Dr Kristen Kreider

Personal profile

Kreider + O'Leary

As a Reader in Poetry & Poetics and Director of the Practice-based PhD Programme across the Faculty of Arts at Royal Holloway, I work to promote an interdisciplinary, socially engaged approach to poetry and poetics, and to encourage a rigorous dialogue between creative and critical practice. Situating my research at a crossover of art, architecture and writing, I produce theoretical and critical writing, including a monograph entitled Poetics and Place: The Architecture of Sign, Subjects and Site (I.B. Tauris, January 2014), and work in collaboration with the architect James O’Leary. Combining visual, spatial and poetic practices, Kreider+O’Leary make work in sites such as prisons, military sites, film locations, landscape gardens and desert environments both in the UK and internationally. Our work has been shown at Tate Britain, Whitechapel Gallery and the Lisbon Architecture Triennale; our book Falling is published by Copy Press (January 2015); our collection of writing and drawings, Field Poetics, is forthcoming with EROS Press.


Research interests

As a researcher, I am situated at a crossover of art, architecture and writing. My research results, on the one hand, in a body of performance, installation and video work that I produce in collaboration with the architect James O’Leary. On the other hand, it results in writing, including academic writing, that employs various forms, modes and genres to open up and communicate meaning. Combining these, I am working with Kreider + O’Leary on a large-scale project under the title Un-Governable Spaces. This includes a series of site-related works (performance, installation, film) in relation to sites of community and resistance globally; alongside this, a series of essays informed by, and informing, this work. This project will culminate in a book publication documenting our practice-based research and communicating our findings through modes of creative critical writing.

Book Publications

Poetics & Place: The Architecture of Sign, Subjects and Site (I.B. Tauris, January 2014)

Poetics & Place

How do artworks 'speak', and how do we 'listen' and respond? These questions underlie the investigation here of Roni Horn's Pair Object III: For Two Rooms, Emily Dickinson's later manuscripts, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Passages Paysages, Fiona Templeton's Cells of Release and Jenny Holzer's Lustmord. The tenets of critical performance, art-writing and site-writing inform the critical method used in Poetics and Place. Each chapter is dedicated to one of these five artworks, and is arranged in order to fulfill three main objectives: to understand how the artworks generate meaning through a material poetics in relation to place; to develop a critical methodology for engaging with them; and to investigate their ethical potential and political imperative. All of this, ultimately, facilitates the development of a triadic relation between theoretical concepts of sign, subjects and site at the crossover between poetry, art and spatial practices. This extends each artwork beyond the dyad of a critical encounter in order to offer - and allow others to grasp - an appreciation of how the artwork figures meaningfully, as well as configures meaning, in the wider world of objects and things. The book concludes with a discussion of the ethics of reading from the second person, opening up a debate concerning the role of empathy within contemporary, politically-engaged practices in art and poetry.

‘This book makes words break open the order of things. It is intense and meticulous thinking; indeed, it shows you what research can be. If your care is for art writing and the relations we make between ourselves, our cultural objects, practices and theories, then you must read this book, and read it yet again.’ 

– Yve Lomax, Senior Research Tutor, Royal College of Art

Click here for more information from I.B. Tauris.

Falling (Copy Press, December 2014)


This book begins in zero gravity and ends with everything flowers. In between, figures are falling as we hear something about philosophy, laughter, architecture and war. With writing and drawing coursing through its pages, Falling gathers momentum and, through this, a picture emerges: it looks something like today.

Falling is a work of natural philosophy, about wire-walkers and moonwalkers, elevators, angels, slapstick, skyscrapers, swerves, and the dynamic figure that links them. Here Kreider + O’Leary describe ‘the beautiful mess we’re in’ with a speculative precision. Their description of falling, in its uncoupling of the tyranny of cause and effect, displaces the now-prevalent despondency of end-thinking with a prolific joyousness.’  

– Lisa Robertson

+ Click here for more information from Copy Press.

Large-Scale Projects

Edge City (Libson 2013) 


In Edge City, we explore the maritime edges of Lisbon from the Ponte Vasco da Gama to the Ponte 25 de April near the Alcántara Docks. Operating at a crossover between cultural geography, video documentary and fiction, we interweave spatial, historical, social and political narratives to create an immaterial overlay to the city’s urban fabric. Through this, we tell a story of discovery, encounter and overwhelm. 

