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BEYOND the conference

Alan Smith + Helen Ratcliffe ACA

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

Thanks to all of the contributors and participants of the BEYOND conference. 

It was a fantastic day and evening.


To launch BEYOND we hosted a conference with presentations by artists, curators, scientists and trans-discipline academic researchers. The aim of the conference was to consider what might lay BEYOND our current knowledge. This was an open ended starting point and catalyst for discussion, research and the creation of new work. 


Contributors included: international curator Rob La Frenais with Martine Michard from presenting EXOPLANET where artists were asked to re-imagine their region as a near earth planet; Rachel Armstrong and Rolf Hughes from Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University who will traverse the fields of architecture, biomedicine, darkness and the 'void' of interstellar space.

Dr Pete Edwards Durham University 

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

Martine Michard MAGCP

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

Caroline Le Méhauté

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

Rob La Frenais

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

Experimental Architecture

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

Chris Welch

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

Alan Smith Louise K Wilson John Bowers

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

Ben Freeth and Mariam Rezaei

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

Tim Shaw John Bowers

Image: Nat Wilkins /ACA

John Bowers, Alan Smith and Louise K Wilson presented Chthonic a 3 day subterranean experience linking ACA’s interest in the realms of the underground with those of infinite space;  Chris Welch from the International Space University in Strasbourg shared his knowledge on the newest technologies and discoveries in space exploration; and Dr Pete Edwards from Durham University who talked about the invisible yet accountable nature of dark matter and dark energy.

The word BEYOND will lure us to a place that has not yet been arrived at or is further than we can currently reach or see. 


Residency opportunities for artists and information on the forthcoming programme at ACA will be announced at the event.


The conference program Programme 


The event was in 2 parts:

Part one: The Mining Institute 10.30 – 5pm
10.30 – 10.45 Registration & refreshments in the Library
ACA Curators Helen Ratcliffe & Alan Smith


Dr Peter Edwards, Durham University
Pete is Director of Science Outreach and Science and Society at the Department of Physics, Durham University. He is a member of the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy and the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology. Introducing humankind’s wonder at things beyond our reach, his talk turns to the dark side of the universe; the mysterious dark matter whose gravity provides the cosmic glue that holds it together, and dark energy which is gradually tearing the universe apart.


12.10 – 1.05 EXOPLANET
International curator Rob La Frenais, MAGCP (Maison des Arts Centre George Pompidou) Director, Martine Michard & artist Caroline Le Méhauté
The EXOPLANET project was a site-specific project which took place under one of Europe’s darkest skies in the Lot Valley in SW France 2016. The project proposed a metamorphosis in which the region was imagined as a human-inhabited exoplanet. Anticipating variations in physical reality and unpredictable futures, artists invested this space with the development of new artistic and technological adaptation strategies. The creative outcomes will be presented and discussed along with future ideas for EXOPLANET.


Caroline Le Méhauté has created a new work to launch BEYOND and the North Pennines Observatory at ACA’s Gallery in Allenheads.

1.10 – 1.55 LUNCH


2.00 – 2.55 AS BELOW, SO BEYOND
Experimental Architecture Group: Rachel Armstrong, Simone Ferracina, Rolf Hughes, School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape, Newcastle University.
This presentation takes us from the heart of the Nenthead mines out into the void of interstellar space. In the transitioning encountered between  realms, we meet a range of characters – from liquid life, to quantum foam and angels.


‘Darkness is not nothingness. If you stay still long enough, something will happen. Your retinal discharges become  fireworks, the squirming of your innards feels like a voluntary command and your skin becomes a sudden expansion of your brain. Now, nothingness is not an absence but many presences that cancel each other out. In this realm of sensory deprivation fifty metres below the ground, our senses are reorganised through dreams, neuroses and desires that are no longer hidden. It is impossible to tell whether we’re within inner, our outer space, if we’re still, in transit, or which way up we are. Gradually, we acquire alternative registers from which we make a new kind of sense from our Chthonic existence. The dripping of the ground water is the beat of life reconfiguring itself, but we do not yet recognise its patterns, or rules and so, this nothingness remains pluripotent – unpredictable.’

3.00 – 3.15 CHTHONIC
Louise K Wilson with Alan Smith & John Bowers
An introduction to CHTHONIC which will be presented in full during the evening event at Culture Lab along with a lively programme that creatively explores the themes of BEYOND.


Prof. Chris Welch, International Space University (ISU) Strasbourg
This presentation will explain the difficulties posed by travel outside our own solar system, outline the implications of relativity for interstellar travellers, describe some of the options for propelling interstellar vehicles and discuss some of
alternatives approaches to interstellar travel. Chris is a resident Faculty Member of the International Space University of Strasbourg and a Visiting Lecturer in Spacecraft Propulsion at Cranfield University in the UK. He’s also a winner of the Sir Arthur Clarke Award for Space Education and a Director of the World Space Week Association. His current research interests include space propulsion, microgravity science and planetary exploration.


With lashings of tea, coffee and cake.


5.00 – 7.00 BREAK
A chance to grab some fresh air, food and drink before reconvening at Newcastle University for the evening programme.

Part two: evening at the Ballroom in Culture Lab - short presentations, showcase of artworks and live performance by the Digital Cultures Research Group.


The Ballroom, Culture Lab, Newcastle University
Hospitality table with beer, wine and snacks (donations gratefully accepted for drinks).


A lively evening programme presenting work that creatively explores the themes of Beyond through film, performed music and text, and critical  discussion. Including:


Louise K. Wilson, Alan Smith and John Bowers will discuss their project Chthonic where spending 72 hours together underground in a disused lead mine has prompted a series of sound, image and textual works, exploring, amongst other topics, our altered perception in extreme environments.


Making Ground

Experimental Architecture Group: Rachel Armstrong, Simone Ferracina and Rolf Hughes will describe their proposal, presented at the 2017 Venice Biennale, to construct a new island for the city of Venice through a bricolage of found objects and storytelling.


CV/Gate - Uncontrolled Voltages
Ben Freeth will explore skin, gravitational waves, radiation, dry ice and other lively materials using a variety of measurement
technologies to create a performance which goes beyond the distinction between human and non-human.


The Golden Record and The De-Realisation Effect
Will show movies by Jez Coram which create new possibilities for the cinematic essay that respond to our contemporary cultural and technological condition and anticipate new forms of being.


Psychogeosonic Annual Report 2016/2017: First Draft
Tim Shaw and John Bowers will perform and transform the corpus of extended field recordings that they have made in the last year. This will include recordings at locations around the world as well as radio waves from the planet Jupiter and attempts to contact the dead.


Rob Blazey
Rob will perform his self-made musical instruments, based around a collage/bricolage principle for assembling the materials of which they are made and the sounds which they make, evoke or transform.


This event was supported by:

Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice

Arts Council England, Lottery Funded

MAGCP, France

Digital Cultures Research Group, Culture Lab, Newcastle University



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