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Art & Design

What will virtual reality sport experiences feel like?

What will virtual reality sport experiences feel like?

This week, I was over in Dublin for a Virtual Reality conference organized by Professor Timothy Jung in collaboration with the Dublin Institute of Technology. I covered all things virtual and sport, here's what I said....

TEDx Warwick

TEDx Warwick


On Saturday 9th March, I'll give a talk as part of TEDx Warwick. This will be the second time I've spoken at Warwick, the first being at the Virtual Futures event in 2011. My laptop broke on the way there and I ended up giving a somewhat retro talk using one of the latest pieces of software out there. It looked like this.

I've not yet decided how I want to focus the talk this year, but I want to bring together bioethics, bioart, biopolitics, biotechnology, citizen science, and social media to consider how we need to advance a compassionate, yet aggressively innovative, assault on our knowledge economy. Alternatively, I might just use it to explore a term I've been developing recently along the lines of 'viral cities'. This might work well since the theme is 'building bridges'. I want to build them with DNA infused data. Now there's a nice title.

Democratic Art

Democratic Art


What makes art democratic is its capacity to allow someone to remake it as their own art work. Take this bench for example, part of the Liverpool Biennial 2012.

Photo by Andy Miah on Flickr
Photo by MobileVirgin on Flickr Parkverbot
Photo by Neil Shenton on flickr Spiked Bench in a spotlight


It is beautifully presented with awesome lighting. If you take a good photograph of it, you can come away with something that you feel pride in having experienced and captured.

The art of this artist becomes your art, the moment you line up the camera, choose your angle, perhaps even your settings, and ‘click’. It may even become more artful, if you use some creative software to edit the image, or some unique processing technique.

Art that allows people to recreate the work is the most compelling example of democratic art. Galleries that restrict photograph or other kinds of remaking limit their ability to democratize art. There may even be an important political reason for why all art should be democratic, but we will have to think carefully about how to support the artist in this system

As the World Tipped

As the World Tipped


This remarkable theatre production took place in Liverpool tonight and is not to be missed if it comes to your city. It is performed by The Wired Aerial Theatre Productions. Here's a photo selection from the evening.


Dreamspace is in the news again this week. It was the first art work i saw in Liverpool when I moved there. It subsequently blew away and killed a couple of people. My reportage is my most viewed selection of photographs on Flickr and it was a wonderful experience. I hope someone is brave enough to remake it one day. Sadly, the artist Maurice Agis died in 2009 soon after the case against him for gross negligence mansalughter was resolved. The court were unable to reach a verdict and he eventually received a reduced fine of £2500.

Ai Weiwei #missing


From Wikipedia, May 05, 2011:

South China Morning Post reports that Ai received at least two visits from the police, the last being on 31 March - three days before his detention - apparently with offers of membership to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. A staff member recalled that Ai had mentioned receiving the offer earlier, "[but Ai] didn't say if it was a membership of the CPPCC at the municipal or national level, how he responded or whether he accepted it or not."[60]

On 24 February, amid an online campaign for Middle East-style protests in major Chinese cities by overseas dissidents, Ai posted on his Twitter account: "I didn’t care about jasmine at first, but people who are scared by jasmine sent out information about how harmful jasmine is often, which makes me realize that jasmine is what scares them the most. What a jasmine!"[61][62]

The caption(Chinese:草泥马挡中央) to AI's self-portrait has a double meaning. It can be interpreted as: "Fuck your mother, the Communist party central committee".[63]

On 3 April, Ai was arrested just before catching a flight to Hong Kong and his studio facilities were searched.[64] A police contingent of approximately 50 officers came to his studio, threw a cordon around it and searched the premises. They took away laptops and the hard drive from the main computer; along with Ai, police also detained eight staff members and Ai's wife, Lu Qing. Police also visited the mother of Ai's two year-old son.[65] While state media originally reported on 6 April that Ai was arrested at the airport because "his departure procedures were incomplete,"[66] the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on 7 April that Ai was arrested under investigation for alleged economic crimes.[67] Then, on 8 April, police returned to Ai's workshop to examine his financial affairs.[68]On 9 April, Ai's accountant, as well as studio partner Liu Zhenggang and driver Zhang Jingsong, disappeared,[69]while Ai's assistant Wen Tao has remained missing since Ai's arrest on 3 April.[70] Ai's wife said that she was summoned by the Beijing Chaoyang district tax bureau, where she was interrogated about his studio's tax on 12 April.[60] A Beijing-controlled newspaper in Hong Kong announced that Ai was under arrest for tax evasion, bigamy, and spreading indecent images on the internet. Supporters said "the article should be seen as a mainland media commentary attacking Ai, rather than as an accurate account of the investigation

South China Morning Post reports that Ai received at least two visits from the police, the last being on 31 March - three days before his detention - apparently with offers of membership to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. A staff member recalled that Ai had mentioned receiving the offer earlier, "[but Ai] didn't say if it was a membership of the CPPCC at the municipal or national level, how he responded or whether he accepted it or not."[60]

On 24 February, amid an online campaign for Middle East-style protests in major Chinese cities by overseas dissidents, Ai posted on his Twitter account: "I didn’t care about jasmine at first, but people who are scared by jasmine sent out information about how harmful jasmine is often, which makes me realize that jasmine is what scares them the most. What a jasmine!"[61][62]

