Ricarda Vidal - Visual Culture

A very short conference and a very long dinner
Saturday 20 June 2009, 14.00-21.30


Conference 14.00-17.00
Starr Auditorium, Level 2, Tate Modern
14.00 Welcome by Marko Daniel and Konstantinos Stefanis
14.15 Sadie Plant
On texts, tweets, and other short messages: what counts is not length, but density
14.45 Tom Shakespeare
Short, and to the point
Aristotle wrote ‘Small people can be neat and well proportioned but can never be beautiful’. Why is there a fascination with shortness and what does it mean? Brevity in a quotation achieves aphoristic memorability. To paint a luminous miniature, to inscribe a prayer on a grain of rice, or to create a tiny camera or mobile phone is admired virtuosity. But when people come in small sizes, ambivalence reigns.
15.15 Lia Perjovschi
I want to know as much as possible (in general) so I don’t have time to lose. The excess of information makes me appreciate what is short, concentrated, selected. I do the same with what I know in my projects CAA/CAA, timeliness, diagrams, Knowledge Museum.Dan Perjovschi (Presented by Lia Perjovschi)
I am not exotic, I am exhausted
I draw the world while walking it. Non-stop. I act quick but with a lot of thinking. My drawings look spontaneous, but they are not. I transport my drawings from one wall to another. If it is erased in New York it is showing up in Paris. The wall is repainted in Santiago de Chile but not in Copenhagen. Gone in Amsterdam, opened in Frankfurt, big museums, small artist-run spaces, lobbies, offices, windows, concrete floors, black walls, just walls. I keep my drawings alive hence I keep the topics in the discussion. Temporary drawings made with permanent markers.
15.45 Paul D Miller aka DJ Spooky
A ‘sample’ proposes several paradoxes in one instant: it exists in the realm of mathematics, where it is used to correlate everything from information theory to the census, to how we measure climate change. But most of us are more familiar with the musical use of the term. This discussion will focus on some of the strange and intriguing connections between how a sample is used in a song, to how the world of the ‘soundbite’ has become our modern information culture’s basic unit of how we produce ‘meaning’ in a world of info overload.
16.15 Panel discussion chaired by Steven Connor (followed by Q&A)
17.00 Refreshments in the Starr Foyer
Tim Collins and Kathryn Partridge from creative agency St. Luke’s will be posting short updates about Shortness on Twitter throughout the day. Follow @short_at_tate if you are signed up to Twitter. Even if you are not, you can go to twitter.com/short_at_tate to check out our profile. You can also join the ‘Short at Tate’ group on Facebook.



Dinner Programme, 18.00-21.30

East Room, Level 7, Tate Modern


18.00 Doors open
  • Short musical sets by Paul D Miller aka DJ Spooky will be played in the dinner intervals.
  • Tim Collins and Kathryn Partridge will be posting short updates about Shortness on Twitter throughout the day. Follow @short_at_tate if you are signed up to Twitter. Even if you are not, you can go to twitter.com/short_at_tate to check out our profile. You can also join the ‘Short at Tate’ group on Facebook.
18.20 Welcome by Ricarda Vidal and Nicholas Parsons
Alice McCabeTabledance (short film)A short stop-motion animation about the movement of objects and cutlery performed during an average dinner. However, no people are visible. Instead contact lens caps mark the changing location of cutlery, bowls and condiments. The action on the dinner table is commented on by a voice-over reminiscent of a local derby.
Steven ConnorLet Us See: Against the AbstractOnce upon a time, an abstract was an epitome or abridgement of a preexisting text. Now, in the form of the abstract, the outline, the proposal, the précis, the pitch, the taster, the trailer, it comes before the work of which it purports to be the redaction, ensuring that, as Lyotard puts it, what happens can happen only if it has already happened. (And this? Let us see.)
Jonathan AllenThe Fastest Trick in the WorldAlthough within theatrical magic performances the hand is indeed often quicker than the eye, very few magic routines take swiftness itself as a theme. An exception was American magician and magic inventor Al DeLage (Massachusetts, 1914-98), the self-styled ‘World’s Fastest Magician’. Jonathan Allen will set the latter’s whirlwind act in historical context before performing, with special guest-assistance from Nicholas Parsons, DeLage’s notorious ‘Fastest Trick in the World’.
19.00 Dinner BuffetIncludes

