07 December 2008

17 November 2008



Review of:

By Robert Scott Root-Bernstein.
Illustrated. 501 pp. Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press. $35.

As the legend goes, a stray penicillium mold lands on a bacteria-filled petri dish in Fleming's laboratory. About to discard the dish, Fleming suddenly notices that the mold has dissolved the bacterial colonies. Voila! Antibiotics. But Imp deduces from circumstantial evidence that Fleming merely noticed at first the errant mold's mild antiseptic properties; only after deliberately culturing the mold did he clinch that the bacteria were being wiped out. ''Fleming clearly experimented with anything he could lay his hands on, wherever he found it,'' Imp points out. ''That was part of his research style. Playing.'' Good scientists seem to design experiments that will yield surprises; they foster the conditions. Examinations of a host of notable achievers in science show them to be broadly educated, with more than a passing interest in art, music, poetry and literature. Often making their mark in previously unfashionable or neglected areas of research, they retain a childlike curiosity about the world.


16 June 2008

AGENCY: 5th International Conference of the Architectural Humanities Research Association

AGENCY, the 5th International Conference of the Architectural Humanities Research Association, asks for a more active relationship between the humanities, the
architectural profession, and society. The conference will attempt to energise these relationships by addressing issues of agency, and will specifically address the role of
architectural humanities research as an agency of transformation.

While the potential of agency is most frequently taken to be the power and freedom to act for oneself, for the architectural and architectural research community this also involves the power and responsibility to act as intermediaries on behalf of others. There are a number of factors that affect how well this potential can be realised.

AGENCY accepts that the conditions for effective action are both contingent on individual circumstances and constantly changing. Nevertheless, the conference sets
out to explore how humanities research can better contribute towards understanding current architectural needs, possibilities and capacities for action. It will explore what is meant by ‘action’ in this context, what kinds of activities and conditions are relevant, what prevents the effective exercise of agency, and how the consideration of
such prevention might indicate effective points of, and tactics for, alternative action.

Research in the architectural humanities has tended to be too inward looking, avoiding these kinds of questions and leaving important aspects of architecture’s role
dramatically under-theorised. AGENCY will investigate active and outward looking approaches to humanities research, attempting to connect to a number of key political and social issues. The conference thus moves away from a concentration on the immediate objects and processes of architectural production towards an investigation of their wider context and possibilities.

It is proposed to focus the conference on two key areas where questions concerning the relationships between architecture and agency are particularly significant: the
particular possibilities of ARCHITECTURAL PRAXIS, and the big social and political questions of our age concerning the SURVIVAL OF THE ENVIRONMENT. In each case the intention is that such questions will be addressed through humanities research approaches, allowing our field of research to invigorate these neglected areas.


05 June 2008


Edited by Tim Anstey, Katja Grillner and Rolf Hughes. London: Black Dog Publishing. 2007

We have by now become accustomed to the fact that Richard Rogers and Frank Gehry enjoy celebrity status as household names, while every great modern building is, by necessity, attributed to the hand of an identifiable ‘master’ or office. The status of the architect, and the authority of their role, relies in no small part on this cult of personality whose influence can be seen as a symptom of the absence, for better or worse, of commonly held architectural values and principles. Of course this state of affairs is not a prerequisite to the creation of worthwhile architecture. From the sphinx to the Parthenon, the authorship of the vast majority of the monuments of the ancient world was not celebrated by their respective societies and remains unknown to us. In the twentieth century, a number of architectural theorists attempted to refocus the attention of the architectural profession and society at large away from individual authorship, most notably through Bernard Rudofsky’s study of ‘architecture without architects’ (first published in 1964), Leslie Martin’s work on the universal logic of specific forms, and Colin Rowe’s emphasis on the role of collage and the work of multiple hands.

In this engaging book, the editors attempt to answer the key question as to how the developing concept of authorship has shaped the modern architectural profession. Comprising 16 essays on such diverse case studies as the Renaissance theorist Leon Battista Alberti’s definition of rhetoric and its lasting influence on the latter-day architect’s role, to the notion of architectural creativity in Lewis Carroll’s writing, the book examines both novel and familiar material from a fresh perspective. Indeed, although Andrew Saint in his book of 1983 studied the architectural profession’s evolving status and public image from the eighteenth century to the present, this remains a neglected yet vital topic. The advent of digital media has once again called into question the role of the architect in the production of buildings and spaces, with the emergence of industrial-style construction processes which resemble car manufacture whose designers are largely unknown. Whether or not this will lead to the death of the celebrity architect and even a new era of architectural anonymity only time will tell.

Dilbert "The Consultant"

Here the traditional sophist's argument for buying lessons in rhetoric ("You should buy my lessons so that you can evaluate my argument that you should buy my lessons") is reworked, revealing the infinite regress implicit in recursive consultation (and reasoning – see Witgenstein).