The caption(Chinese:草泥马挡中央) to AI's self-portrait has a double meaning. It can be interpreted as: "Fuck your mother, the Communist party central committee".[63]

On 3 April, Ai was arrested just before catching a flight to Hong Kong and his studio facilities were searched.[64] A police contingent of approximately 50 officers came to his studio, threw a cordon around it and searched the premises. They took away laptops and the hard drive from the main computer; along with Ai, police also detained eight staff members and Ai's wife, Lu Qing. Police also visited the mother of Ai's two year-old son.[65] While state media originally reported on 6 April that Ai was arrested at the airport because "his departure procedures were incomplete,"[66] the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on 7 April that Ai was arrested under investigation for alleged economic crimes.[67] Then, on 8 April, police returned to Ai's workshop to examine his financial affairs.[68]On 9 April, Ai's accountant, as well as studio partner Liu Zhenggang and driver Zhang Jingsong, disappeared,[69]while Ai's assistant Wen Tao has remained missing since Ai's arrest on 3 April.[70] Ai's wife said that she was summoned by the Beijing Chaoyang district tax bureau, where she was interrogated about his studio's tax on 12 April.[60] A Beijing-controlled newspaper in Hong Kong announced that Ai was under arrest for tax evasion, bigamy, and spreading indecent images on the internet. Supporters said "the article should be seen as a mainland media commentary attacking Ai, rather than as an accurate account of the investigation


Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds currently at TATE Modern.  Here is some text from TATE:

Juliet Bingham, Curator, Tate Modern

"Ai Weiwei's Unilever Series commission, Sunflower Seeds, is a beautiful, poignant and thought-provoking sculpture. The thinking behind the work lies in far more than just the idea of walking on it. The precious nature of the material, the effort of production and the narrative and personal content create a powerful commentary on the human condition. Sunflower Seeds is a vast sculpture that visitors can contemplate at close range on Level 1 or look upon from the Turbine Hall bridge above. Each piece is a part of the whole, a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses. The work continues to pose challenging questions: What does it mean to be an individual in today's society? Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together? What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?"

It is well known that the installation originally permitted people to walk around these porcelin seeds, but that due to the health risk posed by the dust, this came to an end rapidly. I'm sure it would have been beautiful to walk amidst them, but the fact that seeds were taken from the installation seemed to add an additional layer of complexity to the work.

To the extent that the art work is a motif for the West's reliance on the East's low-cost industrial labour force, the pillaging of seeds by Westerners reinforces the notion that this is an exploitative relationship. Yet, given the pride taken by the village's people in the crafting of ceramics, this unavoidable inequality still has integrity, meaning and value for a community that otherwise would have no source of income, as was true of this particular  village, whose ceramic work was reaching its end.

We Are The Real-Time Experiment (2009)

In September, FACT published its 20 year history, edited by Mike Stubbs and Karen Newman. I've written the concluding chapter for the book, which gives you a taste of what else is inside. If you like wht you read and are eager to learn more about the UK's leading new media art organization, pick up a copy here.


By Professor Andy Miah, PhD

Published in Stubbs, M. & Newman, K. (2009) We Are the Real-Time Experiment. Liverpool University Press, pp.197-201


In the summer of 2006, I moved from Glasgow to a flat in Toxteth, Liverpool, which did not have internet access. At the time, social media was quickly becoming a popularised practice, I was blogging regularly and FACT’s wireless internet access was free. It still is. As a result, my time in Liverpool began as a client of FACT, one of its many nomadic notebook bearing café goers. We sit in the corner, by the window - ideally with a plug socket in reach – looking out into the atrium. This seems as good a starting point as any to explain part of what FACT means to its community or to those who pass through Liverpool. It also explains why FACT is necessary and what it might accomplish in the future, which is what I want to consider in this concluding chapter.

Even in 2009, after half a decade of free public wireless capability, the United Kingdom, along with many other developed countries, still expects to charge the public for internet access. Yet, free wireless internet access should be regarded as a public good in the 21st century, a public space even, like a park or a bridleway. Internet access is something we should be able to take for granted and expect everywhere we go, without having to pay a fee. Indeed, over the last five years, cities around the world have begun to treat wireless Internet access in this way, free to all, but in the UK the realization of this notion remains elusive.

In London, Mayor Boris Johnson expressed that London should have wifi throughout the city by the 2012 Olympic Games. These are valuable sentiments, but the crucial word – free – is not particularly evident in the campaign. Even the sole restaurant to have free wireless at Euston station has now been swept into another fee-paying ISP circuit. Moreover, Internet dongles are now appearing in the high street, each one charging us far too much for far too little. The aspirations of digital culture have yet to be met, yet so much more could be freely available already. Audio should be free. Video should be free. FACT understands this and its café goers are loyal because of its persistence to deliver open access.

