Objects, Agency and Art


SHIVERING is a multi-disciplinary investigation into the social role of objects, particularly art objects, examined through the facetted lenses of art research, digital and multimedia art practice and contemporary anthropological theory.

The principal investigator is Catherine Richards, Professor of Visual Arts and University Research Chair at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Maria Lantin, co-investigator, is Director of Research at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. 

Dr. Maureen Matthews, Curator of Ethnology at the Manitoba Museum, is the project’s cultural anthropologist. 

This web site is a on-going documentfollowing the progress of  the project.

The purpose of this programme is to research, develop and complete a body of exceptionally creative work, based on a deep investigation into the border between animate and inanimate - what we consider to be life-like. Our approach is collaborative and on the leading edge of our respective fields, in the intellectual domain and creative art practice.

The Shivering research / creation endeavor brings an innovative perspective to a contemporary area of investigation in visual and new media art: virtuality, immateriality, artificiality, animacy and agency (Hayles, Dyson, Grau, Hanson).  Through these theoretical concepts, researchers have grappled with where we think we begin and end and what we consider to be human or post-human in the contemporary media-scape.

In creating 'objects' we are revisiting the territory of illusions and employing them as formal devices - as a kind of aesthetic instrument or material to envision the entangled indeterminate border between humans and objects. The French anthropologist and historian of science, Bruno Latour, talks about the difficulty of studying the role of objects in contemporary lives and calls upon researchers to develop tricks which will bring this role into the open.  This research project has the potential to do this and bring both the objects and the debate about their significant cultural role into the collective awareness .