‘Matters of Art and Reality – Artworks as Things’ course at Tate Modern

Over four Mondays in February and March 2016, I will be teaching an evening course at Tate Modern, fully grounded in the new Displays wings on which I have been working assiduously for months. More details below and on the Tate website (with session-by-session breakdown coming soon).

Thanks to Sandra Sykorova and Emily Stone of the Tate Learning team for taking my proposal on board. I am proud, excited and nervous in equal measure…

Mondays, 15 February – 7 March 2016, 18.45–20.45
Tate Modern, In the galleries
£100, £75 concessions. Book here

What kind of things are artworks? Why – or how – do they matter? Taking inspiration from the new Collection Display wings, this course focuses on notions of materiality and objecthood through the filter of the artistic production of the past century.

Entirely based within the Galleries and deeply rooted in the physical presence of artworks, these four sessions will offer participants an intuitive introduction to new materialist philosophies. Questioning how on the one hand immaterial information exchanges seem to dominate our lives whereas on the other the depletion of limited material resources is putting humanity itself at risk.

Led by Valentina Ravaglia, Assistant Curator of Displays at Tate Modern, this course proposes different ways of interpreting the stuff of art, from the micro- to the macroscopic scale, from its immediate reality to the abstract connections leading far beyond the walls of the gallery. This course welcomes all those interested in learning about, and through, contemporary art theory and philosophy. No prior knowledge required.

Black Wall 1959 by Louise Nevelson 1899-1988

Louise Nevelson, Black Wall 1959. Painted wood, 2642 x 2165 x 648 mm. Tate, Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962. T00514 © Tate / ARS, NY and DACS, London 2015


Curatorial Experiments: an event series at Birkbeck, University of London

June 2015, School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of London


Per Huttner, installation view from “I am a Curator” at Chisenhale Gallery, 14.12.2003 (with Lisa Maddigan and Fuyubi Nakamura as “Curators of the Day”)

Part of the AHRC-funded Arts of Experiment project, this series of five events focuses on experimental aspects of curating and exhibition-making, as well as on the meaning of the lexicon of ‘experimentation’ when used in the field of art. Each of these features curators working in a highly experimental mode, or scholars in this field, each briefly presenting selected examples of their practice. At the end, the question of experimentation in artistic and curatorial practices will become the starting point for a moderated panel discussion.

Manipulating variables: playing with the exhibition format
Monday 8th June, 18.30
Keynes Library, 43-46 Gordon Square

If a scientific experiment tests out what happens in a given scenario when a particular factor is manipulated, similar strategies have been applied to exhibition-making time and time again in the past hundred years as curators set out to disrupt established rules or parameters governing the display and reception of art. The spatial and temporal boundaries of the exhibition format have been bent, modes of production and consumption of art blurred, the connections between artworks shifted between expository, fictitious, choreographic and contingent modes.
With Francesco Manacorda (Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool) and freelance curator Mathieu Copeland; chaired by Fiona Candlin (Birkbeck).

Constructing scenarios: re-inventing the public art gallery
Friday 12th June, 18.30
Room 101, 30 Russell Square

An in-depth look at EastSide Projects, a “free public gallery imagined and organized by artists” which has become an extraordinary catalyst for contemporary artistic practices, based in Birmingham and reaching far beyond “the region”. Eastside Projects’ mission is to demonstrate ways in which art may be useful as part of society, providing vital infrastructure and supporting best practice by establishing and exercising new models for artists and curators to research, produce and thrive.
With Gavin Wade (Director, EastSide Projects, Birmingham); chaired by Gerrie van Noord (Birkbeck).

Research and replication: looking back at exhibition histories
Friday 19th June, 18.30
Room 101, 30 Russell Square

In the past few years, interest in the field of exhibition histories has seen a dramatic growth, both as an academic subject and as a curatorial strategy. Reinterpreting past exhibitions in a new light has become a common practice, between reenactment and revision in the light of contemporary debates, expanding the remit of cultural history to more and more aspects of its everyday practice and intermediate stages. What happens when you reconstruct an experiment, moving backwards from supposedly known results to retrace overlooked steps and question the origins of familiar notions?
With Dr Lucy Steeds (University of the Arts, London) and Prof Victoria Walsh (Royal College of Arts); chaired by Dr Ben Cranfield (Birkbeck).