Being vigilant of new media culture – advocating its promise and berating its limitations – infiltrates FACT’s work. Indeed, my three years in Liverpool has shown me that these dual discourses of promise and scepticism pervade many spheres of work in the city. I think this is why the history of FACT is such a contested space. FACT is clearly an organization that arose from collaboration, sharing and opportunism on behalf of upcoming cultural leaders in the city at the time. In 2008, the Chair of the European Capital of Culture, Phil Redmond, described the year as something like a scouse wedding, an analogy that pervaded the year’s media. He described how the process begun with disagreements over how best to deliver an exciting cultural programme, but when the time came, everyone had a good time and it all went very well. This analogy might work for explaining queries into FACT’s origins – whether it was indeed a ‘Liverpool invention’, as Lewis Biggs interrogates here. Biggs’ ‘regionalism’ narrative of FACT’s birth, which demonstrated how it took place amidst considerable political unrest within the UK, reveals even further how FACT might best be thought of as a Liverpool art work, rather than an invention.

Liverpool’s port city and slavery heritage, along with its contemporary ghettoization requires its institutions to make community a central part of their work, which also explains how the birth of FACT fits here. These are endearing qualities of the city and they shape my own experience of it, living now in the 1960s bohemian district, sandwiched between the Asian, African and Chinese communities, with the two cathedrals, a synagogue and a mosque all a short sprint away.

Reading Laura Sillars’ prologue to FACT’s history, I was struck by thoughts about the immediate past, Liverpool’s Year as European Capital of Culture in 2008, which was my major reason for coming to the city. The questions Laura asks might also be asked of 2008, a year with its fair share of challenges. How has FACT’s past contributed to Liverpool’s contemporary art and cultural environment? During 2008, FACT consolidated its past by entering into the Liverpool Arts Regeneration Consortium (LARC) collaboration, itself a product of necessity in times of difficulty leading up to 2008. As one of the major eight cultural institutions in the city, FACT inevitably became – for some – more of an institution than a grass roots organization, though with the arrival of its newly appointed CEO Mike Stubbs it remains artist-led. As such, 2008 consolidated FACT’s role as a key venue for major cultural events in the city, as well as becoming an organization that could just as easily have the Secretary of State for Culture wandering around its atrium, as it might have the prizewinner of ARS Electronica. This speaks volumes about how FACT has adapted over 20 years, defining its trajectory, while also stopping at each juncture to consider its choices.

For any successful organization, a rise in status implies a danger of losing the intimate connection with core membership, due to the imposition of other obligations that emerge from major funding opportunities. Concern about such prospective loss, but more broadly of the change that surrounded Liverpool during 2008 seemed integral to all of FACT’s works throughout the year. In 2008, I was fortunate enough to be part of FACT’s conversations on its future. I recall one of the first artists’ workshops of the Human Futures programme, which brought such artists as Stelarc and Orlan together, though not just to talk about bioethics and bioart (see Hauser 2008). Instead, a significant part of our debates focused more on what arts organizations – and artists – should be doing at the beginning of the 21st century


In 2009, the labour of these discussions bore fruit in the form of Climate for Change, FACT’s first exhibition for its UNsustainable year. Inviting local communities into the gallery space, FACT placed its creative vision in their hands, opening up a dialogue about its future and providing a space where the concerns of its peers could be heard. As an exhibition, its major art works were thus the people who inhabited the space, which brought new communities together and welcomed new publics into their fold. Yet, this was not just an exercise of public engagement or outreach. Rather, the exhibition’s thematic focus on ‘economics and sustainability’ issues, as Mike Stubbs explains in this volume, also demonstrates FACT’s desire to interrogate the conditions of contemporary mediatized and politicized debates about climate change, by linking them with broader issues of social and political unsustainability.

Throughout Climate for Change, I wondered what would be next for FACT. After all, what more can an arts organization do to support local communities than to hand over the gallery space for a period? Perhaps handing over the space permanently would be a more powerful gesture, but FACT’s communities are numerous, their audiences multiple – cinema goers, art lovers, café visitors, book shop browsers, bar quiz buffs, conference delegates, and so on (and even within each of these categories there is substantial variance). This composite audience is not unique to FACT. Actually, it may describe the conditions of being a 21st century arts and cultural institution, the kind of multi purpose media space that is arising in such places as King’s Place London, which opened in 2008. This is not to say that art is merely one of the things that FACT does. Rather, art – along with the two senses of creative technology mentioned by Sean Cubitt in this volume – pervades each of these other works. This is beautifully demonstrated in another 2009 work by Bernie Lubell whose bicycle powered cinema also takes FACT towards its next major intervention, a festival of new cinema and digital culture called Abandon Normal Devices or AND with aspirations of Olympic proportions.

Like FACT’s birth, AND is also the product of collaboration in the arts and new media sector, driven by FACT in Liverpool, Folly in Lancaster, and Cornerhouse in Manchester. Moreover, it arises partly from funds related to the Legacy Trust’s UK investiment in ‘We Play’, England’s Northwest cultural legacy programme for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The producers of the festival are working to ensure the investment extends well beyond 2012, hoping AND to become a key item in the national calendar. Here again, we see the duality of FACT’s identity at work – new cinema and digital culture – as an organization that champion’s new work and invites local communities to scrutinize it, as it does with its long-standing online community broadcast platform Tenantspin.

