Monday, 3 August 2015

‘Headstone to Hard Drive III. Spolia, Relic, Data’

Method, Theory and Time in Art History, Archaeology and the Visual Arts

26th June 2015
British School at Rome, via Antonio Gramsci 61, Rome 00197, Italy

Connecting the British School at Rome’s ‘Archaeology of Knowledge’ research theme with Central Saint Martins’ ‘Headstone to Hard Drive’ project, including contributions from the Warburg Institute’s ‘Bilderfahrzeuge’ project and with support from Kingston University‘Spolia, Relic, Data’ will explore methodological overlaps between the visual/critical arts, archaeology and art history.

This workshop brings together archaeologists, artists and art-historians to discuss methodology, theory and their relation to time and mediation. How are the methods of these disciplines developing narratives of temporality and experience? The vocabulary of spolia, relic and data is used to consider how the employment of methodological tools both construct and determine temporality.

The workshop day is organised around four themes: 

Borrowed Things – Spolia and Relic.
Spolia is the seizure and reuse of artifacts. It exists at the intersection of financial and cultural concerns. Reuse can occur for economic reasons; for example as recycling, or for cultural reasons; as in the relocation of symbols. In the visual arts, the practice of spoliation develops through the methods of collage and appropriation. This session will consider spolia as a methodological term having three consequences: firstly spolia describing the historical objects of discourse; secondly spolia as the activity of material and technical practices that support those discourses; and thirdly spolia constructing a paradigm that describes temporality, spatiality and history.

Observed Things – Data/Capta.
Peter Checkland and Sue Holwell use the term capta in preference to data, drawing the distinction between data as that which is ‘given’, an attribute of the object, and capta as that which is taken; the result of a ‘subjective’ viewpoint (1)Capta is constructed from partial, technologic/methodologic viewpoints, producing a series of anamorphic squints, which are taken as representations of the artefact. This co-dependency of artefact and viewpoint fragments a claim that the artefact bears witness to the past. This session will consider the incorporation of technological and cognitive approaches to the humanities.

Temporal Things – Time and History
How do method, theory and technique construct propositions around time? What qualities of time are being performed within the disciplines of visual art practice, archaeology and art-history? How are the methods, techniques and imaginaries of these disciplines developing narratives and performances of temporality and experience? Presentations on ‘time’ in the work of Walter Benjamin and George Kubler, alongside reflections on time as informed by the experience of Rome, will provide anchors for a discussion on ‘constructing time’.

Thingly Things – Phenomenology and Social Processes
Visual art practices of the twentieth and twenty-first century approach the question of data through various methods. For example, the factura of materials in early Russian futurism opposed surface to thematic functions, the influence of phenomenology on the presence of and the encounter with the artwork, post-internet art’s address to the material aspect of information alongside the incorporation of new materialist philosophy. These developments have found their counterparts in historical and archaeological method. Also, and in contrast, all these fields of study have developed concerns with social processes in which the artefact plays a diminished role. This session will consider the importance and divergence of these approaches.

(1)“Data, Capta, Information and Knowledge.” Checkland and Holwell, 2006.

9.45 Session 1
Borrowing things  Spolia and Relic.

Johannes Von Muller – Blackbox in red. Porphyry and the Mediterranean.

Dr Stefania Gerevini – Byzantine relics on the move.

Mick Finch – The technical apparatus of the Warburg Haus:

Dr Paul O Kane – Spolia as speculation:

11.30 Session 2
Observing things  Data/Capta.

Louisa Minkin – Out of our skins.

Rebecca Darley – Pictures and objects in the digital archive: The Birmingham East Mediterranean Archive:

Arthur Crucq – Ornament and the innate cognition of motives and patterns:

2.00 Session 3
Temporal things  Time and History.

Andrew McGettigan - Walter Benjamin - Proust and History:

Jacopo Benci - 'The mixture is time'. Rome according to Michel Serres.

