CSNI Summer School at The Photographers’ Gallery

On 6th July we hold our summer school, including guest presentations by Olga Goriunova (Royal Holloway University of London), Gabriel Pereira (London School of Economics), Lisa Woynarski (University of Reading), and CSNI research presentations by Alex Anikina, Victoria Ivanova, Marco De Mutiis, Lynn Obath, and Qian Xaio. For more information see The Photographers’ Gallery website.

CSNI Summer School (original programme)
Date: Wednesday 6th July
Venue: The Photographers’ Gallery

// 10.00 Introductions
// 10.30 Guest presentation

Lisa Woynarski – Decolonising Ecodramaturgies 

This presentation explores the connections between climate change and settler colonialism, thinking particularly about what dramaturgical approaches to decolonising might be from an intersectional perspective. I argue that theatre and performance can open up ways of seeing and thinking, reflect blind spots and injustices, nuance ecological ideas and conversations and ask questions. This allows for exploration of persistent issues such as environmental justice, urbanisation, reductive images associated with whitewashing climate change and the way in which race, class, gender and colonialism produce ecological contexts and effects. I take an intersectional ecological approach based on the idea that, on a global scale, ecological effects are unevenly disrupted and tied to social structures that disproportionately affect marginalised people such as women, people of Black and Global Majority Heritage, Indigenous peoples and the poor. I consider how forgotten histories and the ongoing ecological effects of British colonialism in India are uncovered in the show-and-tell performance Common Salt (2018 – 2021) by Sheila Ghelani and Sue Palmer. Addressing the climate crisis requires addressing the underlying structures of oppression and colonialism that enable it. In a novel approach to performing stories of objects and collecting, Common Salt is able to uncover and foreground these structures of (ecological, social and political) injustice. Questions of climate justice and activism are also explored in the digital theatre piece Can I Live? (2021) written and performed by Feniti Balogun. Through disrupting the trope of the Zoom play and use of digital effects, the piece centres the message that ‘climate change is modern colonialism’. Both these pieces bring to light ecological injustices in theatre and performance through an approach of intersectional ecologies. 

Dr Lisa Woynarski (she/her) was born on traditional Anishinabewaki territory in Ontario, Canada. She is of white European settler/immigrant ancestry. She is now an immigrant herself as well as Associate Professor in Theatre in the Department of Film, Theatre & Television at the University of Reading, UK. As a performance-maker and scholar, her work connects performance and ecology, from an intersectional lens. She is the author of Ecodramaturgies: Theatre, Performance and Climate Change (Palgrave, 2020).

// 11.00 – 13.00 Panel One 

Qian Xaio – Transcultural Identity, New Media and Decoloniality: An ethnographic study of transcultural experience of Victoria and Albert Museum

With the rising discussions of decoloniality in museums and universities, together with shifts in online media use since the global pandemic, there is a need for more specific research to investigate the transcultural subject’s experience when encountering Western-centric institutional epistemologies. More specifically, China’s geopolitical and intellectual power now challenges cultural perspectives of mono-polar Western-centralism, raising the specific question of how does decoloniality inform the transcultural experience of identity and consciousness, and how does the Victoria and Albert Museum online attempt to mediate the transcultural subject. I will approach this question in my presentation through a discussion of the online encounter of Chinese international student participants with the Chinese collection at the V&A.

Lynn Obath – With you are the words of life: Luo storytelling strategies in developing a decolonial self 

Using a practice-led decolonial autoethnographic approach, my research demonstrates how Luo storytelling tradition cultivates a decolonial sense of self through the practice of orality. Orality embodies a key point in critical discourse analysis (Wiggins & Riley 2010, Amoussou & Allagbé 2018) — that language is active and it establishes patterns in everyday discourse. Orality as defined by Luo storytelling involves the ability to use language in a way that establishes knowledge as an embodied, individual experience and simultaneously as a collective, communal discourse in order to generate knowledge by and for the people (Anzaldúa 1999). By defining and demonstrating orality as a decolonial practice of language which emerges from Luo storytelling, I illustrate the storyteller’s role as a culture bearer, researcher, and agent of change (Downey & Novak 2013) who inspires the listen into these same roles.