Abandon Normal Devices also lends itself to multiple, rich interpretations. It is an inquiry into the consequences of normalising processes - both physical and social – while also functioning as a conjunction, inviting the participant to invent associations: Body AND Economy, Art AND Health, Sport AND Culture. This cross fertilization of ideas offers a much needed opportunity to critically interrogate the Olympic period within the United Kingdom, as London 2012 prepares to host the Games for the third time (the first Modern Games city to have had this opportunity). After all, the idea of normality and our critique of it is implicit to the Olympic philosophy, which pivots on notions of individualism, nationhood, excellence and perfection. Indeed, this is prominent when observing how an athlete’s physique is being altered by technology, especially within disability sport. Very soon, it is likely that prosthetic devices will overtake the capabilities of their biological counterparts, thus transforming what it means to be the fastest or strongest person in the world (Miah, 2008, Wolbring 2008).[i] Indeed, in 2012 we might even see the first 100m sprint of the Olympics won by an athlete with prosthetic legs, signalling the beginning of the end of able-bodiedness as a privileged condition.[ii

The Olympic Movement is also wrestling with its future, as citizen journalists threaten the financial base of the Games by syndicating Olympic intellectual property and as the youth of the world – the Olympic Movement’s core community – shift their attention to video games and alternative sports, which have quite different values to their traditional counterparts. Already, there are major competitions around digital gaming with the first professional gamer, Fatal1ty, occupying central state. Cybersports are a part of this and many of the largest sports relying on digital technologies to constitute the training environment, taking sports into the digital arena.

As the first regionally devolved Olympics, FACT can have a major role in constituting the terms of this period, certainly in the Northwest, but perhaps more importantly by bringing together a national convergence of arts and new media with research into body economies (biotechnology, synthetic biology, AI, energy, etc). These processes have far reaching implications and might even signal the need to abandon traditional sports practices and re-interpret the Olympics once again. Artists can help here and their design of new technological encounters is demonstrative of this. Indeed, it is constitutive of the Olympic enterprise, which has always pushed the boundaries of technological excellence, from taking an Olympic torch underwater at the Sydney 2000 Games to using slow-motion for the first time in broadcasting.


FACT’s birth coincided with that of the Internet, which Tim Berners-Lee conceived on 12 November 1990. One might even say that FACT’s birth occurred at the moment of the Internet’s conception. As the Internet reached maturity around the mid 2000s, the Web 2.0 era transformed the web into a prolific offspring machine, with new nodes arising daily and data-based societies emerging where content production and creativity reached pandemic levels. The next 20 years of both FACT and the Internet will be very different from their first, but it is clear that they will be intimately connected. We already see a glimpse of their promise in Mike Stubbs’ appeal in this volume to establish the Collective Intelligence Agency (CIA), which urges us towards better-networked intelligence, rather than just better-networked stupidity. Information now moves in different ways, both offline and online. Google is beginning to look like an outdated model of information distribution, as new modes of semantic or real-time searching arise through such platforms as Twitter Search.

The implications of this are profound and require organizations to understand that they are no longer the sole proprietors of their Intellectual Property, which includes their public relations and marketing. Consider the fake twitter hashtag that was used around the South by South West (SXSW) festival in 2009, created by people who did not have access to the festival. The prominence[iii] of this ambush media allowed the fringe community to create their own alternative experience. Unlike urls, nobody owns hashtags and, by implication, nobody can restrict their use (yet). Coming to terms with the reality of distributed IP will be a central part of allowing an organization to move from a Microsoft model to an Open Source model. The rise of web 2.0 platforms such as Facebook and Flickr demonstrate this, as communities take ownership of their institutions.

Understanding how best to deal with these challenges requires re-stating what FACT does. Roger McKinlay reminds us that FACT is not driven by technology, but the desire to make technology ‘invisible.’ It is an organization that endeavours to put people together and provide them with the means to realize the potential of new technologies. Such work also involves subverting the parameters of new technology, as demonstrated by Hans-Christoph Steiner’s iPod hacking session, which took place during his recent FACT residency as part of Climate for Change. These aspirations to democratize technology speak to both enduring and emerging dimensions of our posthuman future. Around the world today research programmes are exploring the link between biology and computing, which also describes the intersection of new media art and bioart, a key focus of FACT’s recent work. The prospect of artificial general intelligence (AGI) and the singularity have pervaded philosophical inquiries into cognition and neuroscience over the last decade.[iv]

It is, thus, highly appropriate that we consider, finally, what FACT might be doing precisely 20 years from now in the year 2029. According to Wikipedia – yes, it is also an encyclopaedia for the future – this will be the year when machine intelligence passes the Turing Test and will have reached the equivalent of one human brain.[v] What we cannot know yet is how this will come about. How much of this achievement will be brought about by collaboration between artists and scientists within mixed media laboratories such as FACT?

Our consideration of FACT’s future must be also take into account Liverpool’s future. What will Liverpool look like in 2029? As Roger McKinlay reminds us in this volume, FACT’s first 20 years began during a recession. FACT’s next 20yrs begins in similar times and it is notable that, as Liverpool’s renaissance takes shape and it finds a way of emerging from 20 years of economic neglect, the largest global recession of the last 90 years hits the world. Nevertheless, Liverpool is a much more competitive place now for the visual arts. With new arts and cultural centres such as the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre, A-Foundation, an expanded Bluecoat centre and ever growing independent galleries, the Liverpool’s artistic renaissance is clearly underway.

