"Elsewhere, I have used the term "material-semiotic actor" to highlight the object of knowledge as an active part of the apparatus of bodily production, without ever implying immediate presence of such objects or, what is the same thing, their final or unique determination of what can count as objective knowledge of a biological body at a particular historical juncture. Like Katie King's objects called "poems," sites of literary production where language also is an actor, bodies as objects of knowledge are material-semiotic generative nodes. Their boundaries materialize in social interaction among humans and non-humans, including the machines and other instruments that mediate exchanges at crucial interfaces and that function as delegates for other actors' functions and purposes. "Objects" like bodies do not pre-exist as such. Similarly, "nature" cannot pre-exist as such, but neither is its existence ideological. Nature is a commonplace and a powerful discursive construction, effected in the interactions among material-semiotic actors, human and not. The siting/sighting of such entities is not about disengaged discovery, but about mutual and usually unequal structuring, about taking risks, about delegating competences."
"Heidegger’s discussion of responsibility and indebtedness provide us with quite a different way to think about artistic practice. In the place of an instrumentalist understanding of our tools and material, this mode of thinking suggests that in the artistic process, objects have agency and it is through the establishing conjunctions with other contributing elements in the art that humans are co-responsible for letting art emerge."
Agency (philosophy) - Agency is the capacity of an actor to act in a given environment. The capacity to act does not at first imply a specific moral dimension to the ability to make the choice to act, and moral agency is therefore a distinct concept. In sociology, an agent is an individual engaging with the social structure. Notably, though, the primacy of social structure vs. individual capacity with regard to persons' actions is debated within sociology. This debate concerns, at least partly, the level of reflexivity an agent may possess.
"Haraway introduces the ‘power-charged social relation of “conversation”’ (Haraway 1991: 198). In this conversation, she contends, the world is not raw material for use by humans (Haraway 1991: 198) Haraway argues that the agency of the world is central for revisioning the world and refiguring a “different” politics of practice whereby the tools of practice are not used merely used to achieve an end and matter is no longer a resource to be used by humans in order to make an artwork. The central term in Haraway’s elaboration is the material-semiotic actor. This actor may be human or non-human, machine or non-machine. What is critical to her position is that the material-semiotic actor actively contributes to the production. Thus an “object of knowledge” is no longer a resource, ground, matrix, object, material or instrument to be used by humans as a means to an end. Rather an object of knowledge is an ‘active, meaning-generating axis of the apparatus of bodily production' (Haraway 1991: 200).
In Haraway’s theorization of the material-semiotic actor—with its emphasis on language as an actor independent of intentions, and bodies as material-semiotic generative nodes— enables us to rethink the artistic relation. In this encounter, the human is no longer outside of the assemblage directing the proceedings. The human being becomes just one material-semiotic actor engaged in complex conversation with other players.
This focus on the acting ensemble rather than the artist as the locus of art enables us to come closer to an understanding of the dynamism of material practice and to the radicality offered by the notion of material thinking. In this dynamism, the outcome cannot be known in advance. Thus although we may have some awareness of the potential of a tool or a piece of wood—for example, through previous dealings with wood and tools—every new situation brings about a different constellation of forces and speeds. The wood may be a bit harder, the tool sharper or blunter and our own energies more or less focussed. Thus our relation to technical things is inevitably characterized by a play between the understandings that we bring to the situation and the intelligence of our tools and materials. This relation is not a relation of mastery but one of coemergence. I would like to argue that contemporary artists often become so pre-occupied with intentionality, meaning and making an artwork, they tend to reduce their materials and tools to a means to an end. In this paper I have presented a challenge to this way of thinking and acting. I have proposed that creative practice can be conceived of as a performance in which linkages are constantly being made and remade. Whilst each actor has the same praxiological status, each has its own character and contribution to make as part of the work of art. "