“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”
_Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
I have participated in many ISEA symposia over the years, so I am especially thrilled to be part of hosting it in my home town. As I have traveled the world to these inspiring gatherings, I often imagined how exciting it could be to experience it in New Mexico. Now this dream has come true and I am thrilled to see how ISEA2012 has blossomed into such a large-scale event with many important partnerships, enriched by the unique setting of Albuquerque and New Mexico. In creating the overall ISEA2012 theme of “Machine Wilderness”, I wanted to reference the New Mexico region as an area of rapid growth and technology alongside wide expanses of open land. As the home of not only many of the most ‘wild’ places in the country, but also some of the most advanced technology and scientific discoveries, New Mexico offers the world a site for reflection and inspiration. The current conditions of Albuquerque and its surroundings also offer a microcosm of the social and environmental issues facing our global communities. Through “Machine Wilderness” and our five subthemes, this year’s symposium focuses on creative solutions for how we might consider technology and the natural world with a sustainable future in mind. Today we face an urgent need to re-examine the connection between humanity and wild spaces. In the 21st century when the technologies that have become embedded in our daily lives need to be reconsidered for their impacts on our future, participants in ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness will examine not only what has happened in the past 100 years, but will collaboratively envision what we can and should make happen in the next 100 years and beyond. Collectively, we will ask what historical and contemporary elements of technology and science should we be looking at to sustain our future and examine the technologically ‘appropriate’ based on local and temporal conditions with an understanding that we can’t use the same mindset to fix a problem that we used to create it. The focus days of the ISEA2012 conference are especially exciting and thread through the exhibition and overall symposium. The Latin American Forum showcases innovative projects in digital culture, critical theory and media arts coming from Latin American artists and scholars. The ISEA2012 Education Program focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education through Art, with programs for teachers and youth developed in partnership with Intel Corporation. I would like to thank ISEA International’s Board for selecting Albuquerque for ISEA2012, and everyone involved in making this project a success, especially 516 ARTS, the lead producer, The Albuquerque Museum of Art & History and all my colleagues at The University of New Mexico for helping to make ISEA2012 possible.
Andrea Polli is ISEA2012 Artistic Director, Mesa Del Sol Chair of Digital Media and Associate Professor of Art & Ecology College of Fine Arts and School of Engineering, The University of New Mexico.