Exhibition Launch: Wednesday 10 May 5-8pm | All Welcome
A World of Islands considers the movement of indigenous knowledge, practices, materials and people, and historical fabrications of tropical utopia and dystopia. Locating the ‘tropics’ as both a mythological and real place with shared colonial trauma but wildly divergent histories and cultures, the exhibition unpicks some of the clichés and relocate agency in the ‘tropical’ narrative. In the context of one of the largest diasporic tropical populations, A World of Islands brings together artistic perspectives and research on the Philippine archipelago, its people and their movement over seas and oceans.
Starting with the exchange of plants and the craft, building, food and medicinal knowledge during the period of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade (1565 – 1815), Stanley Picker Fellow Ligaya Salazar’s project explores practices of ‘making home’ amongst Filipinos in the Philippines and in some of the over 100 countries with diasporic communities. Filipinos have played a disproportionate role in worldwide maritime trade, currently making up 20% of the international maritime workforce. The experience of contemporary Filipino life and diaspora is highlighted through artworks by Derek Tumala, Carol Anne McChrystal, Ronyel Compra, Alex Quicho and Stephanie Comilang that explore memories and practices of home and community-making. Through forced, government-sanctioned and voluntary movement across oceans, the exhibition points to practices and thinking often hidden in plain sight.
Ligaya Salazar is a curator and programme director who has devised creative cultural programmes across the cultural and museum sectors for 15 years and was appointed to the Stanley Picker Fellowships in 2021. Her work as a curator and commissioner focuses on contemporary interdisciplinary practice at the intersection of design, fashion, art and graphics. Her approach is shaped by an interest in how audiences can be positioned at the heart of curatorial practice, enabling a human-centred take on storytelling. As Director of Fashion Space Gallery and Arcade East, at the University of the Arts’ London College of Fashion campus, she developed the strategic direction for the two spaces and managed the programme, budget and team. She devised the public exhibition and events programmes there from 2013–20 and curated specific projects as part of that, including the Designer in Residence programme, Creative Lab, Polyphonic Playground and Fordlandia.
Please Note: Gallery Closed Friday 7 & Saturday 8 April
Warning: Contains low and flashing lights and trip hazards. Live internet feed may include potentially offensive material.
The Cascades is a multi-channel installation that brings together an ongoing series of work by artist Daniel Shanken. The installation focuses on networks of information that run in the background of our lives, filtered and curated by intelligent algorithms that push bias and dissonance.
Centering on the probing and prodding, dissecting and inverting, looping and prying of these networks and their manipulating algorithms, this project produces ongoing renderings of generative worlds, fortuitous narratives, animations, and objects, while considering their real-world impact and cannibalization of the natural environment.
Incorporating live content feeds from multiple sources online such as YouTube videos and comments, internet radio, Google Image search, Reddit, and Twitch, the work builds an environment that fluctuates with incoming content scraped from the internet in real-time. Custom-trained machine learning algorithms respond to and alter the work, while offering insights through laser-projected text. Using randomness derived from physical sources such as radioactive decay and atmospheric noise, material is shuffled and displayed in unpredictable combinations that are never the same. This is in contrast to most search engines and hosting sites that control content and information through tailored interfaces that often exclude voices hidden in the noise.
The installation creates a spontaneous environment that allows viewers to enter through interfaces other than the normal internet screen space confronted on a daily basis. The work reflects the remnants of discarded technological production, oversaturated media landscapes, data centres, landfills, and mining tunnels. It draws on the intangible data-points, AI algorithms, and rendered objects often encountered in the periphery.
Daniel Shanken is an artist working across disciplines and media. His practice explores the interplays between technology and cognition, examining their ongoing effects on the environment, consciousness, and culture. He has exhibited internationally at institutions including the Hong Kong Arts Centre, JCCAC in Hong Kong, Cloud Art Museum in Shanghai, ICA in London, Art Basel Hong Kong, Whitechapel Gallery in London, CCA in Glasgow, Nottingham Contemporary, CFCCA in Manchester, V Art Center in Shanghai, and Kiasma in Helsinki.
Bore Hole (2021) is a never-ending, procedurally generated hole with an internet browser at the bottom that only goes to a continuously refreshing Reddit “new” content page. The hole is littered with user-created 3D models downloaded from free hosting sites. A Geiger counter embedded in a granite-cased computer, influences the work through randomness created from the radioactive decay of the granite and particles in the natural environment.
Gaoler (2018-2023) is a video application that incessantly searches YouTube, randomly picking and playing videos while a walking figure traverses an endlessly generated desert. The figure is forced to read out snippets of comments and conversations happening under different user uploaded videos. Incoming video and text are mashed together in real-time reflecting the diversity and disparate nature of current platform users.
Machine Visions (2022) is laser projected text generated by a custom-trained Machine learning chatbot that is endlessly talking to itself. The chatbot was trained on texts and novels about the end of the world, technological breakdown, consciousness, and the singularity. The sentiment of the text influences elements of the other works in the space including lighting and search terms.
Internet Autosarcophagy (2019-2023) is a video application that continuously scrapes content from various search engines, audio streaming, and hosting sites, randomly dispersing that content within a live-generated environment. Sound, image, and text come in as fragments from different sources creating a disjointed and ephemeral space. At the centre of the program is an autonomous first-person shooter system that switches from a cell phone, displaying incoming Twitch chat messages, to different weapons that initiate and react to the sentiment of the incoming information.
Flesh Projections (2022) are a series of GAN-generated (Generative Adversarial Networks) objects. A 3D-GAN was trained on thousands of 3D modelled and scanned hand tools and technologies from Palaeolithic stone tools to contemporary technologies such as cell phones and laptops. The 3D printed objects represent a cross section of the artifacts the GAN made while trying to recreate this human technological history. For this installation objects are buried in blackened sand and floating in the air creating a hierarchy based on imagined affordances.
Cinematic Garbage Dump (2023) is an AI generated wallpaper made from collaged parts of images created from the prompt “cinematic garbage dump”.
Exhibition Launch: Wednesday 16 November | 6pm-8.30pm
*Closed 20-31 Dec 2022 / Reopen 3 Jan 2023
At Homeconsists of four films which each explore a key theme of domesticity: shelter, identities, well-being and connectivity. Created by the artists, designers and researchers Martha Rosler, Noam Toran, Superflux, and Simone Niquille between 1989 and 2021, the films offer a critical reflection on the values and meanings of the home in the past, present and future.
The exhibition is the next step in an ongoing research project by Jana Scholze, Penny Sparke and Catharine Rossi, three members of Kingston University’s Modern Interiors Research Centre. It originated as At Home: Panorama de nos vies domestiques, an exhibition curated for the 12th Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne (April to July 2022). Countering more widespread presentations of domesticity focused on consumerist visions or technological utopias, At Home instead addresses experiences of living in and creating a home, wherein exhibition visitors are as much the experts as the curators.