Field testing: taking the curatorial outside the gallery
Friday 26th June, 18.30
Keynes Library, 43-46 Gordon Square

Like the laboratory, the exhibition space is a highly controlled, closed environment, a self-contained universe that functions according to its own set of pre-determined rules, a function of the contemporary art world applied to a particular time and space. It is however possible to put art to the test in a “naturally occurring” environment, be it a rural or urban landscape, a social or political context, or any unpredictable set of confounding factors and background noises. How do notions of the curatorial change when applied to such expanded fields?
With Ele Carpenter (Associate Curator, The Arts Catalyst) and Sophie Hope (Birkbeck).

Laboratory environments: spaces for making / displaying / testing
Monday 29th June, 18.30
Keynes Library, 43-46 Gordon Square

The lexicon of scientific experimentation has become a source of inspiration for the growing trend of process-based, collaborative initiatives bridging the gap between the exhibition space and the studio: Paris’ Palais de Tokyo, for example, describes its residencies programme as a “creative laboratory”. The guest speakers for this event will present their positions on such hybrid spaces for the production and display of art, and discuss possible future developments for collaborative, boundary-crossing practices.
With Kate Cooper (Director, Auto Italia South East, London) and Paul Pieroni (Senior Curator, Glasgow GoMA).


All events will take place at venues within the School of Arts in Bloomsbury, London: either the Keynes Library (46 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD) or in Room 101, 30 Russell Square (WC1B). Click here to see these locations on Google Maps.

Attendance is free; booking is recommended. To book a place, please email val.ravaglia [at] gmail [dot] com.

‘On Cybernetic Serendipity, Nove Tendencije and the Myth of “Computer Art”’ essay published

Following the successful first edition of the Media Art Festival in Rome, the book Media Art. Towards a New Definition of Arts in the Age of Technology, edited by festival director (and awesome human) Valentino Catricalà, is now out (Pistoia: Gli Ori, 2015). It contains my essay ‘On Cybernetic Serendipity, Nove Tendencije and the Myth of “Computer Art”’, as well as essays by Sean Cubitt, Paul Thomas, Oliver Grau, Alfonso Molina, Valentino Catricalà, Marco Maria Gazzano, Giulio Latini, Stephen Partridge, Elaine Shemilt, Laura Leuzzi, Maurizio Marco Tozzi, Domenico Quaranta, Alessandro Amaducci, Roc Parés, Fase Due, Elisa Cuciniello and Veronica D’Auria.

You can download the PDF version here.

Congratulations to Valentino and to Fondazione Mondo Digitale on their huge achievement: organising something high profile yet truly independent in Rome is no small feat. And to all the people I met in Rome on this occasion: high five, and see you hopefully very soon.

David Raymond Conroy lecture performance for Present Fictions, DRAF

On Saturday 29 March at 1pm I will be presenting a lecture performance by artist David Raymond Conroy as part of the two-day event Present Fictions, at the David Roberts Art Foundation; the performance will be followed by a brief Q&A. Description and more info below. Come along!


David Roberts Art Foundation
Symes Mews
London NW1 7JE

Present Fictions is a two-day special programme of screenings, performance lectures and discussions. Diverse events  focus on contemporary approaches to visual culture, poetry, science fiction and narrative structures and explore their relationships to new technologies and the expanded information society. A temporary research library presents a selection of publications and materials that have informed the research for this project. The exhibition Geographies of Contamination is on view in the gallery space.

Artists and speakers include Rachael Allen, Hannah Black, Ami Clarke, Tyler Coburn, David Raymond Conroy, Robert Cowley, David Cunningham, Keren Cytter, Jesse Darling, Rózsa Farkas, Barnaby Lambert, Pablo Larios, Hannah Perry, Heather Phillipson, Cher Potter, Val Ravaglia, Sam Riviere, Erica Scourti, Richard Sides, Michael E. Smith, Lucy Soutter and Georgina Voss.

