…here, earth will appear open and from fissures will fly sweet rhizomatic vapours… Where grounds separate, aperiodic patterns will emerge… Images of distant, fractured architectures will assert themselves against an horizon of faraway geologies… The way will seem at first unclear… but listen… voices will speak out and there will be bright shelter and you will not be alone…

Altern_ators is a collaborative composition that generates and performs differences within a gallery context, drawing audiences into relation with them. The mood of Altern_nators is charged with a consciousness of worldly and other-worldly agency and change.

Increasingly, we feel and know that we are living through a moment of rapid technological and environmental change, pervasive wars and intellectual, emotional and political inertia. We live and work in societies and contexts increasingly conditioned by anti-democratic politics, predictive policing algorithms and grotesque technological consumerism, irresponsibility and waste. More than ever, we feel the necessity of art.

Difference Engine IX stages an Altern_ators assembly for the audience of HDLU to encounter, think and become with. We imagine Altern_ators as a context where differences and tensions can be produced, inhabited and explored personally and collectively.

Difference Engine Statement

Difference Engine is both an evolving exhibition and a model of artist-led curation by Wendy Judge, Gillian Lawler, Mark Cullen and Jessica Foley. We have been working and touring together since 2009 with other guests.

Our collective name is lifted from the 19th century work of Charles Babbage, the world’s first mechanical computational machine and forerunner for the modern computer: The Difference Engine. Babbage was a cantankerous English mathematician, philosopher, inventor, mechanical engineer and notorious collaborator with the world’s first computer programmer, Lady Ada Lovelace. We have adopted the name Difference Engine as a kind of poetic motto for working together creatively, pragmatically and critically. We particularly enjoy Babbage’s aphorism that “Jamming is a form of Error Detection,” and take this as something of a slogan for our collective experimentation and collaboration.

As Difference Engine we play with the idea of ‘jamming’ as both a way of making art and a way of life together. In one sense ‘jamming’ signifies stasis, shock, or rupture, but in another sense it signifies change, growth, improvisation and invigoration between players. We understand this ambiguity as reflective of the capacity we share for generating creative politics from where and when we live. We often combine painting, video, sculpture, objects and props, as well as words, sounds and language. We summon each other and our audiences to generate relations, associations and stories from the pieces composed within the space and place of exhibition. For us, Difference Engine operates as a metaphor and model of radical politics and aesthetic experiment that allows us to generate critical counterpoints between personal and artistic concerns and broader social, political and environmental matters of living and dying on this earth, now.

Difference Engine exhibitions are devised over months and years. Our works change and morph through conversation with each other, with some works disappearing and reappearing from one show to the next. In preparing for the show at HDLU, we engaged in a series of workshops together, playing with visual and verbal languages through collage and writing. The traces of this collaborative process have led to the ANNEX pages in the accompaning publication.


The Annex was conceived of as a passage way to the Difference Engine exhibitions. It’s prototype emerged during the Manifestation III exhibition in New York (USA), when we displayed some of the results of a paper-folding workshop we had played together in preparing the exhibition. In our next exhibition, we constructed the ANNEX more fully as a space where we and the audience could find tangential routes into and out of the works of Difference Engine, by displaying research materials and objects that were relevant to our individual and collective processes. The first ANNEX was composed in Waterford (IRL), at SOMA:

“The annex was filled with many curios and I felt most intrigued. A mountainous outcrop centred the grouping of assorted objects. It’s isolated form reminded me of a book I read about a distant planetary out-post awaiting some kind of contact. Along the shelves were laid books from all our childhoods, stories of futures to come, places to see and evolved life-forms.”

Subsequent ANNEX’s were installed as part of ACCUMULATOR I and II in West Cork (IRL) in 2012 and Carmarthen (WAL) in 2013. For HDLU, we have re-composed the ANNEX as a series of collaged images reconfiguring traces of research materials and ideas we have been working with together in preparation for ALTERN_ATORS 2018.


Supported by Culture Ireland