Despite its name, the truth about what FACT was, is or will become remains elusive. It is still an artist led organization, but its art is not absent of responsibility, since it is also an institution that needs to have concern for such things as accessibility. There are additional opportunities that arise from this. FACT is beginning to play a more central role in shaping governmental policy, particular on digital culture and, in the future, this will surely be a stronger component of its work. It is also building a research capacity and a growing empirical base to align with this role. In so doing, it is also establishing a research Atelier – not a laboratory – proposing new models of undertaking practice based research and complementing this with more traditional forms. This work will help to reset the boundaries of research in the 21st century, back towards a stronger emphasis on arts-based knowledge. As a city, Liverpool is also well placed to support this process, having built legacy research into its year as European Capital of Culture – the first of any city to ring fence such funds around this programme. [vi] Indeed, it is perhaps one of the best-placed city within the UK and possibly Europe to build a model for cultural regeneration and it is apparent that London has similar aspirations for evaluating the impact of the London 2012 period.

From my position as a FACT Fellow, I occupy a space somewhere between the organization and my starting point in Liverpool, as its client. To this end, I perceive a tremendous self-induced pressure on FACT’s programme team to achieve broad, dramatic societal and creative impact through its work, expectations that are praiseworthy and highly ambitious. Yet, if they get even 80% towards those goals, they will have exceeded themselves. As such, I conclude with a pitch for what I would like to see next: a curatorial team established for an exhibition in 2029 or, better yet, 2049. I wonder if that has been done before.


Editorial. "Latest Twitter + Sxsw Trend #Fakesxsw." LA Times 2009,

Hauser, J., Ed. (2008). Sk-interfaces. Liverpool, Liverpool University Press.

Janicaud, D. (2005). On the Human Condition. London and New York, Routledge.

Kurzweil, R. (2005). The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York, Viking Press.

Miah, A. (2005). "Genetics, cyberspace and bioethics: why not a public engagement with ethics?" Public Understanding of Science 14(4): 409-421.

Miah, A., Ed. (2008). Human Futures: Art in an Age of Uncertainty. Liverpool, Liverpool University Press.

Miah, A. (2008). Posthumanism: A Crtical History. Medical Enhancements and Posthumanity. R. Chadwick and B. Gordijn, Springer. 71-94.

Wolbring, G. (2008). One World, One Olympics: Governing Human Ability, Ableism and Disablism in an Era of Bodily Enhancements. Human Futures: Art in an Age of Uncertainty. A. Miah. Liverpool, Liverpool University Press: 114-125.

Zylinska, J. (2009) Bioethics in the Age of New Media. MIT Press.

[i] For example, consider the trajectory of Aimee Mullins, whose presence in fashion, film and sport has become iconic of the new enabled paralympian.

[ii] This was a possibility leading up to Beijing 2008, when Oscar Pistorius fought for his legal entitlement to compete. He has already appeared in other competitions, alongside so called able-bodied athletes. It is likely that his trajectory towards the London Olympics will be even stronger.

[iii] For example, the hashtag attracted such established media as the LA Times (2009) to report on it.

[iv] There is also more we might say about the relationship between biology and computing as prominent, competing discourses. As Dominique Janicaud (2005) explains, the bioethical has overtaken the digital as a public discourse, though so much of bioethics relies on digital configurations that it might be reasonable to subsume new media ethics within bioethics, as some authors have begun to explore (Miah, 2005; Zylinska 2009).

[v] This is based on Ray Kurzweil (2005) prediction, which derives partly from Moore’s Law.

[vi] There is, of course, the Liverpool City Council and Arts and Humanities Research Council research programme Impacts08, which draws on many local research collaborations. However, this evidence base also encompasses a range of additional research that has informed the city during these years, such as the City in Film project at Liverpool University and any number of community research projects that FACT and other organizations have implemented.


Speaking today at DaDaFest09 for a panel titled 'Art with an edge' with Debbi Lander, Tom Shakespeare and others.

Some notes from the day:

DaDaFest 2009-11-28

Alexa Wright, artist

Photography of people with acquired disabilities

Sky tv wer recording magnolia prize in 1998 - when they discovered I had won, they did not want to show the work

“Ok to show physical difference in a scientific context, but when it is in an artist context, it was somehow unacceptable”

“image of me the author of the work who incorporates the otherness that these bodies represent”

“inclination to desexualize people with physical disabilities”

Skin (2001) - research at hospital - medical photographs - not just documenting skin conditions, but beautiful photographs - led to a photo and  text work - skin as acceptable, social surface - interface between me and rest of the world - what happens when surface is not ‘polite’ - invu 10-12 people, photographed 5 - digital snap shots - fabrics to complement - re-appropriating medical photographs and inserting into different contexts - trying to make beautiful.

