[ISEA2020] Paper: Maurice Benayoun & Tanya Ravn Ag — After The Tunnel: on shifting ontology and ethology of the emerging art-subject


Keywords: Virtuality, Virtual Art, art-subject, Tunnel, EEG, transduction, individuation, blockchain

During ISEA95, the Tunnel Under the Atlantic presented an artwork that Maurice Benayoun conceived at the time as a manifesto supporting virtuality as a medium. 25 years later, we propose a new understanding of the work and its emergence along with a reconfiguration of the ontological status of contemporary media art. Rather than mere object, as defined by normalized code of representation, the artwork can now be characterized as a subject with operational sensitivities that allow complex reactive behaviors. Real-Time processing of information has played a major role in this mutation. Virtuality – understood as design of the potentialities of the work – sensors and other input devices keeping the work aware of the existence of its ‘public’ and environment seem to have converted the interactive artwork into a sentient entity, empowered with perceptive functionalities and new cognitive capacities: memory, artificial intelligence, and intentionality. This transductive process leading to the evolution of the original art-object into the art-subject announces an expansion of what is considered the artwork’s milieu and potentiality. More recent works of Benayoun help us to envision the next steps in this evolution: opening the ontology of art further towards its subjective capacities and possible dynamic implications in society.

  • Maurice Benayoun (FR/HK) School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. Maurice Benayoun (aka MoBen) is a French pioneer, contemporary new-media artist based in Paris and Hong Kong. His work employs various media, including video, computer graphics, Virtual Reality, the Internet, EEG, AI, Blockchain and large-scale urban media art installations. He has been widely exhibited around the world in major festivals and Museums. Often conceptual, MoBen’s work constitutes a critical investigation of the mutations in the contemporary society induced by the emerging or recently adopted technologies. MoBen produced many urban media. He created and curated for 3 years the Open Sky Gallery on the 70 000 sqm façade of the ICC Tower, Hong Kong. MoBen ‘s work has been awarded by close to 30 international awards including Ars Electronica Golden Nica. Maurice Benayoun, taught at Paris1 Pantheon Sorbonne University, Paris8, and the French National School of Arts. He is presently Professor at the School of Creative Media, City University, Hong Kong.
  • Tanya Ravn Ag (DK), Postdoc, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Chair, ISEA International Advisory Committee (IIAC). Tanya Ravn Ag, Ph.D., is a curator and scholar focused on perceptual experience, memory, temporality, and technogenesis in relation to media art and media aesthetic phenomena in the urban domain. Her curatorial engagements with urban, media-based art include the Screen City Biennial 2017 in Stavanger, the SP Urban Digital Festival in São Paulo in 2013 and 2014, online and urban exhibitions with the Streaming Museum, and Nordic Outbreak presented in New York City and across the Nordic region by the Streaming Museum in 2013-2014. She is the editor of Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art (Intellect, 2019) and co-editor of What Urban Media Art Can Do – Why, When, Where, and How? (av edition, 2016). In 2017 she co-founded the globally networked Urban Media Art Academy. From spring 2020 she continues her scholarly work at Institute of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen, on art, temporality, and technogenesis. This research follows a two-year visiting fellowship at School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, where she researched media art and other phenomena in perspective of philosophies, neurological theory, psychologies, and media aesthetic dimensions of digitally expanded reality.