Chris Salter

art / design / research / writing

Performative Sensory Environment

Displace v. 1.0 is a performative environment which was presented within the program of the annual American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting, which was held in Montreal, Canada during November 2011. The installation was officially listed as an AAA Inno-vent on the conference program.

Displace v. 1.0 intermingles multiple sensory phenomena in order to heighten and transform our habitual modes of perception. Over a 45 minute period, groups of 6 visitors progress through a sequence of sensory-based environments. At first, these environments intermingle gustatory and haptic stimuli and then gradually convoke all the senses inside intense, almost hallucinatory spaces where flickering color, sound and tactile vibrations and fleeting tastes and scents merge to the point of saturation.

The project is one of series of experiments conducted within the context of a larger research project entitled “Mediations of Sensation” developed by artists Chris Salter and TeZ and anthropologist David Howes along with a team of researchers in design and anthropology. The aim of “Mediations” is to create a space between art and anthropology where contemporary art practice can be informed by advanced research in sensory anthropology, and vice versa. Sensory anthropology is dedicated to charting the varieties of sensory experience across cultures. Howes and his team have documented a wide array of ways in which the senses are distinguished, ranked, mixed and deployed and enjoyed in different cultures. Displace 1.0 derives part of its inspiration from this archive. It mirrors the anthropological experience by offering a sensorially compelling, technologically augmented environment designed to open a crack in the conventional Western sensorium and transport the experiencer into a parallel sensory world.

In addition to the artistic outcomes of the project (of which Displace v. 1.0 is the first), “Mediations” involves panel discussions and specific ethnographic research with the public in order to understand participant experiences, and evaluate the potential of performative environments of this kind to communicate anthropological knowledge in ways that are both more encompassing and more immediate than the standard means of transmission – namely, the ethnographic monograph, ethnographic film, and/or ethnographic museum display. Displace 1.0 is an exhibition, but without any objects, without the mediation of celluloid, and without any words – only sensations.

The installation ran as a public prototype from Wednesday, 16 November through Sunday, 20 November 2011 at the Hexagram Concordia Centre for Research-Creation in Media Arts and Technology inside the Hexagram Black Box research space from 15h-20h daily.


Hexagram Concordia Centre for Research-Creation in Media Arts and Technologies.

Black Box

November 16-20, 2012


Concept: Chris Salter, TeZ, David Howes

Artistic Direction: Chris Salter and TeZ
Anthropological Consultant: David Howes
Lighting Design: Harry Smoak
Gustatory and Olfactory Design: David Szanto
Technical Direction: Matthieu Tremblay/Harry Smoak
Ethnographic Research: Shannon Collis, Florencia Marchetti, Natalie Doonan
Attendants: Anke Burger, Shannon Collis, Olga Zikrata, Natalie Doonan
Ethnographic Interviews: Florencia Marchetti, Natalie Doonan, David Howes
Assistance: Jiang Zhuyun, Elio Bidinost, David Jhave Johnson