An Aesthetics of Matters of Concern

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Coordinators: Marsha Bradfield and Jem Mackay

An Aesthetics of Matters of Concern is an ongoing project aimed at addressing a question raised in Ecoes as well as our respective research practices. What might a collaborative aesthetics involve? How might it look, feel, taste, sound, smell? More specifically, what are the possibilities of a collaborative aesthetics grounded in Latour's notion of 'matters of concern'?

The Art of Research: Research Narratives

Title of Proposed Contribution: An Aesthetics of Matters of Concern in Collaborative Art Research Keywords: collaboration, aesthetics of matters of concern, Actor-Network Theory

Proposal: Taking its cue from actor-network theorist Bruno Latour’s work on ‘matters of concern,’ this presentation explores the possibilities of an ‘aesthetics of matters of concern.’ Latour describes ‘matters of concern’ as an alternative to ‘matters of fact’ when he writes the following in his curatorial statement for ‘Making Things Public,’ an exhibition at ZKM (Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe) in 2005:

Either we should despair of politics and abandon the hope of providing public proofs altogether, or we should abandon the worn-out cliché of incontrovertible matters of fact…This is what we wish to attempt: where matters-of-fact have failed, let’s try what I called matters-of-concern…We might be more connected to each other by our worries, our matters of concern, the issues we care for, than by any other set of values, opinions, attitudes or principles.

Our interest in an ‘aesthetics of matters of concern’ emerged from our work on ‘Ecoes,’ a collaborative project that used actor-network theory (ANT) to edit a ‘documentary’ video of the ‘Market of Ideas,’ an event facilitated by Critical Practice research cluster in the spring of 2008. For this video editing project, five collaborators discussed using ANT in face-to-face meetings and online forums. Eventually, each of us edited a clip or clips, which were assembled into an interactive document in the form of a DVD. This document was recently presented at Networks of Design, the Annual International Design History Society Conference (University College Falmouth, September 3-6, 2008). The five collaborators described their respective positions on the project and presented the video in a forum at the conference. While the project provoked lively discussion, it was observed that the video aspect failed to convincingly demonstrate an ‘aesthetics of matters of concern’ in Latour’s sense of the term.

For Research Narratives, we propose to push our initial R/research further by speculating about an ‘aesthetics of matters of concern’. Our contribution will take the form of a website aimed at mapping the heterogeneous worries, issues, values, opinions, etc. at play in ‘Ecoes’. Through representing both the collaborators’ individual and shared interests in the project—through exploring what brought them together and kept them together in this R/research—we aim to propose an ‘aesthetics of matters of concern’ as a method for conducting R/research into collaborative art practice.

Practical Considerations: We will borrow a laptop (and ideally a projector) from Chelsea and mount it on a desk or plinth to make it easily accessible. As the website will be online, we will also distribute flyers specifying the URL so that symposium attendees can access ‘Matters of Concern’ on their own computers. We anticipate having between ten and fifteen minutes for the presentation/discussion of our work in the conference.

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Return to Ecoes

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Action Points:

1. Marsha and Jem are preparing for the conference by developing AMC on SwarmTV [1]

2. Marsha is going to secure a computer from Chelsea on which to present the project

Project Development


Bruno Latour: | Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern