Brendan Walker is a Renaissance Showman – a technology-inspired performance artist described by The Times as “the world’s only Thrill Engineer”. Brendan’s unique brand of live entertainment, contraption building, and scientific experimentation has gained him international notoriety in both the arts and sciences. His multi-faceted Thrill Laboratory performances have provided popular entertainment for audiences from the Science Museum to Alton Towers, featured at Tate Modern and MoMA (New York), whilst also stimulating academic debate.
Brendan has featured on national and international TV and radio, and in the press. He has appeared as the “Thrill Engineer” on BBC’s Blue Peter, Bang Goes The Theory and the One Show, and Discovery Channel’s Engineering Thrills. Brendan has also appeared several times on Channel 4: as an engineer and presenter on the 5-part series ‘Titanic: The Mission’; and as presenter of two 4-part series, ‘The House The 1950s Built’ produced by Wall to Wall, and ‘Terror In The Skies’ produced by Arrow Media. Brendan is the regular host of the annual Global Design Forum – the pre-eminent agenda setting event organised by the London Design Festival – and a feature writer for Science Uncovered magazine.
Brendan is Professor of Creative Industries at Middlesex University, an Industrial Design tutor at Central Saint Martins College of Art, and Principal Research Fellow in Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, where he has written award-winning research papers on the design of emotional experience. He originally trained as an aeronautical engineer at Imperial College and worked for British Aerospace Military Aircraft for five years before undertaking an MA in Industrial Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art, where he maintained links as senior tutor and researcher for several years. As well as creating his own work, Brendan consults on the design and production of other popular entertainment, from theatre to theme park rides, and most recently TV – although you’re most likely to find him in his East End workshop drilling big holes in things he really shouldn’t.
Professor of Creative Industries, Middlesex University
Senior Research Fellow, Horizon Centre for Digital Economy Research, University of Nottingham (UoN)
Director, Aerial – design practice specialising in the creation of tailored emotional experience (www.aerial.fm)
Director, Thrill Laboratory – experimental practice specialising in new forms of thrilling experience (www.thrilllaboratory.com)
2013; Terror In The Skies (sole presenter); Arrow Media; Channel 4; 4 x 1 hour series
2012; The House The 50s Built (sole presenter); Wall to Wall; Channel 4; 4 x 1 hour series
2010; Titanic: The Mission (engineer / co-presenter); Twenty Twenty Television, Channel 4; 5 x 1 hour series
2014; Bear Gryll’s Greatest Escapes (expert); Betty; Discovery Channel; 8 x 30 min series
2013; Blue Peter: Thrill Laboratory feature (expert); CBBC; 8mins
2012 & 2013; World’s Top 5 – series 1 and 2 (expert); Blink; Discovery Channel; 2 x 6 x 1 hour series
2009; Blue Peter: 2 part Thrill Laboratory feature (expert); CBBC; pt1: 7mins, pt2: 9mins
2009; Bang Goes The Theory: Thrill Laboratory feature (expert); BBC1; 9mins
2009; The One Show: Thrill Laboratory feature (expert); BBC1; 4mins
2008; Engineering Thrills: Thrill Laboratory feature (expert); Waddell Media; Discovery Channel; 12 mins
2013; Guest; Midweek; BBC Radio 4
2012; Guest; Loose Ends; BBC Radio 4
2011; News; BBC Radio 2; The Experiment; review
2010; BBC World Service; Discovery; The Science of Thrill; Walker’s research; 24min
2009; Jeremy Vine show; BBC Radio 2; Walker debates ethics of horror rides
2012; Independent; Nemesis Sub-Terra: Are you feeling scared yet? Thrill Laboratory investigates
2011; Independent, All the fun of the scare, Brendan Walker interview
2010; The Guardian Science Weekly podcast. Testing fear, panic and arousal in cinemagoers
2010; The Times, Eureka supplement. 4-page feature about the work of Thrill Laboratory
2009; Design Indaba Magazine (South Africa), 6 page feature about Walker’s Airphoria project
2009; BBC Focus. The Thrill Engineers. 5-page feature about the work of Thrill Laboratory
2008; PingMag (Japan). Professional Thrill Designer. Interview with Walker about being a Thrill Engineer
2013; Are We Having Fun Yet, FutureFest, NESTA, London
2012-4; Host; Global Design Forum, London
2012; Host; Adventure Film Festival, London
2012; Keynote; Nil By Mouth, FoodDesign2012, London
2011; Exoskeleton; Symposium on Cyborg; Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media & Design; London Metropolitan University.
