[ISEA2011] Panel: Mar­tijn Stevens – A mat­ter of per­cep­tion: ex­plor­ing the phys­i­cal­ity of elec­tronic art

Panel Statement

Panel: The Matter with Media

It has often been said that the dig­i­tal is com­pletely void of ma­te­r­ial and sen­sual qual­i­ties, as phys­i­cal ob­jects are re­duced to a shared lan­guage of bits with­out colour, size, vol­ume, weight or smell. As a con­se­quence, the di­rect or in­dex­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with a tan­gi­ble and there­fore ‘real’ re­al­ity is bro­ken. This does not mean, how­ever, that the dig­i­tal is merely a realm of bi­nary code, math­e­mat­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and il­lu­sory sim­u­la­tions, al­though dig­i­tal data is not in­dex­i­cal of re­al­ity ei­ther. Using quan­tum physics to ex­plore the ma­te­r­ial basis of elec­tronic art, Laura Marks sug­gests that the phys­i­cal­ity of the dig­i­tal is rather lo­cated in ‘the tiny dance of sub­atomic par­ti­cles’ or the wave forms of elec­trons. In a sim­i­lar vein, Jim Al-Khalili ar­gues that ‘noth­ing­ness’ is al­ways teem­ing with vir­tual par­ti­cles. In­ter­fac­ing the pos­i­tivist rhetoric of the nat­ural sci­ences with an un­der­stand­ing of art and media that is in­formed by no­tions of ma­te­ri­al­ism, af­fect and processes of doing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, I would like to ad­dress the phys­i­cal­ity of elec­tronic art by fo­cus­ing on the non­rep­re­sen­ta­tional, the non­hu­man and the nonor­ganic, thus down­play­ing the vi­sual in favour of other modal­i­ties of per­cep­tion.

  • Mar­tijn Stevens, after re­ceiv­ing a PhD de­gree in the Hu­man­i­ties with a the­sis on the po­si­tion and tran­si­tion of art mu­se­ums in today’s dig­i­tal cul­ture, is cur­rently a lec­turer at the De­part­ment of Cul­tural and Lit­er­ary Stud­ies (Radboud University, Nijmegen, NL), where he teaches dig­i­tal art and cul­ture, media stud­ies, crit­i­cal the­ory and cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion. He is also af­fil­i­ated with the Rad­boud Ho­n­ours Acad­emy, which of­fers both dis­ci­pli­nary and in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary pro­grammes for tal­ented stu­dents from all fac­ul­ties. His side­lines in­clude the qual­ity as­sess­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion, the in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of teach­ing and re­search, and the mem­ber­ship of the board of the Plat­form for re­search and ed­u­ca­tion in Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Media and In­for­ma­tion, hosted by the Royal Nether­lands Acad­emy of Arts and Sci­ences. Be­fore turn­ing to acad­e­mia, Mar­tijn worked in the field of the preser­va­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of media art.