POLLY GOULD 'Penguin Pool'

19 Mar 2015

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Booking is essential, please rsvp to danielle@daniellearnaud.com.

Danielle Arnaud

London, United Kingdom


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Performative lecture by Polly Gould followed by discussion with Steven Crossan, Founder of Google Cultural Institute, Dr. Peg Rawes, Senior Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture, and Dr. Rebecca Kilner, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Cambridge University.


Gould’s performative lecture is modeled on the Edwardian magic lantern show and the tableau vivant.
They were the popular forms of their time, presented with narration and music, and equally likely to take place in a domestic drawing room or in a public hall. Although now outmoded, magic lantern shows and tableaux vivants can be seen as antecedents to film. For Penguin Pool Gould has recombined a set of old lantern slides into a narrative. It begins with a slide of the penguins in the iconic 1934 design by Lubetkin (1901-1990) for the penguin pond at London Zoo. A 1936 film on Lubetkin’s innovative zoo design claimed that ‘for the first time’ the animals would no longer be ‘housed in artificial reproductions of their natural surroundings.’[1] Like characters in a tableau vivant the animals assume the nonspeaking parts. Polly Gould also considers a lecture titled ‘Some Remarks on Penguins,’ prepared in 1902 by the explorer Edward Wilson (1872-1912) during the Discovery expedition to Antarctica. Wilson, believing penguins to be ‘some of the most primitive behind-hand birds in existence' [2] looked to them to unlock insights into evolution.
Penguin Pool plays on the pun of ‘pool’ as an entertaining architectural design for zoological display and gene pool, which fits the more recent conception of the zoo as a place for conservation of endangered species. Evolutionary ecology is currently being used to predict threats posed to biodiversity from various potential extinctions. In a similar mode, the archive is also considered as a type of gene pool, as a collection of available data and information that can be drawn upon for design innovation and for making predictions of future scenarios.

[1] Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 'The New Architecture of the London Zoo', 1936
[2] Edward Wilson, 'Some remarks on Penguins' in The South Polar Times, Vol 1, April to August 1902, (part IV July 1902, London: Smith, Elder, & Co. 15 Waterloo Place. S.W. 1907. P. 3-9.  


Post-performance discussion Design, Darwin and the Archive:

Steve Crossan works on Public Health at Google, and previously was the founder of Google’s Cultural Institute, a non-profit engineering group that builds free tools allowing partner museums and archives to bring the world’s culture online. Prior to this he has helped build part of Google Maps, Search and Gmail.

Rebecca Kilner is Professor of Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her research uses animal families as model systems for investigating how social evolution structures ecological communities, maintains genetic variation, generates phenotypic variation and affects the pace of evolutionary change. Although Rebecca has worked extensively on birds from around the world, her current projects are focused mainly on burying beetles. These fascinating animals are common through the UK. They use the body of a small vertebrate for reproduction, which they shave of fur or feathers, before smearing the flesh in antimicrobial secretions, rolling it up into a ball and burying it in a shallow grave. There the carcass becomes an edible nest for the beetle's larvae, who feed on the flesh themselves and are also provisioned by their parents, much like young birds in a nest. Current projects investigate how parent beetles structure the ecological community that flourishes around a carcass to their evolutionary advantage, and how parents can accelerate the pace of evolutionary change by provisioning their young.

Peg Rawes is Programme Leader for the Master’s in Architectural History at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Her teaching and research focus on how built and social architectural cultures are informed by philosophical ideas of aesthetics, ecology, materials, subjectivity and technology. She is Co-Investigator to the AHRC research project, Equalities in Wellbeing in which she is exploring how 17th century ideas of ratio, geometry and wellbeing engage with the current UK housing crisis issues. This work develops from her recent work into ‘architectures of care’ in Architectural Relational Ecologies (2013), and Poetic Biopolitics (forthcoming 2015). These collaborations with colleagues from philosophy, medicine, law, political science, anthropology and the arts propose political and material forms of architectural sustainability.


Booking is essential, please rsvp to danielle@daniellearnaud.com.

Exhibiting artists

Polly Gould


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