Actions to Matter / Matter to Actions


Above: Items accumulated to date (09/10/2015) as part of Transformations.

Transformations: Actions to Matter / Matter to Actions is a series of performative actions employing what is colloquial termed as the 'free stuff' online community. Each action occurs in two parts. Part one, titled Actions to Matter, consists of the artist acquiring physical items for free online. In part two, Matter to Actions, the acquired items are sold online.

Actions are documented through two separate free weblogs. The weblog for Actions to Matter documents the process of acquiring each item as a post containing screenshots and a short description of the items source. The post is dated with the day and time of the action and initially tagged with the keyword unsuccessful. If the item is subsequently received the post's tag is changed to successful. The weblog for Matter to Actions documents each received item as a post containing a product style photograph i.e. taken within a photographic lightbox with a white infinity curve background, and a short description. The post is initially tagged with the keyword unsold. When the item is offered for sale online a plugin which tracks the sale is added to the items post. If the item sells the post's tag is changed to sold and the item is sent to the buyer with an information card containing text about the work, a photograph of the purchased item and a link to the item's posts online as provenance.

Transformations addresses three interrelated subjects. The first is the concept of transformation itself. Actions that are performed on the internet are considered to occur within a 'virtual' or digital context. Items that are acquired as a result of actions are physically manifested in 'real' contexts. Within the work a transformation occurs from 'virtual' to 'real' and then back to 'virtual' again. The internet is both the staging ground for initiating transformation and the final destination for the items acquired and the documentation produced. Combined, the transformation from 'virtual' to 'real' and then back again, form a transformative action.

The second subject of Transformations is the framing of actions as performative and the suggestion that the acquired items become artworks as part of that process. Employing appropriation as a strategy, the work explores the misconception of art as residing within a final crafted, physical and as a result commodifiable object. Each acquired item is positioned as the outcome of a performative action however the item alone is not the artwork. The artwork is the combined process of acquiring and redistributing all the items; the performative actions, the accumulated documentation in all its forms, the items, each and every exhibition of them and their final return to the internet. The acquired items, effectively products, are instead proposed, as is their documentation, as one form of remnant of the performative actions undertaken. However the items only remain collected together temporarily and as such should not be viewed as the climactic point of the artwork.

Finally Transformations addresses the subject of labour as performance. While the actions are framed as performance within the context of the artwork, the actions often equally consist of labour for others e.g. contributing to data harvesting or the crowd-sourcing of a task. Additionally the labour is disguised as free stuff, competitions, games and so forth. Viewed as labour, performance within the work becomes a quantifiable endeavour. Each attempt to acquire an item is a success or failure, each sale of an item is a success or failure and so transformative actions either succeed or fail in their overall aim to move from 'virtual' to 'real' and then back to 'virtual' again. Time committed to each performative action is necessary for each to occur, no more and no less, and how these have occurred over the duration of the work are documented in the dated weblog posts keeping a record of when the artist has clocked-in and out to perform similar to a employee's timesheet. Rules are adhered to throughout the work which serve to structure actions consistently and also form a code of conduct for the artist, these are:

  1. Identify physical items from online sources that incur no direct cost (cost of electricity and internet usage is excluded). This can include but is not limited to free offers, product tester websites, surveys and competition websites. Items should ideally be objects of any description and not consumable products such as beverages, beauty products etc.
  2. Actions performed to acquire items can occur wholly online and be delivered directly to the artist or can be instigated online and completed offline. For example: in the case of the former, a web-based form can be completed, a competition entered or a game played to have the item delivered directly to the artist; in the case of the latter, a voucher can be collected enabling the artist to then collect the item at a designated location.
  3. All items must be offered for sale and will continue to do so until they have sold. When sold they must be sent to the buyer. In the interim period between parts one and two of the work, acquisition and sale, the artist may employ the items in any manner related to the work. Once all items have sold the work is concluded.

The procedural basis for each transformative action is Robin Sloan's neologism, the flip-flop (2012). The flip-flop describes a creative process of folding a work of art or craft over-and-back between the digital and physical world, the 'virtual' and 'real', until an end result is achieved. In Transformations however it is not a singular work of art or craft that is folded or transformed but the idea of action transformed into matter, a physical object, and vice-versa. Action and matter are respectively considered representative of the 'virtual' and the 'real'. Action is a force, invisible and non-physical, and so this places it, according to Deleuze, in the 'virtual' (1961); that is, making it 'real' but not actual. Matter on the other hand is manifested as the acquired items and as such they are 'real', specifically actual.


Deleuze, G., (1961). Bersonism. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Zone.
Sloan, R., (2012). Dancing the Flip-Flop. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3rd Janurary 2015 ].