Beyond The Week

ACA would like to thank everyone for contributing to a truly dynamic week which will feed our future residential Program BEYOND. Beyond the week facilitated discussions, presentations and workshops which explored ideas in advance of the BEYOND programme which is planned to start in October 2017.   Pending the successful outcome of a grant application to Arts Council England, artists will be invited to participate in the full programme later this year.

The structure of the laboratory was marked by induction and summary events intermingled with guest speakers and outdoor experiences. The event was facilitated by Alan Smith (ACA), Helen Ratcliffe (ACA), Artūras Raila (VDA), Alvydas Lukys (VDA). The induction event gathered artists together to experience the landscape and heritage of the area and to receive expert talks on astronomy and use of equipment and facilities at the observatory. The summary event will be dictated by the artists’ interests and contain discussions between artists and scientists and the presentation of new work.

This is a test bed for artists who will be encouraged to experiment with new ideas and ways of working and for curators to develop future programing.

The event is organised by Vilnius Academy of Arts and Allenheads Contemporary Arts, in collaboration with Institutio Media, and supported by Lithuanian Council for Culture as well as the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. Migrating Art Academies is a platform for innovation and exchange in arts teaching and research across Europe.

The Contributors

Alvydas Lukys is an artist, curator and

lecturer at the Vilnius Academy of Arts.

His approach is closely related to concepts of remembrance and prosiness. His main interests are in aspects of cultural anthropology. Since Alvydas erxhibits internationaly and has works in the Lithuanian Art Museum, the Union of Lithuanian Art Photographers, Odense Museum of Photography

Lukys graduated from the Vilnius Engineering Construction Institute and since 1990 has worked at the Vilnius Academy of Arts in the Photography and Media Department. Lukys was one the founders of the Image Studio, which later became the Department of Photography and Media Arts. He is the Head of the Department and a full time professor. Alvydas Lukys is also the Chairman of the Board for Doctoral Art Studies of the Vilnius Academy of Arts.


Helen Ratcliffe is Development Director for ACA, responsible for fund-raising and developing partnerships to expand ACA's future profile. ACA is a contemporary arts venue operating in remote rural Northumberland. It was established in 1995 by Helen and her partner artist Alan Smith.


Helen was also Visual Arts Officer for Tynedale (1999 - 2002) and Exhibitions Officer at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland (2002- 2003). In a former life she was Assistant Director at two contemporary art galleries in New York City: Pace Gallery and Curt Marcus Gallery. Helen is co-founder of Allenheads Contemporary Arts.

Artūras Raila lives and works in Vilnius, where he teaches at Photography and medepartment of Vilnius Academy of Fine Art. After graduating from the Sculpture department of Vilnius Academy of Fine Art in 1989, Raila changed his artistic direction towards objects, installations, video and performances. The tactics of social sculpture/social design are characteristic to his artistic practice. In his projects he closely collaborates with specific social groups or sub-cultures, integrating them into the script of his forthcoming work and also leaving the space for unexpected occurrences. Raila‘s works are linked to the discourses of institutional critique and national identity. The artist integrates social reality into the field of art thus eliminating the boundaries between art and life.



Alan Smith is an artist/curator and creative director for ACA. Throughout his practice he operates as a participant/observer; playing with conventional understandings of apparent realities. He creates live events, performance to camera and audio/video installations that use appropriated texts, composed sound and imagery to subtly shift the security of normality. In an on-going series, ‘Parameter’, he has established conditions for groups of people to share experiences in carefully selected locations. Participants follow rules; no speaking, no using personal entertainment devices, no reading no pens or paper, no cameras or recording devices; the participants are the recording devices. ‘Parameter 1’ took place overnight in a disused mine, seven people, duration 14hrs and ‘Parameter 2’ took place in a pub, 14 people, 8hrs. Alan is co-founder of Allenheads Contemporary Arts.

Experimental Architecture Group: School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape, Newcastle University.

Rachel Armstrong, Simone Ferracina, Rolf Hughes,

Rachel is Professor of Experimental Architecture at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University. She is a Rising Waters II Fellow with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (April-May 2016), TWOTY futurist 2015, Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society and a 2010 Senior TED Fellow. Rachel is a ‘sustainability’ innovator who investigates a new approach to building materials called ‘living architecture,’ which suggests it is possible for our buildings to share some of the properties of living systems. She is coordinator for the €3.2m Living Architecture project, which is an ongoing collaboration of experts from the universities of Newcastle, UK, the West of England (UWE Bristol), Trento, Italy, the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid, LIQUIFER Systems Group, Vienna, Austria and EXPLORA, Venice, Italy that began in April 2016 and runs to April 2019. It is envisioned as a next-generation, selectively, programmable bioreactor that is capable of extracting valuable resources from sunlight, wastewater and air and in turn, generating oxygen, proteins and biomass.



