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Title: Material agency and performative dynamics in the practices of media art
Author: Tränkle, Marion
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2011
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This dissertation identifies a strategy of artistic inquiry within contemporary media art practice. It applies the concept of material that acts in an agential capacity, generating performative acts. It argues that the emergent potentials of materials and their interconnectedness with the compositional layers of a work can facilitate modes of effecting change in the artistic system. Through the theoretical investigation of the production processes of physical structures and environments, the thesis focuses on the compositional dynamics within which materials actively perform. It examines how Lars Spuybroek’s architectural design method of Material Machines (2004), and both the tactile potential as well as tactical uses of materials as generators to the formtaking process, might describe an open and active artistic strategy for employing the experimental capacities of such materialization processes. Building on philosophical and conceptual arguments that trace concepts of agency (Bruno Latour’s Actant-Network theory) and enactment (Karen Barad’s concept of intra-acting), the thesis introduces the two installation works ANI_MATE (described as a performative pneumatic stage machine) and ON TRACK (described as a mechanic-robotic installation). These apply the introduced artistic strategies. The analyses of these two artworks traces the particular capacities of the materials involved (respectively, their elasticity or viscosity) to negotiate forces of physical movement, which effect the system to transiently or irreversibly transform. ANI_MATE is a machine that is artist-operated and that explores the relationship between liveanimation procedures and the transformability and flexibility of its material environment. In contrast, ON TRACK’s performative machine ecology removes human agency. The machines act autonomously, giving rise to chance in the artistic system and allowing agency to emerge from the dynamic interconnectivity between materials, parts, and processes, eventually producing an entropic scenario of spilling resources. The thesis concludes that, in the context of a post digital paradigm in-development, such artistic practice offers a new strategy for an emergent aesthetics within contemporary physical-digital performance.
Supervisor: Birringer, J.; Schiller, G. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Material agency ; Artistic research ; Media art practice