Abstract Seminar 1. 7th November 2018

Becalelis Brodskis

Masked selfies in Virtual Reality: Documenting an absence of presence in in immersive computer simulations and the presence of the virtual

Seeing the extremities of your body is one of the senses incorporated in aligning yourself and finding balance with in the gravitational pull. When you enter a Virtual Reality this sense is lost. What remains is an awareness of your weighted presence in a space where everything you see is weightless. Any notion of objects, external to you, responding to a gravitational pull is a projection of your memory on a digital weightless form. The contradiction of your weighted presence and the relationship with weightless environment emulates aspects of out of body experiences.

This paper draws on an experience I had of wearing a mask I created with in this illusionary space. The fact that I was invisible, in this space, required me to engage my memories and kinaesthetic perceptions in the 3D drawing of my self-portrait. Unlike a material from this matter could be effortlessly moved or scaled, to a giant or miniature, as I worked on it. I settled on a size I could step into and embody.

Inside the mask I began to take selfies of myself. With in this space you can hold a virtual camera and take pictures and video from within the virtual environment. This selfie experience, looking back at myself through the mask, was a relationship between weightless form, and my weighted sensation of memories. From this weightless zone I propose that the only Matter that has weight is our memories.

I will reflect on this experience through the relationship that Henri Bergson proposes between matter and memory . I would like use this relationship between my weighted self and weightless mask to explore Deleuze’s development of an ontology of the Virtual and it’s relationship to the materiality of the real. Not only in terms of the illusionary objects placed in this space but questions that relate to the ontology of the space itself. What is the landscape I am in? and what is the nature of the objects placed in it? In so doing understanding what the affect of dwelling in a virtual landscape could be and how this may impact on the everyday living in what we call the real landscape.


Joanna Griffin

Gravity, weightlessness and connectivity

My points of departure are a few examples of connections in Picasso paintings, sometimes referred to as ‘passage’ where the outline of a figure is interrupted in ways that suggest the artist’s intentionality and another kind of connection of planes referred to as ‘arras’ (by Leo Steinberg, 1977 when looking at The Family of Saltimbanques and Portrait of the Artist). 

I’d like to use these inventions of connectivity to reflect more on something that I’ve noticed through the writings of Hannah Arendt, actually in her footnote references that include the writings of physicists (Max Planck, Neils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg) from the 1930s-1950s. From these references the rise of the term ‘phenomenology’ to express experience looked like it was part of an adversarial game with physics scientists. Perhaps so as not to lose the phenomena of affect and experience which exist outside of the rapidly establishing laws of physics and causality. (The work of modernist artist seems also to be reacting to the growing authority and ‘extraordinariness of science’). There seems to be a particular need for philosophy to stake the value of experience through the term phenomenology just at the point where laws of physics appeared to break down in the atomic experiments that led to the new branch of quantum physics.

 I will refer mainly to ‘The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man’ (Arendt, 1963).

Image of the painting Family of Saltimbanques by Picasso, 1905

Family of Saltimbanques, Picasso, 1905

Painting by Picasso, Self Portrait, 1907

Picasso, Self Portrait, 1907

Jane Hutchinson

Balloon Flight, Panorama and Phantom Rides: Media Technology and Spirituality

This seminar will examine still and moving images made during the 18th, 19th and early C20th of flight in a hot air or gas balloon, painted 360and moving panorama and from the front of a moving train; a phenomenon that became known as a Phantom Ride. Images created of the Earth as it was imagined to appear from above and of flight from an earthbound onlooker will also be presented. The seminar intends that these images will encourage a discussion about an idea that the perception and possibility of being weightless, even disembodied, was made possible through these media-technologies.

The seminar suggests that there seems to have been (and still is?) a fascination with disrupting the day-to-day experience of the world, that of being earthbound, and of a desire to experience a disconnection from the ground, from matter; of being ‘un-tethered’ from the physical and material world. The paper will speculate that the phenomena of balloon flight, Panorama and Phantom Ride might be interpreted as a use of technology to present the possibility of the spirit.