  • Yotam Ottolenghi
    Burrata with flat white peach
    For a short while at some point in the summer you can come across the odd (yet beautifully) formed flat white peach from France. It is sweet, not very acidic and has just the right degree of juiciness to make it an ideal counterpart to cheese. It looks misshapen, irregular, symmetrical.
    The cheese I have in mind is burrata from Puglia. It is also beautifully ugly – shaped like a little bumpy sack, tied with a green knot – and is creamier than mozzarella. In fact, it is so creamy and so unctuously rich you might be satisfied with a little bit of it. It’s so delicate that it has to be eaten within 2 days from the moment of production and within minutes from the point of serving. Breaking the outer firmish casing, you encounter a buttery centre made of fresh cream and unspun mozzarella curds.
    Serving and Presenation
    The ingredients of this dish have such striking shapes that you can make a spectacular central display using a large plate filled with the flat white peaches at room temperature (some cut in wedges and some whole) and a generous amount of burrata sacks (some broken and some whole). Sprinkle with a good serving of extra virgin olive oil, malton sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. You may decorate with whole basil leaves leaving some on their stems.
    Eat immediately!
  • Dinner Decoration by Sarah Sparkes
    For What We Are About to Receive
    Sarah Sparkes has designed and hand-painted decorative table runners for Shortness. These serve a practical function-protecting surfaces from spillages -but they also provide a topic for discussion and reflection amongst guests as they bear short phrases of varying degrees of seriousness. Hand-painted on disposable plastic the table runners are at once serviceable items and ephemeral artworks.
19.45 Anna Marie RoosShortly forged and broken: the mystery of Prince Rupert’s Glass Drops
In the seventeenth century, Prince Rupert of Bavaria showed King Charles II of England what he called ‘great-trick glasses’, teardrop shaped beads quickly formed by dropping molten glass into cold water. The bulbous head can withstand hammering on an anvil, but breaking the curved, tapered tail shatters the entire drop into fine powder. King Charles, a lover of practical jokes, would have subjects hold the bulb end in their palms, and then he’d break off the tip, startling the victims with a harmless little explosion. These little and short-lived glass beads were the talk of London and a focal interest of the Royal Society, investigated by no less than the famous microscopist Robert Hooke. This talk will elucidate their history and the physics of how they work, currently of interest to manufacturers of tempered glass.
Colleen Becker
B&I‘For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn’, by Ernest Hemingway, is the most famous piece of flash fiction ever written. His six words contain a narrative arc, albeit one that relies on the reader’s interpretation for its completion. Would it have retained its tragic poignancy had Hemingway fleshed out the story behind the words in traditional narrative fashion? Probably not. Its critics claim that flash fiction is a ‘false’ form of writing, neither prose poetry nor ‘real’ story telling. With five hundred to one thousand words, a successful work of flash fiction relies precisely on its lack of volume, and the unwritten words are those that produce the story. Colleen Becker will read one of her flash fiction works.
Niki Woods & Julia WilsonJust Add ButterThe shortest war on record took place in 1896 when Zanzibar surrendered to Britain after 38mins. Performed in the form of a Pecha Kucha—a short illustrated talk that will attempt (and possibly fail) to re-enact the shortest war in history whilst preparing shortbread cookies, the quickest cookies to make with the shortest list of ingredients (only 3)!
Natasha DegenCollecting Immaterial, Ephemeral and Short-Lived ArtAs recent art history has shown, economic recessions often precipitate a departure from the material, buyable object. The stagnant seventies, for instance, saw the advent of installation, performance and body art, and the emergence of an improvisatory, ephemeral aesthetic. Today, the days of diamond-encrusted skulls are over and the art object, in an increasingly digital world, is losing its immediacy. What does this mean for collecting?
Jon MeyerNaked ShortsThis talk concerns the short and the long in finance. The goal in shorting is to own a negative number of instruments which you sell high and then buy low, as opposed to the usual way of buying a positive number of instruments low and selling high. To understand this, the speaker will attempt to perform a naked short with members of the audience. A brief financial accreditation course in shorting and a stress test are included at no charge. The speaker ends by probing naked shorts in art.
20.20 Coffee and Dessert Break
20.50 Clare WigfallWriting short stories – the art of saying it all in as few words as possibleWhy is it commonly believed that it’s more difficult to write a short story than a novel? What are the specific challenges the form demands? And what is it that makes them so wonderful? Clare Wigfall will discuss these questions and conclude with a very short story of her own.
Matthew Steven CarlosμPeople often assume enlightenment takes a long time to achieve, and once attained lasts eternity. In Zen Buddhism, enlightenment is momentary, like ‘the spark from a flint stone’. Short ‘kataphatic’ aphorisms teach of ‘wisdom that knows at a glance’. Terse and deadly logical traps (koans) are sprung by monks against each other. Patriarchs challenge their students to convey the whole of Buddhist teaching in eight lines of poetry – the winner earning Buddha’s legendary begging bowl. Because such tricks and teachings are designed to take seconds, seven minutes is more than sufficient to illustrate these unique forms of philosophical discourse, spiritual teaching and ancient Asian cultural phenomena. And with the left-over time we’ll pull the four divisions of Tokyo out of our sleeves. Presentation accompanied by a film made in collaboration with Sean Kaminisky, Jodi Patterson, Henry Warwick and Elliot Erwin.
James WilkesSpring-Summer CollectionPerformance of the poem ‘Spring-Summer Collection’; an imaginary fashion show which showcases six poetic outfits, none of which are really designed to last.
Mikhail KarikisTightening the RingFrom the first extreme temporal challenge in classical music, Wagner’s opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung consisting of four epic parts, to Stockhausen’s operatic work Licht: The Seven Days of the Week lasting a total of 29 hours and Roger Doyle’s multivolume composition Passades stretching a few seconds of sound-material to several hours, the musical avant-garde has expanded the temporal boundaries of musical composition. Similarly but also in contrast to music composed for the concert hall, pop, electronica and dance music, with the use of DJing and digital sound technologies have given birth to sound-sampling, which fragments, isolates and re-contextualises moments of music, both democratizing the practice of composition by making it accessible to non-trained musicians, and opening novel possibilities to generate new music solely with the use of short sound-samples. Combining what at first might appear to be contrasting approaches to temporality in concert-hall and dance-floor music, and in response to the theme of shortness, this performance will be the shortest ever version of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle, shrinking it with the use of digital technology and maintaining high sound-fidelity, to a total of one minute, making of it a short sound-sample which contains the entire four operas.
21.30 End




