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David works in media and space. His current research examines the role of media in the historiographies of sites of nuclear colonialism.

David holds a PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, an MSAAD from Columbia University, and a BArch from the University of Tennessee. For two decades he has written and led transdisciplinary curricula in architecture, art, and design in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

He leads Media Studies at the RCA School of Architecture and was previously the Director of Photography and Situated Media at the University of Technology Sydney. David is a co-founder, alongside Adam Kaasa and Thandi Loewenson, of the Fiction, Feeling, Frame research collective.

Key details

School, Centre or Area

Expertise

Gallery

  • Two Planes

    Two Planes

  • Two Tints

    Two Tints

  • Two Crosses

    Two Crosses

  • One Tint

    One Tint

  • Point of View, 2005

    Point of View, 2005

More information

David’s current research examines the role of media in the historiographies of sites of nuclear colonialism. His PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths was concerned with the Woomera Rocket Range in South Australia, specifically the British nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s and 60s at Maralinga. His dissertation traced the histories of Maralinga via its landscape, the effects of repeated acts of colonisation and remediation, and the devastating effects of the tests on Indigenous populations and their modes of living. The project was accompanied by an archive of found photography, drawings, court records, newsreels, scientific surveys, and memorabilia combined with new photography and moving image work completed during fieldwork in South Australia.

Publications

Books

Burns, D. (ed.) (2017). Fables for the Drone Age by Richard Goodwin. London: N Editions.

Burns, D. (2014) Jill Daves, Natalya Hughes. Sydney: N Editions.

Burns, D. (ed.) (2012) What Destroys What. Sydney: Firstdraft Gallery.

Articles and chapters

Burns, D. and Spurr, S. (2018) "How to be a Good Witness: The Architecture Curator". In: Brisbin, C. and Thiessen, M. (eds), The Routledge Companion to Criticality in Art, Architecture, and Design. London: Routledge, pp. 71-91.

Burns, D. (2017) "The Eyes Have It and the Eyes Always Will.". e-flux. 1 January 2017.

Burns, D. (2016) “The Pacific Solution.”. Disegno. Winter 2017.

Burns. D. (2014) "Precious Inhabitants." Exhibition essay for Corporate Foyer by Michael Moran. Sydney: Firstdraft.

Burns. D. (2014) "The Political Image." Subtext. Sydney: UTS Books.

Burns, D. (2015) “Agonistic Education.” Photofile. #96.

Exhibitions

Solo Exhibitions

(2012) Partial Architectures. EDGE studio Gallery. Pittsburgh, PA USA.

(2012) Partial Architectures. Gallery 103, Knoxville, TN USA.

(2009) Triptych 01. DAB LAB Gallery. Sydney, NSW Australia.

Group Exhibitions

(2014) Todd McMillan, Michael Moran, David Burns: New Work. Carlton Project Space. Sydney, Australia.

(2014) 20x20x20. NG Gallery. Sydney, Australia.

(2012) What Destroys What. Firstdraft Gallery. Sydney, Australia.

(2012) Past Futures, Present, Futures: 100 Reenactments. Storefront for Art and Architecture. New York, USA.

(2012) Co-isolated: Richard Goodwin, Michael Snape and David Burns. Orange Regional Gallery. Orange, Australia.

(2010) Co-isolated: Richard Goodwin, Michael Snape and David Burns. Sydney, Australia.

(2009) Remodelling Architecture. Sydney Customs House.

(2008) Abundant Australia. Australian Pavilion. Venice Architecture Biennale.

(2008) Iron Architect. Sydney Architecture Festival. Customs House. Sydney, Australia.

(2008) Sydney Future Visions. Sydney Customs House.

(2007) Artwalk. Andy Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh, USA.

(2007) Arise, Braddock, USA.

(2007) The Charm Bracelet Project. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

(2007) First Night Pittsburgh 2007. Three Rivers Arts Festival. Pittsburgh, USA.

