Tag Archives: Vanessa Saraceno

CCW Graduate School and CCC/HEAD: Sustainability, Resilience and Divestment

In the past year CCW Graduate School and CCC/HEAD in Geneva have been developing a partnership between staff and students. From 10-13 November students and staff from Geneva came to London for the first collaborative sessions. David Cross, Reader in Fine Art and Graphic Design, is leading CCW’s side of the partnership and wrote about the recent visit.

‘The aim of this partnership is to compare and contrast our approaches to the emerging field of practice-based research degrees. Rather than approach this in a generic way, we decided to develop a specific focus on the research interests we have in common. Some shared research interests are a critical engagement with the contested ideal of “sustainability” and the problematic notion of “resilience”… The production of situated knowledge through action research and radical pedagogy… And of course, the central importance of artistic practice as an intersection of content, form and process.

When I was asked to lead a collaboration between CCW and CCC, I imagined a regular institutional exchange, and I expected my rusty French to be put to the test. But when we connected between London and Geneva via Skype, it was clear that communication wasn’t going to be a problem — our Swiss collaborators’ English was better than mine! Even better, from the moment our collaborators from Geneva arrived, our interaction was more sociable, creative and unpredictable than I had hoped. We began with an introductory show-and-tell session of research by staff, led by Professor Catherine Quéloz (CCC/HEAD) and Professor Liliane Schneiter (CCC/HEAD); and by PhD candidates Aurélien Gamboni (CCC/HEAD), Janis Schroeder (CCC/HEAD), Joana de Oliveira (CCC/HEAD), Manoela Afonso (CCW), Karel Sidney Doing (LCC), and Vanessa Saraceno (CCW). After this, our wide-ranging and critical dialogue was so absorbing and challenging that spontaneous action began to change the plan.

That evening, we went to Wimbledon for the launch of the new “sustainable” studio building by the architects Penoyre and Prasad, and the award of a Soil Association Gold Catering Mark to Baxter Storey, the caterers at UAL. We had been invited to announce the collaboration between CCC and CCW, but the computer stubbornly refused to show the presentations we had prepared. Faced with a blank screen, I invited the audience to participate in the work of picturing sustainability as a paradoxical and ambiguous idea, an urgent challenge that distracts us with technical problems when cultural transformation is the goal. Completely undeterred by the technical failure, our partners from Geneva stepped up to give a delightful collaborative speech performance that described their research interests while demonstrating their shared values of collectivity and participation.

The next day, we visited the inspirational MayDay Rooms in Fleet Street, a “safe haven for historical material linked to social movements, experimental culture and the radical expression of marginalised figures and groups”. Co-founders Anthony Davies and Iain Boal generously hosted us, and presented the collections of radical material held in the archive. I think we were all impressed by the elegant architecture, but what really inspired us was the MayDay Rooms’ ambition of going beyond critical engagement to activation — handling the historical archive material and interacting with the people who produced it, in order to energise current struggles.

Our final day together was to be devoted to a seminar. Before their visit to Chelsea, I had corresponded with Professor Quéloz to agree the choice of material. I proposed, The Three Ecologies by Félix Guattari, which identifies the compound ecological, social and psychological nature of the crisis. Catherine and her colleagues came back with, How Big is Big? by Peter Sloterdijk, which considers the revolutionary implications of Buckminster Fuller’s identification of the earth as a spaceship, and Mike Davis, Who Will Build the Ark?, which offers a thrilling image of a “mental tournament between analytic despair and utopian possibility”. We also planned to discuss artworks: Hans Haacke’s Rhinewater Purification Plant (1972) in relation to Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project (2003-4), and Ursula Biemann’s video piece, Deep Weather (2013).

But the group was keen to pursue the ideas sketched out in our introductory session and developed at the MayDay Rooms, so rather than use our seminar to discuss artworks and writing, we discussed our options for action. Encouraged by the sense of shared possibility coming from our time together, I outlined my aim of persuading UAL to switch banks away from Royal Bank of Scotland —the fossil fuel bank— and to put our money with a bank that supports our aim of becoming a more sustainable university. Our fellow researchers from Geneva were really supportive, and went so far as to propose making divestment from fossil fuels a focus of our future collaboration. Geneva is home to an extraordinary network of financial institutions and international civil society organizations, so with creative and critical input, it seems we could make something exciting happen.

The collaboration between CCW in London and CCC in Geneva is going ahead: we are planning further meetings at Chelsea, a Skype session from London to Geneva on 27 January, and a visit to Geneva from 9—13 March 2015. If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch!’

