The (new) Accident of Art


Most accidents (as long as they do not harm or threaten life) can be forgiven, and new things often emerge from the chaos. In fact, fluctuations between the chaotic and the accidental are recognised as core to much experimental practice in media arts. In this paper I will examine the place of the accident in the art gallery. Accidental encounters in the art gallery occupy a critical space that moves visitors beyond established behaviours and expectations. I explore how accidents are crucial to everyday encounters with art objects (especially those that engage digital media). These misunderstood moments offer up shared and transformative experiences, and like any form of machinic encounter they set things in motion. An artwork whether networked, expanded, or simply present within a room anticipates certain feedback from a viewer. But what happens when viewers interfere? Is this kind of misbehaviour disrespectful, or does it suggest new methods for engaging with media art? If, as has been argued by both Aristotle and Virilio, each machine contains a concept of accident, encounters that recognize the creative potential of failure and instability will introduce new affective productions within the gallery space. Habits will be broken. In addressing these moments where things go wrong, I want to suggest it is the accidental encounter that marks the vibrancy of the space, time, bodies, machines and architectures that make up the art gallery.