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Contemporary Art Practice (MA)

Stuart Lee

It is the job for artists. You are the bridge builders; you can take bits of the scientific and bits of the political because you are allowed to.” 

Rosi Braidotti

"Things are never just inert objects, passive items or lifeless shucks, but consist of tensions, forces, hidden powers, all being constantly exchanged."

Hito Steyerl

I would like to firstly thank these two lucid, generous, and insightful thinkers for inspiring all I do.

A film still of a ceramic smashing into a wall in central London.

When I think about how Mathew Fuller described the precarious state of our ecological, social, and psychic being as “the violence of perpetual capitalist growth slamming into the material limits of the planet” I wanted to make work that responds to this urgent 'Wicked Problem' - a term taken from a learning module, Across RCA. The next few pages give an insight as to some of the thinking, experimentation, and processes of making during my time here at the Royal College of Art. Its changed everything!

Fuller, Matthew. "Posthuman Feminism: International Seminar with Rosi Braidotti." Online video clip. YouTube. Recorded 10 Dec. 2018. Posted by NICA, 12 Dec. 2018. Timestamp: 19:39-19:44.

Format: 1920 x 1080 Duration: 2:15sec

We Are All in This Together

This Didactical film, We Are All In This Together (2022) explores the tensions to be found within the umbrella term Anthropocene. The anxiety of a hyper-mediated age, one in which thinkers such as Rosi Braidotti and Bernard Stiegler believe we are already lacking in comprehension of what is to come, means that now is a time for the arts to maintain a ‘critical distance’ more than ever before. Rather than become complicit in systems of capitalist extraction, AI dominance and political impotency, the arts should be the counter to the fact that We Are All In This Together… because we are not!




1920 x 1080
Part of the We Are All in This Together exhibition
Exquisite Egg

Exhibition Statement

We Are All in This Together is an exhibition exploring the concept of fuzziness. Students at the Royal College of Art, across all disciplines, have responded to this theme by capitalising on the indeterminate nature of things. Their responses push the object into new spheres of understanding. The undoing of fixed narratives that bind the object relations we encounter daily produces a fresh interpretation of what it means to exist in a world undergoing profound change. Bringing attention to the indeterminate fuzziness of how we understand the hidden nature of this transition, each work seeks to uncover new accounts of a changing landscape. So, whether you understand this as the 4th industrial revolution, or the possible 6th mass extinction, it doesn’t matter because whatever it is, we are all this together. 

Featuring: Ophir Amitay, John C, Ülkü Çaglayan, Paula Cordoba, Exquisite Egg, Zoe Sijia Guo, Ben Holmes, Hongrui Liu, Laura Selby, Saeid Zabeti Targhi, Rafaela Telleache, Cassie Vaughan, Clair Ward, Eileen White, X,, Haining Yang, Tsan Wang, Junyu Yao. 

Concrete Lampshade (2022)Stuart Lee's continuation of a sculpture conversation.
Exhibition photo
Paula Cordoba and Tsan Wang Artists Paula Cordoba and Tsan Wang left to right, Mother and Labouring
Four screens of various artists work on display.
Exhibition display of screens. Screens of works by Ophir Amitay, Ülkü Çaglayan, Laura Selby, and
View of an old barber shop.
Before. This old barbers shop in Hackney became the site for an idea to explore the term We Are All in This Together as a group show from RCA students.
Exhibition space
After. The shop once renovated to become a typical white cube exhibition space.
Gallery exhibition shot
View from inside the space.
Exhibition space
Exhibition shot of rear roomLaura Selby and Stuart Lee collaborate in the space
WAAITT 2023 Exhibition Poster
WAAITT 2023 Exhibition Poster
Fragmentation of Time as a Way to Confuse. This first filming of a cup smashing against a wall was the start of a way to look into how we experience the dismantling of known societal and traditional structures.

MetaForming Fuzziness: Reimagining the Meaningless Object as a Vital Reservoir for Flourishing Post-[un]Humanism.

Over my time here at the Royal College of Art, it has become apparent through the influence of thinkers, tutors, and philosophers including Josephine Berry, Harold Offeh, Bernard Stiegler, Franco Berardi, and of course Rosi Bradotti that we live in precarious times. This has all been under the great care of the fantastic CAP course leader Prof Chantal Faust.