2010; Courage vs Risk; Design Blast; Karlsruhe Design School, Germany.
2009; Vicarious Thrill; Lansdown Lecture Series; Art and Design Research Institute; Middlesex University.
2009; Science as Thrilling Entertainment; Science and the Nation; Department of Design, Goldsmiths Uni.; Event Gallery, London.
2009; Thrill and the Perception of Risk; Risk and Innovation workshop, Creative investment: arts and humanities research and the innovation economy (AHRC & NESTA); CRASSH, University of Cambridge
2014; Walker, B.; How to build a ‘quake-proof bridge; (In) Science Uncovered, Issue 2, January 2014.
2013; Walker, B. et al; Uncomfortable User Experience; (In) Communications of the ACM; ACM; New York, NY, USA
2012; Walker, B. et al; The Machine in the Ghost: Augmenting Broadcasting with Biodata; (In) Proceedings of the 2012 annual conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (CHI EA ’12); ACM; New York, NY, USA.
2011; Walker, B. et al; Breathalising Games: Understanding the Potential of Breath Control in Game Interfaces; (In) Proceedings of the International Conference on Advances in Computer Enterntainment Technology (ACE ’11). ACM, New York, NY, USA
2011; Walker, B. et al;The gas mask: a probe for exploring fearsome interactions; (In) Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (CHI EA ’11); ACM; New York, NY, USA, 127-136.
2011; Walker, B. et al; Breath control of amusement rides; (In) Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’11); ACM; New York, NY, USA, 73-82.
2005; Walker, B.; The Taxonomy of Thrill and Thrilling Designs: Chromo 11 Volumes One and Two; Aerial Publishing; London
Teaching & Academic Research
2006-present; AHRC Peer Review College member
2005-8; Deputy Head of Department, Design Interactions MA, Royal College of Art
2007-present; Associate Lecturer, MA Industrial Design, Central Saint Martins
2004-5; Tutor, Product Design MA, Royal College of Art
2000-5; Research Fellow, Interaction Design, Royal College of Art
1996-9; Royal College of Art, Research Assistant, Computer Related Design
Education and Training
1994-6; Royal College of Art, MA Industrial Design Engineering
1994-6; Imperial College, Diploma Industrial Design Engineering
1990-3; Imperial College, BEng Aeronautical Engineering
1989-93; British Aerospace, Engineering Apprenticeship
2013; The Durex Experiment. Brand activation campaign with Havas for Reckitt Benckiser. The world’s largest global sex experiment promoting wellbeing, designed and led by Brendan Walker. Top 10 Health & Fitness smartphone app across 20 countries. http://www.aerial.fm/docs/projects.php?id=203:0:0:0
2013; Dramatic Stories of Industrial Dare & Do. Floating Cinema, London. Inspired by the hidden history of the Lea Valley, Walker takes his audience on an adventure using an assemblage of live readings, sound effects, music, and audience interaction, all delivered through a voicepipe system built aboard the boat. http://www.aerial.fm/docs/projects.php?id=201:0:0:0
2012; Nissan Juke Built To Thrill. Brand activation campaign with TBWA/London for Nissan Europe. Series of short video documentaries following Brendan Walker conducting driving-related biomonitoring experiments at live events. Experimental digital data appear in the videos as real time graphic visualisations. http://www.aerial.fm/docs/projects.php?id=207:0:0:0
2012; Seed To Speed, The White Building, London. A flotilla of steam-powered pop pop boats, fabricated from recycled tin cans, bio-fuelled with oil pressed from sunflower seeds, grown in the classrooms of Bow Boys School. Boats were tested at Victoria Park, East London http://www.aerial.fm/docs/projects.php?id=182:0:0:0
2011; The Experiment, Broadway Cinema, Nottingham. A public performance broadcast to a live cinema audience featuring professional scientists, amateur paranormal investigators, the live exploration of a haunted building, and real time biomedical data. www.thrilllaboratory.com/TheExperiment.html?id=151:0:0:0
