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Arts & Humanities Research (MPhil) (PhD)

Adam Walker

Research Project Title: Ways of being beyond the perpetuating inequalities of the technosphere: Textual artistic intervention as a vital strategy in enabling resistant agency or, Embodying a practice of radical care.

Supervisor(s): Dr Pil Kollectiv, Professor Mel Jordan

Adam Walker is an artist with a research based practice focussed on critiques of self-perpetuating structures of inequality and speculative profferings of other ways of being. His work takes textual, performative, collaborative, moving-image and digital forms. Recent projects, performances and exhibitions have taken place at and with the Serpentine Gallery and Tyneside Cinema (UK), Izolyatsia and Yermilov Centre (Ukraine), and online at He has a PhD from the Royal College of Art.

The eight arttexts documented below contributed, in part, to the PhD project.

The Return Beyond Which There is No Point (2017-18) is a fluid grouping of fragments including: a machine embroidered flag I designed and commissioned while in Kyiv, Ukraine in autumn 2017; documentation of the circuitous and technologically and financially compromised process of having this flag made; a performance of carrying the flag through Kyiv and the surrounding forest before raising it on the roof of the same building in which it had started; a moving-image work based on this performance; a text considering ‘the return beyond which there is no point’ within and beyond the immediate context; and a sound work made in collaboration with a musician-producer in response to this text.

I returned to Ukraine in March 2018 to form an installation from an arrangement of some of these elements for exhibition at Yermilov Centre, Kharkiv. The installation comprised the flag; its daily delegated carrying and varying repositioning by invigilators (without instruction); the text presented on the wall at a large scale; a single image from my previous flag-carrying performance (where I am sat at a Kyiv tram-stop alongside some men who appear to have been in a fight); and the soundscape filling the otherwise largely empty space.

TOMBOLA! (2017-18) is a collaboration with Vicki Thornton. Its first iteration was as a live event at Izolyatsia in Kyiv. Attendees on a bare soundstage-like set were invited by an unspeaking masked figure to read absurd scripts in their choice of Ukrainian, Russian or English. These were constructed from the fortune-cookie-like phrases printed on the back of receipts from a local supermarket chain. Some were time-stamped to be read at certain points according to a large digital clock display. The scripts employ English-language wordplay, which often becomes garbled nonsense when translated back into other languages. Meanwhile, catchphrases from nostalgic British TV gameshows play, and the masked figure leads increasingly absurd actions.

TOMBOLA! was re-presented as a synced two-screen moving-image installation at Yermilov Centre, Kharkiv in 2018. 

6 Weeks in Kyiv (2018) begins with a handwritten table documenting Uber journeys made during a six week period in Kyiv, Ukraine. Transcribed from the app, the table includes drivers’ first names in Cyrillic script, along with their ‘rating’, journey details, my own fluctuating rating as a passenger, and a few additional notes.

This table is part of the arttext, both in original taped-together paper form, and also as an actual-size scanned image on a large monitor in front of me.

I read out the list of journeys and their details. The sound of my voice is then taken via microphone into a virtual vocoder built in the open source visual programming language Pure Data, which can be seen projected on and behind me. The sounds of my voice, rendered into digitised data, become the inputs to this vocoder, triggering frequencies and synthesised sounds to play, alongside a distorted, delayed echo of my voice.

The text above both describes Sequestered (2018), and is also shown as part of the work whenever it is exhibited. When physically exhibited, Sequestered always takes the censored form described. 

Special Rights (2018) is a publication made in collaboration with Emma McGarry, which we developed through being emplaced within a nursery school via a Serpentine Gallery project. The publication is centred around the personal accounts of a group of parents of children with ‘special educational needs’. These parents’ and their children’s encounters with systemic failings within education institutions are recounted, as well as their means of coping. We spent considerable time with the parents and got to know them well, also developing a set of collaborative manifestos together. These core elements within the publication are accompanied by texts addressing current and imminent government policy (such as funding cuts which will result in more children with ‘special educational needs’ being denied appropriate care and schooling), along with photographs from immersive free-play environments we constructed and explored with the children.  

The publication was launched in November 2018 and has since been widely disseminated free of charge. Several events bringing together parents, educators, activists, politicians and artists have also been held.

The speculative fiction narrative Keep on Unpicking (which can be read by clicking on 'Launch Project' above) runs throughout the publication, as a series of fragments alongside the parents’ recollections. It connects together and re-presents some of the collaborative thinking and care that took place within the project and, importantly, asserts a hopefulness.

undertitled (2018-19) is a collaboration with Vicki Thornton. It is a three-channel moving-image installation, comprising a diverse montage of edited found-footage cut over two human voices. One of these voices expresses utopian optimism and faith in the technological future, while the other recounts their mundane, repetitive outsourced work ‘teaching’ algorithms, and their increasing exhaustion. Later, an artificial voice, perhaps that of the machine itself, joins. Subtitles are the only on-screen presence of the voices heard, initially accurate but becoming fragmented. 

The found-footage is periodically interrupted by documentation of a previous live-performance iteration of undertitled, within a cinema auditorium. In this, camera-operators wear screens on their chests displaying text directly addressing the audience.

Our Skins are Porous Too (2019) is an arttext-curatorial project developed with the online project space An arttext itself, taking the form of an infinitely scrolling text, it also presents works by eight other artists.

Our Skins are Porous Too can be accessed directly by clicking 'Launch Project' above.

Invitations in the form of a möbius strip bearing the text in a continuous loop were posted out, inviting viewers to visit the website.

A third collaboration with Vicki Thornton, STATESCAPE∞ (2020) is a single-channel moving-image work taking the form of a trailer for a non-existent film exploring a hypothetical computer game, along with an accompanying text. This fictive game is centred on Mezyhirhya, the corruptly acquired private estate of former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych, which continues to be run by its ‘liberators’, including right-wing nationalists.