Vol 4: Issues 1 & 2

Disruptive agents: Transdisciplinary and posthumous manifestations of the studio

Paul Thomas, UNSW Art and Design

David Eastwood, UNSW Art and Design

In the wake of the post-studio era that took place during the latter half of the twentieth century, new (and renewed) possibilities for studio discourse have emerged. Alex Coles contends, ‘We have entered a post-post-studio age, and find ourselves with a new studio model: the transdisciplinary’. How are we to understand the nature of the transdisciplinary in relation to the contemporary studio? This article adopts the concept of transdisciplinarity as a provocation for contextualizing contemporary manifestations of the studio, following Edward Colless’ interpretation of the transdisciplinary as ‘an irregularity within academic discipline’, expressed as a form of indiscipline or disruption. Does the historical concept of the studio haunt the present, and how might earlier manifestations of the studio productively inform current and future prospects for studio practice? Moreover, how might present practices disrupt conventional understandings of the studio? The phenomenon of the reconstructed modernist studio as museum artefact demonstrates a broader reframing of the studio, shifting its context from a historical archetype on the one hand, to a future-oriented prototype on the other. Transdisciplinarity forms a strategic (and sometimes inadvertent) disruption within contemporary manifestations of the studio, providing a catalyst to move outside of studio conventions. Instrumental in the age of the post-post-studio is the shift that has occurred through the ubiquity of technologies and the increasing interest in the nexus between the sciences and art. A democratization and dislocation of the studio has taken place, expanding and blurring its boundaries. Its various (re)incarnations now encompass the home, the warehouse, the office, the university, the laboratory, the museum, the cloud and beyond, enabling an ever increasing potential for disruptive agents to play a role in realigning the intentionality for, within, and of the studio.


Absence in context: Recontextualizing civic data, critical cartographies, and gentrification in New York City

Justin Blinder, Independent Artist

Corporate mapping tools, such as Google Maps, have become a common lens through which we view geographical data. These tools normalize what is filtered. Such decontextualization is not mere happenstance. Numerous mapped data sets obscure and obfuscate the original context in which data were collected and, more importantly, who or what was omitted from it. In response, I draw upon the development and implementation of my art project ‘Vacated’, which recontextualized both the New York City government’s PLUTO data set and Google Street View, to document and examine patterns of gentrification in new ways. ‘Vacated’ emphasizes street-level perspectives of data points to reflect on, and engage with, the larger data sets that they exist within. Contextualizing the images also renders more visible the continuous ecosystem of surveillance in which they were taken. I conclude with reflections on further possibilities for critical cartography and usable tools for everyday citizens and users.


Against the Black Box

Oliver Smith, London College of Communication

The Black Box is explored as a tool of power and control. Originating as a problem-solving tool in electrical engineering it is shown to have developed through its military and cybernetic use into an inherent part of technologies and knowledge, obscuring their origins and complexities. Although this process is often accepted as necessary, its hidden and unquestioned existence is shown to be problematic. The scale and complexity of the Black Box is discussed with reference to the large scale of historical computing and the distributed nature of infrastructural technologies as well as legal frameworks built around technologies.  Through a number of examples, from networked consumer technologies to governmental surveillance techniques, the Black Box is shown to have opaque, leaky and talkative characteristics that contribute to its power.