Blowup: Spec­ula­tive Re­al­ities – Con­cept, list of works and de­scrip­tions

Con­cept, list of works and de­scrip­tions of the Blowup: Spec­ula­tive Re­al­ities exhibition, as published in the ebook.

This edi­tion of V2_’s Blowup se­ries of events and ex­hi­bi­tions will ex­am­ine the how and the why of spec­ula­tive re­al­ism, ob­ject-​ori­ent­ed on­tol­ogy and artis­tic prac­tice. Four new art com­mis­sions ex­am­ine dif­fer­ent as­pects of Ob­ject-​ori­ent­ed on­tol­ogy (OOO), such as a non-​hu­man-​cen­tered view of the world, and the lim­its of knowl­edge. An e-​book of in­ter­views with artists and thinkers, re­leased with a short talk at the ex­hi­bi­tion finis­sage, will round out the pro­gramme and pro­vide in­sights in­to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween this ex­cit­ing turn in phi­los­ophy and con­tem­po­rary art and de­sign. Artists be­ing com­mis­sioned in­clude Tu­ur van Balen & Re­vi­tal Co­hen (BE/UK), Cheryl Field (UK), and Karoli­na Sobec­ka (US).


The term ‘spec­ula­tive re­al­ism’ was coined at a con­fer­ence at Gold­smiths in 2007 chaired by Al­ber­to Toscano that in­clud­ed the philoso­phers Ray Brassier, Iain Hamil­ton Grant, Gra­ham Har­man and Quentin Meil­las­soux. Since then the term has split in­to fac­tions like ob­ject-​ori­ent­ed on­tol­ogy (OOO), spawned a num­ber of jour­nals (Spec­ula­tions and O-​Zone), book se­ries and sev­er­al oth­er con­fer­ences and de­bates. The theme can be tak­en as part of a cur­rent philo­soph­ical in­ter­est in re­think­ing cor­re­la­tion­ism (an act of di­vi­sion be­tween hu­man and world), and is broad­ly con­gru­ent with ex­ist­ing dis­cus­sions of the non­hu­man, more-​than-​hu­man and oth­er frame­works of new ma­te­ri­al­ism. Many key points of these con­cep­tu­al trends are al­so per­ti­nent to cur­rent trends in artis­tic prac­tice: a non-​an­thro­pocen­tric world­view; an in­ter­est in modes of on­to­log­ical lev­el­ling (a democ­ra­cy of things); a con­sid­er­ation of ag­gre­gate forces like cli­mate through cat­egories of au­ton­omy.

About the works

Nephol­ogy 1: Cloud Mak­er (2012)

by Karoli­na Sobec­ka

Nephol­ogy 1: Cloud Mak­er at­tempts to con­struct knowl­edge of clouds through in­ves­ti­gat­ing how the clouds en­counter the world around them. Mak­ing a cloud is a lit­tle like mak­ing a wave in the ocean -- a ges­ture that seems Sisyphi­an in its fu­til­ity and its ab­sur­di­ty. But if we con­sid­er the cloud as an ob­ject-​for-​it­self, apart from its util­ity or its mean­ing for us hu­mans, then the ef­fort gains a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion. To make a cloud one has to un­der­stand it, and un­der­stand the forces that shape it. One has to ask one­self ‘what does the world has to be like for the cloud to ex­ist?’

Con­struct­ing knowl­edge is, as Levi Bryant writes ‘like what takes place in build­ing a house. Part of build­ing a house will in­volve con­cep­tu­al el­ements such as ideas found in en­gi­neer­ing and ar­chi­tec­ture, part will in­volve so­cial and po­lit­ical el­ements such as laws and cul­tur­al tra­di­tions in ar­chi­tec­ture, part will be re­al ma­te­ri­als used such as the tools, the wood, nails, etc., and part the tech­niques or prac­tices that con­struc­tion work­ers have learned.’Nepholo­gies sim­ilar­ly at­tempts to weave to­geth­er con­cep­tu­al, so­cial, ma­te­ri­al and phe­nomeno­log­ical threads through a cloud’s par­tic­ular point of view on the world.

Ma­te­ri­als: cus­tom mist­ing sys­tem, sty­ro­foam, weath­er bal­loon, video pro­jec­tion, C-​print


The Oth­ers (2012)

by Tu­ur van Balen & Re­vi­tal Co­hen

A sys­tem for a hare to lis­ten to the sur­face of the moon, sup­port­ed and di­rect­ed by the lu­nar move­ments of a moon­flow­er. Based on the nat­ural ten­den­cies of the plant, an ar­ti­fi­cial sym­bi­ot­ic re­la­tion­ship is ini­ti­at­ed be­tween a noc­tur­nal an­imal with mys­te­ri­ous be­haviour, a psychedel­ic night­shade and Earth’s nat­ural satel­lite.