Teodora Sinziana – Cross-dimensional Encounters

This presentation will focus around the concept of “cross-dimensional practices” as a mode of conceptualising those artistic processes concerned with the production of worlds that intersect simulated space, fictive narratives and imagined bodies. These world-experiments, made possible through the use of computational technologies, allow for the creation of hybrid spaces that bring together physical, virtual, real and imagined landscapes. By examining the underlying processes involved in the creation of these speculative, immersive and interactive worlds, as well as their sub-stratal systems of exchange and representational qualities as hybrids of image, space and materiality, this presentation aims to situate the emerging practice of the artist as maker of worlds, whilst tracing the ways in which immersive networked systems can give rise to new modes of affective experience. With particular attention to the web of relations forming between audience and world via computationally-mediated interfaces, the phenomenological possibilities that world-making affords are addressed through an understanding of their multi-layered participatory affordances. 

// 13.00 – 14.30 Break, and…

“How to Win at Photography” exhibition tour with Marco De Mutiis

I will do a tour of the exhibition “How to Win at Photography”, and talk about how the curatorial method informed my research and how the exhibition itself produces an alternative form of knowledge that sits next to the theoretical work. 
“How to Win at Photography: Image-Making as Play” is an exhibition exploring the relationships between photography, image-making and play. It invites audiences to focus on the playful aspects of visual culture, and creates unexpected connections between the history of photography and the practices of image-making within computer games and wider digital screen culture. https://www.howtowinat.photography/en

// 14.30 – 16.00 Panel Two 

Rachel Falconer – Leaky Box Scenarios

In this research-as-practice micro presentation I will introduce the framework of Mutable Prototypes as a mode of alternative curatorial practice. The proposed function of the performative model of dysfunctional, contra-productive proofs of concept (as conceptualised as Mutable Prototypes) will be positioned as a way to address and agitate the question: “Can the generation of situated agential objects with the conditions of failure embedded in their DNA and the placing of these in dialogue with galleries and institutions provide the conditions for a radical recasting of networked behavioural patterning and a recalibration of potential forms of cultural production, consumption and distribution?” Each Mutable Prototype will be enacted with a discrete set of conditions and signifiers encoded within them, forming the basis of the related cartographic events that I will be assembling as part of the research-as-practice. The inaugural collection of Mutable Prototypes include:

The responsive and generative performance of defective prototyping enables an active destabilising of “the research” as a traditional solid state object and places it in direct encounter with the pseudo-pedagogical association attached to the construct of “the workshop” in order to throw into sharp relief the implicit instability and fallacy of autonomy imbued within traditional categorizations of publicly rendered research and curatorial practice. In order to challenge systems of myopic belief and upstream knowledge production (distributed across the logics of network or otherwise) the staging of these Mutable Prototypes iteratively proposes the conditions for the emergence of generative spaces for the rendering of research otherwise.

Victoria Ivanova – Between Action Research and LARP (Live-Action-Role-Play)

I will discuss the fault lines of transformation-oriented embedded research by drawing on my experience as a practice-based PhD student working with the Arts Technologies team at Serpentine. I will outline the different phases of the three-year research period, focusing on the methodological conundra that this process has entailed.

// 16.30 – 17.30 Workshop

Gabriel Pereira – Towards refusing as a critical technical practice

In this workshop, we’ll tackle the questions of why and how we do practice-based research. I will begin by discussing my experience in doing (artistic) critical technical practice to question computer vision algorithms. How could a research practice question hegemonic sociotechnical systems? How could refusal be a productive counter-hegemonic response? 
Gabriel Pereira is a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science (UK), funded by an Independent Research Fund Denmark International Postdoc grant. His research focuses on critical studies of data, algorithms, and digital infrastructures, particularly those of computer vision.

// 18.00 – 19.00 Public presentation

Olga Goriunova – Modelling the Ideal

We know that we subjectify in relation to ideal notions and model characters, supplied by art, literature and film and circulating in culture as a horizon in relation to which to form oneself. However, what happens today is that algorithms and AI rely on such ideals, re-use existing ones and produce their own, altering our horizon of subjectivation. As we are modelled as ideal characters, it is art that disrupting and distorting this logic falls upon. In this talk, I will first introduce idealisation performed by machine learning and will then consider how works from How to Win at Photography identify and play with such idealisations, including algorithmic expectations and user constructions.

Olga Goriunova is a scholar and curator. Professor at Royal Holloway University of London, she is the author of Bleak Joys, Aesthetics of Ecology and Impossibility (with Matthew Fuller), Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet and editor of Fun and Software. Exploring Pleasure, Pain and Paradox in Computing. She co-curated Runme software art repository before the age of social media platforms and wrote about memes, lurkers and new media idiocy before they were weaponized. 

Image by Chiang Yu-yi, aka John Yuyi (from the exhibition How to Win at Photography)