Chokes, 2003


The light and sound installation Chokes is the latest example of my artistic research into automated processes. In Chokes, automation is responsive to the flickering of the fluorescent light tubes during their start-up phase. The programme code for Chokes tries to optimise the installation for an extended phase of flicker without tinkering with the responsive character of the set up.

Inevitably, such an attempt has to fail because of the random and, to an extent, uncontrollable behaviour of the fluorescent light tubes. Nevertheless, it allows for a glimpse into an extended state of instability and uncertainty away from equilibrium.

Such states are of particular interest today. Ilya Prigogine emphasises the importance of unstable and uncertain states when he writes: “Again, we can say that matter at equilibrium is ‘blind’, but far from equilibrium it begins to ‘see’.”* For him, states far-from-equilibrium are states of becoming that relate to the apparatus of life in general. The consequences of such a shift to an episteme inaugurated by the field of thermodynamics are far reaching and contradict the ideal terms of Newtonian physics. Chokes literally tries to materialise such an epistemological ‘breach’ in an object consequential in the field of the visual arts. It employs a technical approach to create a ‘reactor’ for such unstable conditions to be exercised. The artwork enables a process of unpredictability to unveil and allows for the audience to not only witness, but to mentally participate in its taking place.

An important aesthetic consequence of such an approach is the outdating of a representational iconography that would portray an unstable state through ‘stabilised’ form. A formal, representational approach is instead substituted by the performance of the unstable state itself. In this way, the installation can be linked to performance art as the other, indeed subdued side of the representational canon. Such a concept offers a different understanding of technology in the context of the visual arts, because it lays in front of the audience the notion of a given technological apparatus, which is no longer a blank canvas. It ultimately ‘performs’ technology environmentally, as contingency, and therefore as subject matter which cannot be employed blandly. Chokes exists in the middle terrain between an idealistic representation of technology and the folly of a utilitarian employment of technology for the straightforwardly purpose of interaction. It is supposed to carry out its own ploy as an installation and at the same time perform and fail to fully disclose itself.

* Ilya Prigogine, The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Singapore: The Free Press, 1997, p. 67.

 Test Page by Julian S.

Michael Schwab





Wieviel Wissenschaft bekommt der Kunst?
Oesterreichische Forschungsgemeinschaft, Wien

4 & 5/11/2011


Imagining Imagination
Royal College of Art, London

10 & 11/06/2011


Suspense - International Symposium
on Rethinking Research
Cinema Zuid, Antwerp



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the Arts and Sciences,
ZHdK, Zurich



Architecture + MIT 150



Drawing in an Expanded Field
Academie Royale des Beaux Arts
de Bruxelles



Habitus in Habitat III
Synesthesia and Kinaesthetics
ZfL, Berlin



Unexpected Variations
Orpheus Research Center in Music, Ghent



Please support the
Journal for Artistic Research (JAR)


Arts Research: Publics and Purposes,
GradCam, Dublin



Components of the Image
Exhibition 036 at SWG3 in Glasgow



Sensuous Knowlege Conference 6
Bergen, Norway



International Walter Benjamin Association
Antwerp, Belgium



First, the Second:
Walter Benjamin's theory of reflection
and the question of artistic research

Journal of Visual Arts Practice (7.3)


International Seminar 'Light Touches'
Figures of Touch Research Project
University of Art and Design, Helsinki



The Difference between Art
and Art Research
Züricher Hochschule der Küste



Creative Practice, Creative Research
York St. John University

Download my paper in the 'Documents' section.



The Art of Research: Research Narratives
Chelsea College of Art and Design



Research into Practice conference
Royal Society of Arts



/seconds issue 9
vanishing point, the vicious and virtuous circle


Conference Contribution and Exhibition

'Figurations of Knowledge'
5th Biannual European Conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA), Berlin

02 - 07 June 2008



Book Launch

18 May 2008


The Full Circle
A collaborative project by Eduardo Padilha and Michael Schwab

Studio 1.1, London

11/05 - 01/06/2008

Private View:
10/05/2008 6-8pm

Artists' Talk:
25/05/2008 3.30pm


Full Circle Family Workshops

Gasworks, London

19 - 22 February 2008


Keynote Paper and Exhibition

'Art and Research: How?'
International Conference at the Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn

14/15 February 2008


Artist Talk

'figure' at the Tramdepot Gallery, London

3 February 2008, 2pm



The Tramdepot

Private View Friday 25 January 7 - 11 pm


As if something once mentioned, now plain to see

Book by COLONY, Birmingham


The Full Circle
A collaborative project by Eduardo Padilha and Michael Schwab

Huisrechts, Amsterdam

13.9 - 16.10 2007


Political Art 2007 Almanac
Reunion Projects


Artistic Research and the Role of Critique.

In: van Koten, H. (ed), Proceeds of Reflections on Creativity, 21 and 22 April 2006.

Dundee: Duncan of Jordanstone College, 2007. ISBN:  1 899837 56 6.