Professor Jaspar Joseph-Lester
- Head of Programme
- Sculpture MA
- Professor of Critical Spatial Practice
Jaspar is a London-based artist, whose work explores the role images play in urban planning, social space and everyday praxis.
His research interests are situated between art making, curating and writing and draw from the fields of architecture, design, urban studies, human geography, philosophy, cinema and media studies, spatial theory and economics. Here he has focused on the conflicting ideological frameworks embodied in representations of modernity, urban renewal and regeneration as a means to better understand how art practice can redefine the successive cycle of masterplans and regeneration schemes that determine the cultural life of our cities. Much of his recent work has taken the form of printed matter (photo-essays, collaborative city guides and edited publications). Since 2000, Joseph-Lester has been involved in a series of international curated exhibitions; authored, co-authored and edited a number of published books and articles for journals; and has played a leading role in organising international conferences, symposia and a number of other public events. Key to this work is the development of platforms and frameworks for art that contribute to developing new ways of thinking social and life experiences for the future. This long term research has led to being invited to be a Principal Investigator on the Horizon 2020 SPACEX project.
School, Centre or Area
Before arriving at the RCA, Jaspar taught Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University (2002—13), where he led the PhD programme and worked as a reader in Fine Art. He has been a visiting tutor at Calarts, Los Angeles, California; Meadows School of Art, SMU, Dallas, Texas; Goldsmiths College; The Slade School of Fine Art; Wimbledon College of Art and Design; UAL and Nottingham Trent University.
He completed his BA in Art and Art History at Goldsmiths College in 1994, before exhibiting with Marc Jancou Gallery until 1996. He finished his MA in Sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1998 and, in the same year, embarked on a residency at the British School at Rome. In 1999 Jaspar was invited to undertake a residency at Asprey Jacques Gallery, before receiving a full departmental studentship from Goldsmiths College to undertake his PhD in Fine Art, where he subsequently taught for four years.
Jaspar’s research interests are situated between art making, curating and writing and draw from the fields of architecture, design, urban studies, human geography, philosophy, cinema and media studies, spatial theory and economics. Here he has focused on the conflicting ideological frameworks embodied in representations of modernity, urban renewal, regeneration and social organisation as a means to better understand how art practice can redefine the successive cycle of masterplans and regeneration schemes that determine the cultural life of our cities. These research interests build on existing areas of research in the School of Fine Art concerning post-traumatic urbanism, political aesthetics, critical spatial narratives, public sphere, image and writing. Key to this work is the development of platforms, frameworks for art that force new ways of thinking the reconfiguration of social and life experiences for the future. Jaspar’s research in this area has been further developed through leading the MPhil and PhD students working in Sculpture where he currently supervises 4 FT and 3 part-time MPhil/PhD students
Since submitting four outputs for the 2014 REF, Jaspar has been involved in a series of international curated exhibitions; authored, co-authored and edited books and articles for journals. He is regularly invited to speak at international conferences and has organised international conferences, symposia and a number of other public events. He is an academic reviewer for the TECHNE consortium and the Horizon 2020 (Humanities panel) and was on the ADRC REF panel at SHU between 2010-2013, where he contributed to the writing of the 2014 REF narrative.
Recently published work includes: ‘The Mimetic Drive of Capital’, Adjacent Realities, Austrian Cultural Forum; ‘A Guide to the Casino Architecture of Wedding’, Casino Real, Collapse: Philosophical and Research Development, Urbanomic, 2015; ‘Endnotes to Capital: From Commodity form to Experience Economy, the rise of the Infinity Pool’, Crazy about their bodies, Café Gallery Projects (LGP), 2014; commissioned artwork for EROS: INTERIORS, 2015 and Coventry: A Guide, Lanchester Gallery Projects (LPG), ACE commission, 2013.
In April 2015 Jaspar was invited to present current approaches to practice-led research at the Wenden Conference, University of Cologne, Germany, and more recently was an invited keynote at the Oxford Future of Cities conference, where he presented recent projects that test new models for situating art in the city.
