The Potential of Edward James' Unrealised Visions

Fine Art tutor George Charman is currently completing a practice-led PhD at Kingston University. Read on to find out more about the project. 

Predicated on current developments within site-specific sculpture, this practise-based research investigates the sculptural and architectural possibilities of the Edward James Archive. While James’ activities as a patron are well acknowledged, his contribution to speculative sculpture and experimental architecture, as evidenced by his concrete pavilions in Las Pozas, Mexico (1960-1984), remains underexplored.

Drawing on the history of West Dean Estate as the original site for James’ earlier unrealised projects, this PhD asks how the critical potential of James’ unrealised and never meant to be realised activities can be activated to contribute to cross-disciplinary developments within contemporary art and architectural practices concerned with the enmeshing of real and virtual experiences.

By consulting the Edward James Archive using a multi-disciplinary approach, my research has been developing new perspectives for our understanding of site-specific and responsive practices – particularly for imagining and experiencing the unrealised and unrealisable, the physically absent yet virtually present. To date, I have utilised digital collage and projection mapping to explore and articulate alternate ways of framing James’ architectural visions. By reinscribing James’ projections through hybrid digital recomposites and moving image segments, I have highlighted aspects of James’ practice and thinking which embrace the digital virtual – arguably, a future techno-cultural context unimaginable in his lifetime.

The thesis, developed through the interplay between writing, moving-image making and digital compositing, and the testing of findings with different audiences, will encompass site-responsive, multimedia public artworks at West Dean which realise the enmeshing of the real and the virtual that is central to this research enquiry.