29 Jun, 10.15 – 17.00 @ Mayday Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London
The Centre was established formally in November 2015 and is pleased to convene its first annual review of its PhD research programme with invited external respondents. Lunch will be provided and time to celebrate the achievements of the year with a drink afterwards.
The programme for the day will involve a closed morning session with presentations from five research projects together with invited comments. The afternoon session will open with a reading session led by Daniel Rubinstein followed by a keynote presentation from Olga Goriunova.
The provocation for wider discussion is that the networked image suggests a rejection of meaning to be found in the singular image, icon or even artist’s work in favour of looking for new process of value in modes of production and reproduction in the allegiances between humans and machinic agents. This complex of agents can be termed the networked image. As such networked image can be considered as a way of seeing, a way of (re)producing and possibly a way of comprehending relations involved in its making.
The research project presentations have a range of subjects, through which a common set of theoretical and methodological themes can be detected. We hope that through comment and discussion we can identify more clearly the underlying problems and their proposed solutions.
Morning Session – PhD presentations
10.15 Introductions and setting the scene (Andrew and Katrina)
10.30 Lozana Mehandzhiyska – Preservation and performativity in the online archive of born-digital art. AHRC collaborative doctorate with Rhizome.
Computers and networks have become transparent delivery systems for text-, image- or video-based media which they are able to fully represent and contain. This research project looks to the media-specific properties of computers and networks which can represent and contextualise digital artefacts that are inherently outside of these containable formats. The research will apply methods from the HCI (Human Computer Interaction) field and carry out concept-driven design exploration in order to develop a design framework for the online archive of internet art. Conducting this R&D study at Rhizome will assist the organisation in providing continued public access to its existing historic archive – the ArtBase – and developing new processes for accessioning and presenting new artworks.
10.55 Gaia Tedone – Curating Networked Images. Photography’s Reflexive Conditions in the Technologies of Culture
My research investigates the curation of networked images within the new and emerging technologies of culture through a practice-based mode of inquiry grounded in curatorial work. At its core lies the question of how to produce new insights into the role and function of images and how to develop curatorial projects that not only attain such purpose, yet also reflect back on the agency of the curator within contemporary image culture.
In the study, I posit reflexivity as one of the conditions underpinning the way in which networked images currently operate, through for instance processes of reproduction, self-replication and online circulation. Concurrently, I use it as a methodological framework to build a critical curatorial practice which responds to a time when images act as data, computers perform the task of analytical tools and search engines are generators of meaning and aesthetic patterns themselves. My hypothesis is that the curator should be repositioned as a reflexive producer within the context of networked culture.
To test this proposition, I engage in projects at the intersection between the fields of photography, contemporary art and online image culture. My pilot project consisted in the close investigation of a specific visual object—a T-shirt commercialised by the Swedish international retailer H&M patterned with the statement ‘this image is not available in your country’. Through the process, I came to terms with the complex entanglements between conditions of online image search and circulation, commodification and curation. Following from that, this yearI have acted as an eBay curator within the framework of the project #exstrange, an initiative mobilised by curators Marialaura Ghidini and Rebekah Modrak that used the online marketplace of eBay as ‘a site of artistic production and cultural exchange and as an artistic intervention into capitalism’ (Ghidini and Modrak 2017). During the presentation, I will reflect back on the findings emerging from the eBay case study, focusing on my experiment of network co-curation with Cassini, the eBay search algorithm. I will then discuss how I intend to gather further data in order to expand my theoretical framework and shape the next stage of the practice. To conclude, I will analyse the range of collaborative practices I have been involved with this year and share the challenges I am currently facing in relation to thinking and writing about the networked image.
11.35 – Nicolas Malevé – Variations on a glance.
Computer vision algorithms make heavy use of the techniques of machine learning that aims to emulate the cognitive abilities of humans from extensive sets of examples. The training becomes part of the algorithm’s evolution. Contemporary computer scientists dream to accomplish what Alan Turing wrote in Computing machinery and intelligence (Turing, 1950):
“It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. This process could follow the normal teaching of a child. Things would be pointed out and named, etc.”
If the stakes are high when algorithms take decisions, include, exclude and classify visual content, it becomes worth investigating how they are trained, how the “pointing out” and the “naming” is carried out. To train machines to see like humans, computer scientists must have a model of what is vision and a method to associate words to images. An experiment that took place in Caltech in 2007, led by the Stanford’s AI Lab’s director, Li Fei Fei, explored the relationship between “early” vision and scene description (Fei Fei et al, 2007). The experiment’s results defined a scenario of what happens between 40 and 500 milliseconds of visual perception and established a method to classify the description of what had been perceived. This understanding of vision is according to Fei Fei “what we are after” when designing machine learning algorithms for computer vision (Fei Fei et al, 2012). For two months, I have been conducting Variations on a glance, a series of re-enactments of the Caltech’s experiment while introducing each time a variation to the original protocol. My presentation will report on the re-enactments and use the preliminary observations to question the relations between annotators, machines and micro-temporalities. And how they affect the machine’s ways of seeing.
Fei Fei L, Iyer A, Koch C, Perona P. (2007) What do we perceive in a glance of a real-world scene? Journal of vision, 7 (1), pp.1-29.