When Bruce Nauman encased in concrete a recorded scream on a tape cassette, the artwork took on a new purpose. As an artefact that brings us directly into contact with the act of removal, the scream suddenly evolves into a limited state. Inside the concrete, the entombed human cry finds an immediate boundary, a limit of its opportunity to disturb airwaves, immediately thrusting the audibility into a state of indeterminacy. Without knowledge of what Nauman did, can any future encounter with the scream be observed as meaningful? 

The removal of the human, in this case, is paradoxical. A human - Bruce Nauman, making an artwork that removes a human, relies on us being aware of what he has done as an artist. Today the removal of the human takes on a new theoretical praxis through the evolution of AI. Revolutionary, disruptive, and extractive practices leave humans precariously vulnerable in our post-pandemic world via their effect. Changing states of being can be registered through the impact measured. It is a fundamental principle of particle physics and, in this investigation, the potential to generate new energy through art to counter socio-political apathy and fatigue. 

The theory of fatigue leading to disorder and social breakdown is well-documented in the literature of contemporary philosophy and art as a critical tool to assess hegemonic systems that exacerbate extractive and destructive socio-economic policies and commodity politics. Yet, these extraction policies affect not only all living organisms in the biosphere, but now we can locate an impoverished internal space within the self. This thesis examines how we can use the artistic gesture of fuzziness, understood as indeterminacy, to emancipate the psychic self from hegemonic dependence. Finding meaning in the inanimate is our only way to avoid the subject becoming only being recognised as object.  

Understanding the object through a new lens may help us smash the way we are heading into a state of catastrophe.

Collision #1 This is a film of a ceramic pottery smashing into a central London wall.
Shatter #1 Taking pottery made over the course of my MA and smashing them against a wall, I wanted to see if filming this act in slow motion produces a new understanding of collateral damage in relation to capitalist extraction.




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Four Summers in One Day (2023)

Four Summers in One Day (2023) Is a three-part sculpture which contains moving image, sound and vintage technology. Each piece is named after identifiable objects that contain specific signifiers. The first of these signifiers is communication. Each of the three artefacts in the arrangement contains a very literal name. The first is PHONE. Using a tone known as ‘Off Hook’ an abandoned phone sits, discarded, upon a traditional telephone table. The handset lays on the floor whilst an ominous tone rings out into the open space. The audibility of the speaker from the green rotary telephone draws attention to technology waiting endlessly for the next human direction. Next is TV. Taking on the shape of absurdity, this parody of an old mediated form of broadcasting, sits as the home for four happenings recorded on film. Each smashed Ceramic on the screen was filmed in slow motion. The chimes that emanate from the film's audio bring about a suspended state of the impact, acting as a metaphor for reeling from the violent act. Lastly, LAPTOP keeps us in a place of waiting. A flashing cursor on a screen signals that which is about to be, yet nothing comes. This literal metaphor takes place on a jittery and fuzzy background of a glitched digital space.

A rotary phone
Rotary Phone - Part of PHONE (2023) installation This old form of technology has become a working basis to understand the ways in which we encounter the virtual and a world tending to be understood through AI.
Exhibition photo
TV (2023)Test Build for a sculpture called TV.
Still from a film showing an old style tv screen.
LAPTOP (2023) Screenshot from the second degree show sculpture LAPTOP (2023)


Symposium gif
Symposium Flyer

Symposium for the CAP festival 2023

Each year, postgraduate students from the Contemporary Art Practice programme at the Royal College of Art organise a one-day student-led symposium on topics that emerge from their practice and research as part of the annual CAP Festival. This year we led with what platforms are doing to shape our lives in their varied forms.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, we see more and more of our daily interactions mediated by digital platforms. These platforms are transforming how we work, communicate, shop, and travel. They're shaping our daily lives in ways we only begin to understand.

Therefore, we came to form this symposium to focus on the implications of this shift towards platforms. We explored platform capitalism's economic, social, and political consequences, looking at how platforms are changing how we live and work and what this means for our communities and societies.

Today, platforms dominate much of our engagement with the world around us as vast and anonymous structures that coordinate consumerism (Amazon and eBay), travel, accommodation, communication, entertainment, and food consumption. These platforms gradually replace a more physical interface between individuals and a built environment.

