This topic continues a conversation on art as environmental and sensorial configuration that emerged at the Media Art Histories Re:Sound conference 2019. Art’s conceptual expansion beyond object and form to becoming experience, sphere, and environment, nurtured by the growing interest in affective experience, has launched both excitement and concern with digitally afforded experience. With immersive art environments, artists explore what it feels like to be present in our contemporary world of particular temporal-sensorial conditions, and artistic concern with representation, with what is represented to us, seems to transfer to a concern with how we are present and what conditions our sense of presence today. Human sensing takes center stage as a both ontological and epistemological premise for art, recasting ideas of materiality, subjectivity, and ecologies related to art while implicated with fast-paced cultural evolution.
The celebration of ‘presence’ that seems to have liberated ‘art’s experience’ from the emphasis on meaning construction and interpretation and instrumentalization of the program and discourse of art in the hermeneutic grip is nonetheless met with skeptical accounts of art’s new alliances with the ‘memory industries’ – as evolving contingently with immersive technology that offers experiences of virtual, augmented, mixed, and other realities. Critics question speculative takes on (and, tendentially, industrial application of) art’s immersive experience when it offers ‘alternative scenarios’ mediated in various modes of ‘sensorial experience.’ They question what kinds of anticipation such experiences might stir, what future grasps of reality they may support, and with what durational and technogenetic effects.
This conversation seeks to take a deeper shovel at what is actually ‘new’ about art’s environments when conditioned by digitally afforded experience, raising the question: What might the imaginary pursuit of the ‘new’ in art’s environments eventually promise, demonstrate, and feed forward?
The conversation finds a point of departure in the following questions: What drives and conditions artistic pursuit of sense environments today? What (if anything) is ‘new’ about art’s environments and the digitally afforded experiences they offer, and how do they implicate cultural, ecological, and technogenetic perspectives? Eventually – how might art’s ‘new’ environments re-route art’s histories?