(2006) Partisan Project. 5151 Gallery. Pittsburgh, USA.

(2006) AIGA PGH 100. 937 Liberty Gallery. Pittsburgh, USA.

(2006) unselfconscious ALABAMA. A Farmhouse Gallery. Auburn, USA.

(2005) By Design. Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery. Pittsburgh, USA.

(2005) Gestures. Mattress Factory Museum. Pittsburgh, USA.

(2001) Architectural Laboratories. Arch Moscow. Central House of the Artist. Moscow.

(2000) Architectural Laboratories. American Pavilion. Venice Architecture Biennale.

Exhibition Curator

(2014) Jill Daves and Natalya Hughes. Carlton Project Space. Sydney, Australia.

(2014) Subtext. Central. Sydney, Australia.

(2013) Situations. Boutwell Draper Gallery. Sydney, Australia.

(2012) What Destroys What. Firstdraft Gallery. Sydney, Australia.

(2012) Dissonance. Pin-up Gallery. Melbourne, Australia.

(2012) The Doppelgänger Parlour, in association with Kaldor Public Art Projects, Project #25: "The Dailies" by Thomas Demand. Sydney, Australia.

(2012) The Mirror Parlour, in association with Kaldor Public Art Projects, Project #25: "The Dailies" by Thomas Demand. Sydney, Australia.

(2012) In Conversation: Thomas Demand and Sylvia Lavin, in association with Kaldor Public Art Projects, Project #25: The Dailies by Thomas Demand, Art Gallery of New South Wales. Sydney, Australia.

(2012) In Conversation: Sylvia Lavin and Charles Rice, in association with Kaldor Public Art Projects, Project #25: The Dailies by Thomas Demand, Art Gallery of New South Wales. Sydney, Australia.

(2011) Networks of surrender. Gwangju Design Biennale.

(2011) How to be a good witness. Australian Architecture Section. Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space.

(2010) Open Agenda. Customs House Sydney.

(2007) FLUX15. Three Rivers Arts Festival. Pittsburgh, USA.

(2007) Continuum. 937 Liberty Gallery. Pittsburgh, USA.

(2007) Wrinkles. 820 Liberty Gallery. Pittsburgh, USA.

Public Events

Interlocutor: "Representations / Investigations: Media in architecture, the territory and the urban", Architectural Association, London (2021)

Interlocutor: "Aric Chen: Architectures of the New Curatorial Lecture Series", RCA School of Architecture, London (2020)

Interlocutor: “Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism”, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay in conversation with David Burns, Media Studies Annual Lecture, RCA School of Architecture, London (2020)

Invited lecture: “Apocalyptic Archives: Nuclear Landscapes and Material Histories”, Birkbeck Architecture Space & Society Centre, London (2019)

Invited lecture: “The Material-Media Histories of Maralinga”, Climate Summit, Architectural Association, London (2019)

Chair of symposium session: The Camera as Tool, The Medium is the Message, Magnum Photos (2019)

Keynote lecture: “(Re)Mediated States or A Nuclear Futures False Positive” at Representations/Investigations: Media in architecture, the territory and the urban, Architectural Association, London (2019)

Symposium presentation: “So our future was broken”, Nuclear Culture Research Symposium, Goldsmiths, University of London (2018)

Invited lecture: “Extraterritoriality and the Bomb”, University of New South Wales, Art and Design, Sydney, NSW (May 2018)

Invited lecture: “Extraterritoriality and the Bomb”, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD (May 2018)

Invited lecture: “Extraterritoriality and the Bomb”, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC (April 2018)

Workshop: Nuit Blanche Design Charette with Ecole Superior d’Architecture, Paris College of Art, and Royal College of Art (2017)

Moderator: Photography and Context, UCL, London (2016)

Invited lecture: "5 Years of Photography and Situated Media", UTS, Sydney NSW Australia (2015)

Invited lecture: "Politics, the Political, and the Image", University of New South Wales, College of Art and Design, Sydney NSW Australia (2015)