Simone is a Research Assistant at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University, and the Director of the Organs Everywhere Imprint for Punctum Books, New York. He is a PhD candidate in Philosophy, Art and Critical Thought at the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, where his thesis on exaptive design methods reframes up-cycling for the 21st century. Prior to joining Newcastle University, Simone was an Associate and Project Director at Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP in New York City, where, for over fifteen years, he worked on high-profile international projects in Italy, Czech Republic and Taiwan.

Rolf is Research Associate and Director of Artistic Research Practices within the field of Experimental Architecture, Newcastle University, Hughes is a writer and researcher of innovative forms of artistic, design-led and transdisciplinary practices. He holds the first ever PhD. in Creative and Critical Writing funded by the British Academy from the University of East Anglia, UK, and has been at the forefront of research developments in architecture since 2000, when he was employed as Senior Researcher at the School of Architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, on a series of projects funded by the Swedish Research Council, while supervising several pioneering PhD dissertations. Since then he has been Guest Professor in Design Theory and Practice-Based Research at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design; Senior Professor in Research Design at Sint-Lucas School of Architecture (KU-Leuven, Belgium, 2007–2013), where he helped create and develop a pioneering international, practice-led PhD. programme for professional architects, and the inaugural Head of Research and Professor of Artistic Research at Stockholm University of the Arts. He has served two terms as Vice President of the international Society for Artistic Research (2010-2014).

Dr Jurgen Schmoll was born in Germany in 1970 and developed an interest in astronomy around the age of 12, influencing his career path. He studied physics in Bonn/Germany before doing his PhD in astrophysics at Potsdam/Germany. Since 2000 Jurgen has worked at the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation (CfAI) at Durham University.

Jurgen’s current work focuses mostly on design, integration and test of optical components used in astronomical research. Projects include the high resolution spectrograph SALT-HRS, the dark energy survey instrument DESI, the balloon borne telescope SuperBIT and the Cherenkov Telescope Array CTA.

Jurgen has built various telescopes and observatories for private use mostly in the field of deep sky imaging. He is involved in outreach and a member of committees of various astronomical groups such as, Kielder Observatory, Teesside Astronomical Science Centre (TASC), Cleveland and Darlington Astronomical Society (CaDAS) and Durham Astronomical Society (DAS). He was technical advisor for the architectural competition for the North Pennines Community Observatory at ACA.

While astronomy is about 3000 years old, the last 400 years meant a quantum leap as the most important ever tool for astronomers entered the scene - the telescope. This presentation sketches its development from the humble beginings to the top notch engineering projects of today and the future, including special cases as instruments for non-visible light or space telescopes.

John Bowers and Tim Shaw - John has a varied academic background having made contributions to research in psychology, sociology, computer science, and art and design. He is also a sound and inter-media artist who works with modular synthesisers, home-brew electronics, and reconstructions of antique image and sound-making devices, alongside contemporary digital technology. He makes performance environments which combine sound, image and gesture at a fundamental material level. He has performed at festivals including the collateral programme of the Venice Biennale, Piksel Bergen, Electropixel Nantes, BEAM Uxbridge and Spill Ipswich, and toured with the Rambert Dance Company performing David Tudor’s music to Merce Cunningham’s Rainforest. He contributed to the design of The Prayer Companion - a piece exhibited twice at the Museum Of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, and acquired for their permanent collection. Amongst many musical collaborations, he works with Sten-Olof Hellström, Tim Shaw and in the noise drone band Tonesucker. John Bowers works in Culture Lab and Fine Art, Newcastle University, where he helps coordinate research on Digital Cultures.

Tim has worked internationally as an artist, performer, sound designer and researcher. His practice is situated within media art and draws upon soundscape and electroacoustic composition, performance making and DIY technology. Collaboration plays a central role in his approach, he has been lucky enough to make artistic work with Chris Watson, John Bowers and Sébastien Piquemal. Shaw has presented work in various venues worldwide including Café OTO, NIME, Piksel, Eastern Bloc, Abandon Normal Devices and FACT Liverpool.

