[ISEA97] Panel: Heidi Gilpin (chair) – Sensing the Virtual

Panel Statement

Synesthesia: communication between the senses; the translation of input from one sense into an object for a different sense; also, “amodal” perception — a sensation that arises from no one sense in particular, and all at once.
Kinesthesia: the direct perception of movement, in the body before the brain.
Synesthesia and kinesthesia are increasingly central to experimentation in and analysis of computer culture. Technological expressions of the conditions of human perception may in fact be considered a fundamental problem facing practitioners of computer-integrated art. How can an immersive, full-sense experience be produced through a medium that remains primarily visual? Can the functions of the other five senses, in particular tactility, be accessed through vision? Or is it necessary to address the other sens es directly? Even in immersive VR environments where other than visual stimuli are provided, the body remains relatively static, anchored in the technology. Is an effectively synesthetic experience possible without the participation of the sixth sense, that of motion? Is not movement the medium through which the senses communicate? If so, for computer spaces to be effectively synesthetic they would have to be truly kinesthetic as well. But isn’t literal motion in an abstract space a contradiction in terms? Or is it conceivable that both synesthesia and kinesthesia are already in play, but unremarked, in even low-tech computer environments, such as email and hypertext? Is their functioning in fact the measure of “reality” in the virtual?
This panel will explore issues of synesthesia and kinesthesia in computer art and culture. The participants will attempt to define the terms and their interrelation, drawing on analyses of allied arts and cultural phenomena, such as performance, dance, literature, and the mass media, in addition to the electronic arts. The papers will converge around concepts of face, interface, memory, and affect as necessary points of reference in the perceptual economy of computer culture.

  • Heidi Gilpin, USA, panel chair, teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Hong Kong. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University, and lectures and publishes internation­ally on cultural studies in performance, with an emphasis on issues of bodily practice, critical theory, new media tech­nologies, and architecture. Since 1989 she has worked as the Dramaturg (Conceptual Author) of William Forsythe and the Frankfurt Ballet, most recently on Eidos:Telos (1995), an evening-length production involving interactive technologies. Gilpin is presently engaged in performance, electronic media, and Internet projects, and is completing a book entitled Traumatic Events:Toward a Poetics of Movement Performance. She is also editing a book on the bodies of new technologies.
  • Sandra Buckley (Australia) is chair of Japanese Studies at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. She is also the Asia Projects Coordinator for the Australian Key Centre for Culture and Media Policy Studies. In this capacity, she has initiated the implementation of an Asia- Pacific regional Internet Linkages Project. Her publications include The Broken Silence: Voices of Japanese Feminism (University of California Press) and numerous articles on contemporary Japanese popular culture, with a recent focus on issues related to new technologies. She is co-editor of the Theory Out of Bounds book series at the University of Minnesota Press, and a member of the editorial collective of Positions: East Asian Cultures Critique.
  • Toni Dove (U.S.A.) is a media artist. Her installation, Mesmer — Secrets of the Human Frame, was part of the 1990 Art in the Anchorage exhibition, sponsored by Creative Time. A book was published by Granary Books in the spring of ’93.The performance/ installation The Blessed Abyss—A Tale of Unmanageable Ecstasies, debuted at the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the series Performing Bodies and Smart Machines, which Dove co­curated. The soundtrack was commissioned by New American Radio for its 1991-92 series.The piece was also exhibited in October 1992 at the Thread Waxing Space, and at the New School in the spring of ’93, in the Franklin Furnace performance series. Dove developed a collabora­tive virtual reality world, Archeology of a Mother Tongue, at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada. She completed a video installation, Casual Workers, Hallucinations, and Appropriate Ghosts for 42nd Street, sponsored by Creative Time and the 42nd Street Development Corp. She is cur­rently working on Artificial Changeling’s, an interactive narrative installation that uses video motion sensing to engage viewers in a responsive environment.The piece is supported by grants from the N.E.A., The New York State Council on the Arts, The New York Foundation for the Arts, Art Matters, Inc. and Harvestworks, Inc. It has been pre­sented in lecture and video form as a work in progress at a number of conferences including ISEA95, Montreal; The Pong Festival, Brown University; Rhode Island Design, 199?; The 2 Grands Etats Generaux de acriture Interactive sponsored by Art 3000, Paris, 1996. Dove recent­ly received a Media Arts award from MIT.
  • Brian Massumi (Canada) holds a research position at the English Department of the University of Queensland, Australia. He is the author of A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari (Will Press) and First and Last Emperors: The Body of the Despot and the Absolute State (with Kenneth Dean (Autononnedia). He has published an edited volume entitled The Politics of Everyday Fear (University of Minnesota). His current research centers on the relation between affect and image.