Futuro House Meeting, 16 December 2015

John Hartley, Adriana Cobo Corey, Susan Trangmar, and Steven Ball in conversation in Futuro House photo by Carali McCall
Productive Lines of Site?

We recently met in Futuro House to discuss and reflect upon the series of events sensingsite.

Futuro House is a site that references (now charmingly archaic) notions of technologically-framed improvement. It evokes a design ancestry excited about  opening up or reaching into new spaces (it's an interstellar house!). It speaks of change that is expansionist and techno-colonial. Its ways of changing feel Euclidean in some ways (direct, linear, planned, clean even?).

The site's vintage futurism remembers optimistic vectors of change that were to be realised through rational mastery of an ever-increasing domain (across spatial, social and technical frontiers). That these design references are now reduced to humour and kitsch underlines how we can no longer ride these vectors with a straight face. Its ideological geometries are bankrupt.

By comparison,
sensingsite has been an archipelago of events that examine located practices of different (sometimes tangled) forms and with different concerns. Each iteration has accumulated insights and learned from what has come before in some ways. The events (at least the ones that I have been part of) have repeatedly returned to question assumptions around 'site' and practices that engage with site; they rework the same ground many ways and many times. Yet moving between the iterations there seems to have been a form of development or narrative, and it seems to have activated connections and resonances that link, overlay or relate apparently remote loci. How can we be sure these events have not been doing the same work over and over? What changes as these geometries are repeatedly enacted and performed?

Meeting in the Futuro House challenges how we think about 'progress' when describing this process of iterative change. It demands different ways of thinking trajectories and repetitions (operators?) of discovery, critique and difference. It demands other ways of tracing connection between events and values of 'site'... different ways of recording flight and connection evident in the research process.

Do we (must we?) recall the ground we have covered? Previous events have shown site to be connected to past memories and remote or hidden social and economic practices. It is accessible in different ways depending upon authority, politics, shifting ownership and our own perceived or displayed socio-economic identity. Site is in the devices and technologies we bring to it. It is shaped by forces of the anthropocene... artefacts that entangle industry, weather, social habits, individual perceptions and imperceptions.

To recall the cliché attributed to Heraclitus, we both step and do not step in the same river twice. Site is here and it is elsewhere (elsewhen) simultaneously. So, what is the nature of these connections? Should we draw arrows and straight lines between them? Can we picture, reflect or represent the other within site? Or are other ways, other geometries, called for ?

Further touch points of interest:
Promises of Monsters, Haraway, (in particular diffraction patterns of interference p300)
Tracing Value, work with Chelsea College of Art for Cultures of Resilience UAL
De Landa's Deleuzian descriptions of attractors and unstable and emergent geometries
Our own ambivalence about the ideas of redundancy and obsolescence

John Hartley


Open/Collective Documentation: discussing future events in the Futuro House

Our first challenge is accumulating ideas about the space… How does the retro, future-seeking, kitsch, structure allow us to think differently about the site and how artists working on-site at CSM alter? 

In the Futuro House – we are hidden away in a reproduction / mock structure that ideally and metaphorically has the potential to transport us to the limitless outer space – the idea lifts one’s spirits in an amusing, comical way…  but how completely unaware or aware of the complex site can we be? 

On the roof of the institution with a view of the Kings Cross redeveloping area, overseeing people’s offices and apartments, train lines and the horizon of the cityscape / the slivers of economic growth; the space leaves us still questioning the institution, colonization, various connotations with branding, businesses progress and expansion.

Thinking about the space as a temporal, it creates an escapist route (an opening up of vector paths perhaps of what John H. speaks of), which could be tracked over far galactic distances in real time. The confusion of defining the space retro or futuristic, neither here nor there, addresses mobility and movement. But it is a static, heavy, mechanical structure and it places us in a fictional and fabricated context weighted by connotations. 

Is it a setting for exercising our relationships with what we know of each other’s work… a little at odds…. a circumstance, a mysterious / foreign-seeking perspective on what might be sensingsite – or, the act of sensing-site?

Is the space redundant? A movie-set of the future or what feels like a ‘choose your own adventure’ fictitious stage – proposing a 50/60’s sci-fi with us, as artists, undergoing (real) research… Perhaps not redundant but something that moves us into thinking about obsolescence and the making of artists’ objects.

What will we produce on the other side – the outcome of our discussions told and presented from our experiences? How is this sharing ideas and problematizing the site?

It is the content sometimes hard to find… we’ve looked at themes... we’ve been drawn together for different reasons or another, but mainly because of a link to site and this precise act of making of site. Now, to be meeting in a strange location approximately 7-storey’s high on a roof its called for a ‘checking in’ a shifting understanding of if we might present as productive work. 

Carali McCall