Jaspar has been involved in a series of international curated exhibitions; authored, co-authored and edited a number of published books and articles for journals; and played a leading role in organising international conferences, symposia and other public events. This research has explored ways that material space is shaped by images (scripted space) and how images are themselves experienced and understood through the materiality of objects. Much of his recent work has taken the form of the photo-essay. This work continues to provide a context for exploring how space is informed by images, focusing on the way the cinematic image is played out in architectural space. His video work has been nominated for Pilot: 1 and selected for All for Show: an international retrospective of UK Video.
Jaspar’s development of long-term, international research networks has consolidated the generative connections he makes between research, practice and pedagogy. In 2005, he co-founded the research group Curating Video, which was established to develop a better understanding of the materiality and architectural qualities of video artworks and elucidate the relationship between video image and the politics of social and architectural space. He is also a director of LoBe. He appears widely in print, authoring Revisiting the Bonaventure Hotel (Copy Press, 2009); co-editing Episode: Pleasure and Persuasion in Lens-based Media (Artwords, 2008) and editing Transmission Annual.
He is currently working with Berlin-based curator Susanne Prinz and artist Julie Westerman on TEGEL: Propositions and Speculations, a large-scale video project that explores the architecture of Tegel Airport through a series of cinematic narratives; the book and DVD to accompany the project is published by Greenbox, Berlin.
Current and recent projects
Walking Cities: London
Jaspar is currently working on a co-edited book titled Walking Cities: London, published by Camberwell Press May 2016, which explores how the temporal realities revealed through urban walking can act as a method for dialogical and empirical mapping. Through bringing together a new interdisciplinary field of artists, writers, architects, musicians, human geographers and philosophers the research considers how the city walk can inform and trigger new processes of making, thinking, researching, and communicating.
Modern Interiors is a long term research project that draws from found media images and photographs of interiors, shop displays and casino facades to explore the forceful, seductive and alienating ideologies that are embodied in representations of space. Magazine images of sofas are cut together to produce an excessive spectacle of contemporary furniture design, comfort and luxury and Casino facades are placed within a guidebook to explore how graphic design can function as an aggressive mode of architecture. Modern Interiors is concerned with the politics of spatial design and how the changing representations of the spaces we may wish to inhabit are actively consumed, reproduced and at the same time despised.
For Walter Benjamin, the ideological is most clearly expressed in our experience of new urban forms. In The Arcades Project, Paris is both the capital of the nineteenth-century and the centre of capital. Benjamin takes the urban phantasmagorias of the Arcades to reveal some truth about the hidden mechanisms that determine the conditions of subjectivity, or as he puts it: ‘to discover in the analysis of the small individual moment the crystal of the total event’ (AP, N2, 6). Modern Interiors explores Benjamin’s formulation of ‘ideology as experience’ in the context of contemporary consumer space to consider the complex relations relation between design, subjectivity and ideology.
Image and City
Image and City explores the various ways that architecture constructs an image of the city that is symptomatic of a changing global condition. Drawing on a broad range of economic theory (The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, 1999; The New Spirit of Capitalism, Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, 2006; The Global City, Saskia Sassen, 1991) as well as spatial, political and cultural theory (that will include Benjamin, Klein and Ranciere amongst others), this research will provide the basis for an engagement with the image and the critical relation it has to the cultural, social and political infrastructure of our current condition.
Trigger Point is an international research project with, Jürgen Bock (Director of the independent study program Maumaus in Lisbon), Susanne Prinz (Head of the exhibitions space of Kunsthochschule Kassel and L40, Berlin www.rosa-luxemburg-platz.net), Julie Westerman (artist and Senior Lecturer at SHU) and Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann, (artists, Academy of Fine Art Vienna).
