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From Checkered Reality to Reality Check: A Provocation

Thursday 1 July 18:00 (GMT +0)

School of Arts & HumanitiesArts & Humanities Research (MPhil) (PhD)

PGR RCA 2021 completed PHDs on the sensual, the forgotten, and the cruel

Estimated Duration: 2 hours

From Checkered Reality to Reality Check: A Provocation around the sensual, the forgotten, the blood-economy and the cruel – 12 completed PHDs tile-convo with Neil Chapman, Sarah Cheang, Rachel Hann and Maggie Roberts aka Mer. Johnny Golding, host.


Dr Neil Chapman is an artist, writer and researcher. His current work explores material textual practices, artists' publishing, art/philosophy, questions concerning visuality, collaborative method, interdisciplinarity, the evolution and politics of art-research and the histories of these themes. In 2011 he completed a PhD at the University of Reading on the new currency of writing in art practice. His book Diagrams for Seriality (2014) makes that research available for a wider readership and was described as a “startling meditation on the relations of seeing to saying” (Simon O’Sullivan). Recently, he has published in E.R.O.SPerformance Research and Haunt Journal. For a number of years Neil Chapman has been working in collaboration with artist and writer David Stent (West Dean College). Their ongoing series of residencies entitled Writing As Occupation explore the effects of place and technology on writing. Neil Chapman is an Associate Professor at Falmouth University, where he teaches Art Practice, Critical Studies and Art Research.

Dr Sarah Cheang’s research and teaching focuses on East Asian material culture, gender and the body, with a special interest in fashion exchanges between China and Britain, and on fashion, race and cultural expression. Sarah joined the RCA in September 2011. She has a special interest in the role of Chinese material culture within histories of Western fashionable dress and domestic interiors, a subject on which she has published widely and lectures frequently. Her co-edited collection, Hair: Styling, Culture and Fashion (2008), and continued research, artworks and publishing on hair, fashion and identity have also led to contributions to magazines, exhibitions, festivals, radio and television. Sarah led the AHRC Network Project Fashion and Translation: Britain, Japan, China Korea (2014–2015), as well as convening events on global design and cultural translation. She co-edited a special edition of International Journal of Fashion Studies on East Asian fashion, and is preparing for publication a book entitled Sinophilia which is a new study of twentieth-century chinoiserie and fashion. She recently co-edited the collection Rethinking Fashion Globalisation (2021), and has co-authored a number of papers on decolonial approaches to teaching and researching in the art college. As a founder member of the Research Collective for Decolonizing Fashion, Sarah works closely with a group of international scholars and activists who look to counter Eurocentricism in fashion studies and to push for equality, cultural sensitivity and more inclusive and caring world-views in the fashion industry. She is also a member of the advisory board for the Fashion and Race database. Sarah’s teaching interests reflect this commitment to more inclusive curricula and decolonial approaches. Recent research and teaching has focussed on concepts of decolonial aesthesis, through experimental teaching methods and the research-led initiative OPEN. Issues of gender, race and ethnicity are often uppermost in her work and she chaired the Design History Society Equalities Working group 2019-2020 Sarah holds a BA in History of Design from Brighton University, an MA in Art History from Sussex University. She completed her DPhil at Sussex University in 2003. Her work on Western representations of China, and more particularly the collecting and consumption of Chinese material in Britain from 1890, has led to prize-winning publications on ceramics, textiles, interior design, and even Pekingese dogs. She also curated the twentieth-century section of the exhibition Chinese Whispers: Chinoiserie in Britain 1650–1930 (Brighton Museum and Royal Pavilion, 2008), which won best temporary exhibition at the Museum and Heritage Awards.