The implications of this shift towards platforms are far-reaching. On the one hand, platforms have enabled greater access to goods and services, driving convenience and efficiency. But, on the other hand, they've also given rise to new forms of exploitation and inequality. Platform capitalism is radically altering older labour patterns and dispossessing workers of social rights and the possibility to organise resistance. How we interact with the apparatus of platforms is transforming how we live and work, so it's up to us to consider the implications of this transformation. Only now are we starting to see the ubiquity of change, as shops and restaurants, mini cab offices and cinemas, hotels and telephone booths that made up the modernist city are gradually replaced by dark kitchens and warehouses, courier hubs, and hot desking facilities.

symposium in the Gorvy theatre
The Gorvy Theatre The Gorvy theatre setting for the Platforms 2023 CAP Symposium.
Symposium view
Stuart Lee presenting After a talk last year by Author and Scholar Josephine Berry, I was inspired to reimagine how we think of the object. Berry gave a lecture where she articulated that it wasn't until the apollo 8 mission, where the first photo of the planet was taken by one of the mission's astronauts, William Anders, that we thus became an object. Technoscience's intervention on the human - world relation up until this point had kept the object – un understood as a matter producing deducible forms.
Screenshot of my collaboration piece with fellow student X
Launch Project
Screenshot of my collaboration piece with fellow student X In this short 11 min film, I read the first half of an essay to images until a glitch noise takes over and then Generative AI finishes the essay through digitalising the words.
Stuart Lee's Artist Talk at TATE LATES
Launch Project
Stuart Lee's Artist Talk at TATE LATESThe amazing prof Chantal Faust collaborated with Tate Lates to produce the first ever cross institution event for TATE and the RCA: On Friday 31 March CAP artists will be presenting workshops, performance and film across 3 levels at Tate Modern for Beyond Surface: Tactile Presence at TATE Modern Lates, inspired by the work of Maria Bartusová. It is the first time that Tate has collaborated with an art school for the Tate Lates events.
Tate Modern, London, March 2023
Tate Modern, London, March 2023 Artist Stuart Lee stood next to his film We Are All in This Together.
Tate Modern, London, March 2023
Compare for the Artists Talks at Beyond Surface: Tactile Presence Stuart Lee engaging with audience members.
Alyse Stone and Ülkü Çaglayan
Alyse Stone and Ülkü ÇaglayanFellow compare Alyse Stone watches over a performance by artist Ülkü Çaglayan.

Artist Talk transcript:

So, this is a film called "We Are All in This Together." I have taken the phrase from a philosopher named Rosi Bradiotti. She is a self-declared new materialist. Her use of this phrase focuses on how we come to understand 'we' and what terms we encounter 'this.' I have taken this approach to explore the ambiguity of things and their way of producing a third position.

Exploring the agency and importance of objects and materials in creating meaning this way allows the spaces between things to come to the fore. What the film is trying to do is explore the idea of interconnectedness were ideas and objects are trying to describe ideas and objects.  An object can be understood as anything that we encounter. Stuff that goes beyond the matter of being a thing in itself. Our understanding of thingness, some say, could be an idea, concept, or perceived notion, for even ideas matter. Or can we say 'do' matter? Ideas like the Anthropocene, does that matter? So, when this film asks can you feel the tension, I’m asking you to consider a fragile state of being. fragility is in the indeterminate, Interconnectedness, and fuzziness. But also in the way we approach a possibility, that which is yet to manifest. And it is in this becoming that we are witness to a new form. Like Maria Bartuszova's delicate eggs or her weight-filled balloons that give over to gravity, unyielding and dense, something has come to be, yet in its very own being is already alluded us and become 'story.' There is more in what's missing. Taught boundaries surrender to other states of being and yield to the withdrawn.

So, if the Anthropocene is a thing at all, it's somewhere deep inside the material, hidden beyond the penumbra, submerged in the occluded.

he concept of the withdrawn, as given to us by Heidegger, or what Walter Benjamin refers to as the aura, others call it allure or a reservoir, is at best our clumsy way of trying to wrestle with Kant's transcendental, his Noumena - Things-in-themselves, which cannot be accessed. In this denial of the Anthropos yearning, the work of Bartuszova’s surpasses and transcends our grapple in a way - mere words, description, or interpretation - never could. One way my practice has tried to grapple with this understanding of the meaning of withdrawal is contained in a sculpture called Reckoner II and was inspired by the work of Rachel Whiteread and Doris Salcedo. The work continues a conversation by submerging tungsten and Fluorescent in concrete. materiality - even more so reality, for that matter – is. So, it is not lost on me as a male queer practitioner that there are voices on all sides, a sameness in the Latin meaning of the individual, but like any individual, we are all in this together.

