: on the critical appropriation of technologies as artistic practice

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Is it possible to design, or to choreograph and compose, without assuming a priori differences between ‘things that interact’? In the context of dance and music these ‘things’ might include bodies, movements, gestures, and sounds, as well as streams of data from motion-capture or physiological sensors. Thinking more broadly, these ‘things that interact’ might include entire disciplines and cultures. As a choreographer, I appropriate technologies such as heart rate sensors (ECGs) and use them in the process of shaping contexts in which dancers, musicians, and audience-participants interact. In so doing, I have come to question the implicit assumptions invoked by the idea that one can listen to the thing-we-call-the-heart itself or sense the thing-we-call-the-body itself, with or without biosensors. In this thesis I address the value-laden character of the design of any technology, in particular those directed at human bodies, and employ Foucault’s notion of the medical gaze as it persists across disciplines. I foreground Barad’s notion of intra-action to articulate approaches to design that take as their starting point the multiplicity and relationality of all ‘things’ (human and nonhuman)— things which only become intelligible as one particular thing by way of their entangled differentiation with other such things. Turning the mirror back on my own collaborative practice-as-research with composer John MacCallum I detail our conception of critical appropriation, that is, the intentional de- and re-contextualization of ‘technologies’ (e.g. tools, objects, concepts, methods, metrics) between disciplinary cultures as a means to probe their ethical and aesthetic boundaries. Critical appropriation is a diffractive methodology, in that it is a means to shape a context in which insights from diverse communities spill through and around one another, illuminating the ways in which they include and exclude different knowledges, as well as the effects these differences make over time. Throughout this thesis, I weave disparate knowledges about bodies and movement to cultivate cross-, inter-, and trans-disciplinary discourses that require the effects produced by critical differences in perspectives to thrive. The contribution that this thesis makes is performative: I enact critical appropriation to produce the conditions for diffractive encounters between bodies-of-knowledge in medicine, art, and philosophy over the course of epochs.
    Date of AwardSept 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSimon Ellis (Supervisor), Sarah Whatley (Supervisor) & Scott Delahunta (Supervisor)


    • choreography
    • diffraction
    • intra-action
    • interaction
    • collaboration
    • transdisciplinary
    • boundaries

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