Noella - psorasis -

June -

Cover Story (2006) - installation  - work about the face - what it would be like to live without a legible or viable face - identity invested in the face - originally used in Norwich for UK Science week (2006) - needed to be accessible and function in public space - visual cue: a blob that slowly becomes a face - try to read the face: its age, gender, race, etc - to assign character in history - second video: taking fragments from people speaking about their faces and bring together, narrated by someone who has no unusual face


Nazis used photography to identify profiles and types

The re-imaging of disability: Different art, different audiences, different artists

Tom Shakespeare

Disability is at heart of human condition

Happy for non-disabled artists to make work about disability

Instead of ‘disability’ use ‘predicament’

Traditional: art with disabled people

Representationa: art about disabled people

Radical: disability art by disabled people for disabled people

Individual: artis who happens to have a disability

Existential: art as a tool for thinking about disability, by anyone for anyone

John Keats - ‘negative capability’

Cathy Come Home - Ken Loach - homelessness - led to ‘shelter’ - art can bring home an issue in a way that academic may not

What do disabled people need? -understanding of shared humanity - recognition of social barriers - acceptance

Mona Hatoum (1998) Untitled (wheelchair) - clinical medical wheelchair - cannot self propel - uncomfortable - push handles are carving knives - disability, anger, relationships between carer and cared for - tool for thinking - title: does not prescribe

Julian Germain - bioethics, genetics - family photographs - generations - resemblance - single sex - all wearing same shirts - heredity write large - can see how genes determine them - personality

Christine Borland (2001) Progressive Disorder - drawings of young boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy - boy getting to his feet - from 19th C doctor -

Aidan shingler - - Rorschach blocks - one is a butterfly - 1 in 100 experience schizophrenia - butterfly reflects the joy of the condition - psychiatrist often wear bow tie - ‘The Butterfly Collector  - commentary on psychiatry -

Elio Caccavalle - MyBio, Utility Pets - use art to think of futures - interested in genetically modified animals - xenotransplantation - how develop products to help negotiate bioethical challenges -

Tom Shakespeare, The Wrong Birth (after Fuseli), 2007 - original has a horse - in original, was a goblin - mistaken idea that night mare meant horse in your dream - concern that was about the fear of having a disabled child - in terms of prenatal diagnosis - every pregnancy is tested - now more aware of possibility of having a disabled child - whatever she chooses, have to take responsibility - didn't want to comment on it - just wanted to realize it - I didn't actually sit on her chest, we photoshopped it - image 1.5m wide - photography by Keith Patterson - Jack Lowe did photoshop -

Tom Shakespeare, The Good Death (after Mantegna), 2008 - dead Christ - limited tonal range - Christ laying on slab - early years of perspective - radically foreshortened -so much so that the man could have restricted growth

Tom Shakespeare, Figure with Meat (after Bacon), 2009 - from Velazquez pope on throne - most interesting part of picture is the meat - hard to access - meat markeing board sent these images.

Benefits of this work - explores, depends, challenges, interpret science for wider audiences - bring disability to mainstream - reveal emotional and relational - questions about ethics and responsibility, difference and identity - complex, nuances, simultaneous: show not tell

Not keen on notion of disability art

Reveal emotional and relational

Glenway Westcott comment on Walker Evans (1938): for me this is better propaganda than it would be if it were not aesthetically enjoyable. It is because I enjoy looking that I go on looking, until the pity and the shame are impressed upon me, unforgettably.

Art & Democracy

Arts & technology: The role of the arts in democratic policy making

Tuesday 14th October 2008

1400     Welcome & introductory remarks

1410    Art in an age of uncertainty

Dr. Andy Miah Reader in New Media & Bioethics at the University of the West of Scotland

1435    Begotten not made

Mr Paul Meade Director and joint artistic director of Gúna Nua Theatre Company, Dublin and winner of the Irish Council on Bioethics arts competition

1500    Tea & coffee

You are encouraged to use this time to view the ‘Art of Bioethics II’ art exhibition.

Bioethics policy making- Is there a role for the Arts? Dr. Chamu Kuppuswamy School of Law, University of Sheffield

Intellecual property, equity, Warnock report, human fertilization and embryology


1540    The Good, The Bad and The Indifferent: ethical explorations in Science Fiction

Justina Robson UK science fiction writer

1605    Panel Q&A session

Chair: Dr. Rob La Frenais, Curator, Arts Catalyst – the science art agency

1635    Close

Drinks Reception

Future of the Mind

The Future of the Mind FACT, April 23, 2008.

AL and AL -    celebrity closes down space between people, -    reduction of icons -    less able to find stronger eccentric identities

can we know what is real?

Finish year with broadcast of debates – BBC Radio 3

Ernest Edmonds here in June

Margaret Boden

Cannot expect to answer what is future of mind

Why did Ernest ask me to get involved?

I suppose because…I think about the mind in terms of concepts that relate to computer systems. We’ve learned a lot in last 50 years

Difference between mind and body?


Self? -    under threat from posmodernist, humanities people and cognitive scientists, sherry turkle, -    individuality : prized in some cultures, to what extent can new technologies help express and reinforce individuality or smear it? -    Same icons -    Net art -    Myspace -    So-called communities, but is this a real community? Robin Dunbar – primatologist – formerly in Liverpool – primates have limits on group size for levels of intensity, there for evolutionary reasons.if so, what about so-called communities of 100s.