John Bowers Alan Smith Louise K Wilson and Peter Mathews CHTHONIC Alan, Louise, John and Peter entered Smallcleugh mine in Nenthead, Cumbria to settle into the vast cavern (now known as the Ballroom) which was cut out of solid limestone by lead miners; The Ballroom gets its name from an event that that took place on September the 2nd 1901 when around 30 local people travelled into the mine for a village dinner party and dance.

Not only were the five challenged with existing in in the extreme subterranean environment for 72 hours, they were faced with finding a purpose, an appropriate way of responding to the extraordinary location and consideration of appropriate outcomes.


The Participants

Aleksandra Akromaitė  The prospect of participation in this laboratory really caught my attention. Usually I do my research by reading, mapping and listening, with the focus of my work on in-between the main field and the margins. The topic of this laboratory correlates to my professional discourses and areas of investigations since my bachelor years. One of my enquiry thesis was about walking man phenomenon through analysis of historical contexts, figures, incidents and its institutionalization in society, e.g. the state of fugue, dromomania. I think, it has developed into the current feeling of weightlessness that takes the material form of an astronaut in a cosmic station. I mark suspension as the inner state/symptom of humans today: there is no longer the Walking Man of Giacometti with a solid ground under his feet, just a man in suspension. And with this kind of wondering, the concept of horizon disappears, the ingrained mental kinship between the wonderer and the horizontal line crumbles, which was determined as a necessity, formed by illusion. And this new type of space comprehension prevails, it’s were the vertical line is invisible, however, is essential in perception. It also goes further, it has its externalization in everyday surroundings. For example, the possibility of evacuating a building is changing: to get out of a skyscraper safely is not to use the stairs, but parachute your way to the sky. The sign of the running man through the door starts to float.

The philosophic discourse on the cosmos is regular in my research (practical and theoretical work), as a transparent mantle. I analyse different summands of science, philosophy and psychology that intertwine and usually, instead of providing an answer, I raise new hypothesis or questions. Such an exploration avoids brackets, it does not signify stagnation, it offers a possibility to be supplemented through dialogue and space, time.

Brian Degger  Beyond'ing The process of going beyond requires a leap that ultimately connects back. Science instrumentation allows us to go beyond the limits of human perceptions, a bootstrapping of making things to see things that enables us to make better things to 'see' things. I am interested in how this extention of the mental gaze informs our ideas of the world, how the concentration of thought on a subject makes that concrete. That results in an instrument that waits to detect a gravity wave or confirm their existance. Or a telescope that will see a black hole.

As a concrete experience I would like to explore the possibility of catching a glimpse of the human habitated space station from the observatory at Allenheads.

As an workshop/ I want to find water bears/tardegrades.These are small organisms that have characteristics that would be very useful in humans that explore space. They are fairly radiation prof and can survive low pressure and boiling. They are the extremeophiles of the extremeophiles and extremeophiles really are beyond. Can we find them on rocks around allenheads? One way to find out. Doing the experiment.

Christian Doeller  I like to think of an artist as a scientist who builds his/her assumptions and experiments on observations of modified worlds formed by including the „insignificant“ things that are usually left behind. They are often unbound to default rules and formulas, and thus everything seems to be possible within their framework.

About fifty years ago similar thinking has led to utopian world models of which some have been transferred into reality and at the same time into their necessary failure. It seems that since then Utopia has earned major loss in popularity. But did it really fail altogether? What could Utopia be today and how can we use it to adjust our future way of living?

Not only the future plays a role in investigating these modified worlds – also the present can be seen in various different ways. Many technologies were invented to unveil processes parallel to our bounded perception. But, unluckily, they rarely make us perceive what we did not program them to do so. Therefore I am fascinated by diverting technologies from their intended use in order to open up spaces for and beyond imagination.

The night sky certainly is one of those spaces. It inhabits a vast amount of possibility for imagination and utopian vision that has been used for hundreds of years. Until now the night sky has also been one of the major influences throughout my artistic thinking – not only because it provides possibility for different worlds in a very direct sense, but also because we know so little about it: every assumption of any kind has its equivalent right to exist until it is „proven wrong“.

I am working on a project called „Habitable Zone“ (since 2014) that includes all of the above: constructing an imaginary world with endless possibilities, experimenting with technologies as images of what is not perceivable and reflecting on the night sky and on the discoveries of yet unknown planetary systems.