In particular, the films articulate growing concerns with the climate emergency, widespread inequality, the erosion of the boundary between the private and public self, and technological advances, and how these are affecting the domestic sphere. Conceived before Covid-19, researched during it, and exhibited in its aftermath, At Home also includes a reflection on the changing meaning of the home in light of the pandemic.
The exhibition invites all visitors – neighbours, artists, designers, architects, policy makers, students and staff – to join the curators in continuing their At Home research. Through the exhibition and accompanying programme it will explore ideas of shelter, identities, well-being and connectivity as core values of domestic life for humans and non-humans alike. At Home is also an opportunity to reflect on using exhibitions as research tools and what it means to bring an exhibition from one site to another.
Shelter: Martha Rosler, Housing is a Human Right, 1989/2017
Martha Rosler works in video, photography, text, installation, and performance. Her work focuses on the public sphere, exploring issues from everyday life and the media to architecture and the built environment, especially as they affect women. Rosler has for many years produced works on war and the national security climate, connecting life at home with the conduct of war abroad, in which her photomontage series played a critical part. She has also published several books of photographs, texts, and commentary on public space, ranging from airports and roads to housing and gentrification. A retrospective of her work has been shown internationally, and her writing is published widely in publications such as Artforum, e-flux journal, and Texte zur Kunst. In 2012, she presented a new series of photographs, taken during her trip to Cuba in January 1981, and in November, she presented the Meta-Monumental Garage Sale at MoMA in New York. Her most recent publications include Culture Class (2013; Spanish trans.: Clase cultural. Arte y gentrificación, 2014), on artists and gentrification; Martha Rosler: Irrespective (2018), accompanying her survey show in New York; and La Dominación y lo cotidiano: ensayos y guiones (2019), a book of essays and scripts in translation. Rosler lives and works in Brooklyn.
Identities: Noam Toran, Desire Management, 2005
Noam Toran’s work involves the creation of intricate narratives developed as a means to disrupt hegemonic historiographies. Drawing from marginalised or neglected histories, Toran reflects upon the interrelations of memory, erasure, mythology, identity, and the essential force of storytelling as embodied in archives, film, literature, and performance. The work is materialised through dramatisations that take the form of installations, educational models, films, performances and scripts. Noam is currently working on his solo exhibition We Crave Blood for the Rawart Gallery in Tel Aviv (February – March 2023).
Wellbeing: Superflux, Mitigation of Shock, Singapore, 2019
Anab Jain studied filmmaking at the National Institute of Design before moving to London to gain her Masters at the Royal College of Art. In 2009, she co-founded Superflux with Jon Arden. She’s been awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Arts and is also the recipient of the Award of Excellence ICSID, UNESCO Digital Arts Award, and Grand Prix Geneva Human Rights Festival, as well as awards from Apple and the UK Government’s Innovation Department. Her work has been exhibited at MoMA New York, V&A Museum, Science Gallery Dublin, National Museum of China, Vitra Design Museum, and Tate Modern.She currently serves as Professor of Design Investigations at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.
Born and educated in the UK, Jon Arden holds an MA in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art. He leads the Studio’s conceptual and technical research projects. His work has been exhibited at the MoMA New York and V&A London on numerous occasions, and he has won prizes from UNESCO and New York’s Social Design Network. He has lectured at the Architectural Association London, MAD Faculty Genk, Belgium, and Kitchen Budapest Hungary.
Connectivity: Simone C Niquille/Technoflesh, Homeschool, 2019
Simone C Niquille is a designer and researcher based in Amsterdam NL. Her practice Technoflesh investigates the representation of identity & the digitisation of biomass in the networked space of appearance. Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at HeK-Haus der Elektronischen Künste (2020), Fotomuseum Winterthur (2019), La Gaite Lyrique (2019). She has published writing in Volume Magazine, AD Architecture and e-flux. She is Chief Information Officer at Design Academy Eindhoven. In 2016 she was Research Fellow of Het Nieuwe Instituut Rotterdam and is commissioned contributor to the Dutch Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Niquille is recipient of the Pax Art Award 2020 and 2021/22 Mellon Researcher at the Canadian Center for Architecture. Currently she is investigating the architectural and bodily consequences of computer vision, researching the politics of synthetic training datasets.
Curated by Jana Scholze, Penny Sparke and Catharine Rossi
Dr Jana Scholze is a design curator and Associate Professor at the Kingston School of Art in London heading the MA Curating Contemporary Design in collaboration with the Design Museum. Her transdisciplinary research covers questions around formats of interaction and contemporary design practice engaging with society, technology and the environment. She is a Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum where she has been previously the Curator of Contemporary and Modern Furniture and Product Design working on acquisitions and exhibitions, such as What is Luxury? (2015). Publications include Medium Ausstellung (Transcript, 2004), Barber Osgerby Projects (Phaidon, 2017) and contributions to series such as Cultures of the Curatorial – Curatorial Things (Sternberg Press, 2019). She is on the advisory board of and peer reviewer for IDEA Journal.
Penny Sparke is Professor of Design History at Kingston University and the Director of the Modern Interiors Research Centre. Her research areas cover modern design, interiors, gender, identity, and nature, and her most important publications include An Introduction to Design and Culture, 1900 to the present (1986, 2004, 2013); Design in Context (1987); Electrical Appliances (1988); Italian Design from 1860 to the present (1989); The Plastics Age (1990); As Long as It’s Pink: The Sexual Politics of Taste (1995); Elsie de Wolfe: The Birth of Modern Interior Decoration (2005); The Modern Interior (2008); and Nature Inside: Plants and Flowers in the Modern Interior (2021).
DrCatharine Rossi is Professor of Architecture at University for the Creative Arts Canterbury. Her research areas include contemporary design, post-war Italian design and architecture, craft, club culture, and feminism. Publications include Designing Craft in Italy: from Postwar to Postmodernism (MUP, 2015), and Post-Craft (Sternberg Press, 2022) and The Italian Avant-Garde: 1986 – 1976 (Sternberg Press, 2013), both edited with Professor Alex Coles. Exhibitions include Space Electronic: Then and Now (14th Venice Architecture Biennale, 2014) and the co-curated Night Fever: Designing Club Culture 1960 to Today (Vitra Design Museum, 2018). She is on the Advisory Board for the Journal of Modern Craft.
Originally commissioned by Cité du Design and Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2022
Online Salon – Wed 22 June 3-4:30pm Maeve Brennan discusses the broader context and implications of her collaboration with forensic archaeologists Dr Christos Tsirogiannis and Dr Vinnie Norskov. Click here to book for this Online event.
