Interference represents a characteristic aesthetic strategy – supporting the self-image of art as a force running counter to the dominant signal flow, opposing, disrupting and defamiliarising ordinary signals. But, of course, art also contributes to the overall flow. It is as complicit in the field of signal excess (pollution) as any other force. Furthermore, it can scarcely claim interference as an exclusively aesthetic strategy. The French philosopher, Michel Serres, argues, for instance, that interference is a condition of any medium.1 He draws attention to a constitutive and productive play of noise within any signal. Regarded in these terms, art itself becomes subject to a dimension of interference. All efforts to simply harness interference as a means of critically undermining mainstream signal flows end up assuming an over-simplified distinction between the pure contours of a signal and dimensions of interference, as well as disregarding the integral space of interference that affects all communication. This paper examines these issues and posits an alternative conception of art’s relation to the broader field of media and lived events. It argues that innovative strands of contemporary art, specifically social-practice based art, discover means of interleaving art within the texture of other activities. To maintain the signal flow metaphor, they engage in a process of multiplexing rather than of interference. Activities that may not ordinarily be thought in terms of art come to carry an aspect of art, but without the latter appearing as a crudely oppositional force. In this manner both art and non-art activities, through their mutual imbrication, gain new energy and critically-reflective capacity.

  1. Serres, M. 2007 The Parasite (trans. Lawrence R. Schehr), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis
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