By de­sign­ing a po­et­ic in­ter­ac­tion be­tween plant and an­imal, the idea of un­medi­at­ed per­cep­tion of na­ture is ex­am­ined, where phe­nom­ena are per­ceived with­in the realms of mir­acle or spec­ta­cle. Once na­ture is in­ter­pret­ed and ex­plained (by hu­mans), the ‘fil­ter’ of knowl­edge can no longer be re­moved, and fau­na / flo­ra be­haviours are sub­se­quent­ly ex­pe­ri­enced through a fac­tu­al mind­set.

It is this in­ter­pre­ta­tion or ‘at­tri­bu­tion of mean­ing’ that takes the pri­mal ela­tion out of the phys­ical per­cep­tion of non-​hu­man-​me­di­at­ed phe­nom­ena. Rather than mean­ing, this con­trap­tion em­ulates pres­ence - a mo­ment in which bi­ol­ogy is repo­si­tioned in the su­per­nat­ural ter­ri­to­ries of the un­known, the en­chant­ing and the un­spo­ken.

Ma­te­ri­als: Moon­flow­er, alu­minum, ny­lon, so­lar pan­els, elec­tron­ics


(C8H8)n, CSi, KAl2(Al­Si3O10)(F,OH)2, C, C, Ca­SO4, Fe3C, SiH3(OS­iH2)nOSiH3 (2012)

by Cheryl Field

Cheryl Field writes about the work: ‘For me, there is some­thing un­can­ny about sen­so­ry and sen­su­al or­gans (i.e. fin­gers and tongues) be­ing dis­lo­cat­ed from the body. Both the fin­ger and the tongue are al­so fun­da­men­tal to our sense of hu­man­ness and to some ex­tent they are sym­bol­ic of our evo­lu­tion i.e. the op­pos­able fin­ger and thumb and the pow­er of speech and lan­guage have giv­en us the dom­inant po­si­tion on this plan­et. I want to take that whol­ly an­thro­pocen­tric or tele­olog­ical po­si­tion and play with it. Specif­ical­ly, this work is an op­po­si­tion of ob­jects – a re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of or­dered struc­tures if you will. On one side it is a sim­ulacrum of a hu­man tongue, cast from life in pink rub­ber. On the oth­er side is a minia­ture moun­tain­scape craft­ed from el­emen­tary chem­icals such as sil­icon car­bide, car­bon (in both its graphite and di­amond states) and mi­ca. What links this minia­ture ge­ol­ogy and with - sure­ly the most demo­crat­ic po­si­tion of all; we, the plan­et and e-​v-​e-​r-​y-​t-​h-​i-​n-​g come from star­dust alone.’

Ma­te­ri­als: EPS, Sil­icon car­bide, Mi­ca, Di­amond pow­der, Graphite, Plas­ter, Steel, Sil­icone, Elec­tric mo­tor


Nei­ther Ready Nor Present To Hand (2012)

by Cheryl Field

Part prop, part fic­tion­al-​func­tion, part bi­ol­ogy, part whim­sy; by dis­lo­cat­ing some­thing as hu­man as a fin­ger it shifts the Hei­deg­ge­ri­an tool-​state of the ob­ject from be­ing ‘present-​to-​hand’ to ‘ready-​to-​hand’ which for a fin­ger is, frankly, next-​to-​use­less. Af­ter all we’d need more fin­gers in or­der to ac­ti­vate (and wind-​up) the tool-​fin­ger. It is a tool no more, but an ob­ject nev­er-​the-​less. By lib­er­at­ing it, it with­draws from us and leads a life in­de­pen­dent of our an­thro­pocen­tric per­cep­tion.

Ma­te­ri­als: Jes­monite, Plas­ter, Brass, Clock­work, Graphite


Artist bios

Co­hen Van Balen (UK) de­vel­ops crit­ical de­sign works.

Re­vi­tal Co­hen and Tu­ur Van Balen run a Lon­don based ex­per­imen­tal prac­tice op­er­at­ing on the bor­der be­tween art and de­sign. In­spired by de­sign­er species, com­posed wilder­ness and me­chan­ical or­gans, they pro­duce fic­tion­al ob­jects, pho­tographs and videos ex­plor­ing the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the nat­ural with the ar­ti­fi­cial. They of­ten in­volve bioethi­cists, an­imal breed­ers and oth­er sci­en­tists in the de­vel­op­ment of the work in or­der to push the bound­aries of ma­te­ri­al and pro­cess.