Onsite Event – Wed 29 June 3-4:30pm Maeve Brennan in conversation about her current project and research-based practice with Kingston School of Art Professor Elizabeth Price. Click here to book for this Onsite event.
In 2014, 45 crates of looted antiquities were discovered at Geneva Freeport in a warehouse belonging to disgraced antiquities dealer Robin Symes. They contained tens of thousands of archaeological remnants worth around £7 million. Three of the crates were sent to forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis (Aarhus Institute for Advanced Studies) and Dr Vinnie Norskov (Director of Aarhus Museum of Ancient Art) for research.
An Excavation consists of a new body of work derived from Maeve Brennan’s long-term research project TheGoods. Carried out in collaboration with Tsirogiannis, the multidisciplinary project is concerned with the international traffic in looted antiquities. Brennan’s works trace the circulation of objects through layered temporalities, focusing on figures such as restorers, joyriders and smugglers whose material actions and practices tie them to wider networks, histories and economies. Brennan has an ongoing commitment to working slowly with people to allow complex narratives to form, attending to the thick and entangled nature of her chosen subjects.
Since 2018, Brennan has observed and documented Tsirogiannis’ investigations, mapping the illicit antiquities network from looters and smugglers to auction houses and museums. By some estimations, antiquities form the largest trafficking economy after drugs and weapons. Using data from police raids, Tsirogiannis has compiled a digital archive containing documentation of over 100,000 looted artefacts which he uses to identify objects of potentially illicit origin when they appear in auction houses, museums and galleries, often leading to the repatriation of objects.
Central to Brennan’s exhibition is a major new film commission AnExcavation (2022). The film documents Tsirogiannis and Norskov’s investigation into a series of vases from the Geneva Freeport crates. Made in the 4th century BC by Apulian artisans, these vases remained buried in tombs for 2500 years before they were clandestinely excavated from their now irrecoverable contexts. The objects’ journeys through the hands of looters, smugglers, restorers and dealers are counterpointed by the hand-painted stories that adorn them. Made for burials, the vases depict scenes from the underworld – forensic and mythological narratives start to intertwine.
In 1995, illicit antiquities middleman Pasquale Camera was killed in a car crash. Inside his glove compartment, the Italian police force discovered a stack of photographs of looted antiquities. This evidence led to a series of raids during which the authorities discovered a hand-drawn diagram by Camera, indicating the routes of looted artefacts from tombaroli (tomb robbers) to international markets. This diagram was the basis for a large-scale criminal investigation into key figures within the network, including notorious dealers Giacomo Medici, Gianfranco Becchina and Robert Hecht. In The Glove Compartment (Renault 21) (2022) the internal cavity of Camera’s glovebox milled into a block of limestone, his casual hiding place made visible.
Taking Camera’s organigram as its starting point, Illicit Antiquities Network is an ambitious digital project, developed throughout Brennan’s Fellowship, which follows a series of artefacts through the trafficking chain, from looters to museums. The data from each case feeds a centralised map that visualises connections across time, location, individual and institution.
An Excavation continues Brennan’s interest in forms of repair and reparative histories. Her film The Drift (2017) focused on three figures preserving objects in contemporary Lebanon, mapping converging lines between protected ancient temples, smuggled antiquities and traded car parts. This led her to an interest in subsistence looting as a form of livelihood in ‘source’ countries sustained by a demand in ‘market’ countries. The exodus of cultural heritage through underground trafficking chains can be viewed as a continuation of colonial and imperial extraction. The actions of looters and launderers become part of a tangible material process that pulls at the distinction between licit and illicit cultural traffic. Ariella Azoulay writes of museums ‘For these institutions to be transformed or reformed, it is essential that looting be acknowledged as their infrastructure.’ The Goods aims to make this infrastructure visible, focusing on the patient and meticulous work of Tsirogiannis and others to hold institutions to account and make some small repairs to the damage done by an extractive history.
Maeve Brennan is an artist and filmmaker, based in London, appointed to the Stanley Picker Fellowships at Kingston University in 2019. Working with moving image, installation, sculpture and printed matter, her practice explores the political and historical resonance of material and place. Brennan is currently participating in British Art Show 9 and was a recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award 2021. Solo exhibitions include Chisenhale Gallery, London; The Whitworth, University of Manchester; Spike Island, Bristol; Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin; Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art in Turku, Finland; Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria and OUTPOST, Norwich. Her films have been screened internationally at festivals including International Film Festival Rotterdam, Sheffield Doc Fest and FILMADRID (Official Competition 2018). Brennan was a fellow of Home Workspace Program, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut (2013 -14) and was the recipient of the Jerwood/FVU Award 2018.
Thankyou Dr Christos Tsirogiannis, Dr Vinnie Norskov, Museum of Ancient Art & Archaeology Aarhus, Toby Christian, Black Shuck, Ben Rivers, Ali Roche, David Falkner, Rebecca Moss, Faith McKie, Somerset House Studios, Alex Stillwell, Guillermo Rodriguez Lopez.
An Excavation (2022): Film Credits
A film by Maeve Brennan With Dr Christos Tsirogiannis and Dr Vinnie Norskov
Producer: Ali Roche Associate Producer: Victoria Tillotson Cinematographer: Jamie Quantrill Editor: Ariadna Fatjo-Vilas Supervising Sound Editor: Tom Sedgwick Colourist: Jason R Moffat Score: Beatrice Dillon Kanun Player: Konstantinos Glynos
Additional Percussion: Morgan Buckley Assistant Camera: Frida Martinsen Production Sound Mixer: Tom Sedgwick Camera Equipment: SLV, Minitech 16mm Film Stock and Processing: Kodak Film Lab, London Credits Design: Fraser Muggeridge Studio
With thanks to Anders Bjerggaard, Jack Brennan, Toby Christian, David Falkner, Eloise Hawser, Therese Henningsen, Faith McKie, Rebecca Moss, Imran Peretta, Philomene Pirecki, Paul Purgas, Sophie Richmond, Ben Rivers, Somerset House Studios and James Wreford.
Commissioned by Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University.
With support from Arts Council England and Museum of Ancient Art and Archaeology, Aarhus.
Sunlight Doesn’t Need A Pipeline is a collaborative literacy and climate justice project in search of transformative and regenerative repair. A coalition of art workers, agitators, dream weavers, growers and caregivers have co-created a holistic and ever-growing decarbonisation plan for the art sector and beyond.
Transitioning to a low-carbon planet will affect every facet of daily life but the current paths to decarbonisation, presented to us by politicians, regulators and CEOs, have numerous trade-offs and uncertainties. From Net-Zero fantasies, financialisation of nature to a burn now pay later attitude, each top-down route either reinforces a market-based and extractive approach to the environment, ignores varied individual needs, vulnerabilities and histories, or harms as opposed to protect the planet in its various entanglement of environmental, social, political and sacred ways of being.
