Materialty & New Media Materials
Determining the material properties of digital objects has become an increasingly pressing line of inquiry within media studies and art history alike (Kirschenbaum 2008; Graham&Cook 2010; Krysa 2006). According to Gittelman (2007), the 20thcentury ascent of computation and information culture gave rise to an elusive form of digital materiality, with significant conceptual, ethical and ecological implications (Bennett 2010). While a considerable amount of contemporary scholarship asserts the historical necessity of an object-oriented (re)turn to the material realm (Harman 2012; Meillasoux 2012; Hamilton 2011), these projects have been unable to contend with digitality, focusing instead on the physically robust supports of computer interaction (screens, hard-drives, network wires). This struggle is simultaneously indicative of the conceptual aporia inherent to speaking of matter in general (insofar as matter is no longer matter-as-such once formalized) and also the difficulty of ontologically delineating between spectral representation and digital (or computational) material.
According to Joanna Drucker (2009), new media art and art-making practices have a critical contribution to make within contemporary explorations of digital materiality. While philosophical modes of inquiry have proven ill-equipped to fully navigate questions concerning matter, the practices of making that articulate new media works typically oblige artists to pry open the proverbial “black-boxes” built up around technologies, leaving them to face and intra-act (Barad 2009) with the materiality of the things themselves
Building on philosophical intersections of computation, representation and matter, and drawing upon material-driven interviews conducted with new media artists, the paper that I am proposing reveals and explores how new media (art) materials might aid in overcoming the conceptual aporias present within broader discourses on digital materiality. My paper tentatively introduces novel, grounded philosophical meditations, with significant implications for the history of New Media Art, while also further legitimizing arts-based research as rich sites for investigation with broad implications.