed with traditional themes and motifs of Aboriginal Western Desert painting. These works folded the nuclear histories of South Australia into new and old media, creating critical connections between the ancient histories of Indigenous Australians and the deep futures of nuclear colonialism.

David Burns works in media and space. His current research examines the role of media in the historiographies of sites of nuclear colonialism. His practice spans photography, site specific sculpture, and spatial intervention, in addition to curation and convening. For two decades David has written and led transdisciplinary curricula in architecture, art, and design. From 2009-2015 he was the inaugural Director of Photography and Situated Media at UTS (Sydney) and currently leads Media Studies at the Royal College of Art School of Architecture. He is co-founder of the N curatorial collective and the Fiction Feeling Frame research collective.


Delfina Fantini van Ditmar

The Race of 5G

As we move further into the 21st-century hyper-connectivity paradigm, different types of cities' aesthetic identities are changing unforeseeably due to new technological advancements. Being faster than 4G requires a greater density of small cells and tower installations, leading to modified urban landscapes. Cities colonised by numerous antennas result in a quick techno-push raising concerns of strongly altered environments. Marketers and councils are promoting the upgrade to a faster service. Yet, the unplanned effects for entire cityscapes have not been fully revealed nor discussed so far. The presentation will discuss values driving 5G futures and the ecological/aesthetic concerns around the infrastructural deployment. This research is in collaboration with Dr Sanna Lehtinen (Aalto University).

Dr Delfina Fantini van Ditmar is a Senior Tutor at IDE. Delfina has a transdisciplinary background linking design research, critical algorithmic studies, architecture and ecology. Her practice encourages a critical and reflective approach towards technological 'smartness' and ecological futures. Delfina has a BA in Biology and completed her PhD at the RCA with the thesis 'The IdIoT'.


Gemma Blackshaw

Tubercular Transmissions

This visual paper comprises a cross-historical collection of picture postcards to, from and of Leysin, a former ‘climatic station’ for tubercular ‘health tourists’ high above Lac Léman. Evoking the form, tone and feel of postcard writing – its brevity, its intimacy, its ephemerality – it offers a correspondence between the researcher and the researched, an English dancer called Bessie with chronic pulmonary tuberculosis who spent the 1910s receiving treatment in the Swiss Alps. How, it asks, might such writing be conceived as a practice of care for the sick subject; and what does it risk, because to care for the contagious one – even across time – is to correspond in other ways, becoming like, meaning sickening too.

Professor Gemma Blackshaw, Senior Tutor for Research in the RCA’s School of Arts & Humanities (SoAH), is an art historian, writer and curator. A specialist in what she has termed ‘clinical modernism’, she works on the intersection of modernist portraiture and figuration with clinical medical cultures in early 20th-century Europe. Feminist archival, curatorial and writing practices which attend to the themes of sickness, care and reparation are central to her research. She leads CARE, SoAH’s research group devoted to creative research as a practice of care; prior to this, she co-led CORRESPONDENCE.


Eleni Ikoniadou

The Chorus

Imagine a chorus of voices—some human, some animal, some machine—arriving from an unknown space and time to perform a lament. Laments are extreme expressions of grief in the form of a song or poem. In ancient tragedy, a chorus typically (re)turns to the past to scan history for a precedent, in search for meaning of the present. On this occasion, the chorus travels to the past not to learn from it but to rewrite it.

Dr Eleni Ikoniadou is Reader in Digital Culture and Sonic Arts at the Royal College of Art. She is founder and co-editor of the Media Philosophy Series (Rowman & Littlefield), co-editor of Unsound: Undead (Urbanomic, 2019), author of The Rhythmic Event: Art, Media and the Sonic (The MIT Press, 2014) and resident host on Movement radio.

Afternoon Session

Keynote

DJ Savarese

Neurocosmopolites, Rhizomes & Poetic Ecologies

What would it mean to build technologies that foster multimodal communication and the rich interdependent connections such communication affords? How might we grow our multimodal, neurocosmopolitan potential, becoming more aware of, more intra-actively engaged with, and therefore more caring toward, the other beings within our ever-expanding ecosystems?

