Petra Gemeinboeck

Hi, I’m Petra, living in Sydney (I used to say “currently living in Sydney”, but after more than 7 years, “currently” feels a bit less mobile and unrooted), and a Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media Arts at the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW.

As a media artist, I’m interested in exploring notions of materiality and embodiment, and how they relate to agency and performativity. Coming from architecture, I’ve worked with a variety of media and “materials”, including creative robotics, interactive installation, locative media, and virtual reality environments. When I think about it, all of my works invoke a certain alien agency, involving participants in dynamic encounters with an always becoming, sometimes instable, and apparently wilful co-performer. Often this ‘co-performer’ immerses the participants in some way, surrounding them, overlaying their reality, or inserting itself into our built environment. Currently, I’m collaborating with the AI researcher Rob Saunders to develop a robotic practice that deploys robots as a medium of intervention, nestling itself into the architectural fabric of a gallery, and turning it into a destabilising playground for curious, social machines.

But before this post turns into an essay, I’ll move on to my contribution of a diagram for which I’ve chosen two examples:

The first is a simple diagram of a ‘living system’ and its interaction with its surrounding medium. I’ve taken this diagram from the publication “An Introduction to Maturana’s Biology” by Lloyd Fell and David Russell. The capture says: “A living system is autopoietic, (i.e. self-producing) and operationally closed. In its interaction with its surrounding medium it is structure-determined, not externally controlled”.



The second diagram is more of a dynamic generative diagram, taken from my locative artwork “Urban Fiction” (2007). The work imagined the city’s multi-layered fabric to be constantly rewoven, torn apart and stitched together again.

I was interested in the mutual relations between the urban space as it is practiced, ‘lived’ and as it is mapped. Using census data to specify the degree of permeability and elasticity, the map becomes a performative lens through which to read the production of spaces and zones. It is not a neutral, empty canvas to be inscribed but rather a dynamic process, whose next iteration is negotiated by a collective of participants. In this performative mapping practice, incoming precise numerical locations are read as events and intensities that turn the map into a field of contingencies and unfolding performances … twistings, raptures, stitchings …

The clip shows a montage of screen recordings, with the participants’ movements and encounters (top left), and three layers of the ‘urban fiction’ (top right, bottom left and bottom right). When the upper left monitor switches to black, the underlying dynamic forces are revealed.

I’ll stop here, and look forward to meeting you all next week! *Petra*