[ISEA2020] Paper: Ksenia Fedorova & Elena Demidova — Qualia Formation through Sensory Substitution in Artistic Laboratories in Russia


Keywords: Sensory substitution, haptic media, inclusivity, qualia, plasticity, artistic research, media art in Russia

The paper is concerned with the complexities of interrelations between human sensory modalities and the role of artistic experimentation in triggering new forms of perceptual organization. The research field of sensory substitution, starting from the neuroscientific investigations by Bach-Y-Rita in the 1970s, has provided many insights into how certain brain functions can compensate for the others, thus demonstrating the brain capabilities for plasticity. Although trackable through brain-scanning and neuroimaging technologies, the emerging effects, such as vision-like qualia, remain subjective and can be communicated primarily only through analogies. One productive way to explore the dialectics between the subjective and possible objective knowledge is a comparative analysis of neurocomputational models and experiences designed in artistic projects. How can a model – be it computational or experiential – guide us into what happens at the level of the neuronal structures? In what follows, we consider some methods of testing the ‘sentience’ of the brain and making the inner changes ‘feelable’ explored through artistic means in a series of interdisciplinary laboratories and exhibitions in Moscow in 2013-2019.

  • Ksenia Fedorova, Assistant Professor, Leiden University, The Netherlands. Ksenia is a media art researcher and curator. She holds PhD in Cultural Studies (University of California Davis), Ph.D in Philosophy/Aesthetics (St.Petersburg, Ekaterinburg). She is the author of “Tactics of Interfacing: Encoding Affect in Art and Technology” (MIT, 2020) and the co-editor of “Media: Between Magic and Technology” (Armchair Scientist, Moscow, 2014). In 2007-2011, she was an initiator and curator of the “Art. Science. Technology” program at the Ural branch of the National Center for Contemporary Arts (Ekaterinburg, RU). After her recent postdoctoral fellowship at Humboldt University in Berlin she joined Leiden University Center for Arts in Society as an Assistant Professor. leidenuni.academia.edu/KseniaFedorova
  • Elena Demidova, Ural Federal University Mediabodymedia, Moscow Polytechnic University, Moscow, Russia. Elena is an artist and curator of the research platform on multisensory communication Mediabodymedia, as well as curator and tutor of laboratories and art & science schools at the Moscow Polytechnic University. The focus of her work is relations between word and body, the verbal and the non-verbal, multisensory communication, and inclusion. Her curatorial projects include Digital literature program at the Moscow Festival of Media Poetry and the Laboratory of Media Poetry (Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Open Stage project, 2013-2017), “Transcription of Noise” (6th Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art, 2015-2016), and creative and research laboratories “The Body of Text” (National Center for Contemporary Art, MMoMA, Garage Center for Contemporary Art, 2015-2018).