ME: Milan Kundera – immortality – gesture of agnes

Mike Wheeler -

Laura -    open source conferencing -    set 10 questions to answer

Helen Sloane, curator -    Data Golum – adaptive – piece of code tht will be taken around partner venues o    Working with an AI scientist who wants to polish, but artists like the flaws -    Chamelon – Tina Gonsalez – HCI Ross Piccard – simulate group interaction -    Hive mind – simulation Promised Lands – flomotion – what does promised land mean to users?

David Ingram –John Moores -    HCI – to develop better computer systems that are more effective -    Moving  computers to whole body interaction -    HCI conference -    ‘How the body  shapes  t way we think’

Mike Wheeler- philosopher, nature of mind -    working on a book that deals with visions of minds that have influenced -    distributed/embedded cognition -    I’m interested in what these different things say -    Gestures as part of thought processes – bodily movements as thinking -    Thinking takes place around brain, body and world -    Is it true that if a bunch of us are using same computer system, are minds overlapping? -    AHRC Interactive Mind project –

Simon Blackmore, artist, sculpture and sound -    explore physical structure of technological space -    trees, mathematical algorithms to generate trees

Marta Ruperez – new media curator at FACT -    utopia -    free internet idea not strong

Ross Dalziel, sound music curator, fact -    remote mics around UK to create neural net -    run Sound Network – artist based network

Fragmented Orchestra

Patrick Fox -    Tenantspin fact’s community programme -    Interested in web 2.0 philosophies -    Questions about reality

Julia Youngmann



MB: what is creativity? 3 answers. Distinc between computer art and generative art. Computer art as art where computer is used. Eg. using photoshop. Generative art: processes produce final thing are not under control of artist – these latter raise interesting philosophical issues – authenticity, creativity.

HS: individuality – signature of individual

MB: methods of writing in science and art differ – science – supposed to be third person, so not ‘I did’ but ‘it was done’

MW: idiosyncratic – generative technology – if adaptive over time synchs with artists work, beginning to lose technology – add something extra to art – eg. Amazon adsense capability –

RD: writing as technology

MB: doug hofstader – Godel, Escher, Bach – virtual reality and fiction


Virtual reality and fiction

MB: Virtual Reality and Self-Fictions: Are these the same?

HS: Adaptive systems

MB: anything that learns – chequers programme from 1950s – it was adapting to player

MB: creativity joke generating programme -


Laura Sillars, Mike Kelley, David England, Marta Rupérez, Ross Dalziel

Frame and articulate a question; the direction of their thinking

What are the implications of technology increasingly integrated and embedded; toward the self in relation to culture and the world ...a series of question...

Fragility of technology

Shifting patterns of effectiveness


How much

The unconscious itself Mind as consciousness? Technology is the unconscious

Collective ness

danger of increasing the offloading of responsibility

How you think of yourself in relation to technology 2 approaches A customised gadget that knows everything is just naturally used: confident in it

Like a map being overtaken by tom tom


Its seamlessly integrated;and also there's self regulation;


Glitches in technology/Mis & Dis-information/Is it new?

Shared in some deep sense and you can rely on the technology...



Is the future of the mind based on the self or on wider communities...

Worries around loss/dissolving of the self

Tesco Clubcard Of the Mind Individual experience Is it the tools

view of the world about the self...

Cognitive Science Artificial Intelligence Artificial Resistance

The role of the individual in network art?

Is there a future for the individual mind?

Is the future of the mind collective?

LS: collective or distributed – individual agency within something

MB: Ed Hutchins – how things work on a ship – lots of people on a ship – from anthropology – entered cognitive science

MB: collective/distributed intelligence and the individual artist.

Collective production and individual status? Can they co-exist?

MB: Roy Ascot – interactive art

Collective Products and Network Art: where is the individual?


Does increasing embeddedness in contemporary technology raise dangers of…..?

LS: How do you have a meaningful conversation, construct space to have conversation?

MB: start with questions that are specific but open up broad issues? Their sounding specific enables access.

LS: How do you deal with collective responsibility? Man at war.

MB: distance and responsibility – How can responsibility take place at a distance? (ME: less remote)

MW: how certain technologies disrupt indiv responsibility. Allowing the technology to make decisions for you.

MB: David Levy – computer chess – love and sex with robots – love with robots not possible – new book:

ME: link to Zizek

MB: Could you love a robot?

MW: or, emotions – whether not interacting with someone over a piece of technology – genuine feelings – people might argue could never be genuine love.   Communities and internet – niche communities – liberating – also ghettoizes –

MB: something on computer companions – something on robots – bk: EMW Fisher – ‘Personal Love’ – philosophical analysis of love

HS: déjà vu – some of the questions have been asked many times before –

Climate for Change (9 May, 2009, Liverpool)

FACT's major event within their Climate for Change exhibition is called the UNsustainable UNconference. I'll be helping to facilitate and unprogramme the event. Join us on 9th May from 1pm-5pm. The participants set the agenda on the day. If you want to give a talk on a key issue, then register your interest here. climateforchange

What do you get if?

