Agency without Intention

16 Oct 2015 – 8 Nov 2015

Regular hours

10:00 – 17:00
11:00 – 16:00
10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 18:00

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Herbert Read Gallery

United Kingdom, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Travel from London Victoria to Canterbury East Station (1h 13-30mins), then by taxi or foot to the campus (10 minute walk). Canterbury West Station (which is a twenty minute walk from the gallery) is also served by trains from St Pancras and Waterloo (1h
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An exhibition inspired by the actions and interactions between the purposeful individual, the “smart” object, and the social body.


Intentionality is bound up with individualism—Mieke Bal.

One can have a goal but be in no condition to achieve it. Yet, can one gain agency yet avoid intentionality? Through four different projects this exhibition explores the apparent contingent relation between actions and purposes in four arenas: the technological, the aesthetic, the political, and the social.

Abdulbari Kutbi’s Pirouette Robots roam around the Herbert Read Gallery, changing their direction of progress when finding obstacles. Although able to take simple decisions thanks to a system of interconnected nodes, as with more complex examples of Artificial Intelligence, the question of the machine’s own will remain for now an attractive possibility.

Amongst the robots, Abigail Hunt and Kieren Reed’s artwork Liminal occupies the gallery space. Made up of several dozens of simple geometric sculptures, it is a piece to be experienced through action. Visitors are invited to activate the work with the hope that their participation will provoke moments of unsolicited disorientation, exchange, and discussion.  

Recent political efforts such as the international Occupy movements, or the Spanish “Los Indignados,” have been criticised for their lack of concrete objectives. Now that the outcomes of those movements are becoming viable political options with clear intentions, it is worth considering how to gain agency while avoiding the instrumentalization of one’s actions.  Rosana Antoli’s opening performance for Agency without Intention recognises the risks of aligning actions and purposes by transforming the gallery into a space of protest for bodies and objects.

Agency is always relational; it depends on our position within a group or in a situation. On 15th September, members of the community who are researching and developing Turner Contemporary’s 2018 exhibition about T.S Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, met at the gallery in Margate to discuss their thoughts on the terms ‘agency’ and ‘intention’. They followed a philosophical enquiry methodology starting with the question ‘Is not having an intention a type of intention?’

What to expect? Toggle


Emma Braso

Exhibiting artistsToggle

The Waste Land research group

Kieren Reed

rosana antoli

Abdulbari Kutbi

Abigail Hunt


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