David Strang


This thesis explores the materiality at play within installation and performance artworks from across the interdisciplinary fields of media arts, digital arts and contemporary technological arts and is positioned at the noisier end of the artistic spectrum of these disciplines. The practice-led research presented here deals with the shift away from clean digital media environments of production in order to embrace a more material focused approach that has emerged within recent years (see the emergence of physical computing and electronics practices), especially across sonic arts practices (see also the re-emergence of modular synthesis). The aim is to unfold an understanding of the creative potential within the movement and flow of noise in machines or systems utilising light and sound. Central to this aim is the discussion around the physical objects at play within tools / devices / technological machines in order to realise the power in the non-human object and its extended interactions. This is not meant in order to ignore the human but rather as a case to present a more entangled discourse of human, object and machine where the influence of minuscule particles over actions and activities of a machine are viewed as equally important as the hand, flesh and brain that engages with them for creative, artistic purposes. This approach engages with fields of theoretical discourse emerging from post-humanism, in particular Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) and New Materialism. This theoretical discourse offers the platform for dealing with the fields of assemblages, territories, resonance, noise, in-between, interference, interaction, and agency through the writings of, among others, Deleuze and Guattari, Ian Bogost, Levi Bryant, Jane Bennett, Elisabeth Grosz, and Michel Serres. In order to deal with the creative complexity in the topic and to aid the contextualisation of the discourse a variety of practical projects are introduced throughout as examples of and influences upon this practice-led research. These works range from historically influential media and sonic artists such as Nam June Paik and John Cage through to contemporary media and sonic artists and makers such as Martin Howse and John Richards. Entangled throughout this discourse the author presents the collaborative practical research project by David Strang and Vincent Van Uffelen: transmission+interference. This practice develops noise devices through open, collaborative workshops exploring the creative potential of noise in light and sound. As many of these devices are constructed for sonic output they suggest the term ‘instrument’ but that seems to carry too much of a classical connotation of standard musical practice or too scientific - for the purposes of this thesis, the discourse, following Levi Bryant (2014), engages with the term of the ‘machine’. The term ‘machine’ does not ignore the technical objects entangled together and suggests a physicality in support of the materiality of the objects. It also encourages thought around the imperfections of machines (they are not scientific) and suggests that they are, in someway, following from Deleuze and Guattari and Manuel Delanda’s discourse of assemblages, appropriated to arrive at the form they take. The creative art practices that are discussed each offer a unique discourse within the themes of the thesis. The practice of transmission+interference is introduced at the start of this thesis in order to contextualise later discussions around the project. It is here where we first encounter the combinations of objects, things, materials, noise and workshop practices at a surface level before dealing with the complexities of that matter in later sections. This section acts to frame the thesis and subsequent discourse by mapping out the territories of the practice-led research in order to understand what is being made (what objects, things, materials are involved), how it is being made (what forms of collaboration are involved) and what the overall outcomes from the practice are (performances or installations). The thesis then shifts to deal with the physical matter of things, objects and materials at play within the practice of transmission+interference to focus on what Jane Bennett calls ‘the power of things’ (2010) in order to examine the influence and impact of objects across creative workshops and begin to flatten the ontology between the human and non-human components interacting within. The fields of OOO and New Materialism are introduced here as the core theoretical grounding for the thesis as the discourse navigates from objects and things and vibrant units (Bogost) to more complex assemblages (Deleuze and Guattari, DeLanda) and structurally open machines (Bryant). Following on from this materials focused discourse the thesis then presents the largest object at play within the practice: noise. This section explores the capacities of and for noise from within the fields of sonic arts, avant-garde music, and information theory to present the creative potential of noise within the making process. Presented here is a noisy vitalism (a form of resonance) drawn from the objects and things of the previous section that is now acting within systems to form new emergent machines. Finally, the thesis discusses the making process itself - the creative workshop, where the physical materials of chapter one and the noise of chapter two are entangled in an assemblage of interactive and intra-active (Barad, 2007) making. This section engages in discourse that has recently moved away from the limiting field of D.I.Y (Do It Yourself) practices to the more openly collaborative D.I.W.O (Doing It With Others). It is here where the entanglement of human and non-human is most richly experienced as the ‘Others’ is ontologically flattened to include all objects, things, materials, and humans. What is presented here in this practice-led research is anew methodology embracing in the noisy entanglements of human and non-human materiality that is influenced by sonic arts practices. Through OOO and New Materialism humans are opened up to the inner powers and intra-actions of objects and materials through chance wanderings to reveal new creative potential for sonic arts performances and interactive installations.

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