2010; Hyperventilation: an experiment in fear, Mayhem Horror Film Festival, Nottingham. A performance playing with the effects of panic and fear on the human respiratory system using specially developed WiFi gas mask respirators. www.aerial.fm/docs/projects.php?id=151:16:0:0
2010; Breathless, SPACE Triangle, London. Breathless is an interactive performance inspired by Fragonard’s Swing, which combines elements of voyeurism, abandonment and breath control to power the ride. www.thrilllaboratory.com/experience/breathless.html (funded by Arts Council England)
2009; Self Examination: an experiment in fear, Mayhem Horror Film Festival, Nottingham. A public performance featuring an experiment to reveal the psychophysiological effects of exposure to horror films. www.thrilllaboratory.com/experience/selfexamination.html (funded by Arts Council England)
2009; Bucking Bronco: Adaptive Ride Experiment No.1, Kensington Olympia, London. Members of the public are asked to control a ride and the emotional experience of the risk-hungry bankers riding it, based only on their interpretation of real-time physiological data www.aerial.fm/docs/projects.php?id=122:16:0:0 (commissioned by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)
2008; Airphoria: Terminal 2 and 3 – Experiments with a Death Slide, Shunt Lounge, London. Series of public ride experiments, staged in the vaults under London Bridge Stn. Based on a Korean Air 747 that crashed in Hatfield Forest in 1999. www.airphoria.co.uk
2006; Fairground: Thrill Laboratory, Science Museum, London. Three public performances over three weeks, featuring a heady mix of classic British fairground rides, an international team of artists, scientists, performers, technologists, psychologists and showmen, and live experimentation based on real-time monitoring, transmission, and study of rider physiology. Documentation featured in Design and The Elastic Mind, MoMA, 2008 http://www.aerial.fm/docs/projects.php?id=18:0:0:0
2003-5; Chromo11: engineering the thrill. An innovative exploration, reverse engineering thrill into its contributing factors, drawing on techniques used in criminology and sociology. These factors are used as a resource to create new thrilling performances. Published in The Taxonomy of Thrill. www.chromo11.com Early development featured in User_Mode, Tate Modern, 2003.
2003-5; Punters: auto-portraits of fairground thrill, M+R Gallery / Science Museum / Wellcome Trust, London. Explores boundaries of current emotion-sensing practice by developing a machine ultimately controlled by human emotions. The machine was used to create a collection of photographic portraits reflecting the fairground as experienced by the rider. www.aerial.fm/docs/projects.php?id=4:0:0:0 (funded by Wellcome Trust Sciart Award)
Grants, Awards and Prizes
2013; IC tomorrow (TSB), Digital Innovation in TV; networking award for Vicarious: Biosensing in new broadcast & online TV formats
2011; Vicarious: Biosensing in new broadcast & online TV formats; Horizon Centre for Digital Economy Research
2010; Nomination FutureEverything Award; Bucking Bronco: Adaptive Ride Experiment No.1
2010; Breathless: interactive performance development; Arts Council England
2009; Self Examination: the psycho-physiological effects of horror; Arts Council England
2009; Day In The Park; Horizon Centre for Digital Economy Research; UoN
2008; Wearable Biosensing and the Design, Documentation and Adaptation of Entertainment Experiences; EPSRC Platform Grant; Mixed Reality Laboratory; UoN
2004; Punters: Auto-Portraits of Fairground Thrill; Sciart Award; Wellcome Trust
2003; Chromo11: Engineering the Thrill; Innovation Award; Arts and Humanities Research Board