David James “DJ” Savarese is an artful activist, public scholar, writer and teacher. Co-producer, narrator, and poet of the Peabody award-winning documentary Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery, and author of A Doorknob for the Eye and Studies in Brotherly Love, he co-teaches inclusive, multi-generational, global poetry writing classes and presents nationally and internationally on a range of topics. He founded Listen2Us: Writing Our Own Futures as an Open Society Foundation Human Rights Initiative Youth Fellow and currently directs the Lives-in-Progress Collective at the Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports.


Thandi Loewenson

Where is Uhuru?

‘Where is Uhuru?’ asks Issa Shivji of the promised freedoms the neoliberal project, led by the IMF and World Bank, failed to bring to the African postcolony. In this paper, I present a series of encounters with Uhuru — the first X-ray astronomy satellite and the first orbiting device to produce evidence of black holes — both as instrument and freedom dream, through archival footage, my own field notes, and data the satellite has collected, documented over four ‘Uhuru Catalogs’.

Thandi Loewenson (b.1989, Harare) is an architectural designer/researcher who mobilises design, fiction and performance to stoke embers of emancipatory political thought and fires of collective action, and to feel for the contours of other, possible worlds. Using fiction as a design tool and tactic, and operating in the overlapping realms of the weird, the tender, the earthly and the airborne, Thandi engages in projects which provoke questioning of the status-quo, whilst working with communities, policy makers, unions, artists and architects towards acting on those provocations. Thandi is a Tutor at the Royal College of Art, a Visiting Professor at the Aarhus School of Architecture, a co-curator of the platform Race, Space & Architecture and a co-foundress of architecture and research collectives Fiction, Feeling, Frame, and BREAK//LINE.


Mark Campbell

On Record

This visual presentation explores the potential of time-based media to record and construct architectural history. This is examined through footage of Dai Shan, Jiangsu, PR China, a dormitory city on the outskirts of Nanjing. Planned and constructed within two years, Dai Shan appears less as an inhabited city, than as the image of a city. Viewed in these terms, this presentation asks how notions of development, scale and occupancy might be critically evidenced through photography and film.

Mark Campbell is a Senior Tutor in Architecture at the Royal College of Art. His research focuses on architecture as an index of compromised development and flawed economic speculation. He is the author of Paradise Lost (AA 2016) and the upcoming books, The Architecture of Neurasthenia (2024) and Double Standards (2025).


Elise Misao Hunchuck

TBC


Adam Kaasa

Lost Recordings / Recording Loss

‘What we’ll always have is something we’ve lost’ - Ocean Vuong, Time is a Mother, 2022

On April 9, 1860 a voice wanting not to be lost, recorded itself in the soot of prehistoric lives on fibrous paper and was submitted to the Académie des Sciences in 1861. These vibrations, silent for a century and a half, resurfaced as voice in 2008 with the help of computer software. This paper explores the question of lost recordings and recording loss through archives of the phonautograph, the archive of coming out, and a duet with a dead voice.

Adam's work moves between space, facilitation, and performance. Their research ranges from the architectural and urban modernity of Mexico, to the politics of language in space, the design of cultural infrastructure, and social inequalities in the city. Current work includes ‘Queer Loss’, a multi-disciplinary project on spatial and embodied emotions of change, and ‘Critical Dialogues’, a practice-based project on the spatial design and curation of communication and dialogue. Adam is particularly invested in collaboration and co-authorship as an intellectual ethic, and in exploring the possibilities of radical facilitation for collective thought and action. Adam is Senior Tutor (Research) at the Royal College of Art, Co-Founder and former Director of Theatrum Mundi, and a co-founder of the Fiction Feeling Frame research collective.


Rosa Whiteley

Research assistant and rapporteur

Rosa Whiteley is an architectural researcher and designer based in London. Her work investigates how we have organised the world through toxic flows, and how those flows, in turn, organise us. Her work has been presented in Beijing, Essen, Brussels and London. In December 2021, Operaciones Editorial published Rosa’s first book, Horizontas Rosados. Rosa recently estaablished the design-research collective Afterbodies, which was recently shortlisted for the Terra Carta Research Lab. She also works as a researcher and project manager for Cooking Sections, who use food as a lens and tool to observe landscapes in transformation.

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