Image: in the archives of the MayDay Rooms, photo by Marsha Bradfield

UKIERI Thematic Partnership at Wimbledon College of Art

The works realised during the March 2014 UKIERI Thematic Partnership workshop in Hyderabad will be on view in the main building of Wimbledon College of Art until 12 September 2014. These works are the result of a joint research project between Wimbledon College of Arts and the University of Hyderabad exploring The Means of Performance in the Digital Age. Jane Collins, Simon Betts and Douglas O’Connell from Wimbledon, together with CCW PhD students Jenny Wright and Vanessa Saraceno, collaborated with students at the Fine Arts and Theatre departments of the S. N. School of Art and Communication of Hyderabad.

The UKIERI thematic partnership investigates the impact of ‘new media’ on performance in India and the UK, bringing together two recognised centres of excellence to create a cross-cultural research platform at the inter-face of fine art and theatre. Using the ‘scenographic’ as a frame of reference, a broad term that encompasses all the elements that contribute to the composition of performance, this joint research compares how digitalisation and electronic media have been absorbed into our respective performance cultures.

ukieri 2-2

Find out more about the UKIERI Thematic Partnership.

The Means of Performance in a Digital Age

CCW staff (Jane Collins, Simon Betts and Douglas O’Connell) and PhD students (Jenny Wright and Vanessa Saraceno) travelled to India for the second seminar, called The Means of Performance in a Digital Age, of the UKIERI Thematic Partnership between CCW and University of Hyderabad (the first seminar was held in September 2013). Once there, teams discussed the ‘materiality’ of production in digital age. The seminar considered the way new technologies are impacting on the ‘physical’ processes of making work and replacing the tangible materiality of wood, paint and metal. Wright and Saraceno led workshops at the seminar and have reflected on their experiences.

Wright said, ‘This work has links with part of my research into the development and use of drawing as a primal recording and learning skill. I am interested in the haptic, physical nature of drawing and how movement and the physical interaction with tools onto a surface is used both to record and to develop deeper cognition. My role as facilitator on the Fine Art drawing part of the UKIERI work helped me gather more evidence on the performative nature of drawing and its key role in communicating and developing abstract thought. Working alongside the excellent Fine Art team in Hyderabad  has led to discussions on supporting drawing within the art school curriculum across different fields. Our particular remit was developing work with digital theatre design. The MFA students I was working with in Hyderabad were really enthusiastic and open to extend and broaden their work into the digital realm, whilst also being true to the primal nature of drawing, in terms of gesture and mark making. I am certainly hoping to develop a long standing dialogue with the teaching staff at Hyderabad in terms of evolving drawing practice with students. I can also see many links being made with students at Wimbledon and Hyderabad, with a mutually enrichment of performative work in theatre and fine art drawing.’

Sarceno said,  ‘In my role as facilitator, I discussed with the students of the Theatre Department the case study of the artistic duo Claire Fontaine, formed by artists James Thornhill and Fulvia Carnevale. Claire Fontaine’s practice offers a perfect example of how to play with new media in order to further develop the potentialities of the performative gesture. Assisting the students in the development of their projects for the final exhibition, I have encouraged them to always consider the problematics of the specific context in which their performance take place, and to embody these problematics interweaving all the knowledge they have with the potentialities of a new artistic territory. The uniqueness of this project lies in its offering evident and incontestable results since its very beginning. Thanks to their rich cultural legacy, and a textured theatrical tradition, students at Sarojini Naidu School of Arts in Hyderabad have fully understood the potentialities of new media and were also keen to explore them further in relation to the political and cultural situation in India. Indeed, the titles of their projects -City of Trash; The Savage; Natural Disaster, to cite a few- refer to the status of life today in India. In their call for a different, more sustainable relation with the environment, the students have been able to employ new technologies not merely as a tool through which to look at the world, but as a path for a new sensorial dimension where to practice an alternative way of experiencing the world through the body.’

Ishu Kumar, a student from Sarojini Naidu School of Arts, also responded to the seminar, saying, ‘This workshop helped me break away from my notions of mainstream theatre and helped to view theatre and its methods in a different light. It allowed me to look at how different elements such as the projector, the body, as well as acting, can be combined together, as well as used alone to provide meaning to a performance. It also allowed to me understand a new language being developed in the field of theatre primarily due the advancements of postmodern world. This workshop helped me push the envelope in terms of my understanding of theatre. It helped me gain new view in terms of how a theatre production can be designed. It gave me a perspective which broadened my viewing and understanding of theatre.

‘The entire experience would help me in my future works. I am also keen on using the experience I gained in my future ventures and always keep in mind the possibilities of the digital media. I now have a clear understanding of how theatre and the digital media can work hand in hand with each other. I would also like to take the experimentation of theatre in new context further through my own future projects.’

Douglas O’Connell made a short film of the seminar.