Sunlight Doesn’t Need a Pipeline sees the climate emergency as a social and political problem, as well as an environmental one. It recognises the interconnectedness of struggles, and in doing so, works to reclaim repair as an initial step towards healing. What does a just transition look like? And how can we heal the imagined future and broken relationships of the present?
Through collective study our coalition asks questions such as: How can intergenerational wealth help communities in the face of climate emergency? What would it mean if we took museums “to the orchards”? What configurations of life are possible after restitution? Is it possible to replace carbon literacy with love?
Together we call for solutions to the climate crisis that not only reduce emissions but create a fairer and more just world in the process.
The plan is a gift to all art workers in their own decarbonisation journeys. Gratitude and solidarity to all our contributing artists, researchers, activists, communities, participants and partners.
Sunlight Doesn’t Need A Pipeline One-Day Festival / Friday 7 October 2022:
Sunlight Doesn’t Need A Pipeline community festival and teach-in featuring commissioned talks, performances, film screenings, refreshments and music, as well as a public vote where the community will decide on a decarbonisation plan for the Gallery.
Including contributions from Chanelle Adams, Elena Agudio, Amazoner Arawak, Apex Zero, Maxwell Ayamba, Araceli Camargo, Lauren Doughty, Hazel Falck, Ellie Harrison, Susannah Haslam, Marija Bozinovska Jones, Sarah Mady, Lou-Atessa Marcellin, Samuel Onalo, Sean Roy Parker, Anne Pasek, Luiza Prado, Charles Pryor, Megha Ralapati, Oliver Ressler, Studio Hyte, Tatjana Söding, Shridhar Sudhir, Cecilia Wee, Heba ElSharkawy, The Grange, Writers’ Kingston, The Community Brain, Hogsmill Community Garden, Kingston’s Stylophone Orchestra, The NewBridge Project, The Networked Condition, Platform London, Kingston Stylophone Orchestra, Save the World Club and more!
Sunlight Doesn’t Need A Pipeline Community Programme / October 2022:
Following the festival, through the whole of October 2022 our local community are invited to use the Gallery spaces to stage activities relating to Sunlight Doesn’t Need A Pipeline, all public activities are listed below. Currently including Community Brain, Creative Youth, Flowers We Gift to Ukraine, Hogsmill Community Garden and Kingston HIVE and more. Please contact the Gallery to find out how you can also get involved.
Lobby Display: Thurs 13-Fri 21 October 11-5pm. Join us in the Gallery’s Lobby for exhibition & drop-in A-cross by Ariadne’s Thread, a Polish-Ukrainian support group that helps to preserve cultural heritage and promote a brighter future through creativity.
Workshop: Tues 18 October 11-12:30pm. Join Dr Heba Elsharkawy, Kingston School of Art Head of Department Architecture & Landscape, for Net Zero Carbon Communities – how can we achieve this? that will introduce the national and local agendas for Net Zero Carbon agenda and produce localised interventions to help achieve the net zero carbon targets. Click here to book a free ticket on Eventbrite.
Workshop: Thurs 20 October 2-5pm. Led by Dr Paul Mickelthwaite, Kingston School of Art MA Sustainable Design, Localise! Sustaining where we are now is a workshop that will reflect on how, and what, we move through the world. Click here to book a free ticket on Eventbrite.
Lobby Display: Tues 24-Sat 29 October 11-5pm. The Gallery’s Lobby space will be taken over by The GrangeTrash Monster an ambitious installation using recycled plastics to create a sculptural costume.
Workshop: Wed 26 October 11-12:30pm. Join Hogsmill Community Garden for Garden Artclub where young artists will delve into the themes of nature through making windcatchers. Click here to book a free ticket on Eventbrite.
Workshop: Thurs 27 October 2-5pm. Creative Youthwill host Printing for the Planet, a lino printing workshop at the Gallery and share your vision for a climate conscious arts sector. Click here for book a free ticket on Eventbrite.
All Day Event: Fri 28 October 11-5pm. Kingston HIVE will host Eco-Art Pop Up an exciting event raising awareness of the climate emergency and the importance of sustainability, featuring interactive games, local art, music and movement. Click here for book a free ticket on Eventbrite.
Sunlight Doesn’t Need A Pipeline Monthly Newsletters / March-September 2022:
In advance of the Sunlight Doesn’t Need A Pipeline festival and web-resource launch, Dani Admiss published elements of her Fellowship research in the form of a monthly newsletter. Read the Sunlight Doesn’t Need a Pipeline Monthly Messages here below:
Dani Admiss is a curator and researcher working across the fields of design, art, technology and science, and was appointed to the Stanley Picker Fellowships at Kingston University in 2020. Her approach is framed by world-making practices and community-based research prioritising these as lenses to explore alternative forms of curatorial practice.
Sunlight Doesn’t Need A Pipeline was commissioned by the Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University and supported by the Stanley Picker Trust and Arts Council England.
Online Salon: Speculative Conversations Erika Tan in conversation with Kathleen Ditzig & Wendy Teo Saturday 9 July | 1-3pm
Online Premiere: Erika Tan Barang Barang: Spectral Entanglements (2022) 2-channel video 23 mins. Online 9-16 July 2022
Barang-Barang is a multi-faceted installation containing collected objects, materials and moving-image works produced over the course of Erika Tan’s Stanley Picker Fellowship. The project explores the value and relevance given to the material traces and afterlives of objects made, collected, discarded or valued by others, responding to local specificities, personal collections and historical connections that the artist encountered, from coconut coir mills in Kingston upon Thames to the speculative entanglements that she weaves between different events, places and people, including that of her mother Fay Tan.
Barang-Barang is a Malay word used colloquially in Singapore to mean ‘stuff’, ‘belongings’ or ‘freight’. In Khmer the word means ‘French’ and in Thai a similar sounding ‘farang’ is used for ‘stranger’, ‘foreigner’ or ‘white person’, but also to describe things that are imported. In the Cebuano language of the Philippines barang means ‘mythology’, ‘magic’ or ‘malignant sorcery’.
Whilst commencing her Fellowship research, Tan was immediately drawn to the history of the Stanley Picker Gallery’s physical location, on an island along the Hogsmill River that is the former site of an old water mill that once processed coconut coir for domestic and commercial use. For Tan the coconut itself provides a potent symbol of the diasporic experience, the history of its applications as a material and culinary ingredient representing an illustrative critique of global cultural exchange.
The exhibition focuses on the legacies of four female artists – Dora Gordine, Georgette Chen, Kim Lim and Fay Tan – who are brought together in filmic space to explore aspects of their lives. There is no evidence, as yet, that these women ever met, but Tan’s work imagines their possible conversations and interactions as artists and as women.
