Post Four: Digital & Physical Manisfestations

Approaches to design for change: design-led ethnography and digital social research methods (Week 3)
Joy Li

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London Wall: WC2
Somerset House (Dec 15 to Feb 16)
Thomson and Craighead 
Site-specific installation, flyposters


Artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead repurpose data and video to conceive artworks that reflect upon the digital space. Recontextualising existing material found on the web, their work repositions the everyday backlog of Internet consumption by mining the abundance of data wealth communally accumulated to expose our everyday interfaces, delving into the ways its altering our relationships and interactions.

Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead in front of London Wall: WC2 at Somerset House London | (Twitter, 2016)

London Wall is a ‘physical manifestation of the invisible city all around us’; a poetic glimpse at the traffic of social networking interactions within a confined radius of it’s site of installation (Thomson and Craighead, 2010). The latest iteration of the London Wall: WC2 at the Somerset House London composed of republished tweets and other social media updates sourced within a one-mile radius of the gallery space and two weeks prior to the exhibition. Pieced together in Barbara Kruger inspired red, white and black banners, the idle mutterings and fleeting comments exist in their brevity, a sort of concrete poetry revealing the invisible city around us.

Select flyposters of tweets and statuses from London Wall (W1W) | (Thomson & Craighead, 2013)

Typeset, identically sized and systematically arranged, the haiku like profundity of the London Wall presents a sort of data landscape often unobserved outside the digital realm. Emotional outbursts on the recent Paris Massacres coupled with individual’s declaration of love for onions on sandwiches are afforded equal importance in a manner that feels to Hudson as simultaneously ‘tragic and hilarious’ (Hudson, 2015). Shifting our fundamental concerns about human perception, it challenges the way we view how the conventions of society informs meaning and how it controls us. Without necessarily focusing on a solution, it inspires reflection and contemplation on how technology is capable to connecting us anywhere anytime and how that shift in our personal spheres of influence totally alters our comprehension of the world.

As a generative system, London Wall is described as a ‘clunky cottage industry’, where artists are required to manually weld the digitally automated nature of the public space with the municipal and material space of the museum. Conceptually focused on the systems and structures that govern our everyday navigation of information within a pre-internet context, Thomson and Craighead’s manipulation and appropriation of existing information highlight their documentary practice as ‘an attempt to show ourselves to ourselves’ by observing how the circle of endless digital forms of media we consume is linked, saved, owned, reconditioned and transformed over time (Thomson and Craighead, 2013).

(Somerset House, 2016)

See More


Thomson and Craighead - Beacon
Thomson & Craighead, BEACON, 2007, Modified Railway Flap Sign, Carroll/Fletcher Gallery, London. (Carroll / Fletcher)

Thomson and Craighead
Broadcasted Online, via Gallery Projection and Railway Flap Sign

It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly happens when digital material becomes transferred into the analogue space–throwaway online phrases seem almost philosophical placed in the backdrop of our everyday context. Thomson and Craighead have also experimented with this phenomenon in their artwork BEACON (2007-ongoing), which displays real-time Google searches continually relayed as they are being made around the world. From ‘handling team stress’ to ‘names for brown dogs’, these enquires seem more meaningful.

googlesearch (1)
BEACON first began online broadcasting on January 1st 2005 and can still be seen at Tate Online or here. It has been instigated to act as a silent witness: a feedback loop providing a global snapshot of ‘ourselves to ourselves’ in real-time. (Thomson and Craighead, 2005)



Battersby, M. 2015, ‘London’s dazzling ‘Big Bang Data’ exhibition reveals the ugly truths of our digital lives’, Artnet, 3 December, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

Hudson, M. 2015, ‘Big bang data, Somerset House, review: ‘alarming”, The Telegraph, 2 December, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

Raley, R. 2013, ‘TXTual practice’, in Hayles, N. K. & Pressman, J. [ed.], Comparative textual media: Transforming the humanities in the postprint era, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp.3–27.

SODSOA 2013, ‘Thomson & Craighead: Never odd or even’, So Different So Appealing, 21 June, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

Somerset House 2016, Big bang data: Thomson & Craighead, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

Stevenson, D. 2015, ‘Hypnosis as data retrieval and web searches as railway signs: Q&A with artists Thomson & Craighead’, The Creators Project, 20 May, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

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