Topological Media Lab

For 10 years, the TML has constituted a set of conversations between different modes of practice and knowledge — philosophy, performing arts, media arts and engineering — articulated in things and events. It’s a philosophical investigation carried out in the form of material experiments as live events.

Our experiments focus on (1) people in the same place together, (2) thick media and situations, (3) bracketed language, (4) first person experience, (5) actors are spectators and spectators are actors.

As a research atelier, we are not a facility for producing art, though in the course of making experimental events, we produce objects and media that are rich and evocative enough to work as art and performative instruments. Rather than try to erase the world and vary only some small percept, we use the techniques of theatre, music, dance, plastic and visual arts to condition experiences in all the density of everyday life, but with poetic condensation or metaphorical power. We always start with analog material and bodies in order to start with the most refined practices and densest experience, and introduce computational techniques according to a “minimax” rule of thumb: maximum experiential impact for minimum technology. Having said that however, we cultivate the technical and conceptual capacity in-house to invent or modify our feature-extraction and media synthesis instruments to a high degree of technicity.

We can be noisy, divergent, and even contentious, but making our seminars and experiments requires us to create events as boundary objects that bring us together in concert.

The experimental aspect of this work proceeds at two scales. The micro scale concerns topological responsive media, which includes time-based media and computationally-augmented fabrics. The macro scale concerns the architecture of responsive media spaces, which includes augmented reality, sensor-based interactive environments, projected and ubiquitous media. We investigate how to build, inhabit and use sensate or active matter — combinations of computational and physical materials sensitive to environmental features or activities, responding by changing their form or appearance. We say material because the emphasis is not so much on objects or devices, but on continuous substrates.

The experimental approach intertwines with a critical, theoretical project that treats the world as a continuous ontology. The theoretical work explores the limits of discrete representation, finding alternatives to linguistic-semiotic analysis in the form of non-metric topological, dynamical, potential-theoretic and other material patterns. This theoretical project is informed by a material and social phenomenology. This investigation is substantively based in a fusion of computer science, science studies and critical studies of new media.

Intertwining scientific work with cultural practice gives meaning and context to guide the research. Our associates collaborate with other artist-philosopher researchers to materialize these ideas as artifacts, installations and public conversations such as the TGarden responsive media spaces, and the series of video Membranes and the Ouija improvisatory movement experiments.