This paradox of opposites is what Bartuszova's work articulates so successfully. Her use of weight and gravity, curve and edge, boundary and line, are all given over to tension. This tension is the me and the 'you.' It is our actions and my consequence, just humans being, yet being human is the conflictual other existing in opposition. Her work is post-conflict. Like our atomic past, the Cold War is over. Yet, something remains in the open fissures. Hence, Reckoner II looks into the atomic and electromagnetic, the strong and the weak forces and considers the balance between fragile terrains and object relations. Fragile notions and weighty subjects always leave more than an object relation for you to contend with. This contention, if we are to understand the prefix Con- which means to come together – implies that - if we use the Latin derivation - something to strive towards. Therefore, to strive, we need an environment, a space, an arena. But what if we don't know this space or this space becomes unfamiliar as a terrain? How can this strange terrain embody tension? Is it in the unknown? The peculiar and obscure? And more so, how have these terrains ruptured and split? What forces were at play when this occurrence happened? Like Doris Salcedo's rupture across the turbine hall floor, we can only ever really paper over the cracks. From concrete to eggs from raindrops on the human body, the rupture stands as a deep attunement to material realities.

Precarious states are born of fragile terrains. In relation to states we encounter today the precariat finds it hard to engage for too long before they have to move on. Maria Bartuszova's work, as quoted through the gallery of Alison Jacques, is "the simple idea of how we are naturally bound to each other," this joining, or coming together, either through force or desire, is directional on a horizon of interdependence. One way I have chosen to embody this encounter is on the vertical plain. Fragile Terrains: Continuous Series is a body of ceramic sculptures that are deliberately, as vessels, non-functional. In this non-functionality, many philosophical positions present themselves within the vessel escaping fixed terms. What is removed, as function, now represents itself as a problem, a tension, a disconnection. The removal draws boundaries that somehow shift and move on fixed lines. Try to define them, though, and the object immediately alludes, hides, or recedes into the background of the now. For it is in the background, the place Heidegger refers to as the Ready-to-Hand, that we find differing cartographies of the real in states that conceal new ways of knowing. Going back to reckoner II, we are thrown into a world dominated by the atomic and empirical, the quantum and the mattering of matter. Where queered perspectives and epistemologies skew that which we think we know, Schrödinger's waveform brings about entanglements with new terrains.

To Karen Barad, another female philosopher and queer thinker, our removal within the object relation assures "the inseparability of the object from the agencies of observation." Barad elaborates that trying to determine any position only resolves rather than ‘extends.’ We need terrains to extend, a place to escape fixed positions. Again, we can investigate the paradox of needing to hold together systems which would fall apart without apparatus, structure, and administration, yet collapse the same system upon investigation. For it will only ever be one real thing, a thing that escapes all other things. What escapes through the object relation is that which escapes definition. So, we can talk about eggs, the Anthropocene, high five emojis, shapes, and forms yet across the divide they seem to stray over into new cosmoses, new environments, and complicated space. The works you have seen relish the gap and use it to see what fits. They metaform new terrains, use the tension to manifest new energy, bringing about a potential to mediate and amplify differing oppositions. This energy can be measured in the work done by the string that holds together Bartuszová’s bursting clay orbs or the tall Daliesque giraffe leg wires that hold up a sparce ground. So again, if we are all in this together, it’s evident that where this is, has a scarcity and fleetingly hangs in the air like those same tensions and anxieties of a changing world.

Stuart Lee mid talk
Stuart Lee mid talkWith his ceramic on screen, Lee compares his own philosophy of making along side that of Maria Bartuszova and the many other female artists who have have an immeasurable influence on his work.
A group photograph of the Across RCA Climate group
The Team Stu, James, Hannah, Simoni, and Laylan on one of our many and varied walks over Walthamstow Wetlands. On these walks we would talk about the materiality of nature and our relationships to it. We would make film recordings of birdsong and photograph as much of the strange landscape we could find.