18 May 2008

Creative Practice/Creative Research: Materiality/Process/Performativity

Symposium July 10-12 2008
York St John University

In Artforum in April 1970, sculptor Robert Morris noted with regret that creative process held little sway for the meanings imbibed for ‘art’ by contemporary criticism and the histories of art. His insistence on the imperatives of what he named ‘the submerged side of the iceberg’ came on the cusp of the ‘New Art History.’ The advent of post-modern theory and the social history of art located the material production of art at an intersection of history and the social. Practice was thus liberated from the (psycho)biographical expressivity and mastery of the gesture. Hitherto these had been the only means by which making had been thought. And yet the object of critical and historical discourse has remained profoundly visual. Situated in the gallery like so many dead objects ’art’s’ materiality, the trace of a means to an ends, has remained caught between formalism and semiotics. It is that to which theory has been applied and by which history is index after the fact.

Creative Practice/Creative Research seeks to elucidate and participate in the generation of a body of scholarship written by both critics and practictioners that has begun to transform the theoretical and historical frameworks through which art’s making can signify.

To insist upon the work of art as a ‘co-poiësis’ (Ettinger, 1997) of ‘poiëtic revealing’ (Bolt, 2007) is to read art production beyond the locus of a discrete subject bound solely to the paradigms of ‘representation.’ Rather such a shift foreground the ‘dialogical’ and ‘per formative’ means through which art’s work may lead research. The emergence of this practice led intervention thus transforms the territories by which ‘work’ and materiality may be encountered by maker and viewer.

This international symposium seeks to creatively draw from emerging and established voices in the practice, criticism, history, and curation of the creative arts. It seeks to explore the particular logic, diversity and implications of the work of art both for its own sake and for the history of art and art criticism, cultural theory, curatorial practice and the pedagogies of art.


Steve Baker, UCLAN, UK
Estelle Barrette, Deakin University, AUS
Rosemary Betterton, Lancaster University, UK
Barb Bolt, University of Melbourne, AUS
Vanessa Corby, York St John University, UK
Bracha Ettinger, European Graduate School, Saas-Fee
Pam Longobardi, Georgia State University, USA
Roddy Hunter, York St John University, UK
Linda Weintraub, Independent Scholar, USA
Elizabeth Watkins, Bristol University, UK

Proposed Panels

Material Thinking: Practice Led Interventions in the History of Art
Bodies of Knowledge: Genders, ethnicity, sexuality, class
Eco-Logical Practice
Unruly Objects: Materiality/Process/Performativity
Dance and the Document: Tracking Performativity
Processing Memory/Psychic Mechanisms
Pedagogy & Practice Led Research


Abstracts for papers may be submitted via email by 6th June 2008

James Alexander, Senior Administrative Assistant-Project & Outreach


Faculty of Arts
York St John University
Lord Mayors Walk
YO31 7EX

07 March 2008

How dream of reading someone's mind may soon become a reality

By Steve Connor, Science Editor, The Independent
Thursday, 6 March 2008

The ability to read someone's mind and even to visualise their dreams has come a step closer with a study showing that it is possible to predict accurately what someone is seeing by analysing their brain activity with a medical scanner.

Scientists have built a computer that can "decode" the brain activity signals from a scanner and match them to photographs of what a person has seen. In the future, they believe the technology will be able to reconstruct scenes being visualised in a person's head – whether real or imaginary. Tests of the decoder show that it can predict which photograph someone is looking at with an accuracy of up to 90 per cent, although the success rate falls as the total number of photographs being assessed increases.

The scientists believe that it might be possible in the near future to adopt the same approach in making a device that can read someone's thoughts, although they warn against doing this surreptitiously or against someone's will.

"It is possible that decoding brain activity could have serious ethical and privacy implications downstream in, say, the 30 to 50-year time frame. It is something I do care about," said Professor Jack Gallant of the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study published in the journal Nature.


04 March 2008

Paradoxes of Appearance

Research Symposium: June 9 - 11, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark
Organized by the Danish Doctoral Schools of Architecture & Design

Confirmed speakers:
Professor Renaud Barbaras, Université Paris- 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France
Professor Andrew Benjamin, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Artist Olafur Eliasson, Studio Olafur Eliasson, Germany and Denmark
Professor Sanford Kwinter, Rice University, USA
Professor David Leatherbarrow, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Professor Martin Seel, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Germany
Professor David Summers, University of Virginia, USA

Paradoxes of Appearance
When spectators confront and designers invent works of art and architecture vital questions regarding their appearance arise. These are not simply questions about what appears, also what does not, i.e. what withdraws when works are experienced and created. How do we cope with this withdrawal, with latencies that escape concretization? What are the productive paradoxes associated hereto and how do they influence the processes of making? Based on multiple discourses on these subjects, contemporary positions in art, architecture and philosophy draw up new challenges, especially with regard to the creative practices. Within and between these positions emerge potentials for modes of thinking and doing with a new sensitivity.

