Contingent Agencies

  • Diagramming emergent atmospheres and ephemeral environments
Artistic Research Project

Project Partner

Universität für Angewandte Kunst Wien


01 May 2019–30 September 2022



Nikolaus Gansterer is principal investigator of the project 'Contingent Agencies' on experimental mapping of atmospheres, situations and environments. Contingent Agencies is an artistic research project conceived by Nikolaus Gansterer and Alex Arteaga as an inquiry into enveloping presences that emerge in given situations for those who inhabit them. These presences are denominated with various terms such as “moods”, “places”, or “figures”. In this project we favor the words “atmospheres” and “environments.”All these expressions stand for a kind of presence, which is basically characterized as subtle, dynamic, complex, unstable, intangible and non-objectified. More particularly, this project investigates the specific ways in which the actualization of the agencies of single components of a situation (from light to animals, from artifacts to sounds, from matter to vegetation, from traffic to color) conditions the emergence of these comprehensive and senseful presences. Accordingly, atmospheres are considered as coherent networks of phenomena that emerge due to a systemically organized set of intertwined agencies: the capacity of each component of a given situation to transform the presence of the other components and the arising environment. Contingent Agencies takes a phenomenological and enactivist approach, which enables a fruitful combination of an experienced-based access to the object of research and a system-oriented perspective. This inquiry aims at investigating this subject matter in a non- reductive way through artistic practices in connection with other processes of research realized through practices developed in the humanities, the social, and the natural sciences. The structure of this project is based on “research cells”: units of inquiry defined by a limited duration, a specific spatiality, a determined number of participants (artists, specialist of different disciplines), a group of practices to be realized and of tactics to share them. The core of each cell is termed “þing” (pronounced “thing”): the spatiotemporal framework, in which the fundamental aesthetic practices—practices of notation—are carried out. Contingent Agencies is a four year research endeavor (2019-2023) that was inaugurated at the Research Pavilion #3 at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. The project is funded by the Program for Arts-based Research (PEEK) of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

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Activity List

Published By: Nikolaus Gansterer | Universität für Angewandte Kunst Wien | Publication Date: 09 May 2022, 11:18 | Edit Date: 24 November 2022, 09:22