TEGEL: Propositions and Speculations
Building on the three year project TEGEL: Speculations and Propositions and research events held at L40 in Berlin with Prinz, Clegg & Guttmann (dating back to 2010), this European network aims to join project partners in Berlin, London, Lisbon and Sheffield, with a broad range of audiences, artists and curators to develop a new understanding of the continuing dialogue between visual arts and modern architecture from the post war period in London, Sheffield, Berlin and Lisbon. Trigger Point aims to investigate the potential for new platforms and artworks for enabling and communicating the city as it is navigated and experienced today leading to new collaborations between artists, architects, urban planners, human geographers, curators, social theorists and cultural institutions. The project will involve developing new platforms for a public programme of performative, sound based, printed and lens-based artworks that take the post traumatic landscapes of modern post war architecture as a platform for production and critique. We anticipate the development of new methods and strategies to enable a shift in the conceptualization of the way art is experienced in the city.
The first event was held on April 5th 2014 in L40, Berlin. Here we brought project partners together for a day of presentations and the launch of the TEGEL publication. A group of RCA research students that Jaspar is currently supervising (sculpture) also contributed to this event.
Curating Video: Re-taking LA
Project partners: Professor Amanda Beech (Calarts, USA) and Matthew Poole (independent Curator, USA)
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Recently published work has explored urban walking as a critical and collaborative method of enquiry. Publications linked to international and multidisciplinary projects include: Walking Cities: London, Routledge 2020 (first published 2016); Future Ruins: Lisbon, Trigger Point, London, 2019 and TEGEL: Speculations and Propositions, Berlin: Greenbox, 2014. Journal articles that similarly explore the interrelation of art and the urban and the role of art within sites of urban transformation include: ‘Venice, Venice’, co-authored with Norma M. Klein 2018, Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, ‘(Re)turning to the Image’, Wenden. Springer, 2016 and, ‘A Guide to the Casino Architecture of Wedding’, Casino Real, Collapse: Philosophical and Research Development, Urbanomic, 2015. Joseph-Lester was guest editor for ‘Lo Squaderno’ (56), Urban Recipes that explored urban recipes as tools to reconfigure the recipe into a type of speculative map able to chart and disclose new (socio-cultural, political, etc.) dimensions of the city. He is currently working on a new edited book: Walking Cities in Lockdown that has resulted from a series of online walks: http://www.99prozenturban.de/walking-cities-lockdown
Selected Published Books and Photo-essays
Joseph-Lester, J. (2015) ‘The Mimetic Drive of Capital’, Adjacent Realities, Austrian Cultural Forum: London
Joseph-Lester, J. (2015) ‘Modern Interiors’, E.R.O.S: Interiors issue. Commissioned artwork for Journal
Joseph-Lester, J. (2013) ‘A Guide to the Casino Architecture of Wedding’, Casino Real, Collapse: Philosophical and Research Development, Falmouth: Urbanomic
Joseph-Lester, J. (2013), Landmarks, Ruins and Masterplans: A Guide to Coventry City Centre, Lancaster: Lancaster Gallery Projects / ACE Commission
Joseph-Lester, J. (2013), Revisiting the Bonaventure Hotel, London: Copy Press (first edition 2009, www.copypress.co.uk, see recent reviews).
Joseph-Lester, J. (2010) ‘Spirit’ [photo-essay], Vicissitudes: histories and destinies of psychoanalysis, London: Routledge / Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies
Peer-Reviewed Articles and Chapters in Books
Joseph-Lester, J. (2014), ‘The Dallas Pavilion’, in Joel Robinson (ed), What is a Pavilion?, Open University. Open Access Journal, February 2014
Joseph-Lester, J. (2012) ‘The Abstract Image in Future Film and Video Art: The Affects of the Abstract Image’, Moving Image Review of Art Journal, 1:1, 79–88
Joseph-Lester, J. (2011) ‘Non-relational Regimes of Urban Modernisation’, Journal of Visual Art Practice, 9:2, 163-76, published as part of the special issue (Bristol: Intellect Books) dedicated to anti-Humanist curating, launched at the Whitechapel Gallery.
