Not long ago, rhEvents, a project of material analysis was drawing to a close. Over the course of a year a team of museum specialists (scientists, conservators and technologists) gathered evidence of the adverse effects of fluctuations of temperature and humidity, on a collection of 18th century French lacquered furniture, in the V&A’s Dr. Susan Weber Gallery. The technical analysis, a combination of acoustic emissions technology (AE), and digital speckle-pattern interferometry (Laser), set out to measure the complex ‘interactions between artefacts and their environments,’ in the museum. 

The human ear can only discern these micro-events with the aid of amplification, via digital re-encoding. The re-mediated acoustic artefacts — a series of rather anaemic clicks and pops can be heard punctuating a considerable background noise — correspond to the release of energy, the appearance of new surfaces (cracks): the ‘crossing of a climatic boundary,’ with each boundary event signalling a change to the surface characteristics of the object in question. 

This presentation will explore the complex relations between materials and their environments. Teasing-out; playfully, with care — worlds of infra sound that inhabit the ‘high level of background noise’ — the affective and experiential dimensions that traditionally get filtered out. Operating in a somewhere, situated between conservation and art practice, I will describe how I set out to welcome and pay attention to these sensitive ‘uncharacteristic’ characters (counter-factual conservation), and ask us to imagine a museum- object beyond the preoccupation with The object — re-attuning to a complex exquisite (im)materiality — as a process-relational Event. 


Physics tells us that only 4% of the universe is visible to human sensing. Put like this, it is apparent that our daily lives are negotiations of the unknown, founded on trust in experience. This lightening talk takes a critical look at the idea that the imperceptible represents an impediment to human knowledge – a darkness to be illuminated, a barrier to be broken– using thinking developed through the AHRC project Dark Matters Thresholds of (Im)perceptibility, which brought together cosmology, fine art and anthropology of science. By replacing metaphors of attack with those of collaboration, imperceptibility can be useful provocation, a generative space for critical questioning and creative thinking where we “dwell with” the unknown (Bryant 2011). Of course, working with uncertainty is a well-established concept to artists and perhaps nowhere is it more entrenched than in values of drawing a medium closely associated with ideas of the unseen and unknown: it is said to be “a ghostly medium” (Dillon 2009), “verging on the mystical” (Eisler 1979) with “a privileged relationship to the non-visible” (Bryson 2003). What is less clear, is how this subject specific knowledge can be used and shared. The talk will share how thinking from cosmology led to experimental drawings that asked how values in drawing might be critically engaged to foreground conditions of uncertainty and open up space for dwelling with the precarity of uncertain futures around us.  


Under the working title Writing on Stone: a practice-led reflection on the generative intersection between language and lithography, this ongoing research explores through voice, text, and material inscriptions, a language making process that is engendered by the environments of stone lithography. 

This fragment reflects on the preparing of a lithography stone and is comprised of two elements: an edited video recording of the process and a description of the video. Compositely these present an account that focuses on intimate relations between the lithographer’s body and the limestone. As documentation the video is far from explicit. What is captured are slow motion glimpses and noise: the discordant sound of grinding stones, drips, splashes, shuffles, and a pair of working hands that slip in and out of view. Filling the screen is the partial view of a lithography stone that is both the stage for these fleeting gestures, and more significantly a resonating matrix, fugitively tethered to the peripheral noises and evocative narrative. Arising speculatively from the attention paid to this litho-phonic encounter, between 73 kilos of limestone, flickering particles of light on a digital screen, and the poetic register of language, is an invisible auditory excess, and a sonic trace. 


My exposition is a shorter version of a 30-minute film, which is a collection of observations that didn’t exist naturally but happened as a consequence of an investigative process within the confines of my flat. I am keen on challenging the way the audience perceives daily things, so I have used my day-to-day memories to connect with others, trying to build a more bilateral relationship with them. Here, the unfinished work is the finished work, keeping the unrefined nature of the creative process as part of the outcome. To me, the artistic experience of the film is about what has not yet been seen or heard, existing in a room that has not been filled with elements already known or implicit. We mainly accept an identity through seeing and hearing and I tried to create this piece’s identity through the unseen and the unheard, through layering different backgrounds and recontextualising them ambiguously, to explore the possibilities of the meaning gaps that this creates. Our perception and imagination are some of the most valuable things we have, and I believe in the importance of giving the audience something that lets their imagination be free and relaxed in its search for meaning. This is only achievable through uncertainty and ambiguity, as the connection of various elements into one unified entity is possible as a result of the work of every individual’s own perception and imagination.

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