Neal White is an artist and researcher with a background in art and technology. His work draws on a recent history of art which has roots in experimental practice, conceptual and socially engaged forms.
In his collaborative practice with the Office of Experiments (founded 2004) he has led a series of projects that concern experimental forms of research. Frequently undertaken with fellow artists, academics and others within the network, the focus reflects on the growth of the techno-scientific and military industrial complex and is grounded in fieldwork that includes observational and documentary forms of media, temporary interventions and social or conceptual apparatus for experimentation, including bus tours and site visits.
FIELDWORK Q&A – November 2015
How is fieldwork part of your practice?
In 2008, having spent some time in the remote areas of the Western USA, around Utah with the Centre for Land Use Interpretation, I realised there was a link between this and the experimental activity I had been doing as an artist working in Labs and what you might call scientific enclosures. Working with Office of Experiments, an experimental art research group I co-founded in 2004, my interest remains in the expanded field of contemporary art, specifically its collective or institutions, centres and groups. That is, I am interested in how art that operates beyond the edges of the gallery space, beyond singular domains or disciplines, can connect what was not connected before. Fieldwork is a critical practice, a central method of putting work in context and being in context. The challenge and pleasure remains in connecting the gallery with this idea of fieldwork and thinking through of implications of how we think about both time and space, beyond the scientific or technological.
How would you describe your fieldwork activity?
Whilst in more remote regions, fieldwork is an essential aspect of the spatio-temporal enquiry, the fieldwork inside suburbia has a more social dimension. The link between these activities in the field is the same as between our ability as humans to understand our broader place in the environment and the world we experience of interiors, inside the world of capital, consuming or undertaking daily activity associated with productive work etc. Fieldwork demands a more experimental approach to daily experience, one that is conscious of both contemporary and historical approaches – but also crossing the nature/culture divide, inviting the senses in so to speak. So my own work has done just that, not only being out in the field myself, but in taking others on experimental tours to sites that they have only experienced through the social imaginary – secret sites, spaces of intelligence or knowledge production (high tech). This is going deep into the interior (heterotopias) and is similar to my work that explores the remote exterior, including the void of the deserts of the US. Sometimes, these cross over in new and interesting ways.
How are you currently sharing your fieldwork?
Most of my fieldwork either ends up in exhibition form, or some form of artistic practice, including bus tours and guides, small publications, databases, book chapters and talks – and includes maps, based on experimental tours of experimental sites. I am currently launching a new project in Belgium called ‘Centre of Centres’. We plan to do a lot of fieldwork, in and around Antwerp, but also in relation to artists practices and sites of collective engagement. We will be using a kiosk as a marker for the ‘Centre of Centres’, a mobile space for marking or providing access to specific sites of interest. It will also be a sort of mobile lab that will help us to undertake further fieldwork too.