Curated by Sandra Pusterhofer with Micola Brambilla and Nina Trivedi.

All events are free and no booking required. For more information please emailinfo@davidrobertsartfoundation.com



2 – 3 pm > Gallery 5 | Screening

Through characteristics of fast-cutting, re-mixing and layering of images these videos address ideas of repetition and distortion and explore the possibility of non-linear and fragmented narratives.

  • Hannah Black: Intensive Care/Hot New Track, 2013, 5:36 min; My Bodies, 2014, 3:30 min. Black’s recent work across video, text and performance draws on communist, feminist theory, autobiographical fragments, and pop music as a collective imaginary.
  • Richard Sides: He tried to be a nice guy, but it just didn’t work out, 2012, 21:12 min. Sides’ work uses a variety of media to explore notions of presence, temporality, complexity, conflict and the possible idea of ‘an ontology of communication’. This video is a tragedy or perhaps a stream of consciousness in which an anonymous protagonist pursues a moral balance or a positive outlook.
  • Hanna Perry: While it Lasts, 2012, 7:28 min. Continuously generating and manipulating materials (footage, sound clips, images and objects) Perry develops a network of references, carefully exploring personal memory in today’s hyper-technological society. Inspired by dance music loops and hip-hop sampling, the video reveals the strength of our personal investment in images of the illusory (power, sex, taste, lifestyle) and the vulnerability of youth.

3 – 5 pm > Studio | Present Fictions’: Presentations followed by Q&A consider how visual arts, design, ‘eco-cities’ and technological innovation relate to contemporary science fiction and notions of the future.

  • Georgina Voss: Bodies of Glass: Interfaces between science fiction, design, and material forms. Despite overwrought frothing about the technologies that have transformed from the science fiction texts and ‘into the real’, there are relatively few examples of such artefacts. Far more numerous are the fictional ‘technologies’ that influence how design and technological initiatives are framed and ushered in. In this talk Voss explores the relationship between science fiction, design, and innovation as one of mutual engagement and co-constitution, tracing the importance of desire, persuasion and influence in this process.
  • Cher Potter: The Speculative Arts. Cher Potter outlines the emerging fields of Design Fictions and Speculative Art as a creative approach that lies between hard science fiction, emerging technologies and cultural myth. She will introduce and discuss the work of a cross-section of artists and designers such as Lu Yang, Kenny Irwin, Daisy Ginsberg and Katja Novitskova who work with wildly differing notions of the future.
  • Robert Cowley: The eco-city as ‘applied fiction’. Robert Cowley will consider whether the contemporary ‘eco-city’ might be usefully characterised as a type of ‘applied fiction’. On the one hand, the eco-city has been increasingly mainstreamed into policy making and become aligned with the interests of big business; on the other, its pragmatic, experimental qualities reflect the speculative dimensions of its origins as a radical and visionary concept.

5 – 6 pm > Gallery 5 | Screening (see above)

6.30 – 8 pm > Gallery 5 | Talk: From Production to Consumption 

Pablo LariosLucy Soutter and David Cunningham discuss  the political and cultural implications of the use of commodities and products in current artistic practices. The conversation, chaired by Nina Trivedi, also asks how new forms of distribution relate to fractured narratives and how this in turn can result in a new affective encounter with the work.

12 – 6pm > Office, 1st Floor | Research Library and Screening

  • Throughout the two days of events DRAF will host a Temporary Research Library with books, magazines and articles that have informed the research for this project.
  • Michael E. Smith, Spider Leviator, 2008; No ball-swing low, 2007; Dope dog, 2008; Hammerpants, 2010 and Jellyfish, 2011 are miniatures, usually looped fragments of no more than a few seconds. Like Smiths’ other works— sculptures, pictures, and installations —his videos are based on found materials; with simple technical means, he makes the vulnerability of bodies and emotions palpable in everyday objects lost in a world without human kindness.