Joseph-Lester, J. and Beech, A. (2010) ‘Dream Stuff’, Sanity Assassin, Falmouth: Urbanomic
2007-10 (Publication series): Transmission Chapbooks: Amanda Beech (2010), Bevis Martin, Charlie Youle and Sharon Kivland (2010), Wouter Davidts (2009), Roman Vasseur (2008), Michael Corris & Sharon Kivland (2008), London: Artwords Press
Joseph-Lester, J. (2008) ‘Image Synchronicity and the Bonaventure Hotel’, in: Episode: Pleasure and Persuasion in Lens-based Media, London: Artwords Press
(Forthcoming) Joseph-Lester, J., Blier-Carruthers, A. (Royal College of Music), King, S. (RCA), Bottazzi, R. (RCA, Architecture) (eds) (2016) Walking Cities: London, London: Camberwell Press
Joseph-Lester, J., Prinz, S. and Westerman, J. (eds) (2013) TEGEL: Propositions and Speculations, Berlin: Greenbox
2010-13: Transmission Annual, co edited with Professor Michael Corris and Dr Sharon Kivland, Labour, Work, Action (vol. 4, 2013), Catastrophe (vol. 3, 2012), Provocation (vol. 2, 2011) and Hospitality (vol 1, 2010), London: Artwords. (Transmission Annual is a peer-reviewed journal edited by Michael Corris, Jaspar Joseph-Lester and Sharon Kivland, and published by Artwords, London in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK and the Division of Art/Meadows School of the Arts/Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, USA. Editorial Board: Michael Corris, Jaspar Joseph-Lester, Sharon Kivland, and Noah Simblist (TA#3 only). Editorial Advisory Board: Elizabeth Legge (Univ of Toronto), Blake Stimson (UC Irvine), Charlie Gere (Lancaster Univ), Maureen Connor (CUNY), Ahuvia Kahane (Uni of London) and Kristine Stiles (Duke).)
Joseph-Lester, J. (ed.) (2011) The Contingency of Curation, symposium publication, London: Tate Britain
Joseph-Lester, J. (ed.) (2009) Project Biennale, Sheffield: Another Space
Joseph-Lester, J., Beech, A., & Poole, M. (eds) (2008) Episode: Pleasure and Persuasion in Lens-based Media, London: Artwords
(2015) En Plein Air, curated by Clair Joy, Mecklenburgh Square
(2013) Grand Canal, screening of video work, Millennium Place outdoor screen, Coventry (4 weeks, on the hour) invited by Lanchester Gallery Projects (LPG) as part of the residency with LPG
(2013) Modern Interiors, Five Years, London
(2013) Executive Lounge, screening of new work at the Babylon Cinema, Berlin and SITE Gallery Sheffield
(2011) Brutalist Speculations and Flights of Fancy, curated by Julie Westerman, Site Gallery, Sheffield
(2010) The Mortar of Distribution, curated by Matthew Poole, Berlin
(2009) Afterwords, curated by Sharon Kivland, Mead Gallery, Warwick
(2008) 13+ (DomoBaal Gallery), shown at Florence Lynch Gallery, New York
Selected Conference Papers and Talks
2016 'Representing the City: Can Art Projects Re-figure and Challenge Urban Futures?' Oxford Future of Cities conference. Invited speaker
2015 'The Mimetic Drive of Capital', Public Lecture, commissioned by the Austrian Cultural Forum, to coincide with the Adjacent Realities exhibition
2015 'Cultural Turnings' (Keynote), Wenden Conference, University of Cologne, Germany
2015 'The Condition of the Image', HfG / ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany; Four Towers, The Dispersal Of the Image symposium, RCA
2014 'Warburg’s Sensibility', symposium convener, with Ian Kiaer and Jo Stockham , speakers include Esther Leslie and Maggie Iverson, RCA
2014 'IMAGE CITY', symposium paper, speakers include: Douglas Murphy and Hayley Newman, alongside Rut Blees Luxemburg’s ‘London Dust’, Space