Panel Discussion: "Shaun Gladwell in Conversation with Greg Ferris and David Burns", University of New South Wales, College of Art and Design, Sydney NSW Australia (2015)

Invited lecture: "The Political Image", UTS School of Architecture, Sydney NSW Australia (2014)

Panel Discussion: "Architecture as Public Art: Beyond the Object with David Burns, Sam Spurr, and Urtzi Grau”, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney NSW Australia (2014)

Panel Discussion: "City, Spaces, and the Arts", SAMAG (Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group), Sydney NSW Australia (2014)

Panel Discussion: "Robert Beson and Gabriele Ulacco in conversation with David Burns", Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney NSW Australia (2014)

Invited lecture & Workshop: Remaining Other: Publication, Goldsmiths Centre for Research Architecture, Architectural Association, UCL Bartlett March Urban Design, London, UK (2013)

Invited lecture & Workshop: Remaining Other: Curation, Goldsmiths Centre for Research Architecture, Architectural Association, UCL Bartlett March Urban Design, London, UK (2013)

Public interviews: Stefan Sagmeister, Ilse Crawford, WORKac, ROTOR, and Broached Commissions interviewed by David Burns and Sam Spurr, Sydney NSW Australia (2012)

Invited lecture: What Destroys What, Monash University, Melbourne VIC Australia (2012)

Invited lecture: New Collectivity, University of Sydney School of Architecture, Sydney NSW Australia (2012)

Invited lecture: Image and Architecture, UTS School of Architecture, Sydney NSW Australia (2012)

Workshop: Dissonance, Audio Architecture, Melbourne VIC Australia (2012)

Invited lecture: Collective Practice, with Sam Spurr, UTS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Sydney NSW Australia (2012)

Panel Discussion: The Real, Presence and Absence, hosted by Andrew Benjamin, with Jill Bennett, Robert Sinnerbrink, Sam Spurr and David Burns Sydney, NSW Australia (2012)

Panel Discussion: Curator’s Talk, 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, Prague, Czech Republic (2011)

Symposium: INDEX Forum, hosted by N with Charles Renfro, Eva Franch, Sam Spurr, Adrian Lahoud and David Burns, Sydney, NSW Australia (2011)

Invited lecture: Ketamine, Corridors & Repetition, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL USA (2010)

Symposium: Co-isolated Symposium with Adam Geczy, Adam Jasper, Richard Goodwin, Tarsha Finney, Adrian Lahoud, Richard Goodwin, Michael Snape and David Burns, Sydney NSW Australia (2010)

How to be a Good Witness: The Architecture Curator

Critique 2013: An International Conference Reflecting on Creative Practice in Art, Architecture and Design. Co-authored with Samantha Spurr

This paper describes a unique role emerging in architectural criticism: the curator. The first section examines the status, relevance and location of contemporary curatorship in architecture, seeking to frame a specific curatorial position. It defines the lineage of this position historically and map out a contemporary constellation of practitioners and projects, from the recent phenomenon of celebrity curators to the global profusion of architecture pavilions.

Curation can be understood as a critical spatial practice in which social, political and cultural theories are enacted through spatial investigations. By distinguishing the characteristics of this curatorial practice, the authors begin to frame the agency and opportunities of this role within architectural and spatial discourse. 

David is the co-founder of the Fiction, Feeling, Frame research collective; co-founder of the N curatorial collective; former member of Standards Australia.

Collaborations include the Venice Biennale; the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space; the Gwangju Design Biennale; Arch Moscow; Architectural Association; Kaldor Public Art Projects; Magnum Photos; Storefront for Art and Architecture; Arts Centre Melbourne; the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; the Carnegie Museum of Art; the Andy Warhol Museum; Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art (Pittsburgh); Three Rivers Arts Festival; Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (Sydney); Sydney Customs House; Ecole Superior d’Architecture; Paris College of Art; Beyond Media (Florence).