On 17th March, I'll be running an event at FACT in Liverpool on Social Media and Health/Environment funded by the EPSRC Digital Economy research cluster. For this reason, the event is free, but we have limited spaces. We are  now open to a general audience. For more information about the event, please link here. Drop me a line if you'd like to attend

Social Media and Health

Climate for Change (FACT 2009, March 13-31 May)

Here's the press release for FACT's first major exhibition of 2009, curated by Heather Corcoran. Looks like I'll be getting involved for the final event on May 9th, 2009. We'll also bring Heather and some of the residents at FACT from Eyebeam New York for the IMDE event on Social Media and Healthy Environments on March 17th. Get in touch if you'd like to attend.

NEWS RELEASE Climate for Change 13 March - 31 May 2009 (private view 12 March)

For its first new exhibition of 2009, its UNsustainable year, FACT is proud to present Climate for Change, a unique experiment in activism, engagement and networking, examining the multiple crises affecting the planet – ecological, financial, food and housing. From peak oil to peak credit, Climate for Change seizes the moment, and asks how do we respond?

In Gallery 1, a range of groups will take up residence in an environment created from the leftover building materials from 2008's Capital of Culture year. The networked activities of Merseyside and beyond will become a key part of the experiment, as FACT hands over the keys to the door and becomes a hub for meetings, socials, discussions and workshops, supporting grassroots networks to practise and imagine new models of governance and organising - live in the gallery space. Dealing with topics as diverse as the Transition Town movement to underground nightclubs, Climate for Change speculates that distributed networks who share methods of selforganising are the most important tools we have for responding to sustainability. Underpinning this action will be a number of artist-led activities. In Gallery 1, New York’s Eyebeam Art and Technology Centre stages its Sustainability Road Show – a series of hands-on workshops and activities that are both playful and social, highlighting Eyebeam's strong media lab culture built around tinkering, hacking, making and doing.

Artist Stefan Szczelkun presents his Survival Scrapbooks. Originally published in the early 1970s, the Survival Scrapbooks are DIY manuals for autonomous living, covering topics from “bio-diesel-making” to “increasing your chi”. Loosely formatted and intended to be re-edited in a pre-internet information-sharing format, the books will form the basis for workshops and discussion in Gallery 1.

Mute Magazine Contributing Editor Anthony Iles revisits the magazine’s Climate Change issue – Mute Vol 2, no.5 It’s Not Easy Being Green from May 2007 to update it in light of changing perspectives on finance, capital and current affairs. Iles will curate a discussion and screening series that runs throughout the exhibition. Meanwhile, The People Speak and renowned think tank New Economics Foundation will unveil a new facilitation format that creates a dynamic conversation around sustainability and climate change.

In addition, Gallery 1 will house a loose and rotating line-up of artists working in Liverpool and beyond, including British-born Chinese artist Kao-Oi Jay Yung, activist Nina Edge and artist-led environmental group The Gaia Project in partnership with L@tE.

In Gallery 2, FACT presents Melanie Gilligan’s film Crisis in the Credit System. Originally commissioned and produced by Artangel Interaction, the fictional four-part drama explores the bizarre scenarios and disturbing conclusions employees from a major investment bank come up when they are invited to role-play a future-facing strategy for today’s unstable financial climate.

Berlin-based art duo Nik Kosmas and Daniel Keller (AIDS 3D) will unveil Forever, a new installation alluding to a post-apocalyptic future where our machines remain as beautiful relics of our former glory.

Copies of a spoofed New York Times newspaper, created by thousands of volunteers and originally distributed in November 2008 - but dated July 4, 2009 - will get a further outing at FACT.

In the Media Lounge, Copenhagen-based art and architecture collective N55 set up SHOP, a unique exchange area with its own alternative economy, where visitors can swap, borrow or use donated items.

FACT’s Atrium will become the drop off point for The Ghana Think Tank. A collaboration between artists Christopher Robbins, John Ewing and Matey-Odonkor, the project asks visitors to submit their problems which will be given to a network of Think Tanks established in Ghana, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, Ethiopia and Serbia to ‘solve’. Afterwards the artists will enact the solutions.

Notes to Editors FACT’s new online arts channel, FACT TV ( will stream video highlights from Climate for Change and related content throughout the exhibition’s run. Artists involved in Climate for Change: AIDS 3D (USA), Eyebeam Art and Technology Centre (USA), The

Ghana Think Tank (USA/Ghana), Melanie Gilligan (USA), N55 (Denmark), The People Speak (UK), Stefan Szczelkun (UK), The Yes Men (USA), Kao-Oi Jay Yung (UK), Nina Edge (UK), The Gaia Project (UK).

UNsustainable In 2009, Liverpool’s Year of the Environment, FACT responds with UNsustainable - its own theme for the year. FACT asks: is the way we live UNsustainable? Examining sustainability from an artistic perspectivein a series of exhibitions designed to illustrate how humans can be invested in the change needed to protect our civilization. Is society itself becoming unsustainable?

SHOP by N55 is a collaboration between FACT and Radiator Festival, Nottingham. For more information please contact: Lucie Davies, Press & Communications Officer T: 0151 707 4405 or E:

The Midas Project

This is one of the projects featured visually in Human Futures, by Paul Thomas [vimeo 2240979]