[ISEA2020] Paper: Tanya Ravn Ag — Art and the Broken Mirror: A technogenetic perspective on digitally expanded realities


Keywords: Technogenesis, art, perception, digitally expanded reality, mirror motif, mirror neurons, memory, dissociation, destructive plasticity, broken mirror, avant-garde

This paper examines how experiences with digitally expanded realities – familiar as virtual, augmented, mixed, and other modes of mediated reality – are tendentially designed to convince us of their ‘reality’ by smoothly integrating with our cultural habits and neurosensory systems, by mirroring our expectations, intuitions, and neuronal patterns. The leitmotif of the paper is the ‘mirror’ as a both figure and metaphor in negotiations of human relations to reality. I particularly problematize the mirror’s recent recurrence as a productive, mimetic motif in neurosensory based design that cues perception to mutate in reflection of cultural and neurosensory pathways we already know. I approach this from a technogenetic perspective with reference to the works of N. Katherine Hayles, Catherine Malabou, and Bernard Stiegler. The technogenetic perspective concerns how we change with technology and involves an attention to emotional-biological implications of experience. This perspective leads us to deal with perception as a construct of cultural as well as cognitive and neurologically complex natures and patterns, cuing our ongoing and potentially fatal negotiations between real and artificial, truth and fiction. I propose that, instead of reproducing the mimetic mirror motif, art can pursue an alternative, ‘broken’ mirror motif. This continues ideas put forth by the avant-garde artists concerned with perceptual instabilities but engages more deeply with the technologically challenged natures and patterns of perceptual experience today.

  • 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.