Across RCA Climate Group

(From the Across RCA Webpage)

Of all the threats to humanity, the effects of global warming and climate change are the greatest concern. Temperatures and sea levels are on the rise. Glaciers are melting. We’re seeing more droughts, floods, fires, storms, erosion, decline and extinction. We’re on the verge of a tipping point, so what are we going to do about it?

Immediate action is required if even the most conservative predictions about the devastating impact of the climate emergency are to be avoided. The burning of fossil fuels, cutting down of forests, exploitation of natural resources and livestock farming have led to a rapid and possibly unstoppable rise in global temperatures.

What role do the arts play in a response to this urgent global challenge? How might makers, writers, artists, designers and architects come together to address this crisis? How can we work together to heighten awareness, call others to act, persuade policy-makers or inform the decisions individuals make about the way we live our lives?

A key concern for students in this theme was to explore how measures and rhetoric that speak to the climate emergency might be decolonised, asking what it means to take an anti-racist approach to addressing the world’s greatest challenge. A call for reparations and collective global action was keenly discussed, acknowledging that the impact of climate change is felt first, and worst, by those nations and people least responsible for it.

Here you will find the work of collectives who through dynamic active dialogue have investigated how to respond to, engage with or deepen awareness of the climate crisis.

Project Proposal

Together with four other students, I was placed in a group who's brief was to consider the Climate Crisis through the framework of 'Materiality.' We initially discussed encounters with nature through the act of walking. This led to a an idea of how we encounter space. Our questioning of this concept led to the idea of non-sculpture at first. thinking across vectors, we hoped to conceive a way of bringing the environment to the fore through imagined realities. After much development of the idea and the limitations of our schedules we decided to explore potential spaces where the urban world meets the natural. Through a suggestion that we check out Walthamstow Wetlands, we decided that this could be a good space to try an imagined proposal for an installation of films celebrating communal links, experiences, and benefits of ecological thinking. This excerpt from our proposal explains why we thought the wetlands would be a key site for our idea.

Walthamstow Wetlands has a long-standing relationship with the natural world. We set to aim this project as a way to celebrate this unique encounter by bringing together as many voices as possible. We hope to reveal what nature means to those who use the Wetlands to help new visitors understand what nature needs from us as co-habitants. In an age of technological advancement and social change, our relationship with nature is needed more now than ever. We hope exchanging stories and experiences enriches a collective appreciation of the fragile ecosystem the wetlands support. By understanding how to care for nature, we can understand what care means outside the human-centric condition. Through video and projection, soundscape and audio, we want to celebrate the wetlands and identify their crucial role in the balance between nature and nurture. As cities become ever denser and busier and pressures build, it is not only humans who need places of care and refuge. Our neighbours include those who share these ever-changing landscapes and deserve the same considerations.
photo of a reservoir
Reservoir #5 Title photo made from two views of reservoir #5 located at Walthamstow Wetlands Nature Reserve.
ceramic pots
UntitledAn ongoing exploration into object forms.
Untitled (2021) One of the Fragile Terrain: Continuous Series potteries that was smashed in the Four Summers in One Day Video for my degree show.
Pottery glazed
Untitled A collection of non functional pottery ready for the kiln to be glaze fired.
Europa (2022) London clay extracted and slab dried.
Clay pottery
Working with the accident These strange bubble pores in the glaze became a site for play. By adding coloured resin the contemporary bold colouring pops from the organic glaze.
Pottery on stands
Deleuzian Plateaus Studio shots of glazed work on rodded supports.
pottery photo
Beyond the plinth These forms deliberately evade purpose and investigate form.
Pottery in a line
Strange Arrays Evading the plinth.
Photo of slabbed clay
Inverse Planetesimals London Clay extracted and slabbed. Photograph has been inverted and filtered.
Pottery on display
In the Gap A way of thinking about verticality.


Picture of a painting in a gallery space
Solar Array (2022-23) This project is a painting in oils. the painting is an experimentation in bringing a social media 'framing' over into painting. The painting itself is on a large scale and the largest single portrait that Lee has done to date. Here, Lee has set the real painting in a virtual gallery space.


Oil on canvas


194cm x 210cm