Spike Island

Extra CurricularArt and culture reading group


Thursday 28 November 2013, 6pm


Free for Spike Associates
Booking essential

Please contact us for a copy of the reading.

Event type

Extra Curricular

Discover new inspirations and critical perspectives with our regular art and culture reading group. Casual and open to all, these sessions are led by a guest whose nominated text reflects concerns in our current exhibitions or their own research. Copies of the readings are available on booking.

November's guest reader, Dr Megan Wakefield, chooses EM Forster’s short science fiction story The Machine Stops which was published in 1909. Human life is reduced to subterranean-dwelling atomised individuals, wholly dependent on the support systems of The Machine. Waking hours are spent speaking through the machine to numerous ‘friends’ in an endless quest for, and discussion of, ideas. First-hand experience is regarded as the most indefensible corruption and those who resist the mythos of the Machine are threatened with exile.

Forster’s story anticipates online communication (specifically Skype and social media) in an era when radio was still in its infancy. Those who dare to leave their pod-like cells travel by airship, and, while gramophone technology gets a mention, the invented “cinematophote” seems to predict the television or computer screen.  

Technological depersonalisation produced by a nameless authority is reflected in the 1971 George Lucas film, THX 1138, set in a bland underground world, where human life cycles (including reproduction) are similarly controlled. We will take a look at this, at the 1966 TV adaptation by Philip Savile and a selection of supporting texts (dystopian and utopian), including Pandemonium, the wonderful compendium of historical reactions to new technologies assembled by Humphrey Jennings.

Megan Wakefield

Dr Megan Wakefield is interested in the ways in which we collectively construct meaning in social space. She has recently completed a PhD about artists' informal peer learning between artists with Spike Island and University of the West of England and is co-founder of Tertulia, a public event dedicated to experiments in language and voice.

Megan Wakefield on Linkedin