(clockwise l-r) John Armitage, Jananne Al-Ani, Daniel van der Velden of Metahaven,  Susan Schuppli, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Holly Herndon, Nathan Jurgenson, Nadia El-Imam.
(clockwise l-r) John Armitage, Jananne Al-Ani, Daniel van der Velden of Metahaven, Susan Schuppli, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Holly Herndon, Nathan Jurgenson, Nadia El-Imam.



4 September 2014
Studio Theatre, Brighton


Lighthouse's thought-provoking conference of contemporary culture, Improving Reality, returned in September for a spectacular fourth edition.

Still from Metahaven's City Rising, 2014
Still from Metahaven's City Rising, 2014

Download the full 2014 programme here.

Improving Reality is a one-day conference that brings together an international community of artists, thinkers and makers to share and experience groundbreaking art and ideas of the present.

This year’s theme was Visibility is a Trap. A visceral response to the tension between the tendency to share our lives in public, and our desire and right for more privacy. With a line up of acclaimed international speakers and performers – a who’s who of the now – Improving Reality 2014 addressed the coming of immediacy, the aesthetics of disappearance and the performance of visibility.

In light of the Snowden revelations, we now know that the international security agencies have been spying on the private communications of almost everyone on the planet. The web as we know it is no more. Social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have changed from symbols of social progress to weapons of mass surveillance. Improving Reality took aim at the complex issues at hand.

Edging more toward festival than conference, this year we placed a greater emphasis on experiencing artistic work, including electronic music from composer and sound artist Holly Herndon and the screening of a new moving image artwork by Design Studio Metahaven. We were thrilled to also announce the participation of Professor of Media Arts John Armitage, artist Jananne Al-Ani, artist and writer Susan Schuppli, New York-based Social Media Theorist, Nathan Jurgenson, Founding Director of Edgeryders Nadia El-Imam and groundbreaking artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan.

Watch the films of each of the speakers’ talks here.


John Armitage

John Armitage is Professor of Media Arts at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, UK. He specializes in the work of Paul Virilio, the French critic of the art of technology. John is the editor of Paul Virilio: From Modernism to Hypermodernism and Beyond (2000, Sage, London), Virilio Live: Selected Interviews (2001, Sage, London), Virilio Now: Current Perspectives in Virilio Studies (2011, Polity, Cambridge), author of Virilio and the Media (2012, Polity, Cambridge), co-editor, with Ryan Bishop, of Virilio and Visual Culture (2013, EUP, Edinburgh) sole editor of The Virilio Dictionary (2013, EUP, Edinburgh), and his single-authored book, Virilio for Architects, will be published by Routledge in 2015.

Jananne Al-Ani

Focusing on photography, film and video, Jananne’s recent work references the use of lens-based technologies in modern warfare and surveillance. Solo exhibitions include Excavations, Hayward Gallery Project Space, London (2014); Groundwork, Beirut Art Center (2013) and Shadow Sites, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC (2012). She participated in the 13th Istanbul Biennale (2013); 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012) and the 54th Venice Biennale (2011). Her work is in the collections of the Tate, London; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and Darat al Funun, Amman. She is currently Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Arts.

Susan Schuppli

Susan Schuppli is an artist and writer based in London. She is the Acting Director of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths where she received her doctorate in 2009. Previously she participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program after completing her MFA at the University of California San Diego. Her research practice examines media that emerges of sites of contemporary conflict and violence. Creative projects have been exhibited throughout Canada, the US, Europe and Asia. Recent and forthcoming exhibitions include HKW, Casino Luxembourg, Stroom Den Haag, Extracity Antwerp, and Bildmuseet, Sweden. She has published widely within the context of media and politics and is author of the forthcoming book, Material Witness: Forensic Media and the Production of Evidence (MIT Press, 2015), which is also the subject of an experimental documentary.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan

Lawrence is a groundbreaking contemporary artist whose work frequently deals with the relationship between listening and borders, human rights, testimony, truth and law, through the production of audio-visual installations, graphic design, sculpture, photography, workshops and performance. His work with sound and its intersection with politics originate from his background in DIY music. Abu Hamdan’s writing can be found in Forensis Sternberg press, Manifesta Journal and Cabinet Magazine. Abu Hamdan curated events at the Reitveld Academie in Amsterdam and at Batroun Projects Lebanon. He is part of the team Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths College London where he is a PhD candidate and lecturer.

Nadia El-Imam

Nadia is the Founding Director and CEO of Edgeryders – a growing online community and distributed think-tank of citizen experts that combines the intense focus and rigor of consultancy with the scale, openness and democratic legitimacy of citizen consultation. Nadia has co-authored a number of books and policy publications held keynotes at national conferences on growth and economic development. She has a background in engineering and design, and she puts it to use where it matters most: architecting collaboration between diverse individuals and organisations, and inspiring them to move forward in new ways.

Holly Herndon

Holly is an acclaimed composer, musician and artist working at the leading edge of contemporary practice. As well as touring the world to perform and exhibit new work, Holly is currently candidate for doctoral study in Computer Music at Stanford University. She received her MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media at Mills College. While at Mills she won the Elizabeth Mills Crothers award for Best Composer in 2010 for her vocal generated piece ’195′. Earlier this year she released new single Chorus. Chorus bridges multiple disciplines and spaces to blur the politic between natural and synthetic.

Nathan Jurgenson

Nathan is a social media theorist, a Contributing Editor for The New Inquiry, researcher for Snapchat, co-founder and chair of the Theorizing the Web conference, and a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Maryland specialising in surveillance on social media. His research is driven most fundamentally by the understanding that we increasingly live in an “augmented reality,” a perspective that views the digital and physical as enmeshed, opposed to viewing them as distinct (what he calls “digital dualism”).


Metahaven is a studio for design and research based in Amsterdam. Metahaven’s work—both commissioned and self-directed—reflects political and social issues in graphic design objects and media. The group’s 2010 publication Uncorporate Identity investigated what the International Herald Tribune called the “purpose and value of design in a neurotic and treacherous era of geopolitical instability.” Metahaven’s projects include “Black Transparency,” a multi-year investigation into the relationship between transparency and secrecy that resulted in a series of exhibitions, talks and a forthcoming book. As part of this project, Metahaven designed a set of merchandise for WikiLeaks—scarves and t-shirts—which were sold by the organization to circumvent a financial blockade which had denied the organisation the ability to receive donations by other means. Metahaven is affiliated with the Center for Design and Geopolitics at University of California, San Diego. Its founders teach at ArtEZ Academy of Arts in Arnhem, at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and at Yale University in New Haven.


Date: Thursday 4 September 2014
Event start time: 12pm
Event end time: 6pm
Price: £20.00 full price / £10.00 concession
Venue: Brighton Dome Studio Theatre, 29 New Road, Brighton BN1 1UG

Event Hashtag: #ireality

Improving Reality is part of Lighthouse’s programme for Brighton Digital Festival 2014. Brighton Digital Festival is a month long celebration of digital culture. It is run by members of Brighton’s arts and digital communities and supported by Arts Council England and Brighton & Hove City Council.




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