1 – 2 pm > Studio | Performance lecture: I Know That Fantasies are Full of Lies (Take IV), 2013 by David Raymond Conroy. Followed by Q&A with curator Valentina Ravaglia.

  • David Raymond Conroy presents a performance lecture investigating the gap between the experience of something as sincere or inauthentic. How does our fascination with images, from advertising to mainstream cinema affect our interactions with objects and with each other?

2 – 3 pm > Studio | Performance/readings/distributed texts: Unidentified Fictionary Objects. Curated by Ami Clarke (Banner Repeater).

When the paradox of science fiction is everyday, artists are testing the limits of language as code, blurring the distinction between computational linguistics and natural language, hinting that technology is not merely a medium to represent thoughts that already exist but is capable of dynamic interactions producing the thoughts it describes. The following presentations act as a back-flip for the forthcoming exhibition at Banner Repeater in May.

  •  Oral Backstory by Erica Scourti live performance. A feedback loop produced by reading the past month’s search history into Google’s voice activated search function, activating voice as both semantic and operative, and generating text and image through an interplay of spoken language, voice recognition software and search algorithms.
  • Robots Building Robots by Tyler Coburn, (live reading by Chris Polick) meditates on the “lights out” factory, so-named for the lack of need for regular, human supervision. The book takes form as a travelogue of improvised performances, which Coburn conducted at a science park in Southern Taiwan; rumour has it that a robotics company is presently building one such facility on site. During a long walk through the park’s grounds, the author considers literary and philosophical speculations on labour, machinic intelligence and the “automatic factory”: an enduring fiction gradually creeping into reality.
  • Zoēpic by Jesse Darling, performance lecture with powerpoint, 2014. “There is probably some kind of good in the mere fact of living itself [kata to zēn auto monon]. If there is no great difficulty as to the way of life [kata ton bion], clearly most men will tolerate much suffering and hold on to life [zoē] as if it were a kind of serenity [euēmeria, beautiful day] and a natural sweetness.”Aristotle, “Politics”, 350 bc
  • Error-Correction: an introduction to future diagrams (take 3): Impossible Structures “the eye that remains of the me that was I” – HD video (08:19 mins) and pamphlet (script) by Ami Clarke  (Error-Correction App available soon). A series of experimental takes of an on-going enquiry into diagrams, that reference and include appropriated texts, whereby the voice, through language, is constituted “between someone else’s thoughts and the page’, and considers the production of meaning through inference, association, paradox, and contradiction.

3.30 – 4.30 pm > Gallery 1-5 | Poetry Readings and Performances, considering the artistic use of narrative, poetry, rhythm and fictional elements in language.

  • 3.30 Sam Riviere, poetry reading
  • 3.45 Rachael Allen, poetry reading
  • 4.00 – (Gallery 1) Heather PhillipsonThe TX Script (Splashy Phasings), 2013.Sound piece (2:39) + script.
  • 4.10 Barnaby LambertA Planet in My Mouth, 2014. Staged as a performance in prose poetry; A Planet in My Mouth is a miniature sci-fi adventure across the language of high technology.
  • 4.20 – (Gallery 5) Keren CytterPoker Face, 2009 (Performed by Andrew Kerton). One night on stage a romantic poet is overtaken by the murderous ambition of his alter ego. As he fights for the audience’s attention and for his sanity Lady Gaga’s eponymous hit is heard undulating around his poetry. His alter-ego coerces him to kill off his colleagues in order to reclaim the spotlight. Poker Face was originally conceived for the Serpentine Gallery’s poetry marathon in 2009.

5  – 6 pm > Gallery 5 | Performance Lecture:  It’s Not Me It’s You, by Rózsa Farkas.

  • Building on her research at the Post Media Lab, on affect after the Internet, Rózsa Farkas takes Anger as her point of departure. Tracing Anger as a media and medium in art practices, as well as a socio-political device for both structural oppression and counter culture, this story asks: who is afforded Anger, and on what terms?

