The case of Biophilia: a collective composition of goals and distributed action


Rather than follow the machinations of a singular artist in the production and exhibition of an interactive artwork. This paper uses an actor-network approach to collectively hold to account a whole host of actors that literally make a difference in the production of an interactive artwork, Biophilia (2004-2007). My main argument is that in order for any action to take place, both humans and nonhumans must on some level collectively work together, or, in actor-network terms translate one another. This has implications for reconceptualising practice not only in terms of who is actually involved, why they are involved but problimatizes our assumptions about how ‘production’ happens at all.

Translation is important for rethinking production because it usually involves the introduction of a new actor to help solve a problem. However, such new relations are predicated and indeed just as dependent on and what these new actors are willing to give up as it is to do with what they can offer. Needless to say that when the negotiations are momentarily over, actors give up individual goals and compel others to collectively form new definitions, new intentions and new goals with each interaction. In other words, the ‘work’ represents neither the beginning nor the end of a particular event, but is described more as a continually shifting and cumulative series of distributed actions. When production is reconfigured in actor-network terms, the interactive artwork resembles something more akin to a temporary collective along a vast timeline. Where with each translation a new level of competency emerges and whose distributed actions will cumulatively engineer the artwork over time.