Agential Matter (Invisible Landscapes)

Sabine Popp, university of bergen, faculty of fine art, music and design

The project examines performativity of algae, objects and bodies in instances of observation in scientific research, industrial production and artistic encounter, in an attempt to twist the human-centered viewpoint to give materiality itself a dominant role. The spaces of investigation are seen as sites of social practice, and performativity as an ongoing dialogue and interaction between different parts involved, including matter as an actant. They are sites for artistic research, and production and presentation of work, but form different contextual framings around the same core.

Lines from different directions in contemporary art are brought together in testing and questioning the conceptual and aesthetic potential of matter. The project is situated between critical realism, by addressing socio-political issues and questions of landuse, on the one hand, and new materialism, in its exploration of material processes and affects, on the other, meanwhile applying methods from social practices in site-specific and studio work.

Matter has turned from being passive and merely acted upon, to being attributed a high degree of activity in philosophical and artistic discourse influenced by object-oriented-ontology. In the arts the notion of passive matter became challenged already with process art in the 60s. After postmodernism the interest for materiality and its processes has returned. In order to investigate agency the project examines not so much what matter is, but what it can do in relation to others.

The work developes by immersion into four spaces: the subsea forest as landscape, the scientific laboratory with its task of monitoring, the industrial site to harvest and process kelp, and the art space to scrutinize and process extracted elements in form of objects, sounds, images and movements from the other spaces.
I want to trace material entanglements by different ways of acting, observing and discussing, by taking on a specific role in each space. Dialogue is carried out by action, with the aim to create a feedback loop in the complex system of each investigated space. The boundary between audience/ dialogue partners/ collaborators becomes unclear.

Fragments of the first three spaces will be brought to the art space, to isolate them from their context, and to illuminate and reflect relationships by dissecting and reassembling elements before return. Process and performativity is more important than any stable condition, as the entanglement of materialities isn’t stable but fluid. The art object appears as a momentary communicator and facilitator, not as autonomous object.