The world of information is changing in such a way that all we seem to know for sure is that ‘knowledge’ cannot be taken for face value. Battles between knowledge paradigms, in popular media as well as in academia, seem to disassemble with an increasing awareness that what we think we know is anyways a matter of bias, framing, disciplinary stubbornness, or algorithmic processes. In the arts and academia, practice philosophies challenge theoretical islands and transdisciplinary methodologies seed our research questions in what we identify as urgencies in the world, beyond disciplinary rigidity. Art’s analysis, which used to be situated in the ‘work of art,’ is now situated in the forums, contexts, and milieus of the doings of the art. And concerns are moving towards the qualities and transformative potentials of that – what’s in it for us?
This condition of our world informs my hypothesis. Rather than pursuing answers to epistemological questions, my research departs from concerns with ontologies of art, aesthetics, or cultural phenomena, which inform our experience. If true knowledge cannot be obtained, then how is a sense of possibility instantiated? As Bernhard Stiegler states in Technics and Time 2: Disorientation, “…the issue is no longer one of knowledge. (…) the question is one of fiction’s very possibility” (p. 154). The analytical framework for examining art or other phenomena then turns from the object towards mechanisms by which phenomena are experienced and manifest in human cognition and perceptual-sensory experience, communicative infrastructures, and worldly systems.
I research, teach and disseminate in the domain of art and (digital) culture by means of philosophies, methodologies, tools and thinking frameworks from various disciplines – or academically anchored life experience – which, in the theoretical or analytical experiment deem useful to examine how our experience with a given phenomenon is constituted and how this experience might evoke a sense of possibility. Through various modes of output in writing, exhibition, and discussion, my research contributes to the field of arts and humanities not only by incorporating methodologies from ‘other’ fields but by pushing research questions towards: what is in it for us in the world? How is our experience with art, cultural phenomena, objects, infrastructures, cultural politics, etc. composed in a way that teaches, reveal or condition us to sense, formulate or behave in particular ways (according to something seemingly ‘possible’ rather than necessarily ‘a given fact’)?
What Jacques Rancière has named our current ‘aesthetic regime of art’ announces a condition in which art is freed from specific rules, from the hierarchies of the arts, and from subject matter and genres. In this condition, aesthetics strictly refer to the specific mode of being of objects of art (Rancière 2015, 18). This announces challenging yet exciting times for scholarship in the arts and humanities. Much of my previous work has been engaged with examination and inquiry into ways of accounting for art’s modes, experiences, qualities and implications of existence when rules, categories, discourse, and manifest epistemologies no longer hold sway – if they ever did.
I examine art beyond art’s interests (or, the interests of art’s discourse). I am concerned with art’s role in relation to pressing challenges in the world – across humanitarian, environmental, biological and other challenges – with which the art deals and evolves. Therefore my research and curatorial practice has drawn on methods and epistemologies beyond the domain of art, for example, from sociology’s understanding of human dynamics, music’s composition of an audience sphere, architecture’s analysis of space, physics’ examination of material and matter, and biology’s examination of conditions for life forms and becoming – combining multiple perspectives in a transdisciplinary medley.
My research and projects examine urban media aesthetic phenomena and (media) art’s engagement with societal, urban and worldly change, from a global perspective. Since ancient times, art and the arts have been anchor points of human consciousness and considered fundamental to building up societies. Today, as we race our cities towards increasingly technocratic and rationalized futures, we can continuously explore how art’s sensibilities, inquiries, and political aesthetics entangle with the ecologies from which our innovations and cultures emerge, and how art may contribute to bringing us towards more conscious realities.
Dr. Tanya Toft Ag is a curator, researcher, writer and lecturer examining trajectories of media art(s) and urban change. She holds a Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School, and a Master of Arts in Modern Culture with specialization in Urbanity and Aesthetics from Copenhagen University. In 2017 she gained her doctoral degree from Copenhagen University with a critical perspective on urban media art as temporal, contemporary matter in perspective of conditions of intensity, intelligence and immersion in urban media aesthetics. She has taken up visiting scholarships at Columbia University, The New School and Konstfack – University of Arts, Crafts and Design (CuratorLab). In 2018-2020 she is a research fellow at the School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong. She has presented her work at international conferences worldwide and held keynotes at Female Art Experiments Norway 2019, Elektronika Festival 2018 in Belo Horizonte, Live the City 2016 in Bangkok, and City Link Conference 2015 in Copenhagen.
Her curatorial practice evolves with media art and media architecture in urban environments, as curator of the Screen City Biennial 2017 (Stavanger) and head of the biennial’s artistic research program, and associated with the Streaming Museum (NYC) since 2011 and Verve Cultural/SP Urban Digital Festival (São Paulo) since 2012. Independent exhibitions include Voyage to the Virtual (Scandinavia House, NYC, 2015) and Here All Alone (Copenhagen, 2015). She is chair and member of various conference and gallery boards (International Advisory Committee to ISEA, Media Art Histories – RE:SOUND 2019, Media Architecture Biennale 2018, Human-Computer Interaction Conference (HCI) 2017 and 2018, Open Sky Gallery 2015-2016). She is editor of Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art (Intellect, 2018/2019) and co-editor of What Urban Media Art Can Do – Why, When, Where, and How? (av edition, 2016). In 2017 she co-initiated the globally networked Urban Media Art Academy.
Contact: tanyatoft (at) gmail . com