Hans-Christian Hoenes - Originality in George Kubler's 'The Shape of Time':

3.45 Session 4

Martin Westwood - Phenomenology and/or objects of exchange:

Susan Trangmar - Wandering Shards:

Christopher Smith - Archaeology as a social practice:

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

'Headstone to Hard Drive, Monument to Folly 2'
9.30 am – 5.00 pm, October 25, 2015
Central Saint Martins, London
Image: Clare Rowan

“The evolution of the “prosthesis”, not itself living, by which the human is nonetheless defined as a living being, constitutes the reality of the human’s evolution, as if, with it, the history of life were to continue by means other than life: this is the paradox of a living being characterized in its forms of life by the non-living – or by the traces that its life leaves in the non-living”

‘Technics and Time: The Fault of Epimetheus No. 1’, Bernard Stiegler [1]

‘Headstone to Hard Drive, Monument to Folly 2’ is the second of three events addressing the issues of exteriorisation, technique and technology as they affect, inform and construct the 'visual' arts. Taking its cue from André Leroi-Gourhan’s theory of exteriorisation, the event will consider the agency of technology and media as a co-author of content, an approach that imbues media with an inherent semiotic and physiologic power and relevance. The aim is to consider the consequences and effects for critical and artistic practices of the ”liberation of memory” performed by technical prosthesis, a “liberation” about which Leroi-Gourhan and others have written extensively.

This second event, following the first symposium in October 2014, draws contributions from artists, philosophers of technology and media, curators, and financial derivatives software providers. It includes presentations by Elie Ayache, Ami Clarke and Richard Cochrane, Steven Claydon, Felicity Colman, Annabel Frearson, Sarah Jones and with a keynote address by Bernard Stiegler.

The growth of digital databases, acting simultaneously as storage, circulation and calculation technologies, magnifies the artistic dialogue between authorship and automation; a socio-cultural dialogue familiar within the visual arts from the histories of photography and the readymade. Both of these historic ‘techniques’ drove a wedge into the traditional supports of aesthetic experience; communication and production. This is the backdrop against which the three symposia question aesthetic theory’s robustness in the light of technological development. Whether we view technics either as extensions or as appropriations of human physiology, the question remains: how can aesthetics, mired in anthropocentric bias and organicist analogy, make space for the inorganic or the technical? Where now are we able to locate a spectator moving between the sentient human and the auxiliary non-human or the auxiliary human and the sentient non-human?

Whilst the discursive topic incorporates contemporary developments in technology, the approach of the symposia is not to consider such technologies’ import as existing in developmental isolation, rather they are seen to have retrospective agency, in historical reconstruction, in the obsolete and in the survival of the anachronistic. Also, technology gains calculative and prospective agency, not through an unfolding end-point but in a ‘purchase’ of, and a ‘loan’ to, the future. It is through a chiasmic image of the present, a revolving door, that the con-temporality of technology is proposed.

The series of events bridge historical and contemporary mnemo-techniques; the alphabet; financial trading software; micro-processing; extra-terrestrial architecture; plaster-cast replicas of antique statues; phonography; photography; 3D data capture; heritage industries; archives. These are examples of mnemo-techniques and technologies, derived from the architectural monument to the semi-conductor microchip - from the headstone to the hard drive - encompassing the actual and the virtual.

This question of the temporality of technology is developed across the three events by exploring archaeological and historical approaches and their ability to provide points of purchase for considering the impasse of aesthetic theory when faced with the technical. A tension is staged between the epistemological value of technical memory and a media-archaeological understanding of technology; concern with data, material fragments, “decisive mutations”[2]. What noise, supplementarity or redundancy might accompany this tension?

[1] Stiegler, Bernard, Richard Beardsworth, and George Collins. Technics and Time: The Fault of Epimetheus No. 1. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1998. p.50

[2] Ernst, Wolfgang and Parikka, Jussi. ‘Digital Memory and The Archive’, University of Minnesota Press, 2013. p.48

'What about an art of hyper-control?' Bernard Stiegler:

'Speculative data: creativity and Robert Smithson'. Felicity Colman:

'Low Animal Spirits'. Ami Clarke and Richard Cochrane:

'Pierre Menard's Don Quixote'. Elie Ayache:

'Affectation correspondence'. Annabel Frearson:

'Ad Apsis'. Steven Claydon: