interdisciplinary research studio-lab


Project Description:

How has it come to be that artists, scientists and scholars use this prickly word “performance” to describe a similar interest in material actions and temporal processes despite being situated in radically different cultures of knowledge? Performativity and Technics will aim to answer this question by linking concepts and practices of performance across three disciplines: (1) performance studies, (2) Science and Technology Studies’ (STS) formulation of the “performative” idiom in techno-scientific practice and (3) the new media arts in the arenas of biotechnical art, new “performative material” explorations in architecture and computer-based interactivity. All of these disciplines use the term performance to similarly describe a dynamic, time bound event or occurrence, yet neither performance studies, STS nor New Media theory/practice has really sought to understand the resonances and connections of the concept across these different disciplines.

The project will thus link the traditional human focus of performance studies with the non-human focus of STS and New Media where artists and practitioners increasingly attribute performative agency to technical systems in the creation of interactions between the human and technical environment. Through its interdisciplinary approach, the research will build bridges and advance knowledge between scholars and artists engaged in both humanities-based research and artistic practices with new technologies.

Performativity and Technics will use complementary theoretical and practice-based methods to explore this kaleidoscopic world of performance among new media art, science studies and technology. The theoretical framework will explore the differences between performance studies’ embodied understanding of human agency (Butler), Science and Technology Studies’ concept of material agency and the performativity of matter (Barad, Haraway, Pickering) and specific twentieth century philosophers of technology who investigate the dynamical interaction and evolution of technical systems in their environments (Simondon, Stiegler, Canguilhem, Guattari). The theoretical framework will be then tested against the actual studio-lab practices of real artists and designers. Methodological instruments of participatory observation, structured and unstructured interviews and audio-video documentation of studio-lab work will be used to bridge the theory/practice split by demonstrating how these artists/researchers through their actions imagine, conceive, discuss, design and implement artistic works which mix up human and non-human actors and agencies (creators, instruments, objects, technologies, viewers-participants-inhabitants) in performative contexts.

Video Documentation:


Salter, Chris. 2017. “(Digital) Performance at the Edge of Visibility.” Contemporary Theater Review. Special Issue: Encountering the Digital in Performance: Deployment | Engagement | Trace.

“Art, Design and Performance in STS.” 2017. With R. Burri and J. Dumit. In The Handbook for Science and Technology Studies (STS), 4th Edition. Eds. Clark A. Miller, Ulrike Felt, Ray Fouché, Laurel Smith-Doerr. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Salter, Chris. 2015. Alien Agency: Experimental Encounters with Art in the Making. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Salter, Chris and Ionat Zurr. 2014. “An Experiment with Life.” Leonardo. Special Issue on Agency in Movement. Ed. Ionat Zurr. Volume 48, Number 2, pp. 178-179. November 2014.

“Performances of the Non-Human.” 2011. Guest column for the Creators Project. Available online at–2.


“Alien Agency: Performance with the Non-human.” “Theatre Space: Dramatic and Postdramatic, Epic and Virtual” Symposium. School of Liberal Arts. Nanjing University. Nanjing, China. November 2016.

“Alien Agencies: Resonances, Tissues and the Sensorium Turned Inside Out.” Keynote Address. Presumed Autonomy Conference: Literature and the Arts in Theory and Practice. Stockholm University. Stockholm, Sweden. May 2016.

Closing Plenary Keynote Address. “Experimentation in Art and Science – A Short History.” NEAF 2015 (National Experimental Arts Forum). Art Gallery of Western Australia. October 2015.

“Futile Labor: A Panel Discussion.” SLSA 2015 – Neo-Life. University of Western Australia. Perth, Australia. October 2015.

“Alien Agency or Making Sounds with the World.” Bonnhören. International Symposium in Urban Listening. Bonn, Germany, June 2014.

“Alien Agency or How to Do Ethnographies of the Nonhuman.” La Recherche-Création: Territoire d’Innovation Méthodologique.” Université de Québec a Montréal (UQAM) March 2014.

“Alien Agencies: Multi-species ethnography, Techno-science and Performances of the Non-human.” Agency in Movement Symposium. SymbioticA. University of Western Australia. Perth, Australia. June 2013.

“Resonance or Ethnographies of the Acoustic Nonhuman.” CUNY Graduate Center, April 2013.

“The Material Known as Data/ Data Known as Matter.” Euphoria and Dystopia/GRAND Symposium. Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD University). February 2013.

“The Affects of a Living Machine.” Annual Meeting for the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S). Copenhagen, Denmark. October 2012.

“Alien Agencies: Research Creation and Nonhuman Ethnographies.” Keynote Address. Experimental Crossings: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on Interdisciplinarity in Arts Practices. Maastrict University. Maastricht, Netherlands. February 2012.

“Alien Agency: Performance, Materiality and Temporal Emergence in New Media Studio Labs.” Annual Meeting for the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S). Cleveland, Ohio, USA. November 2011.

“Performance, Materiality and Active Agency: STS and Temporal Emergence in New Media Studio-Labs.” Rewire: Fourth International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology. JMU University. Liverpool, UK. September 2011.

“Alien Agencies: Performativity, Science and Material Practices.” Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSA) 2012. Kitchener, Ontario. September 2011

“Performance, Science and the Lab.” Annual Conference: Performance Studies International (PSI). Utrecht, NL. May 2011.

“Alien Agencies. Liveness, Materiality and Nonhuman Performativity.” PACT Zollverein. Essen, Germany. ISEA 2010. August 2010.

“Bios + Techne: Non Human Agency or How Stuff Performs.” Biopalimpsests. SLSA Europe. Riga, Latvia. June 2010.

“Sensor Networks as Technical Objects.” Simondon Conference. American University of Paris. Paris, France. May 2010.

“Bios + Techne: Non Human Agency or How Stuff Performs.” Zooontotechnics. Center for Cultural Studies. University of Cardiff. Cardiff, Wales. May 2010.


Standard Research Grant. Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


November 2010-November 2013


Labxmodal (Concordia University)– Chris Salter (PI), Harry Smoak, Jaclyn Meloche, Valerie Lamontagne, Adam Basanta, Lenka Novakova, David Szanto, Margaret Westby