net art, video, performance

Annie Abrahams

inter – intra – action (fr)

Depuis quelques temps j’essaie de réfléchir sur un nouveau concept: Agency Art, que j’ai découvert dans un texte d’Arjen Mulder de 2012.
J’aime beaucoup cette notion, parce que elle ne prend pas un medium, ou une technologie comme point de départ, mais met en avant ce que celles-ci rendent possible. C’est un art qui s’ancre dans les choix comportementaux, dans les gestes. Son sens est les actions rendus possibles. J’ai écrit un billet qui en parle plus amplement. (en anglais)


Mulder intègre ses idées dans l’histoire. Il remonte vers des penseurs comme Spinoza, Shannon, Wiener, MacKay, McLuhan, Cassirer, Langer, Gell, Latour, Heidegger, Derrida, Badiou, Rancière, Danto, Whitehead, Steiner, Rolnik et encore d’autres.

Dans mes tentatives de mieux comprendre ce que ce concept pourrait apporter à ma propre pratique artistique je lis des entretiens (en anglais) avec Karen Barad une physicienne et féministe américaine qui parle d’un autre concept nouveau pour moi: l’intra-action.
Dans les années 90 du siècle dernier le mot interaction était un mot clef pour analyser mes œuvres en hypertext. Peut être aujourd’hui l’intra-action peut m’aider à mieux réfléchir mes travaux de performance collaborative où il n’est pas vraiment clair ce qui provoque quoi, où se trouve l’agence – ne pas entre les entités clairement distinctes, mais venant de l’intérieur d’un tout, où les conditions du serveur, les ordinateurs individuels, les différents webcams et périphériques sonores, ainsi que les voix et les images des co-performeurs, les conditions d’éclairage locales et les situations familiales sont toutes enchevêtrées dans ce que Barad appellerait un phénomène.

L’intra-action (en opposition à interaction), un néologisme introduit par Barad, représente un profond tournant conceptuel dans les métaphysiques individualistes. Pour Barad, les choses et les objets ne précèdent pas leur interaction, mais plutôt, les « objets émergent à travers des intra-actions particulières ». Source

Ce n’est pas simple du tout de comprendre les idées de Barad. J’étais contente de trouver une vidéo qui semblait l’expliquer simplement et puis je l’ai transcrit et j’ai essayé de traduire ce texte en français. (voir en bas) Tout ça pour me rendre compte que je n’en ai toujours qu’une compréhension superficielle. Ce n’est pas grave. Barad se base sur la théorie quantique et des pensées de Bohr, Butler, Harraway et Foucault. Je leur prendrai des  termes comme phenomenon, agency, apparatus et intra-action. Ils vont ré-apparaître.

Video Written & Created by: Stacey Kerr, Erin Adams, & Beth Pittard

La transcription / traduction du texte de la vidéo: Read the rest of this entry »

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inter – intra – action (Eng)

Interaction was the word I used 20 years ago when I talked about my work in hypertext. Today I need other words: one word, I already wrote about it in my last post, is Agency Art. Another might be Intra-action. I first met it in Mousse magazine #34 (2012), pp.76–81: “Intra-actions” – Interview of Karen Barad by Adam Kleinmann. You can download the interview here.

This word could be usefull to analyze my works of collaborative performance art, as for instance Angry Women, where it is not really clear what is causing what, where the agency is – not between clearly distinguisable entities, but coming from within a whole, where server conditions, individual computers, webcam and sound devices, as well as the voices and images of the co-performers, local light conditions and family situations are all entangled in what Barad would call the phenomenon.
Barad uses quantum physics to articulate a feminist view on the philosophy of science. She builds on Donna Harraway and Niels Bohr. It is not easy to understand her and I was happy to find this video that seemed quit clear.

Video Written & Created by: Stacey Kerr, Erin Adams, & Beth Pittard

But when I transcribed the spoken text, I gathered my understanding might be superficial. Concepts like phenomenon, agency, apparatus all mean something different in different contexts. And when I read in the English wikipedia: “For Barad, things or objects do not precede their interaction, rather, ‘objects’ emerge through particular intra-actions. Thus, apparatuses, which produce phenomena, are not assemblages of humans and nonhumans (as in actor-network theory). Rather, they are the condition of possibility of ‘humans’ and ‘non-humans’, not merely as ideational concepts, but in their materiality.”, I was sure I wasn’t completely getting it (yet) – to be continued.
I feel intra-action will give me a clue on why Agency Art is something not popular in the humanities, in media art etc. (yet).
Here is the transcription of the video:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Agency Art.


