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Networked Actor Theory publication

Kuva: Vincent Roumagnac. 2020.

Outi Condit ja Simo Kellokumpu

S: Moi Outi

O: Moi Simo!

S: Could you tell me what is Networked Actor Theory -publication? Where does the name come from?

O: The publication grew from the research day we arranged in May 2019. And the event originated from the desire to bring together artistic research projects that somehow re-evaluate the agencies of performing bodies and decentre the human figure that has traditionally ruled the stage. I asked you to join me in curating it, and when we were thinking about a name, our colleague Vincent Roumagnac (who is also one of the contributors of the publication) had several fun suggestions, of which Networked Actor Theory stuck. It playfully evokes Actor-Network Theory, developed in the 80s and 90s by Bruno Latour, Michael Callon, Madeleine Akrich, John Law, and others, for which Latour is perhaps best known. But ANT is more method than theory: it’s a way to question how agency is distributed in a mesh of actants, which themselves are co-produced by their relations and can also be divided into other actants. In this way ANT also destabilizes the human as the centre and origin of agency.

All the contributing artists in this publication have singular approaches to performing bodies and the politics and technologies that pervade them, and also shake the boundaries of these categories. Each contribution also implicitly gestures towards how dissemination –“writing”–may be conceived in artistic research. Persisting with this question has been quite important to us, hasn’t it?

Thanks for inviting me! Absolutely, we need recognition of different kinds of ways of disseminating research as much as we need understanding of how human, and artistic, agencies emerge from and are part of a relational mesh. When we think about publication formats in this era of hyperreading, what could other kinds of writing be in artistic research, and what kind of expertise might they require? When dissemination of research is predominantly thought of as writing and reading, what is meant by “text”? What kind of sensibilities and skills might be required, when reading is not based on the linear left-to-right movement of the eyes? This field of questions is where this publication takes place. How do you see this, as an artist-researcher?

O: Hyperreading conjures up a sense of fast, shallow, patchy and cursorial engagement, in which you dive from one hyperlink to the next. Networked Actor Theory, on the other hand, contains several video contributions. They produce almost the opposite response: they suck the reader into their own temporality, and they cannot be “read” without yielding to it. At the same time image, sound, text, speech, and the traces of different kinds of agencies and corporealities mingle and destabilise one another. There might be a point when it no longer makes sense to speak of “reading” and “writing” (for some commentators even listening to audio books is not reading proper), but instead of policing borders I find it more interesting to think what these different textualities and sensibilities make possible.

S: Shaking up and touching the limits of the practices of dissemination is part of artistic research and it can affect academic practices more widely. Diverging from the traditions of academic writing opens up interesting challenges for an artist researcher, including possibilities to engage with bodies in fresh ways. We touch more on this in our introduction to the publication. And what different kinds of corporealities are invoked in the contributions! This is also something that you’ve been digging into in your own research. Do we want to equip the reader with some kind of instructions before they dive in?

O: I don’t think so! I’m interested in the certain wildness that opens within and between the contributions. Let’s hope the reader finds it joyful!

Condit, Outi & Kellokumpu, Simo. 2021. Networked Actor Theory. Nivel 14 Publication Series of the Theatre Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-353-031-7

Read the publication here

Image: Vincent Roumagnac. 2020.

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