Jonathan Allen is a London-based visual artist and writer. His work explores the articulation of belief within a purportedly secular modernity, examining most recently theatrical magic’s somewhat errant cultural history. Selected group and solo exhibitions include The Great Transformation at Frankfurter Kunstverein (2008); Kalanag at David Risley Gallery, London (2007); The Dictionary of War at Sophiensaele, Berlin (2007); Belief 1st Singapore Biennale (2006); Tommy Angel at David Risley Gallery, and at Tate Britain with Duckie (2006). In 2007 Allen guest-edited an issue of the New York based art and culture quarterly Cabinet on the theme of magic, and is currently co-curating a Hayward Gallery National Touring exhibition with the writer Sally O’Reilly.


Colleen Becker is an American writer based in London. In 2008, she read her work at the London Short Story Festival and published her flash fiction piece ‘B&I’ in Tales of the DeCongested vol. 2, an anthology of stories presented at the monthly reading event at Foyle’s bookshop in London. She holds a PhD in Art History from Columbia University, and has published several pieces of art journalism about emerging artists in New York City. Currently, she is working on a screenplay as well as a number of short stories.


Matthew Steven Carlos is a Zen monk in the lineages of masters Dogen and Ikkyu; a philosophy professor in the widely divergent tutelage of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek; and a philanthropist who has consulted with National Governments, the Academy, and NGOs such as One Laptop Per Child in the areas of technology, art and education. Occasionally he is inspired to write Sufi love poems under the full moon. 


Tim Collins is the author of nine books including The Little Book of Twitter, a short introduction to the phenomenon of micro blogging, where all updates must be 140 characters or fewer. He has written for many websites, magazines and newspapers, and he works as a copywriter for the ad agency St Luke’s. St. Luke’s is the longest running independent creative agency in London and is wholly owned by its employees. As well as traditional advertising, St. Luke’s offering also includes social media marketing.


Steven Connor is Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck College London, where he has taught since 1979. He is also the College Orator. He is Academic Director of the London Consortium Graduate Programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies. His most recent books are The Book of Skin (London: Reaktion, 2004) and Fly, on the history of the fly in poetry, painting, religion and science (London: Reaktion 2006). His Next to Nothing, a history on the poetics of the air, is forthcoming, and he is writing a book called Paraphernalia, on magical objects.


