Alien Agency

Alien Agency

Experimental Encounters with Art in the Making

Chris Salter

ISBN 9780262323598
328 pp.
March 2015

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Alien Agency

Experimental Encounters with Art in the Making

In Alien Agency, Chris Salter tells three stories of art in the making. Salter examines three works in which the materials of art—the “stuff of the world”—behave and perform in ways beyond the creator’s intent, becoming unknown, surprising, alien. Studying these works—all three deeply embroiled in and enabled by science and technology—allows him to focus on practice through the experiential and affective elements of creation. Drawing on extensive ethnographic observation and on his own experience as an artist, Salter investigates how researcher-creators organize the conditions for these experimental, performative assemblages—assemblages that sidestep dichotomies between subjects and objects, human and nonhuman, mind and body, knowing and experiencing.

Salter reports on the sound artists Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger (O+A) and their efforts to capture and then project unnoticed urban sounds; tracks the multi-year project TEMA (Tissue Engineered Muscle Actuators) at the art research lab SymbioticA and its construction of a hybrid “semi-living” machine from specially grown mouse muscle cells; and describes a research-creation project (which he himself initiated) that uses light, vibration, sound, smell, and other sensory stimuli to enable audiences to experience other cultures’ “ways of sensing.” Combining theory, diary, history, and ethnography, Salter also explores a broader question: How do new things emerge into the world and what do they do?

Contents

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Preface
  3. Introduction
  4. 1-1. Hearing Perspectives
  5. 1-2. From Agency to Practice
  6. 1-3. Green Belts in Goethe’s City
  7. 1-4. Stories Told of Sonic Reals
  8. 1-5. Four Ears, or Listening as Making
  9. 1-6. Can Architecture Hear?
  10. 1-7. Hearing View
  11. 1-8. Affects and Atmospheres
  12. 1-9. Tuning
  13. 2-1. A Living Machine?
  14. 2-2. Suspicions of a Wet Kind
  15. 2-3. Experiments in a Lab at the End of the World
  16. 2-4. The Tissue Culture Point of View—Part I
  17. 2-5. Techniques for Immortality
  18. 2-6. The Tissue Culture Point of View—Part II
  19. 2-7. Surface Tensions
  20. 2-8. The Tissue Culture Point of View—Part III
  21. 2-9. A Tutorial on Muscle-Cell Energetics
  22. 2-10. Where the Art Is...
  23. 2-11. The Tacit Knowing of Tissue
  24. 2-12. A Revealing School Seminar
  25. 2-13. Goals and Purposes
  26. 2-14. Tissue Culture Hands On
  27. 2-15. Life's Triumph in the Dish
  28. 2-16. Eight Failed Experiments in Substrate Sketching
  29. 2-17. Reflections on Bare Life at the Bench
  30. 2-18. Collagen Trials While the Clock Ticks
  31. 2-19. Suspension
  32. 2-20. Is Life in Bodies?
  33. 3-1. Limens
  34. 3-2. Mediations of Sensation
  35. 3-3. Three Tensions
  36. 3-4. Four Seminars in Sensory Experience
  37. 3-5. Translation and Enactment
  38. 3-6. Atmospheres Unveiled
  39. 3-7. Technologies of the Senses
  40. 3-8. Seeding Alter
  41. 3-9. How to Invoke the Cosmos
  42. 3-10. Experience Near-Far
  43. 3-11. The Missing Sense
  44. 3-12. The Conditions of Sensory Assemblage
  45. 3-13. Displace
  46. 3-14. "Death, Limbo, and then Heaven down the Hall"
  47. 3-15. Is Sense in Culture?
  48. Conclusion: Is the World a Laboratory?
  49. Afterword

    Andrew Pickering

  50. Notes
  51. References
  52. Index