Laurynas Skeisgiela  In the context of this workshop (art + astronomy) this pretentious word “BEYOND” comes both naturally and paradoxically. Art and science share the desire for the beyond and in doing so, they face the blurry line between the discovery and the creation. Between the light waves collected by the lens and a projection of the imagination of what is to be seen. Between conceptualism of Bas Jan Ader and romanticism of Elon Musk.

Beyond is constant. Or the "object" is to be seen, or it is already being replaced by the new one. Much more uncertain and thought-provoking is our way to the beyond.

"As speaking for visual perception, it is historically shifting, because anticipatory knowledge of what to be seen is changing. And It is being affected by different factors, techniques of looking." Erika Grigoravičienė

As in a daily life, on our way to the beyond we are lacking the first-hand experience. Media here faces us first. And media itself is a message. By gazing for the unseen, we are unconsciously working with systems of looking and experiencing, presupposed by the medias around us.

So, while reaching the BEYOND, there is a chance to spot something. In my opinion, it would be yourself gazing for it.

Daina Pupkevičiūtė  "Beyond" really reminded me of this great performance in public space event "BBeyond" which is happening in Belfast, organized by some of the greatest performance artists in Europe, so this sparked the initial interest. But really I am looking for an input for my artistic practice and when reading through the call for this laboratory, I thought that this experience might be the right thing for me at this moment, and not only because I keenly read sci-fi. What I seek is to find something that would be beyond what I work with / on, thus an inspirational and transformational experience.

II feel that I am in a sort of difficult moment of my practice - I want to produce works and do not want to produce works. I feel that it is mostly connected to my political views and how I am experiencing the state of overproduction which we find ourselves in in mostly all spheres of human activity. But working on the ephemeral - sound and performance - is a nice midway situation which allows the work to be produced and not to have any physical remnants after it's been performed / presented. I am also pretty open to collaborating with different artists and seeing what might come up, and not necessarily sound-wise.

Patrick J Reed  I wanted to join the “Beyond” laboratory because of its remote location, coupled with the theme, creates the ideal platform for an investigation of loneliness on a cosmic level. In contexts beyond the social, the cultural, and even the biosphere, I want to know: what value does the emotional phenomenon of loneliness have? Does it remain a tool to remind us of our humanity, or does it become a dangerous and inescapable pain more all-encompassing than the night sky?

The rocket man Elton John sings that “it’s lonely out in space,” pessimistically implying that there is nothing but void. In contrast, NASA research astronomer Natalie Batalha speaks to the possibilities of intergalactic love and the great release from celestial isolation that such an experience might bring. Regardless of the authors’ respective credentials, the tension between their claims motivates my own contemplation of the issue: might there be an option apart from the all or nothing binary of these two sentiments? Is it possible to find solace, to divest oneself of ennui, amid the indifferent rocks of space? As a workshop participant, I will operate in this questioning mode, open to potentials of human/astronomical connection–including the possibility that there are none. That said, I look forward to forging human connections by exchanging and transferring knowledge with experts in fields adjacent to and unlike my own–all in pursuit of answers to what happens when we “slip the surly bonds of earth.”

John W Fail BEYOND is a beautiful word, inviting itself to be read in an infinitely-expanding amount of ways. Modernism challenged us to become active in our readings of literature, art, etc; the self became the site of production of meaning, or rather values, and the role of the Artist took its first stumble towards irrelevance. As this accelerated (not strictly, in my opinion, through postmodernist theory, but also significantly because of the psychedelic age), the ‘starting point’ became a dominant, unofficial, and yet frequently spoken expression of artistic production. While commercial pressure shapes ideas towards definitive outcomes (in terms of products, commodities, etc.), and the thin conspiracy of contemporary art offers and endless selection of disorganised notes presented as ‘artistic research’ (aka starting points), it’s the space between which feels underdeveloped - the space beyond, to tie this together nicely.

Can we move beyond a starting point (which may be chosen in some arbitrary way) and actually inhabit the space beyond? Can one challenge the idea of the self, not in being some identity of an ‘artist’ but as a fluid, plural scope of possibilities that responds to the current political-economic realities?

On a personal note, I have found myself in a state of paralysis as a musician for the past few years, because of the concept of abstract sound conjuring images and meaning. After repeatedly failing to justify what a sound I have recorded ‘means’, what lies beyond the waveform, etc., I have essentially abandoned the practice, which was once central to my self-identity. It’s probably been good to shed that identity, but I would like to make music again.

From our rural base we provoke questions, encourage discussion and stimulate positive advances in art practice

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