The main moving image work for the exhibition was filmed on location at Dorich House Museum, the former studio-home designed by Gordine herself in the 1930s. The house provides the setting for a speculative encounter between the four artists, who are brought together by Tan through what she describes as an “imagined constellation of celestial art historical references that stretch conventional understandings of time and space, geographical location and historical veracity”.
To accompany the Gallery exhibition, Tan has also intervened in the permanent collection displays at Dorich House Museum, requesting that Dora Gordine’s bronze heads of unidentified Asian subjects be turned to face away from visitors. At the Museum entrance a video of Gordine’s bust of Chia-Chu Chang (1925-26) sits across from Gordine’s own self-portrait (1930-32), the artist and her subject reconnected in a direct visual dialogue.
Barang-Barang continues Tan’s interest in ‘minor’ histories and a process of entanglement that the making of a work can foster. The project draws lines between disparate moments in time, individuals and geographical locations to find new positions and perspectives, not only through the specifics of these histories and individuals, but also the way in which we might understand larger or more known/received histories.
Erika Tan is an artist and curator whose work is primarily research-led and manifests itself in multiple formats such as moving image, publications, curatorial and participatory projects. Appointed to the Stanley Picker Fellowships at Kingston University in 2018, she is Course Leader of the MA in Fine Art, Reader in Contemporary Art Practice in Central Saint Martins and an Associate Researcher in the Decolonising Art Institute, UAL (London). Tan’s most recent research has focused on the postcolonial and transnational, working with archival artifacts, exhibition histories, received narratives, contested heritage, subjugated voices and the transnational movement of ideas, people and objects; her future projects point towards the digitization of collective cultural memory and cloud architecture through the prism of ruins, hauntings, and mnemonic collapse. Tan’s work has been exhibited, collected and commissioned internationally including: The Diaspora Pavilion (Venice Biennale 2017); Artist and Empire (Tate Touring, National Gallery Singapore 2016/7); Come Cannibalise Us, Why Don’t You (NUS Museum, Singapore 2014); There Is No Road (LABoral, Spain 2010); Thermocline of Art (ZKM, Germany 2007); Around The World in Eighty Days (South London Gallery / ICA 2007); The Singapore Biennale (2006); Cities on the Move (Hayward Gallery, London). Recent curatorial projects include Sonic Soundings/Venice Trajectories.
Thank you to everyone involved in helping to develop and stage the exhibition, including Sara, Ant & Charles at ADi, Aylish Browning, Maya Dew, David Falkner, Fiona Fisher, Lara Garcia, Anthony Lam, Guillermo (Will) Rodriguez Lopez, Jelena Luetzel, Faith McKie, Rebecca Moss, Sebastian Nissl, Gary Stewart, Alex Stillwell, Heidi Tan, Nathaniel Tan-Lam, Théo Welch-King, Tat Whalley and Saffron Yates.
Disclaimer: All representations of artists within the film work, whilst referencing factual materials such as oral histories, archival materials and interviews, are ultimately representations, mediated through personal and differently situated positions and interpretations. In this way, the works might be conceived of as fictional landscapes and constellations, as much about the artists’, performers’, and audiences’ desires, as they might reflect any specific lived experience.
Artist Biographies by Erika Tan:
Georgette Chen (Chang Li Ying) was born in 1906, some would say in Paris and others China. She trained in Paris and the United States and established herself in Paris as an artist before coming to Singapore via Hong Kong, China and Malaysia (1953-1993 Singapore). Now considered in Singapore as a Pioneer Artist, she was a fundamental part of the Nanyang Fine Art Academy and the Nanyang group and received a Cultural Medallion in 1982. Georgette is best known for her local portraits, local landscapes and baskets of fruit. Georgette also learnt to speak Malay and went by the name Chandana to her Malay artist friends.
Dora Gordine (1895-1991) was born in Latvia, which at that time was a province within the Russian Empire, of Jewish parents. Her exact date of birth she took care to keep secret and cultivated a mystique about her past. She grew up in Estonia where she trained as a sculptor and lived both in Paris (1924-1929) and Singapore (1930-1935) before settling in London in the 1930s. Her Chinese Head exhibited in Paris in 1926 received great reviews and she went on to become the first female artist commissioned to make work for the British government in Singapore. Gordine made a series of ‘Asian’ heads during her stay in Singapore, four of which are held in Parliament House Singapore and some of which are in Tate Britain (London) and said to be the Tate’s earliest ‘Southeast Asian’ works. Gordine relocated to London in the 1930’s where she married Richard Hare and built her studio home Dorich House in Kingston upon Thames.
Kim Lim, born 1936 Singapore. She spent a large part of her childhood actually in Malaysia and in 1954, at the age of 18, she went to London to study at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art. She remained in London for the rest of her life (1954-1997) and married acclaimed sculptor William Turnbull. She had two sons who have inherited both her and her husband’s artist estates which they now manage. In 2019, she is found to be the highest publicly collected female ‘Black’ artist in the UK. During her life she did have exhibitions in Singapore but collecting and celebration of her work in Singapore has been more posthumous.
Fay Tan (my mother) was born in 1940 in the UK. Whilst in London learning shop window display (1950’s), she met my father (Leong Seng) who had been sent to London to study after the Japanese occupation of Malaya. After Leongs return to Singapore, Fay emigrated to Singapore where she lived for over 40 years. Initially a self taught artist and ceramicist – she also attended Nanyang Fine Art Academy life drawing and painting classes in the 1970’s and later completed her B.A Degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, London. In 1987, we are both included in the same exhibition in the National Museum Singapore called Transformation Image: Contemporary Ceramics in Singapore.
Barang-Barang: Spectral Entanglements2-channel video (2022) 23 minutes
Eugenia Low as Georgette Chan Lucia Tong as Kim Lim Cathy McManamon as Dora Gordine Emma Vansittart as Fay Tan
Editor: Lara Garcia Sound Design: Gary Stewart Colour Grading: Remi Stewart
Producer: Jelena Lützel Director of Photography & Camera: Cristina Barillari Camera: James Goodchild Sound: Laurie Overton Lighting: Ada Wesoloska Costuming & Make-Up Design: Andria Kyriakidou, Imanuela Oh
Hair & Make-Up Artists: Daisy Adler, Mariam Conteh, Abbie Hutchings Art Handler: Tat Whalley
With thanks to David Falkner, Fiona Fisher, Audrey Thomas Hayes, Rebecca Moss, Abbie Fletcher, Lauren Bell, Anthony Lam, Maria Piene, Richard Sorger Qinyi Lim, Joleen Loh, Julian Rodriguez and the Department of Film and Photography in Kingston School of Art.
