Andrew Pickering – 2012 Nov 20

Andrew Pickering – Re-New Festival

Aldous Huxley – The doors of perception – William Blake – John Cunstable – “This is not drawing this is inspiration” – “I have meant it to be drawing” 

Stages a split between active human agency between active human beings and static things – the split is asymmetric 

What connects things and people – is sight (sense) and cognition

This asymmetric dualism – is the natural ontological attitude of the modern west.

The ontological politics – specific ontologies to specific practices

Science is a “dance of agency” – material performances in the lab – in scientific research nature doesn’t perform in a machine like fashion.  The point of research is to be surprised – brutal emergence, becoming. 

Glaser – bound up in the dance – not in control – time lapse images – bubble track.  “He had somehow lined himself up with the material world…”

Taoist – “we are just there in one corner of being”

Art teachers us about the Tao in technologies – the symmetry or dance of agency

Bonzai trees – cannot register in terms of a Western Art framing 

Ontological Theater – staging the de-centred ontologies of a taoist kind 

Seven Days by Christ Wellsby 

Music for Solo Performer by Alvin Lucier

Hilozoist art – Art is already all there, in nature

The Electrochemical Glass – Brown (2006) 

Critical Transition – Bjorda

Staging Agency 

Musicolor – The Colloqui of Mobile – Gordon Pask

Archigram – Fun Palace – places that 



Petit Mal

The tortoise These parents have two children: One is electric (robots as a performative brain) 

Garnet Hertz’s – cockroach controlled robot

Technologies of the Self

Brian Gyson – Dream Machine

Chris Salter – JMD – lower limits of awareness

Huxley – Mescaline

John C Lilly – Deep Self 


Agency – Realism

The human and the non-human are symmetrically caught up together in a plane of agency 

Why should we bother – why should we work on how people understand

Max Hawkheimer – The world of objects to be judged, is in large measure..

Ontology and action hang together  (media and method?)

Art becomes political in this non-standard but broad sense

Bad emergence – environmental catastrophe 

Neo-taoist engineering – open-ended dances of agency – adaptive environmental management

Staging of ontological taoism – that help us deal with macro-phenomena in new ways

“Erosion control in japan is like a game of chess…”



Kapra – interested in the history of ideas – whereas Andrew is interested in the practices of ideas (my phrase) 

The Tao of Chemistry


  • alan lamb
    December 4, 2012 - 10:38 am | Permalink

    Dear Andrew

    I heard from a friend of mine, Oron Catts, that you played some of my music at a recent conference/festival. He described it as if to illustrate your concept of the “dance of agency”.

    I am most interested to know how you make this relationship. I myself have ruminated on the question ever since I began working with the “music” in the mid seventies.

    I would be delighted to receive from you any suggestions as to which of your writings might inform me further.

    I am retired now from my day job so have plenty of time in which to become familiar with your work. I thank Oron for making the connection.

    Incidentally I first became fascinated by the music of singing wires whilst at Edinburgh University doing a PhD in developmental neurobiology. I had no idea at the time that the music would overwhelm my interest in my science. The truth is the science I was doing became irrelevent to my initial philosophical reason for doing it, twenty years after I began!

    Perhaps we met in a corridor or two. I graduated from Edinburgh in 1975.

    Yours sincerely

    Alan lamb

    • December 4, 2012 - 10:22 pm | Permalink

      Hi Alan – this is the notes of one Jamie Allen (me), not Andrew’s website. These are just notes from a talk he gave recently at the Re-New Festival in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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