Approaching the Ambient: creative practice and the ambient mode of being

PhD project
Doctoral research conducted through Creative Industries Faculty
Queensland University of Technology. 2003-2007


This practice-led research proposes, expands upon and presents a mode of being that has been hinted at within creative practice and intellectual thought, especially within installation practices in visual and sound arts, since the 1950s. 

I call this the ambient mode of being-in-our-surroundings. It involves a way of engaging with our urban surroundings that eschews the typical logic of foreground and background that grounds our daily and aesthetic lives. Instead, the ambient mode is an altered state in which we attune to the all-around-everywhere materiality of the surroundings. This deals with down-to-earth stuff – how we exist in our surroundings and deal with its pervasive material excess. 

There are four complementary ways of arriving at the ambient mode that are presented in this research.

The first three ways are described in the essay: (I) by way of concepts – developing a theory of ambience and the ambient mode based on Heidegger’s realms of world and earth; (II) by way of example – charting practical shifts towards the ambient mode via minimalist, situationist and serialist strategies; and (III) by way of making – experimenting in the various moments of creative practice, from in situ making to documenting, presenting and discussing. 

Most importantly, we also arrive at the ambient mode (IV) by way of experience – discovering our surroundings anew through ambient creative works. To this end, this research includes an exhibition of in situ work (Approaching the Ambient, October 2006), and photographic and audio documentation of work made in various places across Australia during the research (Spotting, Surfacing, Orientating, Tolling, selected works 2004-2006).

CD box set (Tolling)  [not available online]
Essay  [pdf 1.7MB]