Fei Fei, L (2012), Computers that see. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viwpTTvSQKM [accessed 21 January 2016].
Turing, A.M. (1950), Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind, 59, pp.433-460.
12.00 – Zeta Kolokythopoulou – Performance Art Documentation: the potentials and difficulties of framing PaR with user-generated data
Today, more than ever, we view and produce digital files as a way of interacting with others, as a means for establishing our presence within our physical and digital environments. How we engage with this system of documents and their multiple configurations that surround us structures our relationship with the world (Giannachi, 2016). What the use of digital technologies in performance making and transmission has engendered, is a proliferation of pieces that set interactivity as a core dramaturgical element; pieces that turn viewers to participants who actively engage with the work and often with each other. Capturing participants’ individual trajectories results in the mutual contamination of performance and its documentation. How is such a condition affecting the performance archive and the historiography of a piece?
Aim of this research is to interrogate how digital documents produced by performance participants impact upon theories and practices of performance documentation and archiving.It argues that the recording of audience’s experience urges on reconsidering traditional understandings of what performance documentation. To do so, it interviews key practitioners and archivists, and examines participant-generated data produced during three performance case studies in order to identify possible curatorial approaches for future performance exhibitions. During the process of the study a set of questions relating to the ownership, availability, and even existence of the performance documents began to arise. Drawing on the first stages of the practice-as-research project which focuses on producing a performance exhibition where audience’s traces are brought in central focus, this presentation will examine the key difficulties, but also the potentials that user-generated data bear for the performance researcher and curator. It will reflect on the practitioner interviews and the nature and accessibility of the case studies documents in order respond explore what it means to frame practice-as-research with user-generated data in the context of performance art documentation.
12.25 – Nicola Baird – Reassembling David Bomberg- Socio-cultural approaches to the artist and his work as held in the Sarah Rose Collection and in the collection of the Ben Uri Gallery: Art, Identity, Migration.
This is a collaborative research project between London South Bank University’s Borough Road Gallery and the Ben Uri Gallery: Art, Identity, Migration. Both Ben Uri and the Borough Road Gallery are in the possession of important work by artists whose contribution to British art history, although influential has, until now, been significantly overlooked. Ben Uri, founded in 1915 in Whitechapel, the heart of London’s East End, has, over the course of its one hundred year history acquired and continued to augment its permanent collection now consisting of more than 1300 works by émigré artists of primarily Jewish descent including Chaim Soutine, Marc Chagall, Frank Auerbach and David Bomberg. The Borough Road Gallery houses a collection of over 150 paintings and drawings by Bomberg and Borough Group artists, Dennis Creffield, Dorothy Mead, Miles Richmond, Edna Mann and Cliff Holden, among later additions, bequeathed by Sarah Rose in 2012. Eminent British artist, David Bomberg is key to both institutions’ collections and it is in this way that the two might for the first time, in my thesis, be considered as participating agents within a radical disassembling and reassembling of the artist David Bomberg.
Not strictly art historical, the project is a cultural, theoretical and art historical hybrid in which the employment of assemblage theory and Actor-Network Theory is key. Assemblages are complex constellations of objects, bodies, expressions and territories that come together for varying periods of time to ideally create new ways of operating. The result of a productive assemblage is a new means of expression, or a new spatial/territorial organisation, a new institution, a new behaviour, a new realisation. As a material-semiotic method, Actor-Network Theory is able to render transparent the configuration and distribution of agency within an assemblage and allow for the identification and delineation of its component parts, as well as the appreciation of its contingent, impermanent and decomposable nature (component parts can be separated out, detached and plugged into other assemblages). Assemblage, as a ‘bridging concept’ allows me to connect and make use of a number of disciplines while retaining their specificity as well as giving me new tools with which to trace and to analyse the relations between humans, objects and concepts. Key to a new approach to Bomberg, assemblage theory/ANT will provide me with the means to get beyond the limits of the ways in which the artist has previously been thought about, to uncover the reasons behind his unsettled status and in so doing to call into question the relationships between artist, objects and apparatus bringing new insights into view.
Having identified the elements of the assemblage my research methodology will encompass a combination of detailed and original art historical work on specific paintings and drawings by Bomberg in the collections, archival research, and fieldwork-consisting of interviews with principle players as well as with those connected in various ways to the material under consideration (necessarily involving elements of discourse analysis) and two object oriented case studies designed to illustrate/demonstrate the agency of the 13 Bombergs in the Sarah Rose Collection and the 15 Bombergs in the Ben Uri collection (as well as the multifaceted enterprises of which they are a part) as functioning elements within the assemblage. Following the completion of the fieldwork phase of the project I will endeavour to diagramatise the assemblage I have built in conceptual, metaphorical terms.