Stephanie Moran

Aliens: the experience-worlds of nonhuman entities

 What might constitute an alien physics and an alien knowledge system? How might these be represented?

 Aliens – existing in space, on other planets or in nonhuman environments – experience nonhuman gravitational fields and alternative physics. Their experiences are inaccessible to human cognition; understanding can only be approached via phenomenological reimagination based on the available information, which has many gaping holes.

This paper will sketch out some visual and theoretical ideas for reconstructing or reimagining the weightlessness of alien experience-worlds, through the triangulation of gravity, epistemology and representation as a framework.  


Viveiros de Castro – Cannibal Metaphysics

Timothy Morton – Ecology Without Nature

Kant – Critique of Judgement

Ian Bogost – Alien Phenomenology

Thomas Nagel – What is it like to be a Bat?

Steven Shaviro – Discognition

Trinh T. Minh-ha – Woman, Native, Other

Jakob von Uexkull – A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans


James Sweeting

The Weight of Nostalgia on the Star Wars Universe

This seminar will be delving into the fictional universe of Star Wars and how this weightless galaxy that is full of its own stories, characters, and worlds is grounded by its creators rather than the attempts to be weighed down by the nostalgic desires and wants of a vocal element of the fanbase in our real weighted world.

As a piece of filmic media Star Wars, under the iron grip of its creator George Lucas, was one that was defined by its pursuit of the latest technological advances, to the extent that by the time Lucas revisited the franchise via the film medium at the turn of the century technology determined the form that the films subsequently took.

This was a surprise to the hardcore fans who had constructed an idea in their collective minds what a Star Wars film should and shouldn’t be, based upon the form that was produced almost two decades beforehand. Whilst what became termed the Original Trilogy (1977-1983) had used the latest cutting-edge technology Lucas created his own visual effects company ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) as he concluded that no where else could achieve what he wanted. But by the turn of the century, puppets and physical models were no longer remotely considered high tech, whereas Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) was seen as the future; as adeptly demonstrated in Jurassic Park, directed by Lucas’ long-time friend and collaborator Steven Spielberg[1].

Coincidently at the same time as the Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005) began with the release of Episode I – The Phantom Menace (Lucas, 1999), access to the World Wide Web was ramping up and with it a generation that now had a place where they could shout across the world why the latest entry in a film series – one they supposedly loved – was the worst thing that ever happened to them. In addition, many of the criticisms levelled at these three films was misguided and awash with misinformation that propagated online; which could be seen as an early indicator of the problems that arose with GamerGate and false information more broadly on social media.

In the independent documentary titled The Prequels Strike Back there is a line by one of the interviewees early stating ‘Nobody hates “Star Wars” like a “Star Wars” fan’ (Weatherholt, 2016)[time stamp 4:50]. This succinctly defines the problem the series faces. The Prequel Trilogy was never going to be the Original Trilogy (even though there are many parallels) and the new Disney films[2] are again their own interpretation, even with The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015) evoking many aspects of the very original Star Wars film[3]; the intentional similarities and the repercussions of which this seminar will also address.

The seminar will aim to explore the negatives of fanbase nostalgia upon media franchises (in this instance the Star Wars series) and how this differs to the use of nostalgia as an influencing factor (and to what extent this can be considering remediation) by the creators steering the franchise.


[1] George Lucas experimented with CGI with the 1997 Special Editions. This saw the three original films rereleased with enhanced digital effects. Episode IV A New Hope saw the most extensive changes with the Jabba the Hutt scene added back in with an all-digital hutt now imposed into the scene which was previously impossible to do. This gave Lucas the experience to envisage how he would have these effects implemented into the upcoming Prequel Trilogy.

[2] Disney owns Lucasfilm which still independently produces the films.

[3] This was retitled Episode 4: A New Hope by Lucas in 1981 when it was rereleased (BBC News, 2007).