The work itself consists of three parts. First, a live performance where we guide small groups of people along the maritime edges of the city, working en promenade to tell the story of Edge City throughout the opening weekend of the Lisbon Architecture Trienniale. Second, a video installation constructed on-site at the LX Factory in Lisbon. Installed for the duration of the Lisbon Architecture Trienniale, the 9-channel video installation allows visitors to experience the story of Edge City while looking out over a real-time panorama: the cityscape of Lisbon. Third, a mediated city walk consisting of a series of video downloads as well as a set of instructions leading one along the maritime edges of the city. Here participants are invited to stop at specific points along the journey and listen as the story of Edge City unfolds.

The work was developed for the Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2013, as part of the 'Close...Closer' associated projects selected by Triennale chief curater Beatrice Galilee. 


Light Vessel Automatic 
(Tate Britain, 2013)


Tate Britain is a richly adorned vessel of knowledge, literally scarred and marked by its own history. From its geological birth as an Eyot at the fork of the river Tyburn, to locus of panoptic surveillance systems of the Millbank Penitentiary, to National Gallery of Art, it continues to undergo further phases of transformation. In Light Vessel Automatic, we conduct a guided tour en-promenade through the Tate, moving between specific details of the building’s fabric to wider historical, political, philosophical and aesthetic concerns. Through spoken word, moving image, word & image, and architectural elements we explore the site as a fulcrum for a number of inter-related systems. These systems reveal a series of interlocking narrative threads that coalesce around the site, entangling its history and forming a foundational mesh for its future potential.

This project was curated by Marianne Mulvey as part of the 'Performing Architecture' event at Tate Britain. Artists involved include Kreider + O'Leary - Alex Sweder - Lamis Bayer - Emptyset - Film Programme by the Architecture Foundation.


Gorchakov’s Wish (Italy 2011) 


Gorchakov’s Wish is a split-screen video piece engaging with the final three scenes of acclaimed Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia (1983), including original filmic locations around Italy. The work culminates our practice-based research into the theory and practice of Tarkovsky’s film image, including its specific relationship to time and place.

The video comprises three parts, each coupling footage recorded on location in Italy with footage shot in-studio at the Centre for Creative Collaboration in London. These parts include: ‘Parrhesia’, including on-site performance in the Campidoglio on Capitoline Hill in Rome; ‘Allegory’, including on-site performance at the Santa Catarina pool in Bagno Vignoni; ‘Elegy’, including on-site performance recorded on-site at the Abbey of San Galgano. The effect of this video piece is threefold. Firstly, it expands Tarkovsky’s filmic syntax through the use of split screens, rendering more complex the rhythmic composition of the film image. Secondly, it conflates different times and places in the film image, constructing a multi-layered spatial experience of reflective nostalgia for the viewer. Thirdly, it fragments the symbolism of Tarkovsky’s original film images, detourning its message into an allegory for our contemporary social and political context.

The video work is accompanied by a poetic sequence, also in three parts. Each part has a unique poetics and semiotics, as well as a different subject position and ‘voice’, intended to reflect not only our engagement with the final three scenes of Tarkovsky’s film image, but also the writer’s experience of the original filmic locations in the particular place and time of composition. As with the video piece, the written work can be understood as a composite that investigates Tarkovsky’s film image, translating and transforming its various elements through the poetics of the work, ultimately ‘speaking’ a message specific to the writer’s own context and experience.


LA Tapped
 (Los Angeles, CA, 2011)


LA Tapped is a spatial enactment of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Here we perform the building as per Frederic Jameson’s reading of it as a model of postmodern architecture and allegory for the logic of late capital. This involves tap dancing a set sequence at various locations throughout the Bonaventure including elevators, walkways, hallways, shops, indoor track, outdoor pool and peripheral spaces.

The video piece LA Tapped is both a documentation of this performance and a video work in itself. Coupling footage of our performance of the Bonaventure with sound and footage from John Pilger’s The War You Don't See (2010), the work exposes the enmeshment of topologies and representations of our built environment not only with the logic of late capital, but also with the systematic violence that this logic both upholds and reinforces.