Dr Rachel Hann is a cultural scenographer who researches the material cultures of performance design, climate crisis, and trans* performance. Current research focuses on how ‘world imaginations’ are practiced in an era of climate crisis, which draws upon Global South epistemologies (pluriversal thinking) and ideas associated with ‘new materialism’ (assemblage theory). These will form the basis for my next monograph entitled Enacting Worlds: Climate Crisis Scenographics. Building on her experiences as a transwoman, Rachel also has an emerging interest on what trans* performance (defined as performances made by and for gender variant individuals) can offer as an approach to non-binary performance making. These research projects align in my forthcoming chapter Gender-Assemblages: The Scenographics of Victoria Sin - Analyzing Gender in Performance, (Palgrave). Since April 2020, Rachel has been Senior Lecturer in Performance and Design at Northumbria University. Beyond Scenography (2019) is Rachel’s first monograph and was shortlisted for the Prague Quadrennial 2019 Best Publication Prize. It provides the first theory of scenographics as the place orientating traits of staged material cultures: from gardening to visual merchandising, installation art to theatre. Rachel has also published several chapters & peer-reviewed articles on subjects such as costume politics & the performativity of architecture. In 2013, Rachel co-founded the biennial conference & exhibition Critical Costume. This international research network has since expanded with events in Liverpool (Edge Hill University, 2013), Finland (Aalto University, 2015), and Czech Republic (Prague Quadrennial, 2015). Rachel has led a number of Critical Costume's core activities including co-convening the first event at Edge Hill, co-editorship of a special issue of Scene (Intellect) & writing the organisation’s first constitution. Her work in the formation of this network was shortlisted for the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Early Career Prize 2017 for 'leadership in costume and practice research'. (Routledge, 2019) is Rachel’s first monograph and was shortlisted for the Prague Quadrennial 2019 Best Publication Prize. It provides the first theory of ‘scenographics’ as the place orientating traits of staged material cultures: from gardening to visual merchandising, installation art to theatre. Rachel has also published several chapters & peer-reviewed articles on subjects such as costume politics & the performativity of architecture.

Maggie Roberts aka Mer co-founded the collaborative artist 0rphan Drift in 1994, which explores the boundaries of machine and human vision and imagines into nonhuman forms of perception and embodiment. She is a recent Research Fellow with Goldsmiths University Visual Cultures Department and has presented at numerous symposia internationally. Recent exhibitions include IF AI:AIBOHPORTSUALC (2020); If AI were Cephalopod, Telematic Gallery San Francisco (Artforum's Critic's Choice, 2019); Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender and Resistance Nottingham Contemporary (2018); Unruly City, Dold Projects, St. Georgen, Germany, Matter Fictions, Berardo Museum, Lisbon (2016). Orphan Drift are featured in Fictioning, the Myth-Functions of Contemporary Art and Philosophy by David Burrows and Simon O’Sullivan, Edinburgh University Press (2019) She is now working on ISCRI, an experiment in interspecies communication between artists, an octopus and an AI. This is in collaboration with Etic Lab’s ML team and is partnered by the Serpentine Gallery’s Creative AI Lab. Increasingly her work is underpinned by both 3D animation and Interspecies Communication telepathy techniques, which she first studied for her online Becoming Octopus Meditation series as part of iMT Gallery’s This Is A Not-Me exhibition, 2020. Based in Capetown South Africa during the Pandemic, she learnt to free dive in order to experience a Common Octopus’s environment.


Prof Johnny Golding (Chair) is a philosopher/poet. Professor of Philosophy & Fine Art and Senior Tutor: Research in the School of Arts and Humanities at the RCA, Golding's research situates contemporary philosophy as an art-led onto-epistemological encounter with the wild sciences – a new Gay Science – nothing more nor less than ‘an inhabited way of understanding the world’. This is a Gay Science that pays homage to quantum mechanics and the radical matter (entanglement, emergence, dimensionality, multiversalism) that this inhabitation requires. Most recently this was embodied in her new work Data Loam: Sometimes Hard, Usually Soft (the Future of Knowledge Systems) with Reinhart and Paganelli (De Gruyter 2021) and Octopussy: King of The Feminists (pirate version), in Viegener et al, Get Rid of Meaning (forthcoming: 2022). As part of a larger research project with Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Johnny is co-Principal on two AiDesign labs: Artificial/Distributed Intelligence and the Extendable Senses in the 4th Industrial Revolution (with Dr Ali Asadipour); and AI Public Narratives (with Prof Tom Simmons). Invited texts and poetic-philosophic installations include the Venice Biennale, Bogotá, Venice and Berlin. Most recently Johnny has been named as head of the one of the newly created proto-centres at SoAH: The Radical Matter Research Centre, whose remit is dedicated to the pursuit of cutting-edge experimental research/production on artificial and distributed intelligences, human-machine agency, differently embodied consciousness, emergence, dimensionality and the logics of sense. Born in New York; lives and works in London. Studied at the University of Toronto and Cambridge. Likes the company of wolves, large cats, cephalopods and — every now and then — other sentient beings.

Featured in Theme: Sensuality, Alternative Worlds, Identities, Digging up the Past, Terra Incognito, Virtually Real, Neighbours, Materiality and Abstraction