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Limelight Illumination timecode: 0 000000 Llangattock, Wales, 2016 © Rob Smith and Charles Danby.

Rob Smith
PhD Alumni, Northumbria University

Rob Smith’s practice explores how digital tools and material processes can expand approaches to sited and situated arts practices, generating new understandings of human interrelations with their environment.

Working within the extended temporalities proposed by the Anthropocene his recent research has engaged with the material agency of limestone, the North Sea and the technological infrastructures that enable access to remote locations. Through these investigations he has developed understandings of site that expands beyond the spatial limits of its geographic boundaries as an eventful meeting of actants that emerges in time.

He is currently developing a new collaborative work with Charles Danby, The Polymorphic Carbonlibrary, opening at The Common Room of the Great North opening Summer 2021. Recent projects have been exhibited at The Experimental Studio at Baltc39, Cardiff Contemporary, Newbridge Projects, Wysing Arts Centre and IMT Gallery. Rob has also recently contributed to symposia and conferences at The Incidental Futures hosted by the Incidental Unit at South London Gallery, Granular; The Material Properties of Noise at Greenwich University, and Postcards from the Anthropocene at Edinburgh University.

He is also a co-director of Field Broadcast and ArtHouses an annual arts festival in Whitley Bay.

Thesis Title:
Composing Doggerland: How can the North Sea inform new approaches to situated arts practices in the context of the Anthropocene? Composing Doggerland: How can the North Sea inform new approaches to situated arts practices in the context of the Anthropocene?

This practice led Fine Art investigation of the North Sea develops new approaches to situated arts practices within the context of the changed relationships between humans and the environment, proposed by the Anthropocene.

The proposition of this new geological epoch suggests an un-grounding of the Earth, where ‘Nature’ can no longer provide a stable background for human actions, demanding alternative narratives of human interactions with the planet. By bringing human histories into proximity with geomorphic change, the North Sea makes these complexities apparent, and calls for new approaches to a site that becomes delocalised, mobile and distributed across different temporal and spatial scales.
Through my artworks, this research proposes a speculative methodology to address the North Sea as a complex assemblage of human and nonhuman actants. It approaches the North Sea through the vibrant materiality of Jane Bennett (2010)and explores ideas of composition put forward by Bruno Latour (2010, 2014) and Donna Harraway (2016), to expand spatial understandings of site. By asking how sites emerge within the material interactions of an assemblage, this research offers insights into how multiple sites of the North Sea are composed in time, engaging with its historic past as Doggerland, the methods and technologies through which it becomes apparent today, and possible futures that are proposed in the context of rising sea levels and the end of North Sea oil production.

This thesis develops original understandings of a distributed site within which agency is shared across multiple actants; moving from a singular representation of the North Sea, towards a situation in which multiple instances of it are composed temporarily, before being recomposed into new sites. As such, this thesis argues that a site can no longer be understood as a spatially limited local concept. Instead it is realised as a generative position that presents an effective way to investigate the animated interrelations within the assemblage of the North Sea, that can inform new understandings of site in the context of the Anthropocene.

Award Date: 20/01/2019

Principal Supervisor: Rona Lee

Second Supervisor: Allan Hughes

Advisor: Andrea Phillips Full Thesis
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