Since grad­uat­ing from the De­sign In­ter­ac­tions de­part­ment at the Roy­al Col­lege of Art in 2008, they have been ex­hibit­ing and lec­tur­ing in­ter­na­tion­al­ly. Re­cent ex­hi­bi­tions and talks took place at Mo­Ma, Tate Britain, Na­tion­al Mu­se­um of Chi­na, Coop­er-​He­witt, Z33 House for Con­tem­po­rary Art, Lon­don De­sign Mu­se­um, FACT, V2 In­sti­tute for Un­sta­ble Me­dia, Nat­ural His­to­ry Mu­se­um of Vi­en­na and De­sign Ind­aba, amongst oth­ers.

Co­hen Van Balen are the re­cip­ients of sev­er­al awards and com­mis­sions, in­clud­ing the Sci­ence Mu­se­um’s Emerg­ing Artist Com­mis­sion, two Well­come Trust Arts Awards and an Award of Dis­tinc­tion at Prix Ars Elec­tron­ica.


Cheryl Field (UK) is an artist.

Af­ter for­ays in­to the realms of Molec­ular Bi­ol­ogy, Par­asitol­ogy and Man­age­ment Con­sul­tan­cy, Cheryl Field stud­ied BA (Hons) Sculp­ture & En­vi­ron­men­tal Art at The Glas­gow School of Art, grad­uat­ing in 2007. She went on to study for her Mas­ter of Fine Art at Gold­smiths Col­lege, grad­uat­ing in 2012.

Her first so­lo ex­hi­bi­tion was in 2008 and she has con­tin­ued to ex­hib­it her work wide­ly. Re­cent ex­hi­bi­tions in­clude ‘Ten Days in Sum­mer’ at The Queens Park Rail­way Club, Glas­gow. ‘Res­ident 11’ The Roy­al Scot­tish Acade­my of Art & Ar­chi­tec­ture, Ed­in­burgh. ‘Sub­mit2Grav­ity’ at The Old Vic Tun­nels, Lon­don and ‘Ves­tiges Park’ at Glas­gow In­ter­na­tion­al 2010.


Karoli­na Sobec­ka (US) is a me­dia artist, de­sign­er and an­ima­tor.

Karoli­na Sobec­ka works with an­ima­tion, de­sign, in­ter­ac­tiv­ity, com­put­er games and oth­er me­dia and for­mats. Her art­work of­ten en­gages pub­lic space and ex­plores the way we in­ter­act with the world we cre­ate and imag­ine. It of­ten takes forms of in­ter­ac­tive in­stal­la­tions, ur­ban in­ter­ven­tions or de­sign ob­jects. It has been shown in­ter­na­tion­al­ly, in­clud­ing at the V&A, MO­MA, Beall Cen­ter for Art + Tech­nol­ogy and ISEA, and has re­ceived sev­er­al awards, in­clud­ing from Cre­ative Cap­ital, Rhi­zome, NY­FA, Princess Grace Foun­da­tion, Vi­da Art and Ar­ti­fi­cial Life Awards and Japan Me­dia Arts Fes­ti­val.


Cu­ra­tor bio

Michelle Kasprzak is a Cana­di­an cu­ra­tor and writ­er based in Am­ster­dam, the Nether­lands. She has ap­peared in Wired UK, on ra­dio and TV broad­casts by the BBC and CBC, and lec­tured at PIC­NIC. She found­ed one of the world’s lead­ing art cu­rat­ing blogs, Cu­rat­­fo. She has writ­ten crit­ical es­says for Vol­ume, C Mag­azine, Rhi­zome, CV Pho­to, Mute, Spac­ing, and many oth­er me­dia out­lets.

In 2006, she was award­ed a cu­ra­to­ri­al re­search res­iden­cy at the Nordic In­sti­tute for Con­tem­po­rary Art in Helsin­ki, Fin­land, in 2010 she at­tend­ed the Sum­mer Sem­inars for Art Cu­ra­tors in Yere­van, Ar­me­nia, and in 2011 was a guest of the BAM In­ter­na­tion­al Vis­itor’s Pro­gramme in Flan­ders. She has a BFA in New Me­dia (Ry­er­son Uni­ver­si­ty, 2000) and MA in Vi­su­al and Me­dia Arts (Uni­ver­sité du Québec à Mon­tréal, 2006).

The re­sults of her cu­ra­to­ri­al work have ap­peared in venues world­wide. Most re­cent­ly, she was part of the cu­ra­to­ri­al team for the 2012 ZER01 Bi­en­ni­al in San Jose, Cal­ifor­nia. She is cur­rent­ly a Cu­ra­tor at V2_ In­sti­tute for the Un­sta­ble Me­dia.

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