Topos (2018) is a site-responsive A/V performance by Aaron James.
It is the product of three years work spent in-and-around Milton Keynes as part of artist collective Tracing the Pathway’s project Groundwork. During this time James considered how site-specific work has become increasingly assimilated into the capitalist logic of regeneration and value creation; and on a planet where the majority of the surface is mapped and apped, the concept of ‘site’ itself has become ever more problematic.
Drawing on the writer and academic Robin Mackey’s call to replace the question “how do I (qua artist) respond to this site” with the question “what is the site (qua nested material complex) responding to - what are the traumas that haunt it and drive it and how do they address me?” (Mackay, 2015), the work is both an explication of the critical concept site-specificity and an exploration on how “local and contingent phenomena focalise and express the universal - with the latter understood not as universal ratio or Hegelian Geist, but as a universal history of material contingency.” (ibid.)
Topos is therefore presented as a non-linear A/V triptych that explores utopian, dystopian and heterotopian visions of Milton Keynes through past, present and futures, juxtaposed with recent global events and the philosophical and political movement accelerationism. It is a development of James’ fascination with how place lives in harmony and disharmony with space and also features work developed in 2015 with the performance-maker, writer and ambulatory researcher, Phil Smith.
Aaron James is an artist, DJ, curator and researcher.
He has received commissions or presented work at leading european art institutions such as Tate (2015), Arnolfini (2016), National Galleries Scotland (2015), ZKM (2017) and Mo.E (2016) and has received press as a DJ from Time Out, The Guardian and Resident Advisor through the critically acclaimed event series Future History.
As an independent researcher, Aaron is currently working on a practice-as-research project entitled Live Curation: A Methodology Towards a New Platform for the Reception of Art. This explores whether the artist as curator and the audience as active agents in the curation of an exhibition, can curate an exhibition live and explicate art and curatorial knowledge relationally. His most recent exhibition Culture Is Not a Luxury! (2017) was called ‘one of the most exciting and challenging exhibitions of the last thirty years’ by the Scottish author Irvine Welsh.
He also recently produced and co-curated a three-day London based festival entitled Assembly of Disturbance (2017) with Test Dept (whom he also manages) in partnership with Red Gallery, Vice Magazine and The Quietus, which also marked the first major event of the recently founded Institute of Sonic Art.
He has been artist in residence as part of Groundwork; a performance and research project about Milton Keynes by artist collective Tracing the Pathway since 2015.