Composting Estate seminar: John Hartley and Susan Trangmar 29 November 2019

A series of seminars examining processes and materials of composition and decomposition of site and place.

Room A002 Central Saint Martins 
10.30am  – 1.00pm
29 November 2019

John Hartley
Wave as Tool

 This performance lecture, incorporating film and read text, explores how a material, social and entangled ‘art apparatus’ demonstrates shapes of change, and starts to consider what constitutes that apparatus. It proceeds from a swimming/filming practice that looks at conditions within the sea. This practice expands to trace sea-like movement in the tools used to make work about the sea, and further, to reference the discourse around the work, which in its turn, also performs wave-like change (emergence and collapse). 

The talk accompanying the film consists of re-ordered text, which builds in the form a wave. It starts with single words and small phrases which slowly grow in length. Lines are followed by longer sentences explaining the practice and its context, then paragraphs of the most developed comments. This process then reverses and recedes with the text blocks collapsing into smaller length. 

The film extract I show was made on an obsolete mobile phone attached to a swimmers arm. This is a method of filming that disrupts the normal spatial and temporal way of showing the sea, or dependency on expert mediation. The resultant films present a re-structured marine perception, neither a landscape of space extending before a viewer, nor a seascape where that viewer faces from land towards a horizon over the sea. Instead we see a churn of underwater views, turbulent surf and bubbles, rocking colours and light. The normal spatial immediacy is reconfigured as the tools engaging with this domain (discarded camera phones) are also in a state of breakdown. 

Tuning in to these varied speeds, rhythms and disjunctions, you become aware of changes in the equipment used to make the film. Screens crack, memory gliches. And no longer cutting edge, the social and economic currency of the consumer device is ebbing too. Equally the accompanying text has its own periodicity, approaching and retreating from multiple stacked and nested ideas. Ripples of recognition sit on top of waves of material process, within the swell of discourse... on top of tides of wider cultural context. The work feels for the movement of the arts practice, consisting of material and social dynamics. The tug and ebb of creative and academic conditions… and the buoyancy afforded by changing markets and economies also make themselves evident through this entangled arts apparatus.

As the artist/researcher is rolled and crashed by the sea (the estate-as-medium), the movements and changes of object of enquiry become inseparable from those of the enquirer. The investigator is part of the world under investigation, and changed by their investigation. 

The presentation aims to address questions of creative practice and the dynamic processes within which it is embedded. How does immersion within a location (for instance the sea) demand we (re)arrange our perceptions? How is practice and research changed as a result? 

Susan Trangmar
From Topography to Topology: a Line of Enquiry

A Twist of Thought

‘It is a question not of imposing preconceived forms on inert matter, but of intervening in the fields of force and currents of material wherein forms are generated.’ (Ingold 1993)
How can a processual art practice based in lens imaging help us to question landscape as a pictorial category fixed in space and time? This presentation proposes that we practice landscape as an ongoing process of movement and change.  Starting with reference to a specific geographic, geological and environmental site, that of Dungeness, Romney Marsh, Kent the essay tracks a process of situated making using the smartphone camera as the fulcrum of a performative activity. The automatic programmes of digital cameras borrow photographic conventions, a particular ‘way of seeing’ which constructs landscape as static, grounded and always maintained at a fixed distance, thus setting up subject/object distinctions.  In the practice outlined here however, such conventions are disrupted through a series of technological/ kinaesthetic engagements which reconfigure relations of figure and ground, surface and depth. Through tactile engagement with the paper print  to form a cone, the paper as support for image becomes  both a three dimensional object  and a topological (continuous) surface. Out of each cone when re-photographed, is drawn a new image which in turn becomes a new object open to being re-imaged. This continual process of re-turning and drawing out through which the work takes shape, performs a ‘a recursive futurity’ (Massumi 2002: xxvii). 

The practice has no one definitive state of completion; it consists of an assemblage of parts at different stages of existence, paper prints, printed objects,  mobile screen based moving image, which in clustering together act as ‘relational objects for thinking- in -action’ (Manning 2009). It is through this process that I explore the work’s ‘expression’ (Massumi 2011: 57), how something comes to be what it is. The presentation concludes by engaging the audience with the work by re-turning to the smartphone as fulcrum of a performative activity through shared replay of a moving image, an activity which is temporally situated and a simultaneously a dispersal.

Keywords: Digital Photography; Landscape: Processual practice; Topography; Topology; relational philosophy


Massumi, Brian (2002), A Shock to Thought: Expression After Deleuze and Guattari . New York and London: Routledge.
Massumi, Brian (2011), Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurent Arts. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.
Manning, Erin (2009), “Propositions for Thought in Motion” in Relationscapes:Movement, Art, Philosophy . Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press. 

Previous iterations of this project can be sourced here: Trangmar, Susan From Topography to Topology in “Fragmentation of the Photographic Image in the Digital Age”. New York and London 2019: Routledge; Trangmar, Susan Landscape as a Twist of Thought, Journal of Philosophy of Photography, Intellect. Vol. 10, 2. forthcoming Autumn 2020.