The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture
Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 53, Auditorium 6

02 March 2008

The Futures of Space Exploration

LESS REMOTE, The Futures of Space Exploration An Arts & Humanities Symposium at the International Astronautical Congress, Glasgow 2008, 30 September - 1 October 2008. Abstract Submission Deadline: 11 March 2008 (approx. 300 words and short bio). This symposium will offer a forum in which specialists from many disciplines will be invited to consider the future of space exploration in the context of our current understanding of social, economic and technological imperatives. One of the aims of the symposium is to foster a dialogue and exchange between the cultural and space communities. Speakers from the arts & humanities and space science & engineering communities will present keynote lectures on space exploration and its possible futures. Papers are also invited from the broad constituency of interest among artists, cultural analysts and historians that has examined the wider implications of the scientific exploration of space for the better part of a century. More information:



New Leonardos engaged in the Burning Issues of our Times

Will be held at University of New Mexico Albuquerque March 18-21 2009

The Leonardo 40th anniversary event will adress key issues for the next decade that require interaction between the arts, humanities, and sciences or between arts,humanities and new technologies.

A) New Leonardos: Showcasing the Best of a New Generation.
B) Climate Change: Arts and Hard Humanities on the front line of cultural change.
C) Designing the World: from Nano Science to the Space Option.
D) Limits to Understanding: New Methods for Burning Issues.

Co Organised by the ARTS LAB UNM (artslab.unm.edu ) and Leonardo/ISAST( www.leonardo.info )

To be kept informed about the conference sign up for the information list at:


Contact : leo40@unm.edu

Beyond Representation: New Work in Literature and Science

Please see the CFP, below, for a session at the 2008 MLA in San Francisco sponsored by the Division on Literature and Science.  Abstracts for 20-minute papers or 10-minute roundtable statements welcome by March 25th to henry.turner@rutgers.edu.

Beyond Representation: New Work in Literature and Science

To what degree is the notion of "representation" inadequate to describe problems of form, interpretation, information, communication, system, etc. encountered in science studies?  At a moment when much literary criticism remains stuck in an implicitly linguistic or textualist paradigm and when emergent fields such as Visual Studies, Performance Studies, or New Media are all, in different ways, evolving in response to the limitations of traditional notions of representation, can we find in scientific practice resources for thinking "beyond representation"?  What do we really do when we "close read" and what is the analogue or the equivalent operation in a laboratory, where information-rich materials are "handled," translated, or given form according to a variety of techniques, where the relationship between evidence and argument is often very open-ended and provisional, where the problem of "meaning" or of "artifice" and even "fiction" arises in provocative ways?  

15 January 2008

ECHO (Exploring and Collecting History Online)

The Center for History and New Media is pleased to announce the relaunching of the ECHO (Exploring and Collecting History Online) website at http://echo.gmu.edu. ECHO is a portal to over 5,000 websites concerning the history of science, technology, and industry. In addition to better helping researchers find the exact information they need and granting curious browsers a forum for exploration, the new site also provides access to the latest in blogging on the topics of digital history and histories of science, technology and industry.

The project is based at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University (http://chnm.gmu.edu). ECHO has been funded by two generous grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

11 January 2008

Event Energy Adapt blog

Thanks to Ramia, aided by some of our students, we now have a new blog documenting our Masters Colloquium Event Energy Adapt within the course Research through Practice:


07 January 2008

Research Training Sessions 2008

A new PhD degree (in architecture) has been established in Flanders. Designing will be the core of the research activities at Sint-Lucas School of Architecture. A methodology and framework for this research still has to be developed. The spring conference ‘the Unthinkable Doctorate’ (April 2005), organised by Sint-Lucas and NETHCA discussed doctorates in Architecture in an international context. A critical overview of the wide range of viewpoints and directions internationally available at the different universities was made. It is clear that more and more universities develop PhD programmes trying to validate the specific type of knowledge in and from practice. Designing processes as well as implicit and Mode 2 knowledge are made more explicit by research activities involved.



The symposium Architecture and Authorship is a follow-up event to the book published in June 2007 by Black Dog Publishing. It explores issues of authorship, attribution and intellectual property in architecture, and examines how individual architects and movements, from the fifteenth century onwards, have endeavoured to maintain their status by defending what they see as their own unique territory, the origins and intentions of their work, and their signature style. The event is organised by the editors of the book. The symposium will be structured in accordance with the sections of the book - mapping a 'force field' in which issues of authorship in architecture are played out. The contributors to each section in the book are listed below:
Affirmation: Tim Anstey, Caroline Dionne, Carola Ebert, Naomi Stead
Dislocation: Katja Grillner, Charles Rice, Jonathan Hill
Translation: Louise Pelletier, Wallis Miller, Renée Tobe, Penelope Haralambidou
Dissolution: Rolf Hughes, Stanley Mathews, Gernot Weckherlin, Sean Keller, Hélène Lipstadt
This event is organized by the KTH School of Architecture and the Built Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, through Katja Grillner, Tim Anstey, and Rolf Hughes
Contact and registration: Katja Grillner, Associate professor,
Venue: KTH Main Library, Osquars backe 31, Stockholm.
Program info: www.auctor.se Please register before January 15