2014 'Speculative Transformations', symposium to take place alongside the launch and screening of Tegel: Speculations and Propositions, included presentations from RCA research students based in sculpture, L40, Berlin
2014 'WALKATIVE' (across RCA teaching project), accepted for the GLAD Conference, ‘The studio: where do we learn? Where do we teach?’ SHU
2014 'TEGEL: Speculations and Propositions', presented with Julie Westerman, Text/City, 'From the 1970s to the Present', symposium, University of Hertfordshire
2013 Centre for Creative Collaboration, BRUTE symposium
2012 'Scripting and Structure in Artists’ Film and Video', Turbulent Surfaces 2, KYNASTONMCSHINE, London
2011 ‘Monuments to Historical Change’, two evening of discussions and events hosted by L40 (invited talks) Verein zur Fordenrun von Kunst and Kultur am Rosa Luxemburg Platz, Berlin
2011 ‘Practice-led Research’ (invited talk), University College Falmouth
2011 ‘Ecologies of the Image’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
2010 'Transmission: Hospitality', Sheffield Hallam University
2010 'The Contingency of Curation' (conference: organiser), Tate Britain, London
2010 ‘The Jerde Masterplan', at 'Imploded action, dissonant affect: Towards a new politics of non-relationality', Spike Island, Bristol
2008 'Episode: Pleasure and Persuasion in Lens-based Media', Tate Britain, London
2008 'Curating Video', Chelsea School of Art, UAL, London
2008 'Transmission: Host', Sheffield Hallam University/Site Gallery
2008 ‘Revisiting the Bonaventure’, at 'Vicissitudes: Histories and Destinies of Psychoanalysis, Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies', University of London
Selected Artists Talks
2015 ‘Modern Interiors’, Inside Out lecture series, School of Architecture, RCA
2013 ‘A Guide to the Casino Architecture of Wedding’, Conway Hall, Copy Press Launch
2008 & 2013 Wimbledon School of Art, MA Fine Art
2012 The Slade School of Art, MA Fine Art
2012 California Institute of the Arts (Calarts), USA, MA Critical Studies
2010 Meadows School of Art, SMU, Dallas, USA. Fine Art Dept
2010 ‘On Display, Artists & Shops’, Site Gallery, Sheffield
2009 ‘Spectacle and Social Space’, Leverhulme Public Lectures Series, Department of French, Sheffield University
2009 ‘Revisiting the Bonaventure Hotel’, The Architectural Associatio.
2007 ‘One Way Street’, University of Nevada, USA
- (2013) The Dallas Pavilion, Venice Biennale – with the Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. Project partners: Professor Michael Corris (SMU) and Karen Wiener (The Reading Room, Dallas).
- (2013)TEGEL: Propositions and Speculations, project partners, Susanne Prinz and Julie Westerman. Funded by: Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Sheffield Hallam University, Tegel Projekt GmbH. Co edited by Susanne Prinz and Julie Westerman, Berlin, Greenbox (September 2013). Publication with DVD, published by Greenbox, Berlin, Summer.
- (2014) CURATING VIDEO: RE-TAKING LA, Professor Amanda Beech (Calarts, USA) and Matthew Poole (independent Curator, USA), published by Urbanomic.
- LOBE: Klub Kube: Collaboration between two groups of students, originally a postgraduate elective at Sheffield Hallam University led by Jaspar Joseph-Lester, with a project titled ‘Und andere Orte’ led by Antonia Low that also involved students at HBK Braunschweig.
- Conference organiser, The Contingency of Curation, Tate Britain. Collaboration between Chelsea School of Art, Essex University and Sheffield Hallam University
- External examiner on a number of MA courses at Chelsea College of Art and currently examines the Art History and Philosophy MA at the University of Essex.