From 1 – 4 pm Heather Phillipson’s sound piece The TX Script (Splashy Phasings)will be played in Gallery 1 at 1, 2, 3 and 4 pm.

12 – 6pm > Office, 1st Floor | Research Library and Screening

  • Throughout the two days of events DRAF will host a Temporary Research Library with books, magazines and articles that have informed the research for this project.
  • Michael E. Smith, Spider Leviator, 2008; No ball-swing low, 2007; Dope dog, 2008; Hammerpants, 2010; Jellyfish, 2011

ICA Friday Salon: Curating the Archive

7 March 2014, 3pm, ICA Studio

I will be taking part in the next ICA Friday Salon, titled Curating the Archive and led by the ever excellent speaker and archive enthusiast Dr Ben Cranfield (who also happens to be one of my PhD supervisors).

dOCUMENTA (13) Guidebook (Catalogue 3/3, 2012), p.28
I will likely be discussing this page from the dOCUMENTA (13) Guidebook and the items it illustrates.

Here’s the blurb from the ICA website:

“With the rise and rise of curating in the post-war period as a professional activity and theorised level of practice, the scope of what we understand to be ‘curated’ and who we understand to be a ‘curator’ has greatly expanded. This expansion has been concomitant with the growth of recording technologies and the possibilities of archival preservation. How are these two areas, the archival and the curatorial, connected and what might an exploration of an expanded archive of contemporary art, curating and institutions reveal about the limits and potentialities of practice today?

In this Salon, led by Dr Ben Cranfield, six current PhD researchers will present an object from their research that relates to the interconnected fields of contemporary art, curating and philosophy, art institutions, non-traditional museums and collections, print-media and activism. Through a discussion of their work, in relation to a current ‘archival turn’ in curating, we will consider the value of and problems associated with the reanimation of the traces of creative practice and cultural institutions.

To begin our discussion we pose the following questions:

What do recent archival presentations make visible and rendered invisible?
What is the role of the archive in contemporary curatorial and artistic practice?
How do we understand the ‘afterlife’ of artworks as they travel through the archives and institutions of art discourse?
How do archival traces reveal and trouble the structures of an institution?
How might an expanded understanding of institutions and practice, through an examination of divergent cultural forms and spaces, interrupt the canonical and the professional? […]

Participants include:

Dr Ben Cranfield is Course Director of the Doctoral Programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies and the new Mres Cultural Enquiry, Birkbeck. He is currently researching and writing on the relationship between the archival and the curatorial in the formation of ideas and forms of the contemporary.

Dr Fiona Candlin is a Senior Lecture in Museum Studies at Birkbeck. Her publications include Art, Museums and Touch. Manchester: Manchester University Press (2010) and The Object Reader (with Raiford Guins) London: Routledge (2008). Her current work on small independent single subject museums – which she calls ‘micromuseums’ – challenges dominant understandings of museums and of curating.

Lucy Bayley is a writer and curator currently undertaking a Collaborative PhD The ICA: A History of the Contemporary with Middlesex University and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Her research focuses on elements within ICA’s archive post-1968 and proposes the cross disciplinary history of the Institute as a series of vignettes.

Julia Beaumont-Jones specialises in British works on paper, and from 2005-2013 managed Tate’s Prints and Drawings Rooms. Currently she is researching for a PhD at Birkbeck, focusing on the Printmaking Boom in Britain (c.1958-1975), its origins and legacy for the aesthetics of print and national collecting today.

Elizabeth Johnson is currently researching her PhD thesis, ‘Body of sculpture: An investigation of sculpture and the performance of perception during the post-minimalist era through the work of Bruce Nauman, 1966-1972,’ at the London Consortium, Birkbeck.

Matthew Morgan is Adult Learning Officer at the National Gallery and an Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck. Through the lens of art museums in Las Vegas, his PhD research investigates the ways in which art museums seek to influence the discourses about themselves through catalogues, architecture and programming.

