Between 2017 and 2022, the research group Thinking Tools focused on the concept of ‘the photographic’. Through this notion, we investigated how some specific characteristics of the photographic apparatus seeped into the wider field of visual art. With the organisation of several symposia, publications, residencies and individual research trajectories of photographers and visual artists, the impact of ‘the photographic’ on the visual arts was intellectually and artistically examined. In the following years, we wish to gradually extend the field of research to the whole of artistic practices in which a technical apparatus plays a crucial role.
For the definition of what constitutes a technical device, the Thinking Tools research group leans heavily on the insights of the media philosopher Vilèm Flusser. Following his definition of the apparatus as a ‘black box’, we do not consider it as a simple transmission device that faithfully translates the maker’s intentions into a concrete artistic object, but as an autonomously operating partner that intervenes decisively in the production process. Another characteristic of the technical apparatus is that it works according to strict rules and procedures. Therefore, within the broad field of art, the influence of the technical apparatus manifests itself both in conceptual practices where artists are willingly submitting themselves to self-designed rules and in artistic practices that employ a mix of analogue and digital apparatuses. In summary, the experimental, artistic practices that the research group wishes to support are determined by the friction (or collision) between control and surrender, between the digital and the analogue, between old and new media.
In other words, the researchers within Thinking Tools operate in the field of tension between the (relative) autonomy of a technical apparatus, the unruliness of the material they work with, and the idiosyncrasy of an independent artistic position. The result of this multifaceted interaction, of this multiple authorship, is a polyphonic artistic object where different actors meet on an equal footing. The works these artist-researchers create are hybrid objects, determined by the friction between human and non-human (technical, algorithmic, chemical, operational) actors. By encouraging researchers to allow these non-human forces to actively and poetically intervene in the production process, we invite them to produce work in which new relationships to (and imaginings of) the world can take form.
Thinking Tools is a research group of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp
Chair: Dr. Steven Humblet
Contact: [email protected]