“The Quintessence” is an artistic research project exploring the visual imaginary of outer space, and the construction of contemporary astrophysical knowledge from sky observation, in order to discover how images of space tell a story. Developed over three years, the research has led to the development of artworks in multimedia forms, including experimental films, photographs, site-specific installations, audio recordings and an artist’s book. The project has been supported by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Culture under the Italian Council Program, and promoted by Kingston University (UK), Fondazione Modena Arti Visive (IT), La Box/ENSA (F), Boghossian Foundation (BE). A related catalogue has been recently published by a+m bookstore (IT).
Moving forward from the traditional representation of the scientific world as a fixed domain of knowledge, the project presents the domain of astrophysics as an evolving system, which evades the fixity of truth-encompassing statements. Through crossovers and original methodologies of enquiry, visual representations of the universe are approached as complex narratives constructed through the combined agency of technological apparatus and human intervention.
Archival research on visual representations of outer space provides a contextual frame of reference, complemented by a series of theoretical discussions pinpointing the research. Audio-visual documentation generates a sensorial representation of highly secluded scientific laboratories usually not accessible to the general public, thus providing a first-hand impression that would not otherwise be accessible. A series of audio interviews conducted with scientists provides an intimate portrait of astrophysicists’ unique background knowledge, ideas and creative intuitions.
The research tests how and to what effect artistic practice can generate new and original insights on the modalities through which astrophysics represents and narrates itself. The related artworks act as a series of experiments looking at subjects (outer space visual representations, research labs), agents (scientists, technological apparatus) and contexts (theoretical frameworks of reference) and demonstrate the tension between the visible and the invisible shaping the present development of cognitive-visual knowledge about outer space.
My research began at night, the first time I saw the milky rift of stars scattering through the sky. Since that moment, every time I look at the dark vault extending above the Earth, it is like the first time. All my observations blend into timeless pictures of that edge on view of our galaxy. My mind floods with a sea of images and I start wondering about the universe.
Ever since I was a child, I was astonished to think that every phenomenon existing in outer space reaches us through light travelling from incommensurable distances. While I was looking at the night sky, millions of light-years away things were happening. Planets were rotating around their stars and galaxies formed in the darkest regions of empty space.
What is the universe? Is it the expanse between things? Is it emptiness, a vacant stage for our dramas? Is it a material substance? A vessel for our experiences? What is real and what is invented in what we know about the universe? Isn’t it real enough even if it exists only in the configuration of our thoughts?
Thousands of years ago ancient astronomers viewed the sun and the heavenly bodies as celestial gods. They carved tablets into visual tales of the living sun and its companions, stars and planets. Now we view the universe through the scientific gaze and we have different explanations for what we see in the sky. But aren’t these narratives as well?
They say the universe is infinite, it hosts an infinite number of events, an infinite number of planets, maybe an infinite number of sentient beings on those planets. Surely there must be a planet so very nearly like the Earth as to be indistinguishable from it. I admire this infinity. It makes me want to pierce its surface and fall through to its core.
The universe is space. A three-dimensional space we live in and the time we watch pass on our clocks. It is our north and south, our east and west, our up and down, our past and our future. Space is a physical dimension waved through gravitational attraction. The stars, the sun and the weight of our own body all are brought into unison because they all have a gravitational attraction in common. Mass, like an electric charge, creates a field around it in the form of a curved space. Therefore space is a structure, warped in response to the presence of matter and energy, like paper curling in a flame.
Apples fall on the Earth by breaking loose from the pull of the tree, following the path of least resistance along with an invisibly curved space, until the surface of the planet interrupts their fall and forces them to stay still. Planets orbit the sun by following an elliptical path defined by their natural curve. Anybody and any mass takes the path of least resistance along a curved space. We all fall freely without a pull, along this natural, invisible, curve.
This is the space and time we are bound to. We cannot jump off it, or live outside of it. This is our universe, the vast extent of our curved space-time. People always ask: what’s outside the universe? The answer is nothing. There is no meaning to the question of where or when if there is no space or time. The Big Bang is the creation of time itself. There is no sense to the question: how long was it before the Big Bang happened? Time began with the Big Bang. There is no sense to the question: where did the Big Bang happen? It happened everywhere. The Earth is at the centre in a sense, every galaxy is at the centre. The centre is everywhere and is becoming more diffuse as the universe continues to expand and cool.
The universe is inhabited by giant clusters of galaxies, each galaxy a conglomerate of a billion or a trillion stars. The milky way, our galaxy, has an unfathomably dense core of millions of stars. We stand on a small planet inside a huge cosmos. But we’re alive and we’re sentient. Many centuries ago we began to observe the sky and wonder about its secrets. We built instruments to look into the depth of the unknown, we sent telescopes orbiting around the Earth and we captured the signal of the cosmic background radiation, bearing information about a time before organic life.
Due to technical constraints, we cannot see infinitely far out into space. We can only see as far as light has travelled since the beginning of the universe. While we try to determine the nature of our ultimate end, we slowly decipher our common beginnings. Gravity, matter and energy are all different expressions of the same thing. We’re all intrinsically made of the same substance. The fabric of the universe is just a coherent weave from the same threads that make our bodies. Our bodies are mostly water. Water is mostly empty space. So, by extension, we are space, we are the universe.
This text is an extract from a performative talk presented for the first time at Harvard University, Faculty of Astrophysics, in autumn 2019. The text takes inspirations and some quoted passages from Janna Levin’s How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space, Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 2002
The Quintessence – Film
The film explores the production of scientific knowledge through the director’s visit to secluded research centres in Europe and the USA. The title refers to the classic physical description of the universe, which included the presence of a fifth essence or fifth element (in addition to water, air, fire and earth), mysterious but omnipresent, which holds all the others together. Through a three-year journey, the director visited a number of laboratories studying the fundamental laws of the universe, from the microcosm of quantum physics to the macrocosm of the multiverse.
In these research centres, knowledge is developed at scales and distances beyond human perception. But what does it actually means to study the universe? Through a series of intimate dialogue with scientists and a detailed visual analysis of experiments and events taking place inside the lab, the director draws an original picture of scientific research, considering how individual background, cultural frameworks and technological constraints play a key role in the elaboration of scientific theories about the universe and its visual representations.
Heavenly Bodies – Collages
70 x 100 cm each
A series of collages produced with images collected from online and physical libraries, archives, star atlases and scientific publications. The images represent space objects such as stars and galaxies, planets and constellations, supernovae explosions and black holes – along with telescopes and optical instruments used to observe and study the universe.
Clashing visual combinations bring together old and new practices of sky observation. Shots of scientists and engineers calibrating instruments and conducting high precision experiments are combined with images of ancient rites evoking the cosmic drama of gods and goddesses dominating the Heavens and deciding the fate of humans on Earth. This combination stresses how throughout the centuries humanity has looked at the sky in different ways, generating unique stories and explanations for the phenomena observed in outer space.