Natasha Degen is a PhD candidate and a Gates Scholar at Cambridge University, having previously studied at Princeton University. She also contributes to the Financial Times, Artforum and Frieze. 


Mikhail Karikis Coined by critics a Sound alchemist (Le Monde) and gaining critical recognition for his debut album Orphica, Mikhail Karikis’ genre-challenging practice is equally embraced by the art-gallery and the concert-hall. With collaborators ranging from pop-artist Björk, members of the Hilliard Ensemble to artist Sonia Boyce, and commissions by Prada, the University of Oxford and international museums, Karikis’ oeuvre explores auditory culture and the politics of difference. Karikis’ work has been shown at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Tate Modern, BAFTA, BFI, Musée des Beaux Arts de Nîmes, Nederlands Dans Theater; it has been published world-wide by MIT Press, Sub Rosa records and the University of Oxford.


Irini Marinaki is a PhD candidate at the London Consortium and works as conference and events organiser. She is also co-director of Betting on Shorts short-film festival www.bettingonshorts.com and co-organiser of Shortness.


Alice McCabe was born in Australia and moved to London when she was six. Deeply inspired by a show of Arthur Boyd’s work at Australia House in 1996, she realised that she wanted to be a painter. 


Jon Meyer is an artist based in New York and the recipient of a 2009 NYFA Fellowship award. In September he will be a visiting artist in the critical studies department of the California College of Art. Meyer is co-founder of Remediality, a critical theory group, and he consults for the hedge fund Blue Mountain Capital. He has a background in cognitive and computer science. His investment strategy is to keep his money in cash under the bed, and he advises everyone to buy art. He can be found blogging at jon-meyer.blogspot.com. 


Paul D Miller aka DJ Spooky is a composer, multimedia artist and writer. His written work has appeared in The Village Voice, The Source, Artforum and Rapgun amongst other publications. Miller’s work as a media artist has appeared in a wide variety of contexts such as the Whitney Biennial; the Venice Biennial for Architecture (2000); the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany; Kunsthalle, Vienna; the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and many other museums and galleries. His work New York Is Now has been exhibited in the Africa Pavilion of the 52 Venice Biennial 2007, and the Miami/Art Basel fair of 2007. Miller’s first collection of essays, entitled Rhythm Science came out on MIT Press 2004. His book Sound Unbound, an anthology of writings on electronic music and digital media was recently released by MIT Press. Miller’s deep interest in reggae and dub has resulted in a series of compilations, remixes and collections of material from the vaults of the legendary Jamaican label, Trojan Records. Other releases include Optometry (2002), a jazz project featuring some of the best players in the downtown NYC jazz scene, and Dubtometry (2003) featuring Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Mad Professor. Miller’s latest collaborative release, Drums of Death, features Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Chuck D of Public Enemy among others. He also produced material on Yoko Ono’s new album Yes, I’m a Witch.


Yotam Ottolenghi After a short career in the sphere of thoughts and words, Yotam Ottolenghi U-turned into the material world when he came to London in 1997 to study cookery. He worked in several restaurants and patisseries before setting up his own Ottolenghi, an animal with many heads: restaurant, food shop, deli, cafe, patisserie, bakery. He writes a food column for the Guardian’s weekend magazine and has recently co-written his first recipe book.


Nicholas Parsons has done pretty well everything in show business. He has starred in the West End of London in a number of plays and musicals. In the 60s he was part of the top comedy show on ITV with Arthur Haynes for 10 years. Three years with Benny Hill. 14 years presenting the top Quiz Show Sale of The Century. Four years in the theatre in the cult musical The Rocky Horror Show, both in London and on tour. He is probably best known for his amazing comedy game show on Radio Four Just a Minute, which has been running for over 40 years.


Kathryn Partridge has worked at St. Luke’s creative agency as a Digital Content Manager for two years. She launched thedailyaphorism.com with cultural enterprise The School of Life and has twittered on behalf of Mills & Boon to protest against Virgin’s kissing ban at Warrington Bank Quay station, which resulted in its dissolution and currently, Avon Cosmetics who are trying to locate their first ever UK TV ad through Twitter. Her favourite aphorism is ‘Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.’ Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) St. Luke’s is the longest running independent creative agency in London and is wholly owned by its employees. As well as traditional advertising, St. Luke’s offering also includes social media marketing.