Valentina Ravaglia is a PhD candidate at the London Consortium, Birkbeck, and works as Assistant Curator for Displays at Tate Modern. Her research project “Experiencing Art at the Limits of Knowledge” looks at exhibitions as epistemological testing grounds.

Rebecca Sykes is a writer and arts educator, currently researching for a PhD at Birkbeck, exploring contemporary strategies of institutional critique.”

Should you wish to attend, you can book your tickets (£5) here.

“1913 / The Art of Noises / 2013” conference, University College Cork

On the 12th December, I will be giving a paper at a conference organised by Paul Hegarty at UCC, Cork, to mark the centenary of Luigi Russolo’s L’Arte dei Rumori. It will be the first time I set foot in Ireland, and coincidentally I will be discussing Russolo’s influence on the art world’s most self-conscious plastic Paddy: Mike Kelley. Here’s the abstract:

The vibrations between two objects in relation to each other offer the pleasure of magical thinking”: aural and visual noise in the work of Mike Kelley

As an art student, American artist and musician Mike Kelley (1954-2012) titled one of his earliest performances The Futurist Ballet (1973), in a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Italian movement’s irreverent, confrontational, dissonant theatrics. This influence is particularly evident in Kelley’s long-term preoccupation with the aesthetics of noise in his work as a visual artist and in his sonic experiments: his use of toys, tape collages and electric appliances as musical instruments (most notably as a member of seminal noise band Destroy All Monsters) was declaredly indebted to Russolo’s writings and to his Intonarumori. Indeed, one of his contributions to Performa 09: Back to Futurism was an expertly curated two-day noise music festival, effectively reconstructing a ‘minor history’ of the genre (Gramercy Theater, New York, 2009). Many of Kelley’s works are explorations of the cultural connotations of noise, both in its aural sense and as visual or semantic chaos: synaesthesia, miscommunication, false memories, ambiguity, degradation and sensorial overload are recurring tropes across his oeuvre, reflecting his countercultural and psychedelic leanings in an acute analytical light.

This paper argues the centrality of noise in Kelley’s work, and the depth of his critical understanding of dissonance as an aesthetic strategy, inspired by the machinic cacophony of Futurism and applied as a form of critique of late 20th century belief systems, social rituals and hierarchies of value. It will discuss in particular early performance works such as Spirit VoicesTube Music and Oracle at Delphi (all 1978), his collaborations with Scanner (Esprits de Paris, 2002), Sonic Youth (Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile, 1986), Tony Oursler (The Poetics Project) and more, as well as his interest in Electronic Voice Phenomena and other soundscapes associated with paranormal or mind-altering experiences (i.e. Channel One, Channel Two and Channel Three and Silver Ball, both 1994).

From my archive: Notes on Lebensraum. Valentina Ravaglia on Rastko Novakovic

Notes on Lebensraum. Valentina Ravaglia on Rastko Novakovic, 2009

Click on the image to download the full pdf.

I wrote this text following a performance I organised with artist/film-maker/friend Rastko Novakovic for Contested Ground, an exhibition held at Zabludowicz Collection (then simply ‘176’) in January 2009, co-curated by Curating students from Goldsmiths and the RCA.

My text, along with a plethora of contributions from participating artists and curators, was meant to be included in a publication which we initially prepared and assembled on-site at 176, in a makeshift editorial ‘office’ where we typed away in the semi-obscurity of a room we shared with a 16mm film. Visitors were invited to pick up photocopied pages of the ‘zine and bind them as they wished.

There was a long-term plan of collecting these contributions into a proper publication, and I personally spent hours working on a layout for it, which was never approved and then forgotten by the rest of the team. It’s still sitting on my hard drive, and even though every now and then the subject of the Contested Ground ‘zine is brought up again, no one ever asks me about it. (Just to be clear, the general layout looked nothing like this pdf, which was made in a deliberately amateurish style echoing Rastko’s own leaflet for Lebensraum…)

Contents from the ‘zine are still available in their temporary online form at http://www.contestedground.blogspot.co.uk.

Meanwhile, Rastko continues to be one of my favourite people on this planet.