Into The Night – Photographic Series
70 x 120 cm each
A series of collages produced with images collected from online and physical libraries, archives, star atlases and scientific publications. The images represent space objects such as stars and galaxies, planets and constellations, supernovae explosions and black holes – along with telescopes and optical instruments used to observe and study the universe.
This artistic process highlights how the knowledge we possess about the universe is multilayered, constructed on the observations and theories proposed throughout the centuries by different human cultures. Very much as an archaeological excavation, these artworks bring to light multiple representations of outer space as historical strata sedimented through time.
Mounted on lightboxes, these large-dimension prints act as a charged surface, enabling universal light travelling through space to be re-activated by man-made light. Photons originated from nuclear reactions are captured on photographic glass plates and brought to life by the lightboxes’ tungsten bulbs. whose chemical components are also originated in the dense and hot core of stars. In a neverending circle, starlight generates new light, which spreads images of outer space back to the universe where they came from.
To The Wonder – Photographic Series
10 photographic lambda prints
White wooden frame
50 x 70 cm each
The photographs are reproductions of archival images from Apollo official photographic records. Most notorious among other space exploration programs, Published by NASA on the image-sharing platform Flickr/The Commons, pictures of amazing moon landscapes, details of the space rocket interior and breathtaking vistas of Earth seen from space are combined with photographs presenting errors or glitches such as hues, haloes and dots.
From a conceptual point of view, rather than being successful records of the Apollo mission, they stand as metaphors of how errors can become triggers for new approaches to scientific research. Their visual quality resembles that of avant-garde artworks from the early 20th century and contemporary glitch art experiments. These images generate a critical discourse on how scientific knowledge is constructed through trials and errors. Failures and mistakes in scientific experiments can lead the way to serendipitous discoveries, as the technical malfunction of the photographic apparatus leads to the development of these aesthetically charged images.
To The Wonder – Video
7’42”, 16:9, silent, loop
A silent experimental film presenting archival footage of multiple American and Soviet failed unmanned rocket launches. The archival footage used for this piece has not been widely circulated in the mainstream media and was discovered through detailed online research, after multiple and unsuccessful attempts to contact NASA space agency enquiring about its film archive.
There is no clear information about the location or date of the documented explosions, however, from the certain aesthetic quality, we can infer the footage was recorded between the 1950s and 1990s. No voiceover or off-screen commentary describes the images or tells a story, leaving the viewers to find their own interpretation for what they are looking at.
The footage’s elusive nature generates a reflection on how trials and mistakes are pivotal for the development of scientific research shaped through the monumental human effort to bring mankind a little closer to the stars.
The Horizon Behind Us – Video
2020, video FullHD
16’40”, 16:9, stereo, loop
The short film is structured as a fictional meditation on a possible future when artificial intelligence software will have full control of sky observation, data collection and analysis. As a consequence, man-led laboratories will be abandoned. Questioning the possible future development of space exploration, the film analyses the ultimate philosophical and ethical implications of human exploration of the cosmos.
While the slow-panning camera wanders around silent rooms hosting telescopes, mechanical tools and optical instruments, an anonymous voice describes how the millennial tradition of sky observation has evolved through the centuries and why it was always important for mankind to wonder about the mysteries of the universe.
The visual focus on observational tools and mechanical instruments suggests how contemporary astrophysicists act as ancient alchemists, capturing the light coming from distant stars and transforming it into a different matter, in order to give it new form and meaning. The camera movements are extremely slow, evoking the long, durational processes involved in sky observation and the huge temporal scales at which universal phenomena unfold.
Pamela Breda is an artist and filmmaker living between London and Venice. She holds a MA in Art History from Ca’ Foscari (Venice, IT), and a MA in Visual Arts from IUAV University (IT). She recently completed a PhD in Visual Arts from Kingston University (UK), where she developed the artistic research presented in this online exhibition.
She was the recipient of several art awards and fellowships, including Cantica21 (MibaC, IT), IMeRa Fellowship (F), Italian Council Award (MibaC, IT), Kingston University Phd Scholarship (Kingston, UK), Moving’Up funding scheme (Turin, IT), Italian Institute of Culture (Moscow, RU). In 2019 she was appointed Fellow Artist in Residence at Pratt Institute (New York, USA).
Her films have been screened internationally and presented at festivals and art venues such as Sheffield DocFest (Sheffield, UK), “ECRA Film Festival” (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), “Revolutions Per Minute Festival” (Boston, USA), “Digital Film Library”, Clermont- Ferrand Film Festival (Clermont-Ferrand, F), Cite Internatinale Des Arts, (Paris, F), “Vision Du Reel” Film Festival, Media Library (Nyon, CH), “Hazel Eye Film Festival” (Tennesse, USA), “The Bomb Art Factory Film Festival” (London, UK), Sohonya Art Center (Bangalore, I), Francesco Fabbri Foundation for Contemporary Art (Pieve di Soligo, IT), Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation (Venice, IT).
She has received many scholarships and fellowships from institutions such as Kingston School of Art (UK), the Italian Cultural Institute of Moscow (RU), Cantica21 (IT), Simultan Prize (RO), Premio Fotografia IED (IT), Coffee Flash Art award – Querini Stampalia Foundation (IT) lo Stonefly Art Prize (IT). She recently presented her work internationally, in particular in the UK, Austria, Estonia, France, Colombia and Switzerland.
In 2019 she received the prestigious Italian Council award granted by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. The project “The Quintessence” was awarded the prestigious Project Anywhere prize and will be featured in a series of international exhibitions and screenings.
Ben Judd’s Stanley Picker Fellowship project The Origin reflects on Britain’s island status, both literal and metaphorical, and how islands shape the communities that live there. The Stanley Picker Gallery sits on an island in the Hogsmill River and Kingston Upon Thames historically existed as an island surrounded by marshland. The nearby River Thames is home to many islands and also boats – floating communities.
The Origin brings together the communities surrounding the Stanley Picker Gallery – from Kingston University students and academics to local networks, charities and residents – and asks them to imagine a classless, stateless, humane society based on common ownership. A temporary community, an experiment in living, a fictional island group. How would this community interact? What would they move, sound and dress like? How would they communicate with the outside world?
Imagining this temporary community felt particularly poignant in the divisive political landscape that the project was first developed in. However, The Origin took on greater significance in 2020 when most people were thrust into social isolation and interactions migrated online. Hope, love, solidarity, care and support are all values central to this temporary community’s identity – but have also manifested in the community spirit of our own islands over the last year.
Through a series of workshops and conversations, participants have been collaborating with Judd to define different aspects of this imagined, temporary community. A first iteration of the project #TheOriginKingston took place online during the first national lockdown – browse their online dialogue here or search for the hashtag #TheOriginKingston on social media. This collaborative project culminates this summer with an installation at the Gallery, a boat on the River Thames and a series of performances, workshops and events – a rehearsal for an alternative future.
A large free-standing structure in Stanley Picker Gallery, built by 121 Collective and Architecture at Kingston School of Art (KSA), will act as a focal point for the community, both imagined and real. The structure will contain objects and images related to the project that are used to substantiate the community’s existence and sketch out its history and aspirations.
A boat will travel along the River Thames in Kingston facilitating meetings, workshops and performances throughout June and July 2021. Informed by discussions with Canbury and Riverside Association, an architectural intervention designed by Interior Design (KSA) and 121 Collective will be fixed to the boat adapting to the needs and aspirations of local people.
Further collaborations include: new instrumental and choral music produced by Refugee Action Kingston and Music (KSA); a choreographic sequence developed by The Grange and Dance (KSA), incorporating elements of the sign language known as Makaton; texts and poetic responses by The Bradbury and Writers’ Centre Kingston that consider the elemental force, locality, and history of the Thames; and adaptable, transformable clothing designed by The Gate and KSA Fashion as costumes for the inhabitants of the boat.
The Origin Events Programme
As part of The Origin, a series of workshops, performances, talks and tours took place at Stanley Picker Gallery, a boat moored in Kingston Upon Thames and online throughout June and July 2021. Watch a selection of highlights from these events:
This project is managed with the support of students from Project Management for Creative Industries (KSA) with graphic design by Louis Polin and Jasmine Kelly.
The project is supported by Leeds Beckett University and Nottingham Trent University. The boat is supported with Art Fund’s Small Project Grants and Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants.
Ben Judd is an artist based in London appointed Stanley Picker Fellow in Art & Design in 2019. His work examines collectivity and participation through performance, moving image and installation, enabling different forms of communities to be explored in relation to site and context. He often works with collaborators as a method to develop self-reflexive folk histories and construct temporary communities. Judd has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad, recently including ICA, Art Night London, Whitstable Biennale and Victoria Gallery & Museum, University of Liverpool.
Launch Event: Wednesday 17 November 6-8pm / All Welcome
For their Stanley Picker Fellowship commission Portal Tables, The Decorators take the idea of commensality – the social practice of eating together – and extend it beyond the human to include microbial communities.
Domestic food fermentation gained momentum during the periods of social-isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people sharing home-made recipes through social media. Bacterial communities, such as those nurtured in food fermentation, actively participate in human digestion. It is believed that bacteria produce joy in the human body through the release of hormones like Dopamine and Serotonin, perhaps serving as a substitute for the social joy of IRL (In-Real-Life) human interaction.
In parallel, a growing area of research has been exploring how bacterial communities digest xenobiotic materials, synthetic and foreign to animal life. It was found that different species of bacteria eat plastic, including Pseudomonas Putida and Ideonella Sakaiensis. These findings distort the structure of commensality as we know it and open-up ethical questions regarding the use of bacterial life as a solution for human happiness or pollution.
Portal Tables is a set of three polyurethane inflatable furniture pieces that encourage affect between microbial and human communities. The pieces are designed to be flatpack, easy to wash and used anywhere within the home or outside. Portal Tables comments upon the contemporary obsession with microbial life, probiotics and wellbeing, and speculates on the possible relations and social encounters – political, tender, economic, friendly – across bodies and species.
Kimchi-Pool (2021) seats up to twelve people around a large vessel as they collectively make Kimchi – fermented cabbage and radish napa with various seasonings – a staple of Korean cuisine. Users may choose to seat, kneel or lean, negotiating their bodily position and weight around the bouncing materiality of the Kimchi-Pool. The largest Korean community in Europe lives near to the Stanley Picker Gallery in New Malden, within the Royal Borough of Kingston.
Cheese-Board(2021) has been designed for one person to make Labneh, a type of soft cheese traditionally made in Lebanon. A person can kneel at the edge of the table and use it as a working surface. Then lay down on the top of it, while waiting through the fermentation process.
Sofa-Bread (2021) sits two people. It invites a diversity of postures – feet up or down, upright or laying down. The two ceramic bowls are for bread dough to be proved whilst users rest together with it on the sofa.
On the walls of the gallery are two diagrams. The first is anthropologist Susanne Kerner’s diagram of commensality, outlining different levels of food sharing, evolving from one body – such as in-utero feeding, where food is shared between mother and foetus – to many bodies, from siblings to strangers, banquets to food banks. The second diagram distorts the first, shifting the gaze to the inside of the human body, thus considering the microbial communities involved in commensality.
The two short films for the exhibition are directed in collaboration with Sergio Márquez, with graphics and motion design by Stephen McLaughlin, and original soundtrack by Maxwell Sterling. In the second of these films (below) Kimchi-Pool was activated by a group of regular participants of the yearly Kimjang Project, led by Justina Jang, festival director of the Kingston Korea Festival, Cheese-Board was activated by Inês Neto dos Santos and Sofa-Bread was activated with the performance Resting (2021) by Laura Wilson, performed by Elina Akhmetova and Piedad Seiquer with costumes by Lucie Kordacova. These live activations were filmed at the Picker House, Kingston upon Thames.
The Decorators is an interdisciplinary design collective founded by Suzanne O’Connell, Carolina Caicedo, Xavier Llarch Font and Mariana Pestana in 2011, and appointed to the Stanley Picker Fellowships at Kingston University in 2018. With backgrounds in landscape architecture, design, curation and psychology, they work on spatial design projects that aim to reconnect the physical elements of a place with its social dimension and expand notions of community.
Portal Tables was launched online in May 2021 with the video-essay Portal Tables: Connecting Multiscalar Communities. A preview of the project was displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum for London Design Festival (18-26 September 2021) with the furniture piece Sofa-Bread, before the project received its full premiere at the Stanley Picker Gallery in November 2021.
Edition: A special digital print-on-demand edition accompanying Portal Tables is available for sale individually (£20 each) or as a set of 6 (£100). Available exclusively through the Stanley Picker Gallery, proceeds from the sale of our editions and publications support our public programme and keeps the Gallery free for all visitors. Please contact us for details.
Thank you to everyone involved in the project, to the Stanley Picker Trust, Arts Council England, Victoria & Albert Museum/London Design Festival, ITI/Larsys (Instituto Superior Técnico) and the Kingston Korea Festival.
For 2020-21, the Stanley Picker Gallery is hosting a series of Online Salons to facilitate exchange and dialogue between the creative community around the Gallery.
With COVID-19 changing how we operate as a cultural venue, our digital platforms have become ever more vital as ways of engaging with each other and with our audiences. We hope these gatherings will enhance our role as an “expanded studio”, where creative work is shared during its production, by inviting practitioners to gather online to share their working practice in an informal manner.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.