Abstract- Christopher L. Salter

(full paper) http://hdl.handle.net/10002/448

Unstable Events: Performative Science, Materiality and Machinic Practices

It is increasingly accepted that, alongside cybernetics, computer science, music and the visual arts, experimental performance practice is also essential for an understanding of past and present media arts history. After years of obscurity, for example, EAT’s Nine Evenings of Theater and Engineering is now held up by scholars as the quintessential event of art science collaboration. Theoretically, the term performance appeared in the work of anthropologists, sociologists and theatre makers such as Erving Goffman, Victor Turner and Richard Schechner in the 1960s, who wanted to connect the performing arts with the social sciences. However rich theories of social dramas (Turner) or interaction rituals (Goffman) are for understanding performance as a general cultural paradigm, however, these models are proving inadequate for grappling with the complex human-machinic relationships that mark contemporary artistic practices within techno-culture.
Now performance is migrating to the sciences, with increasing interest from disciplines outside of artistic contexts, for example, science and technology studies (STS) and Human Computer Interaction. As articulated by scholars investigating how science constructs and disseminates knowledge, “performance” is seen as a methodology for an understanding of complex, dynamic phenomena and systems. Theorists like John Law, Karen Baarad and Bruno Latour, for example, use performance to grasp the materiality of fluid techno-scientific objects/processes that are produced in scientific practice. The physicist Hans Diebner (2006) focuses on the characteristic of unrepeatability central to the act of performance; something that contradicts the well understood idea of reproducibility in science. Performance involves “the moment of action, its continuity, inherent temporality and relationship to the present.” Science and its by product, technology, are performative in that they function as potentially unpredictable, material acts that do something to the world we inhabit. This paper examines how the migration/transfer of performance from the arts to the sciences can then be used to understand the practices between humans and machinic systems that mark performance in the artistic domain and how these ideas could articulated to scholars/practitioners working in the design of complex, pervasive computation systems that increasingly pose new kinds of performative relationships between humans and machines in our everyday, quotidian world.