Agency Art is art that makes it clear to the receiver via his or her body what is at stake, where opportunities for action lie, and which virtual behaviours he or she can actualize. It demonstrates how choices work, and how to create patterns that retain their coherence while you remain part of them and transform when you move within their field of action.

I have been reading Arjen Mulder‘s* article THE BEAUTY OF AGENCY ART, and I recommand it strongly. (You can download the article on, read it in the book Vital Beauty, V2_Publishing (2012) or download it here.)

Often, when I talk about my artistic work I tell it’s using behaviour as it’s material and builds on an aesthetic of trust and attention. Sometimes people ask me what I mean by that.

I then tell them that in Being Human / Etant Humain (1997 / 2007) I was more interesting in creating the field, the network of choices in the  html page, than in the multimedia side of it. I told them I saw the works as low-tech mood mutators and interrogations on communication. I didn’t want the work to be immersive. And in my later online performance art projects (Huis Clos / No Exit, Angry Women, besides,, Distant Feeling(s)) I use strict protocols, which strangely leave a lot of freedom to the performers, so we – and they also – can reflect on their behaviour.

Attention and trust are requisites for this to happen and necessities when taking distance of the feelings provoked to appreciate its aesthetics.

Agency Art gives me a new terminology that might help me think these ideas further – I like the word because it doesn’t take any technology or medium as it’s starting point, but puts what these make possible in the foreground. It is art that has behavioural choices, gestures as it’s anchor points. Its meaning is the acts made possible.

The significance of Agency Art is related to a concept called “virtual behavioural space”. This concept is an extension of the concept of “virtual feeling” that Susanne K. Langer in Feeling and Form (1953) introduced. Each individual art medium evokes, manipulates and investigates “virtual feelings” in its own way.
A painting calls forth virtual depth with lines and colours; a sculpture constructs a virtual volume around itself; a novel constitutes virtual memory, tracked through virtual time. Dance follows virtual forces of attraction and repulsion. All the experiences that are part of this “feeling” are spaces of possibility, virtual feelings waiting for actualization; their nature, allurements and dangers must be studied, and art is where this investigation takes place.

See also Agency Art II

Why no-one else took to using Agency Art? Mulder embeds his ideas in history, goes back to thinkers as Shannon, Wiener, MacKay, McLuhan, Cassirer, Langer, Gell, Latour, Heidegger, Derrida, Badiou, Rancière, Danto, Whitehead, Steiner, Rolnik and others.
Maybe because his writing was too diffracted at the moment of publishing?

Diffraction is meant to disrupt linear and fixed causalities, and to work toward ‘‘more promising interference patterns’’. This can be practiced by reading texts through one another, and rewriting. It disrupts the temporality of a piece of writing, transverses boundaries such as discipline, and can change meanings in different contexts opening up meaning. Iris van der Tuin on

More on diffractive reading and writing in Matter feels, converses, suffers, desires, yearns and remembersan Interview with Karen Barad by Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin (2009).

*Already in 2005 I read Understanding Media Theory (2004) a book by Mulder (also available on I was influenced by his thoughts. Ik heb ook zijn boek De vrouw voor wie Cesare Pavese zelfmoord pleegde (2004) gelezen. Ik ben ook een fan van Pavese.*

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* 29/07 6-7.30 pm CET #NeWWWorlDisorder broadcast performance on facebook and the Third Space Network.
* 12/10 18h Qu’est-ce et pourquoi agency art ? conférence, festival Mèq, hTh, Montpellier.
* 28/10 L’entrelangue à trois, Espace o25rjj, Loupian.
* 2-5/11 Distant Feeling(s) #4, Mobile Utopia conference, Lancaster University.
* 4-9/12 Qu(o)i <=> agence <=> Quand Résidence Labo NRV Subsistances Lyon.

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Annie Abrahams
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