Critical Camps


A season of transdisciplinary workshops and talks with invited artists, theorists, and scientists taking the form of five seperate weekend camping events in the grounds of Kestle Barton Gallery, Cornwall.

Each camp, led by Paul Chaney, explored post-apocalyptic themes raised by his ongoing research project Lizard Exit Plan – a speculative scenario in which an unspecified event cuts off Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula from the global economy. The workshops and talks took place in the Encampment Supreme pavilion – a 775 sq.ft architectural fusion of post-consumer waste products and locally found natural elements, constructed by Chaney and volunteers during public workshops in 2015.

After enjoying a communal evening meal, fireside discussions continued into the evening in an informal fashion, with accompanying live music either provided by local musicians, or a car battery powered ‘off-grid disco’.


The Possibility of an Island

Contemporary apocalyptic fictions continue a long tradition in which a complete break with the past, and the prospect of an uncertain future, are used as a laboratory to think about the present. From the flood to the desert island to the abandoned space station or depleted Earth, these controlled scenarios allow us to imagine starting again from nothing—or to imagine how the remnants of a destroyed civilization might be reinterpreted, rebuilt, and repurposed. They yield new perspectives on the apparently solid foundations of life and the possibility of change. Starting from zero, making the best of what’s left…in this Critical Camp we explore the mythical, philosophical, literary, and political dimensions of these narratives, and do some salvaging of our own.

Guest speaker:
Robin Mackay – Philosopher, Director of UK publisher and arts organization Urbanomic and editor of the transdisciplinary journal Collapse.

Dom Allen – Making potato based electrical power sources and circuit bent synthesisers for a post-apocalyptic electronic music performance with artist Dom Allen.

Musical entertainment:
Dom Allen – battery powered curcuit bent noise
Robin Mackay
Bram Arnold

AND once more with feeling

We are atomised and increasingly isolated beings, making contact only through technology and media. One effect of imagining a post-apocalyptic world is to make us realise us how unpractised we are at direct cooperation, unassisted by complex social, legal, and technological systems. What tools and methods can be used to revitalise co-operative thinking? This Critical Camp asks whether the growth of individualism is correlated with political disempowerment, and sets up a laboratory for investigating potentials for, and obstacles to, cooperation.

Guest speakers:
Fernanda Eugenio – Anthropologist and founder/director of AND Lab Research, Lisbon, Portugal.
Magda Tyżlik-Carver – Independent researcher and curator investigating relational arrangements of humans and nonhumans and their biopolitical creations through curating in/as commons, future thinking, affective data and data fictions.

AND Lab – collaborative object relations experiment with Fernanda Eugenio.

Musical Entertainment:
Bram Arnold – battery powered vinyl

Reclaiming Labour

Autonomy is often regarded as an ideal, although self-sufficiency can also be seen as a kind of rehearsal for post- apocalyptic life. Above all, though, it involves a lot of hard work. But how do we understand ‘work’ outside of the system of money and wage labour? Can humans ever extract themselves from the technological matrix? Is the idyll of self- sufficiency merely the mirror image of capitalist individualism? In an attempt to understand what we would really be letting ourselves in for if we went ‘back to the land’, this Critical Camp will explore the relation between labour and freedom, and will involve discussion and participative activities revolving around manual labour and technology, and the difficulty of deciding where one ends and the other begins.

Guest speaker:
Kevin Austin – Director of Skyegrove Organics: an off-grid 9.5acre holding near Plymouth where vegetables are raised commercially using hand and horse-drawn equipment alone.

Use and maintenance of an Austrian hand scythe with Kevin Austen (includes scythe versus strimmer race).

Musical Entertainment:
Robin Mackay – battery powered vinyl

A Hunter’s Gathering

Ecological thinking increasingly denounces the expansion of human agriculture on an industrial scale, and its effects on our fellow creatures. Many cultures have found it possible to live off the land in a way that leaves space for the non- human, but is this a possibility today considering the exponential growth of human populations? How do our methods of food production reflect our relationship to the rest of the animal kingdom, and how does the recently emerged field of Dark Ecology help us negotiate the population problematic? Investigating food production, re-wilding, and the relation between agriculture and ecology, in practices from foraging to hunting and trapping, this Critical Camp takes an empathetic but unsentimental look at the relation between the human and its prey.

Guest speakers:
Dominic Bailey – Performance chef specialising in wild cooking
John Nixon – Professional hunter

Rabbit butchery with Dominic Bailey and John Nixon Forage walk around Kestle

Musical Entertainment:
Bram Arnold – battery powered vinyl

The Limits of Anarchy

Is a society without rulers possible? While anarchy seems like the simplest of political ideas, it soon gives rise to difficult questions about human nature, our ability to self-organise, and the necessity of governance and social rule. Following a dramatic event such as that envisaged in Lizard Exit Plan, would something like a state inevitably emerge? Does a society in recovery from apocalypse need strong rulers, or communal solidarity? In this final Critical Camp we investigated the balance between social organisation and freedom, and work towards designing a system of governance for the Realm of New Lizard.

Guest speakers:
Matthew Wilson – Political activist, researcher, and author of Rules Without Rulers (Zero Books 2014): a brave and constructive analysis highlighting the limits of contemporary horizontalist and anti-capitalist ‘folk politics’.
Brendan Byrne – artist and activist
Marcy Saude – artist and activist

Musical entertainment: