Scratchings (about me)

This is the networked home of Dr. Susan Ballard, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Contemporary Arts at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

By its very nature, an online home is a continual work of re-developement. Emerging out of the collective myre of time-starvation and desires for documentation this house sparrow is no different to any other. At one level it is  an archive for the interesting and the familiar, for what I have done and what I might do, it is also a mneumonic, a reminder that I must get back to that. So here it is: a simultaneous clearing house, potential repository and emergent archive.

As evidenced here, my research sits somewhere in an expanded field of art history and covers divergent clusters of thought that include systems, aesthetics, cybernetics, noise, video installation, animals, rocks, nature, ecology and the constellations of the art gallery. I focus much of this around a discussion of the artwork as machine: a sympathetic non-human object born from Deleuze’s machinic assemblage and Guattari’s ecosophy.  As a curator and art writer I find myself thinking about art’s contribution to and critique of utopia, the ongoing construction of the antipodes as an elsewhere space, catastrophe and disaster, futures, speculation and the experience of the encounter with art. Everything I do is tainted with the sober reality of living amidst the human-induced chaos we now label the Anthropocene.

I teach Art History, Critical Studies, and Curatorial Practices at the University of Wollongong, which I construct from fragments of 21st century visual culture, traces of 19th century machines, and a taste of mid-twentieth century systems and silence, all wrapped in a generous dose of turn of the millennium manifesto and utopia.

I’m currently working on a book Machines and Nature in Contemporary Art.

Humans have always understood our relationship to the world through articulations with nature. Nature might terrify us or console us, it might confirm or threaten deeply held understandings of the world. Similarly machines have become more than mere tools. Machines and Nature in Contemporary Art traces the entanglement of machines and nature in art, from the catastrophic and prophetic works of Nam June Paik and Jean Tinguely to the work of international artists who engage the machine and nature as complimentary rather than oppositional forces. Diana Thater, Pierre Huyghe, Janet Cardiff, Joyce Hinterding, the et. al collective, Hayden Fowler, Ken and Julia Yonitani, Katie Paterson, Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho use a wide range of materials that confront viewers with a deep look at the place of ecology and the ethics of the machine in the world today.  Significantly, Machines and Nature shows how contemporary art challenges the Linnaean taxonomies of animal, mineral and vegetable; highlighting the critical role of contemporary art in thinking beyond the human in the age of the Anthropocene.

I’m the convenor of MECO – (the Material Ecologies Research Network) a research network for critical and creative practices at UOW.

The Material Ecologies (MECO) research network is a collective of scholars investigating entanglements across the social, cultural and political contexts of the anthropocence. The network’s interdisciplinary focus is beyond the human: material intersections of the animal, the technological, the animate and inanimate, material and immaterial objects. Adopting an ecology of practice approach, MECO is a vehicle for transdisciplinary exchange, research generation, support and collaboration across intersecting theoretical, disciplinary, and methodological interests based in the broad fields of Contemporary Arts, Media and Humanities.

I’m an editor of the rather wonderful Fibreculture Journal part of Open Humanities Press.

In 2008 I co-edited the The Aotearoa Digital Arts Reader with Stella Brennan.
Read more here. You can order a copy here.

My PhD, Out of Order: Explorations in Digital Materiality, used a discussion of noise drawn from experimental art, music and early information theory to examine materialist tendencies in digital art installation by New Zealand and Australian artists working in international contexts. An abstract and the full pdf can be found here. It was completed in 2008 through Art History and Theory and the CCAP at UNSW, Sydney.

I was a founding trustee and co-director of The ADA Network (Aoteoroa Digital Arts)  and until 2012 was Deputy Chair of the Physics Room Gallery Trust in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Due to excessively boring amounts of comment spam, I’ve disabled comments on this blog. Nonetheless if you are human or even an interesting kind of bot, I’d love to hear from you.

contact me here:
sballard ( at )


An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768
An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768


PS: Anyone looking for the old house sparrow, please be patient. After a nasty encounter with virtual death she is undergoing a lengthy period of revival.

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