Nanoart (Book)

The Immateriality of Art

Examining art that intersects with science and seeks to make visible what cannot ordinarily be seen with the naked eye, Nanoart provides thorough insight into new understandings of materiality and life. It includes an extensive overview of the history of nanoart from the work of Umberto Boccioni right up to present-day artists. The author looks specifically at art inspired by nanotechnological research made possible by the Scanning Tunneling Microscope and Atomic Force Microscope in the 1980s, as well as the development of other instruments of nanotechnological experimentation. Nanoart is a sustained consideration of this fascinating artistic approach that challenge how we see and understand our world.


Nano is Greek for dwarf and the word nanotechnology ‘was first proposed in the early seventies by a Japanese engineer, Norio Taniguchi, implying a new technology that went beyond controlling materials and engineering on the micrometer scale that dominated the 20th Century’. The content for this book has been based on a self-emergent process. It explores an art historical understanding of matter and uses various hypotheses to elucidate the effects on materiality and agency as a result of the emergence of nanotechnology. The blurring of material boundaries are reflected in the establishment of a fluid organic spatial narrative in which to place ideas, propositions and concerns. A cornerstone of the book is the concept posed in the philosophical writings of Lucretius of the unpredictability of the atoms’ swerve and its formative role in the beginning of all matter, form, life and individuality. It focusses on the concepts of vibration, vitalism, life and materiality and extends the artist’s concepts of agency in relation to matter.

Paul Thomas is a Professor of Fine Art at UNSW Art and Design. He is the Director of the Studio for Transdisciplinary Art Research (STAR) and is the instigator of the Transdisciplinary Imaging Conference series 2010–2018. In 2000, he instigated and was the founding Director of the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth 2002, 2004 and 2007. Thomas is a pioneer of transdisciplinary art practice. His current practice led research takes not only inspiration from nanoscience and quantum theory, but actually operates there. Thomas’s current research ‘Quantum Consciousness’ is based on the experiments being conducted by Professor Andrea Morello, Quantum Nanosystems, UNSW, looking at immersing the viewer in a visualization and sonification of quantum phenomena in the development of quantum computing. He has exhibited nationally and internationally with his previous nano artworks Mulitverse based on Richard Feynman’s diagrams of photons reflecting from a mirror, Nanoessence which explored the space between life and death at a nano level and Midas which researched what is transferred when skin touches gold at a nano level. His current publications are, Nanoart: The Immateriality of Art, Reconfiguring Space, Relive Media art Histories, co-edited with Sean Cubitt, Interference Strategies and Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics co-edited with Lanfranco Aceti and Edward Colless.

Foreword by Edward Colless 


Chapter 1: Materiality and Immateriality of Art in the Age of Nanotechnology

Chapter 2: From Seeing to Touching: From the Invisible to the Visible

Chapter 3: Nanotechnology, Vibration and Vitalism

Chapter 4: Matter, Measurement and Light 

Chapter 5: Transvitalism and Nature

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