[ISEA2011] Panel: Sally Jane Nor­man – The­atres of/as Art and Ar­ti­fi­cial Life

Panel Statement

Panel: VIDA: New Discourses, Tropes and Modes in Art and Artificial Life Research

Stag­ing ar­ti­fi­cial and hy­brid lives is the stuff of the an­cient human pur­suit called the­atre. This art form has left us a legacy of pup­pets, au­tomats, ef­fi­gies, cor­po­real and in­tan­gi­ble agents which in­habit and com­pellingly bring to life un- or other-worldly spaces. Con­se­quently, the­atri­cal cre­ations and metaphors pro­vide use­ful frame­works for set­ting cur­rent art and ar­ti­fi­cial life en­deav­ours into a broader cul­tural per­spec­tive, serv­ing as sound­ing boards for our no­tions of live­li­ness. For Gilbert Si­mon­don, “The liv­ing en­tity main­tains within it­self a per­ma­nent ac­tiv­ity of in­di­vid­u­a­tion; it is not just the re­sult of in­di­vid­u­a­tion, like the crys­tal or mol­e­cule, but it is the the­atre of in­di­vid­u­a­tion.” (L’In­di­vidu et sa Genese Physico-bi­ologique). The­atre is thus posited as a locus of con­stant emer­gence, iden­ti­fied with live being and with being alive. No­tions of bound­aries, of open and closed sys­tems, of dy­namic mod­els and more or less au­tonomous, in vivo pro­jec­tions, are com­mon to the­atre and ar­ti­fi­cial life re­search. Evolv­ing de­f­i­n­i­tions of the­atre which ac­com­mo­date con­tem­po­rary live arts and ar­ti­facts, that en­gage (with) liv­ing processes be­yond the con­fines of sta­tic in­sti­tu­tional ar­chi­tec­tures, can nur­ture and pro­duc­tively in­form the ways we think about art and ar­ti­fi­cial life. My panel pre­sen­ta­tion will focus on a num­ber of VIDA pro­jects, read­ing them through the lens and terms of the­atre to en­rich in­ter­pre­ta­tions of their man­i­fold mean­ings. In this way, I hope to un­der­line the con­cep­tual orig­i­nal­ity of these re­cent ex­per­i­ments in art and ar­ti­fi­cial life, while in­di­cat­ing their ge­nealog­i­cal con­nec­tions to the more ar­chaic cul­tures and prac­tices of the­atre.

  • Sally Jane Nor­man is the Di­rec­tor of the At­ten­bor­ough Cen­tre for the Cre­ative Arts and Pro­fes­sor of Per­for­mance Tech­nolo­gies at Sus­sex Uni­ver­sity (UK). After ob­tain­ing an MA at the Uni­ver­sity of Can­ter­bury, Aotearoa/New Zealand, she re­ceived a Doc­torat de 3eme cycle (1980) and a Doc­torat d’etat (1990) from the In­sti­tut d’etudes theâtrales, Paris III – Sor­bonne Nou­velle. Her work on art and tech­nol­ogy has in­volved col­lab­o­ra­tion with var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing the Per­form­ing Arts Lab­o­ra­tory of the Cen­tre Na­tional de la Recherche Sci­en­tifique, Un­esco, and the French Min­istry of Cul­ture, and has led to nu­mer­ous pub­li­ca­tions in French and Eng­lish. In 1993 she di­rected the Lou­vre’s New Im­ages and Muse­ol­ogy con­fer­ence. She has de­vel­oped re­search pro­jects at the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Pup­petry (Charleville-Mezieres), Zen­trum fur Kunst und Me­di­en­tech­nolo­gie (Karl­sruhe), and Stu­dio for Elec­tro-In­stru­men­tal Music (Am­s­ter­dam), where she was Artis­tic Co-Di­rec­tor from 1998-2000. As Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the Ecole Su­perieure de l’Image (An­gouleme/ Poitiers), she launched a prac­tice-based Dig­i­tal Arts Ph.D pro­gram, sub­se­quently leav­ing France in au­tumn 2004 for New­cas­tle Uni­ver­sity to cre­ate and di­rect Cul­ture Lab, an in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary re­search fa­cil­ity. In Jan­u­ary 2010 she went to the Uni­ver­sity of Sus­sex to found the At­ten­bor­ough Cen­tre for the Cre­ative Arts, a re­source de­signed to nur­ture and catal­yse the rad­i­cally in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary, uniquely cre­ative re­search for which Sus­sex is renowned, and which en­com­passes pi­o­neer­ing ar­ti­fi­cial life and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ini­tia­tives. Sally Jane’s work en­gages with col­lab­o­ra­tive in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary prac­tice, re­la­tions be­tween art and tech­nol­ogy, and dis­rup­tive in­no­va­tion processes. She fre­quently ad­vises on re­search and cul­tural pol­icy frame­works and reg­u­larly re­views texts and con­tem­po­rary cre­ative work for na­tional and in­ter­na­tional aca­d­e­mic and cul­tural bod­ies.