Chris Salter – Alien Agency, Experimental Encounters with Art in the Making


The MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262028462, English, 320 pages, 2015, USA

Chris Salter (interviewed in Neural #50) is a one-of-a-kind researcher and artist. His artistic work focuses and challenges human perception in different critical ways, while in his theoretical research he uses his own sensitivity to investigate the work of others. This book is the remarkable result of both combined, with a shared aim: understanding the artistic processes “while it’s happening.” Furthermore, dealing with art and science he attempts to prove how this process can deeply change reality as we perceive it, once we radically open our mind to what seems triggered by a non-human agent (by bacteria, unexperienced sensorial reactions, immaterial vibrating waves, or otherwise). In this timely post-human (or post-digital, or whatever it is) territory there’s a distinguishable “alienness” which becomes the essence of his analysis, supported by field research accomplished during the (collaborative and sometimes adventurous) development of three of his most ambitious artworks. With a Renaissance spirit of enquiry, Salter analyses this “alienness” through artistic practice and how it can, as he claims, “transform the world” enabling performative dynamics. And another major consequence of this “alienness” is to instigate a dynamic and radical change in the usual theoretical and practice-based contexts of producing contemporary artworks. After his seminal “Entangled” book, this book supports the development of art as a scientific experiment, which should become a pivotal idea to be considered by future generations of artists.