I am pleased to announce that after four and a half years, I have been awarded a PhD by Design from the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL. My examiners were Dr Kevin Walker at the Royal College of Art, and Dr. Penelope Haralambidou from the Bartlett, and the thesis was supervised by Professors Stephen Gage and Peg Rawes.
Scripted performances: designing performative architectures through digital and absurd machines
‘Scripting’ in architecture is usually associated with computer-based design programming. However, this narrow usage belies a rich vein of concepts intrinsic to architecture and authorship. This thesis frames scripting as a critical mode of computation, performance, and design process. It does this through seven projects that explore relationships between technology, society, and the philosophical absurd. Works include films, performances, programmes and installations produced independently and collaboratively with experts from scientific and artistic fields.
This thesis asks: how might an expanded definition of ‘scripting’ act as a critical methodology for performative architectural design?; how can this methodology mediate between, and comment on, technology and society?; and what is the relationship between scripting, authorship and agency? Computational scripting has been explored in depth by a number of practitioners and theorists; performative scripting has been examined within the context of theatre and artistic practice; this study adopts an expansive definition of scripting that embraces each of these approaches whilst simultaneously proposing scripting as a critical design methodology. Furthermore, the thesis introduces the philosophical ‘absurd’ as a framework for critiquing emergent technologies and their impact on society.
In Chapter 1 two projects (Ant Ballet, Godot Machine) are discussed as modes of diagramming absurd theatrical scripts. The ‘framing’ of these projects provides direction for further work within the thesis. Chapter 2 introduces two dance pieces (Nybble, Scriptych) which represent scripted performances and a novel computer-scripted feedback mechanism. Both are diagrammatic modes of presenting contemporary computing mechanisms. Chapter 3 then discusses two experimental computationally-scripted absurd films exploring the practices and impact of contemporary technology companies (86400, 24fps Psycho). Chapter 4 introduces a film (Network/Intersect) created through a novel design process imposing strict rules on the creation of work. It concludes by naming this practice ‘reflexive scripted design’, proposing it as the thesis’ original contribution to knowledge.
Ant Ballet is featured in the upcoming exhibition Big Data: Designing with the Materials of Life at Central St Martins. In addition to the static exhibition, I will be working with students to facilitate the design process during the live design-science project.
The exhibition is curated in two parallel formats:
– A static design exhibition which will present biologically-driven design narratives, including work from Ann Kristin Abel, William Bondin, Natsai Chieza, Rob Kesseler, Amy Congdon, Ruairi Glynn and Ollie Palmer
– A live design-science project in collaboration with the Medical Research Council as part of the ‘Fabrics of Life’ series. For three weeks, the Lethaby gallery becomes an incubator studio where emerging designers and architects will create new design proposals in response to the research of leading biological science labs.
Exhibition and Live Project:
23 January – 13 February 2014
Tuesdays to Fridays, 12–5pm
Work In Progress Presentation: Wednesday 5 February 2014, 2-5pm
Final Design Presentation: Wednesday 12 February 2014, 2-5pm
FutureEverything was featured on Iranian television channel Manoto TV‘s Tech Show this week. There’s a feature on the Ant Ballet about halfway through. My Persian isn’t too hot, but I think the translation came across OK…
You can watch the whole programme here, or jump straight in at the Ant Ballet section here.
Ant Ballet was featured on the BBC News website this morning. The segment shows a brief overview of the project, along with a guided tour of the installation at FutureEverything in MOSI‘s 1830 Warehouse, Manchester.
In anticipation of the FutureEverything art exhibition, Manchester Evening News ran a story about Ant Ballet last week. Unforutnately the only copy I could get my hands on was a bit dog-eared, so you may not be able to decipher it from the above photo, but you can read the article online here.