Chris Salter

Chris Salter’s large scale installations, performative environments and research focus on and challenge human perception, merging haptic, visual, acoustic and other sensory phenomena. Exploring the borders between the senses, art, design and new technologies, his immersive and physically experiential works are informed by theater, architecture, visual art, computer music, perceptual psychology, cultural theory and engineering and are developed in collaboration with anthropologists, historians, philosophers, engineers, artists and designers.

Salter’s work has been shown at major international exhibitions and festivals in over a dozen countries including the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale (Venice), National Art Museum of China (Beijing), Lille 3000 (Lille), Fondarie Darling (International Biennale of Electronics Arts – Montreal), HAU3 (Berlin), Laboral Centro de Arte y Creacion Industriel (Gijon, Spain), Nuit Blanche (Paris), Vitra Design Museum (Germany), EXIT Festival (Maison des Arts, Creteil-Paris), Ars Electronica (Linz), Pact Zollverein (Essen, Germany), CTM (Berlin), Villette Numerique (Paris), Todays Art (the Hague), Todays (Tokyo), Meta.Morf (Norway), Mois Multi (Quebec), transmediale (Berlin), Elektra (Montréal), the Banff Center (Banff), Dance Theater Workshop (New York), V2 (Rotterdam), SIGGRAPH 2001 (New Orleans), Mediaterra (Athens) and the Exploratorium (San Francisco).

Salter is Concordia University Research Chair in New Media, Technology and the Senses, Co-Director of the Hexagram Network for Research-Creation in Media Art, Design, Digital Culture and Technology, Director of Hexagram Concordia and Associate Professor, Computation Arts in the Department of Design and Computation Art at Concordia University, Montreal. He is a regular presenter at national and international conferences, has given numerous invited talks at universities and festivals worldwide and has sat on many juries including the Prix Ars Electronica among others.

In addition to his artistic work, Salter’s critical research can be found in his seminal book, Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance (MIT Press, 2010) and Alien Agency: Experimental Encounters with Art in the Making (MIT Press, 2015).

Project Descriptions


SENSEfactory assembles an international team of renowned artists and researchers working on new approaches using immersive performance concepts inspired by interface design, olfactory art, computer sound, architecture, and artificial intelligence. Their goal is to create an installation-based performative venue which takes the visitor on a journey through a landscape of sound, light, colours, odours, abstract projections, vibrations and pneumatic architecture, and in which visitors find themselves in a constant state of metamorphosis.

This interdisciplinary sensory obstacle course is a present-day version of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s 1923 utopian vision of a theatre of “form- and motion-based processes.” The various zones in the installation are surrounded by projection screens that display visualised visitor data. These combine the sensory elements found in Moholy-Nagy’s envisioned media – an inflatable, pneumatically controlled room which continually changes depending on the viewers present. For example, there is an olfactory station which produces scents which have never been smelled before. There is a room with strings of LED lights whose behaviour and patterns are controlled by artificial intelligence as well as the visitors’ movement and position. And there is soundscape which is produced by miniature, wireless remote-controlled instruments. The team, partners and venues are all international. The members of the artistic team include the US-American graphic designer and digital strategist Erik Adigard, the Norwegian-German olfactory artist Sissel Tolaas, the Canadian artist and AI researcher Sofian Audry, the American architect Alex Schweder, the German media-space developer Dietmar Lupfer, the German musician and sound artist FM Einheit, and the US-American-Canadian artist Chris Salter.

Artistic Direction: Dietmar Lupfer and Chris Salter
Architect: Alex Schweder
Sound Design: FM Einheit
Graphic Concepts/Design: Erik Adigard
Olfactory Design: Sissel Tolaas
Algorithms: Sofian Audry
Light Design: Alexandre Saunier

Haptic Field

Multi-sensory Installation

Haptic Field is a participatory multi-sensory installation merging contemporary fashion, wearable technology and an exploration of the senses beyond site that creates a singular and uncanny physical experience for the public. In the environment, a group of up to twenty visitors wear specially designed garments, which are outfitted with various sensing and actuating devices that enable visitors to interface with the performance space. Haptic Field thus provokes unusual and intense bodily sensations by blurring our senses of touch, sight and sound. With one’s ability to visually navigate and make sense of the world removed upon entering the installation, the visitor enters a continually shifting, hallucinatory, almost dream-like environment where nothing is what it seems and where one begins to experience other senses like touch, sound, proprioception, the experience of time and the invisible presence of others —senses that we normally ignore or forget about in our mainly visually dominated world.

Haptic Field forms part of a continued artistic exploration into the extension of the human sensorium within our contemporary technosphere. Beginning with JND (2010), continuing with Displace (2011-2013) and most recently, Ilinx (2014-2015), both collaborations with the Italian-born, Amsterdam based artist and musician TeZ, these sensory installations have been exhibited world-wide and examine how the boundaries between our different senses are, in fact, culturally constructed and how new technologies work to increasingly extend, shape and transform our sensorial experience within our socio-technical environment.

Concept: Chris Salter + TeZ + JNBY China
Direction/Composition: Chris Salter + TeZ in collaboration with Ian Hattwick
Clothing Design: JNBY
Technical Development: IDMIL, Director: Marcelo Wanderley, McGill University
Technical Direction: Ian Hattwick
Additional Technical Support: Julian Neri
Production: xmodal/Montreal + CAC

Supported by the Fonds de Recherche du Quebec - Societe et Culture and the Canada Arts Council.

SNN studies

Performance for two humans and fifteen neural networks, in collaboration with Alex Saunier.

"SNN studies" is a thirty minute live performance composed for an ensemble of five moving head lights modified by lenticular lenses, six channels of audio, two human performers, and fifteen artificial neural networks that simulate the firing of neurons in the human brain. These artificial neurons control the speed, tempo and sequences of the moving head lights as well as the audio, all in real time. The result is an ever evolving, dynamic performance intertwining human organisms and artificial machines and reminiscent of the early son et lumiere experiments of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Walter Ruttman, or Thomas Wilfred – large liquid-like textures, pulsing forms and fragmented, grainy shapes whose changing movement conveys a sense of aliveness.

A tower of moving head lights is installed in the centre of the performance space. The five moving head lights are mounted in a vertical line so that they project five separate images on a wall or screen opposite the tower. The lights are able to rotate 180 degrees, thus sending their image to all four sides of the space. The light emitted is visually distorted by five custom analog lenses hanging in front of each of the five lights, creating a distinctive, non-digital visual experience.

As these ensembles of neural networks “perform,” Salter and Saunier react to them to alter how they learn sequences of light and sound. Those manipulations generate overlapping neuronal feedback loops that create a constantly evolving performance which moves from almost silence to a growing crescendo that culminates in rapidly fluctuating light, sound, and image at the borders of perception.