12.50 summary of the morning sessions
1.00 Lunch Break
2.00 Introduction – Magda and Annet
2.10 Reading session lead by Daniel Rubinstein: reading Chapter One of Meeting the universe halfway by Karen Barad
Karen Barad’s influential Meeting the universe half-way is a a key text of contemporary scholarship striding feminist theory, identity politics, quantum physics and cultural studies. In this work Barad proposes a methodology of research that sidesteps entirely the binary opposites of matter / image, subject / object, and theory / practice. Instead of rehearsing the old Platonic narratives of semiotics, signification, representation and their current iterations as Actor Network Theory and Object Oriented Ontology, Barad has put forward a research framework that uses insights from contemporary physics to emphasise entanglements between states of matter and states of mind. In this reading group we will explore what new possibilities for research arise from shifting the emphasis from objects towards relationships, and what are the ontological-epistemological-ethical consequences of such move.
3.30 Keynote presentation + Q&A: From Selfies to Biometrics: The Data Capturing of the World – Dr Olga Goriunova
The face has been traditionally regarded as the site of authenticity, the mark of presence, unique subjectivity and truth. In the recent years, the face has become affirmed even more as such, – through the impetus to create an online presence for the face, and self, through selfies and other pictures. Face on social media becomes an authentic proof of presence. At the same time, on a different scale, the face has become the new fingerprint. Facial identification via documents such as a biometric passport has doubled up with automatic facial recognition. Having to present your face is a condition for a technique of governance, where face acts within the apparatus of capture. In this talk I argue that the current regime of data assigns the face and the body the status of the “real world,” itself an update on the notion of biopolitics, to generate forms of abstraction that anchor upon the indexical promise of the body and of the biometric “truth”. The data realities then process the bodily and the symbolic alike, layering and stitching whatever abstractions into the new maps available for recruitment by different forms of power.
4.30 final remarks
5.00 Finish with wine
Olga Goriunova is Reader and Director of Postgraduate Research at the Department of Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the author of Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet (Routledge, 2012), editor of Fun and Software: Exploring Pleasure, Pain and Paradox in Computing (Bloomsbury, 2014) and co-editor, with Alexei Shulgin, of Readme. Software Art and Cultures (University of Aarhus Press, 2004). She is a co-founder and co-editor of Computational Culture, A Journal of Software Studies(computationalculture.net). She has also worked as a curator, co-organizing, among other, four Readme, software art festivals, 2001-2005, Runme.org software art repository and curating a series of exhibitions Fun and Software in 2010-2011. In 2015, she was a Fellow at the University of Leuphana’s Digital Cultures Research Lab. In 2014-2016 she was part of the PosthumanitiesInternational Network (funded by the Swedish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences) and member of the Visual Social Media Lab, working on the project Picturing the Social: transforming our understanding of images in social media and Big Data research (funded by Economic and Social Research Council, UK). She is currently working on a monograph on digital subjects.
Daniel Rubinstein is a Reader in Philosophy and the Image at Central Saint Martins. He has written extensively on contemporary visual culture, photography and digital art. His current work investigates the radically fractal nature of images with a specific link to desire and memory. Forthcoming books: ‘What is 21st Century Photography’ (Routledge) and ‘Philosophies of the Contemporary Image’ (Focal Press).
Lozana Mehandzhiyska is a designer and researcher, currently a PhD candidate at the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image. Her research is part of an AHRC-funded collaboration between London South Bank University and Rhizome in New York. Lozana holds a BA (Hons) in Studio Art with concentrations in Graphic Design and Art History from Adelphi University, New York (US), and an MA from the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading (UK). Lozana has been a visiting lecturer at the American University in Bulgaria, the University of the West of England and the University of Reading, giving talks and workshops on digital design and experimental publication practices. In her professional practice, Lozana has over five years of experience working in communications and digital design agencies, both in London and New York.
Nicolas Malevé is a PhD Candidate at London South Bank University investigating the intersections of photography and computer vision. He is also an artist and software programmer . He is a member of the media collective Constant and the Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism.
Gaia Tedone is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image, London South Bank University and an independent curator with an expansive interest in photography and in the technologies and apparatuses of image formation. She holds an MFA in Curating from Goldsmiths College, London and was a Curatorial Fellow of the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York. She is a member of POIUYT—a newly formed Italian collective and online platform for image-based research.
Nicola Baird is PhD candidate in the School of Arts and Creative Industries at London South Bank University. Hers is a collaborative project between London South Bank University’s Borough Road Gallery and the Ben Uri Gallery: Art, Identity, Migration.She holds a BA in English from Bristol University, an MA in Modern English Literature from Queen Mary, University of London and an MA in History of Art from Birkbeck, University of London. As a writer and researcher she has worked with the Ben Uri Gallery, London, James Hyman Gallery, London, the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, Christie’s London (Modern British Art) and Christie’s Paris (Impressionist and Modern Art) and has presented at conferences at the University of Exeter and the University of Reading. Current curatorial projects include an Arts Council funded exhibition on the life and work of German émigré artist, activist and writer Fred Uhlman to be held at Burgh House and Hampstead Museum before touring to the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle in 2018. She will also assist with David Bomberg: A Retrospective, co-curated by Pallant House Gallery and the Ben Uri Gallery and due to open at Pallant House, Chichester in October 2017.
Featured Image is a still from Psychometrics 2014, HD Computer-Generated Animation and C-Type Digital Prints by Alan Warburton. For details see artist’s website.