Dan Perjovschi was born in 1961 in Sibiu, Romania. He lives and works in Bucharest. His recent solo exhibitions include What Happened to US? at MoMA New York and I am not Exotic I am Exhausted at Kunsthalle Basel in 2007, The Room Drawing at Tate Modern London, On the Other Hand at Portikus Frankfurt in 2006 and Naked Drawings at Ludwig Museum Cologne in 2005. Perjovschi received the George Maciunas Prize in 2004.


Lia Perjovschi was born in 1961 in Sibiu, Romania. She lives and works in Bucharest. From working body art to working with the body of art. Research into modern and contemporary art, from diagram drawings to info rooms. She has had solo shows at Wilkinson Gallery London (2008), Kristine Konig Gallery Wien, Nasher museum Duke NC US, Yujiro Gallery London Kuntsraum (2007) Innsbruck Projectroom (2006) and Endless Collection at Goppingen Kunstverein (2003). She has participated in numerous international exhibitions.


Sadie Plant is a British author and philosopher. She taught at the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick before leaving academia in the early 1990s to pursue a writing career. She has researched and published widely on cyber culture and technology.


Anna Marie Roos is a historian of early modern science and medicine, and a research associate at the Wellcome Unit, University of Oxford. She was formerly a history professor at the University of Minnesota, and has written two books, Luminaries in the Natural World: Perceptions of the Sun and Moon in England, 1400-1720 (New York, 2001), and Salt of the Earth: Natural Philosophy, Medicine, and Chymistry in England (Leiden, 2007).


Tom Shakespeare is a bioethicist and sociologist. He has worked on bioethics, science engagement and on various writing and performance projects, exploring stories and characters related to genetics and disability.


Sarah Sparkes is an artist and curator. Her practice includes painting, installation, sculpture and film. She has exhibited extensively in the UK and has recently shown at Nettie Horn, Sartorial Art Gallery and Scope Art Fair as well as at numerous artist project spaces. Curatorial projects include: Driven at the Fieldgate Gallery, Real Life at the Portman Gallery, Chutney 2–The Rot Sets In a public event on Camberwell Green and part of Camberwell Arts Week and with Ricarda Vidal, GHost a night of artists films, performances and installations at St John on Bethnal Green.


Konstantinos Stefanis is completing his PhD at the London Consortium and works as conference and events organiser. He is co-director of Betting on Shorts short-film festival www.bettingonshorts.com and co-organiser of Shortness.


Ricarda Vidal is Lecturer in Visual Culture at the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies (University of London). She also works as curator for video art and is founding director of Betting on Shorts short-film festival www.bettingonshorts.com and co-organiser of Shortness.


Clare Wigfall’s debut collection of short stories The Loudest Sound and Nothing (Faber and Faber) was published in 2007 to critical acclaim. In 2008 she won the BBC National Short Story Award for The Numbers, one of the stories from her collection. She currently lives in Berlin.


James Wilkes‘ poetry has been published widely in magazines and online, including in Intercapillary Space, Tears in the Fence and The London Magazine. He has produced two chapbooks and has been featured in the Archive of the Now and the anthologies Generation Txt, Veer Off and City State. He is currently a first-year PhD student with the London Consortium and is writing a radio drama about brain imaging technologies.


Julia Wilson is a lecturer in performance at the University of Salford and a freelance performer/devisor. As well as making and touring her own work she has worked with companies such as Reckless Sleepers, Chameleons, Index Theatre and Dogs of Heaven. She has delivered papers at (re)actor International conference and PARIP events. 


Niki Woods is an associate artist with award-winning group Blast Theory, a lecturer in Performance at the University of Salford and a member of Manchester based Plane Performance. She has toured nationally and internationally and delivered performance/papers at PS1, New York and the PARIP conference at Bretton Hall and Crew and Alsager.



Shortness is organised by Irini Marinaki, Konstantinos Stefanis, Ricarda Vidal and Tate Modern Public Programmes in collaboration with the London Consortium.
Supported by the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies (University of London) and LCACE.


This project would not have been realized without the support and assistance of Steven Connor, Naomi Segal, Jaekyung Lee, Kiriakos Giannatos and Rachel Steward. We would also like to thank nextnode.net for designing a short-lived website for Shortness and Dan Perjovschi for providing the image for our event.