Tactical Space Lab is a research initiative focusing on the intersection of art, technology, and critical theory. It is conceived as a space to host, nourish, and nurture artistic practices and projects that critically explore emerging technology – particularly through innovation in the field of mapping and spatial representation – and was founded by Dr Josh Harle in 2013 as a platform for the continuation of doctoral research projects.
The Lab is made up of a 100m² exhibition space (with roller-door access), plus a 150m² studio and residency space, providing for:
The Lab is equipped with Oculus Rift DK1 & DK2, HTC Vive, Phantom 4 drone, digital projector, spare PC workstations, a 3D rendering workstation, a Wacom Cintiq screen, fold-out tables and chairs, IMU tracking devices, WiFi mesh network setup, various robots, stereo GoPro rig, 3D scanning tools, a solder station, piles of arduinos, raspberry pi zeros, professional photographic lighting, tripods, and backdrops, a critical theory library, digital media art library, a tool library, and a fridge of beer.
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Dr Josh Harle is a multidisciplinary researcher and media artist with a background in computer science, philosophy, and fine arts. His practice explores the contemporary use of digital technologies to map and make sense of the world, critiquing the opaquely ideological practice of digital capture and the abstract representations of space that mediate our engagement with the city (e.g. through GPS navigation and Google Maps).
His work takes various established and emerging mapping technologies (laser scanning, photogrammetry, GPS tracking) and re-appropriates them as expressive mediums, altering their outcomes to introduce an affective element which is normally absent. The resulting ‘maps’ embrace rather than hide their performative origins, and reflect the contingency of the creative process.
Harle’s doctoral thesis formed part of an Australia Research Council linkage grant with the NSW Emergency Information Coordination Unit, developing new approaches to spatial representation in crisis contexts. This included collaboration with the CSIRO’s WASP indoor tracking research group and the use of game engines as research tools in the investigation of existing and speculative architecture, for which he received the 2011 Young CAADRIA (Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia) Award.
Harle has exhibited internationally, including at the 2014 Vienna Art Week, Organhaus Art Centre, Chongqing, and Today Art Museum, Beijing, and locally for solo and group shows at Firstdraft, the International Symposium on Electronic Art, AGNSW’s Contempo program, and Brisbane Powerhouse’s ‘IRL: Digital Festival’. He has written for the Journal of Artistic Research, Runway Journal for Australian Experimental Art, Critical Animalia, and Das Superpaper and presented at the National Experimental Art Forum, Perth, Transmediale, Berlin, the National Institute of Experimental Art Conference, and Spaces of History / Histories of Space conference UC Berkeley.
In 2015, supported by an Australia Council ECAP grant, Harle was artist-in-residence with the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management and the iVEC Advanced Visualisation Lab, consulting with rangers at Murujuga national park, Burrup Peninsula in Pilbara to explore the development of culturally appropriate digital reconstructions of Indigenous rock art sites. In 2016, he completed a research fellowship via RIAT (Research Institute for Arts & Technology) at MuseumsQuartier, Vienna, Austria, supported by Austria Australia Arts, through which he developed the OpenMaps digital mapping tool. Harle is currently editing “Decolonising the Digital”, a book of essays exploring “technology as a cultural practice” and critiquing the monocultural, effectively colonial nature of consumer technology.