Diffractive Art Practices: Computation and the Messy Entanglements between Mainstream Contemporary Art, and New Media Art


, Jun 19, 2015
LoVid, 486 Shorts, 2006
LoVid, 486 Shorts, 2006. Credit: Pace University


We engage with Karen Barad’s notion of diffraction (2007) to re-evaluate the relations between mainstream contemporary art (MCA) and new media art (NMA) that have been discussed for many years as part of a somewhat contentious debate. Our diffractive reading highlights both large and small but consequential differences between these art practices. We do not smooth over the tensions highlighted in earlier discussions of NMA and MCA. Instead we use Barad’s term ‘entanglement’ to suggest that there are generative ‘entanglements’, as well as productive differences, between these practices. We extend the debate by considering which differences matter, for whom (artists, gallerists, scientists) and how these differences emerge through material-discursive intra-actions. We argue for a new term, diffractive art practices, and suggest that such art practices move beyond the bifurcation of NMA and MCA to partially reconfigure the practices between art, computation and humanities.

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