Focus Artistic Research

Contingent Agencies

Project lead: Nikolaus Ganster
Institute of Fine Arts & Media Art
Duration: 01.05.2019 - 31.05.2023
Austrian Science Fund (FWF): AR 546 Programm zur Entwicklung und Erschließung der Künste
Contingent Agencies is an artistic research project conceived to inquiry into a subject matter, which is central for artistic practices and has been denominated with different terms: “atmosphere”, “ambience”, “Stimmung”, “mood”, “topology”, “place”, “environment” or “figure”. All these expressions stand for a kind of presence, which is basically characterized as enveloping, impermanent, unstable, intangible and non-objectified. It is a kind of presence that emerges surrounding the person to whom it appears due to the interaction between all components of the situation in which it arises. This project focuses on the re-search of one central aspect of this kind of presence that has been often overseen: the agency of the situa-tion’s components that allow it to arise. In this regard, the main research question is the following: What is the specific agency of the different types of elements that enable the emergence of ephemeral environ-ments? In other words: How do the single components of a situation interact so that a fleeting figure aris-es? In addition, this project pursues three subsidiary goals: first, to contribute to the fundamental knowledge about this modality of presence; second, to develop a new research methodology, based on artistic practice and practices of the humanities, that allows for an exhaustive and non-reductive inquiry; and third, to design innovative formats and strategies of dissemination. The theoretical framework of this project is configured fundamentally by the work of some authors that have researched the modality of presence to be investigated here: Böhme, Thibaud, Gumbrecht, Malpas and Casey. This inquiry takes a phenomenological and enactivist approach, which enables a fruitful combination of an experienced-based access to the object of research and a system-oriented perspective. The recently concluded three-year research projects of the key-researchers Nikolaus Gansterer (“Choreo-graphic Figures") and Alex Arteaga (“Architecture of Embodiment”) constitute the conceptual and methodological basis for the integration of these sources and approaches. The structure of this project is based on “research cells”: units of inquiry defined by a limited duration, a specific spatiality, a determined number of participants (artists, specialist of different disciplines), a group of practices to be realized and of strategies to connect them. The core of each cell is termed “þing” (pronounced “thing”): the spatiotemporal framework, in which the fundamental aesthetic practices—practices of notation—are carried out.
Contingent Agencies is a project of fundamental artistic research, the results of which can be applied in the fields of architecture, design, space-related artistic practices, art pedagogy, philosophy, art theory, as well as critical and cultural studies.