The project is accompanied by a piece of writing: a series of sentences, one for each iteration of the tap dance in the Bonaventure. The sentences are the result of a procedural act of 'writing through' Jameson's essay along with Judith Butler's book Frames of War and information, images and video from the web. As with the video piece, this writing acts to expose the enmeshment of capital, architecture, representational practices and war and to offer a poetic rendering of a history of postmodernism from 1969 to now.


Video Shakkei (Japan 2009)


Drawing from the Japanese practice of shakkei, or ‘borrowed landscape’, here we engage with a number of carefully selected sites in Japan — from ancient Shinto spaces of ritual in Ise to the futuristic Umeda Sky building in Osaka — to enact a series of spatial performances, fourteen in total. All of the performances in Video Shakkei are improvised and involve two figures moving in relation to the geometric, atmospheric and cultural conditions suggested by each site. A constrained set of props are used to interrupt, reflect, filter and trace the actions involved. Given the brevity, constraint, emphasis on image and the fact that, with the two figures, each performance is enacted twice, we consider the performances in Video Shakkei in terms of a spatial enactment of the poetic form of Japanese haiku. The project is also accompanied by a series of expanded haiku acting as both documentation and visual score for each performance.

Each performance in Video Shakkei was recorded simultaneously from differing points of view using two hand-held video cameras and two embedded miniature cameras. The footage was then edited together as a series of video composites modelled on the multi-scaled architectural drawing. Embodying an expanded technique of time-based architectural drawing, the videos relate architectural space to performed event, and this to narrative sequence. The result is a hyper-digitized, absurdly choreographed and poetically rendered image of place.

The work culminated in an installation work at The Centre for Drawing (Wimbledon College of Art) as well as the essay 'Particles of Moisture and Other Substance Suspended in Air and Visible as Clouds' where we outline a history, theory and practice of site-related creative practices accompanied by a series of drawings relating to Video Shakkei. The project was supported by the CCW Research Fund - University of the Arts London & The Irish Arts Council.


Eight Rooms
 (Ireland 2004)


The first line of the poem ‘Eight Voices' reads: ‘To piece together place as though it were a memory’. The question underlying Eight Rooms becomes how to do so. Working in relation to a derelict wing of the Cork City Gaol or ‘Women’s Prison,’ the project thus explores notions of site through an interdisciplinary practice of poetry, art and architecture.

Developed in response to a commission from the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork, Ireland, as part of their program for the Cork European Capital of Culture 2005Eight Rooms culminated with an installation comprising 6-channel video & audio, 6 concrete beds with aluminium armature, photographic time-lapse and sound recording. This integration of voice performance, moving image and architectural objects evokes an imagined inhabitation of the site through a kinesthetic experience communicating through the body the cold, the damp and the ruin of it all. The project also involved the production of a limited edition artists’ book of poetry and drawings as well as the organisation and running of a creative workshop for inmates at the Limerick City Prison.



Educational background

I obtained a PhD from University College London in 2008My PhD research, which was practice-led, was fully funded through a UCL College Scholarship (3 years) and a UCL Cross-Disciplinary Scholarship (1 year). The research itself resulted in a thesis comprising three parts: a portfolio of artworks; five chapters engaging creatively and critically with the work of other artists; a body of theoretical writing. Coming from a background in Literature (BA) and Poetry (MA), I worked across the disciplines of Fine Art (Slade School of Fine Art) and Architecture (Bartlett School of Architecture) – mine was the first interdisciplinary PhD awarded at UCL. Combined, my degrees at BA, MA and PhD level qualify me uniquely as an interdisciplinary practitioner-researcher and writer. 


Current Courses
CW2030: Poetry I (Second-Year Option)
CW3030: Poetry II (Third-Year Final Project)
EN5116: Reading as a Writer (MA Poetry & Poetic Practice)
EN5316: Contemporary Situations and the Poetics of Response (MA Contemporary Literature)

Previous Courses
CW1010: Introduction to Creative Writing (First-Year core course) 

CW3101: Contextualising Practices (Third-Year Option)
CW3103: Writing in the Expanded Field (Creative Writing Special Focus) 
CW3103: Falling (Creative Writing Special Focus)
EN3102: Material Poetics (Third-Year Option)
EN3311: Poetic Practice (Third-Year Option)
EN3518: Of Circumference: Reading Emily Dickinson
EN5902: Contemporary Technologies of Writing (MA in Poetic Practice)

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