Chris Salter


Country of origin




Chris Salter is an artist, Director of the Hexagram Concordia Centre for Research-Creation in Media Art and Technology and Associate Professor, Design and Computation Arts, Concordia University


Biographybiotech workshop

Dr. Chris Salter is an artist, Director of the Hexagram Concordia Centre for Research-Creation in Media Art and Technology and Associate Professor for Design + Computation Arts, both housed at Concordia University in Montreal. Salter studied economics and philosophy at Emory University and received his Ph.D. in the areas of theater and computer-generated sound at Stanford University. He was also visiting professor at Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and the Kunsthochschule für Medien, Cologne, Germany as well as guest faculty in the MediaArtHistory Masters program, Danube University, Krems, Austria.

Salter's artistic and research interests revolve around the development and production of real time, computationally-augmented responsive performance environments that explore questions of perception and that fuse space, sound, image, architectural material and newly developed sensor-based technologies. After collaborating with Peter Sellars and William Forsythe/Ballett Frankfurt, he co-founded the art and research organization Sponge, whose works have stretched between the arenas of performance, installation, scientific research and publications and have toured internationally to festivals, exhibitions and venues.

His work with Sponge as well as solo projects has been seen at major international exhibitions and presentation venues in over a dozen countries including the Venice Architecture Biennale (Venice), Ars Electronica (Linz), Villette Numerique (Paris), the National Art Museum of China, CTM-Berlin, Todays Art, EMPAC (USA), Metamorf (Trondheim, Norway), Transmediale (Berlin), EXIT Festival (Maison des Arts, Creteil-Paris), Place des Arts (Montréal), Venice Biennale, Elektra (Montréal), Shanghai Dance Festival (Shanghai), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), the Banff Center (Banff), Dance Theater Workshop (New York), V2 (Rotterdam), SIGGRAPH 2001 (New Orleans), Mediaterra (Athens) and the Exploratorium (San Francisco), among others.
Salter’s work have been written about in the New York Times, ID Magazine, Leonardo and Decouvrir and received major grants from SSHRC, FQRSC, Hexagram, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Daniel Langlois Foundation, the Creative Work Fund/San Francisco and the LEF Foundation, among others. He is a regular presenter at national and international conferences, has given invited talks at universities and festivals worldwide and has sat on numerous juries including NIME, ISEA and the Prix Ars Electronica.

In addition to his artistic production, Dr. Salter is the author of numerous publications in the areas of technology and performance, the senses and technology, real time responsive environments, mobile real time media and cultural politics. His first book Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance was published in Spring 2010 from MIT Press and he is currently working on a follow up entitled Alien Agency: Ethnographies of Nonhuman Performance, also for MIT Press.

Research Project

Alien Agencies: Ethnographies of Nonhuman Performance

What does it mean that nonhuman matter “performs”? How can contemporary techno-scientifically influenced and produced artworks be understood under the term “new materialism” – the increased interest in the acts of nonhuman objects, processes and matter itself promoted by such scholars as Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, Karen Barad and Andrew Pickering? What can fields and practices fields such as Science, Technology and Society (STS), anthropology and sociology offer to current technologically molded practices in the area of “research-creation?”

The research project I undertake at SymbioticA oscillates between theory and practice and involves the wearing of two hats: artistic and ethnographic. As part of the artistic residency, I’m directly collaborating with SymbioticA co-founder Dr. Ionat Zurr on the project “Tissue Engineered Muscle Actuators as Evocative and Cultural vehicles for Discourses about Material Agency and Living Machines.” Tissue engineered muscle actuators consists of developing an electro-mechanical device that will facilitate growth and formation of muscle fibers in vitro, thus enabling conditions necessary for the fibres to maintain life and encourage growth. The device (bioreactor) also serves to mechanically stimulate and to measure by way of sensors the mechanical signals (strain and torque) of the muscle cells. These specific cells have the potential to mechanically and chemically contract and expand if grown in specific conditions. The device thus has the primary function to organize and amplify the inherent movement behavior of the muscle fibres, thus giving the cells the potential to become a “moving semi-living machine.” This research will eventually lead to the development of performative environment/event for the public. While developing this project, however, I will also conduct ethnographic work on the manner in which Zurr, myself and other scientific collaborators work with such living material agencies from conception through design, implementation and prototype exhibition stages of the project. This will result in an auto-ethnographic account that will be part of my current book project for MIT Press Alien Agency: Ethnographies of Nonhuman Performance.

Period of Research

May 2011, SymbioticA
March-May 2012, SymbioticA
Fall 2012, AALTO University, Helsinki, Finland

Residency Funding

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada