Anna Ådahl



2015: Title and abstract of my practice-based research at the Royal College of Art in London.

The ‘New Mass Ornament’ refers to two current crowds - the urban in public space, such as the London Underground, and the atomized, on digital platforms such as YouTube. My research seeks to identify the aesthetics and politics of these crowds operating, in what I refer to, as system-operated spaces by tracing them historically and scientifically in reference to Walter Benjamin´s notion of the mass, to further explore these crowd’s temporalities and patterns in relationship to the movements and flows of global financial markets.

Fredric Jameson’s notion of ‘cognitive mapping’ and Saskia Sassen’s concept of the ‘invisible of the familiar’ identify the increasing difficulty of finding adequate representational and conceptual tools to help us visualize the systems that determine our movements through urban and digital space. Through my research, I will similarly argue that these contemporary crowds are difficult to grasp for the individual. To do this I will turn to an ‘inside perspective’, an approach that draws from Elias Canetti´s Crowds and Power (1960) where the analysis from within the crowd challenges the traditional depiction (in the arts as well as in science), of the crowd as one unified mass.  

In my practice-based work performance-installations will investigate the spatiality and temporality of these crowds and system-operated spaces. In essay-films, theory, archival film and newly shot footage will be combined to explore these crowd´s characteristics. Sculptural works will encapsulate the archives of gestures and analysis of current crowd formations.

This practice-led research will adopt new methods to identify these system-operated crowds as a means of contributing to a better understanding of a growing collective system, its ramification on the political status of the urban subject and correlation with the financial market.