Empyre Discussion July 2013: Resistance is Futile, ISEA2013 Sydney. July’s discussion on empyre will engage the themes and activities underlying and emerging from this year’s International Symposium on Electronic Arts, held at the University of Sydney and other locations in and around Sydney, Australia during June 2013. ISEA2013 functions as a snap shot of developments at the intersection of the arts, culture and technology and offers an opportunity to pick up on current discourses and practices. ISEA2013 was a wide ranging and multi-layered event, with five parallel conference tracks, several official exhibitions at a number of different venues, conference workshops and satellite events around the city, including performances, concerts, exhibitions and public interventions. No single person could have gained a full sense of ISEA2013 as it was not physically possible to be at every event – or even most of them. Any individual experience of ISEA2013 was therefore partial and particular. We hope that this discussion on empyre can help construct a critical overview of the event through the multiple experiences and points of view our discussants can
provide, for both those that attended and those that didn’t. The primary theme for ISEA2013 was “resistance is futile”. How are we to interpret this? Resistance to what? The conference programme offers a positive take on this statement – proposing that the electronic arts have moved from the margins to occupy a central role in contemporary culture. But has this happened – and, if it has, is it generally the case or only so in certain contexts? Resistance can be a positive or a negative form of agency. Are we talking about resistance as something heroic or reactionary – or both? What of those aspects of our technologised society which many of us would wish to resist? Do we seek to be the willing subjects of the pervasive
surveillance systems the ISEA keynote Julian Assange spoke of and which are again in the news after Edward Snowden’s recent revelations? Do we wish to be gamified and appropriated into the attention economy? Is it possible to resist these forces? Other themes were also apparent at ISEA2013, addressed in the various conference tracks and emergent in the creative works presented.
Important questions were asked about:
- sustainability – how this can be achieved in relation to the environment but also how artists, arts groups, academics and activists might ensure their activities are sustainable as the processes of technologisation and globalisation unfold?
- notions of the human – what does it mean to be human now, in the context of developments in genetics and ICT?
- globalisation, diasporas and cultural identity?
- the boundaries of the real – where virtual and augmented realities have become pervasive media?
- the post-digital and its implications for aesthetics and questions of agency?
- the challenges and opportunities associated with big data?
- urbanism, activism and the socially disruptive potential of technology?
We hope this empyre discussion will offer discussants and list members a context for the conversations initiated and pursued in Sydney to be
developed and sustained and for those who could not attend the event to gain a sense of what transpired and make a contribution to those debates.
Our discussants in the month of July are:
Week 1, July 1-7:
- Terry Flaxton (UK) is Professor of Cinematography and Lens Based Arts at the University of the West of England. He was formerly at the
University of Bristol researching high resolution imaging following a 30 year career in the UK Film and Television Industry. He made his first artworks in 1976, is currently an applicant Academician at the Royal West of England Academy of the Arts and his pieces are shown in various museums and galleries around the world. His latest research involves Higher Dynamic Range Capture and Display and he has just finished the worlds first HDR, HFR moving image work.
- Simon Biggs (AU/UK) is a media artist, writer and curator with interests in digital poetics, affective, interactive and performance environments, interdisciplinary research and co-creation. His work has been presented internationally and he has spoken at numerous conferences. Publications include Remediating the Social (ed, 2012), Autopoeisis (with James Leach, 2004), Great Wall of China (1999), Halo (1998), Magnet (1997), Book of Shadows (1996). He is Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts, University of Edinburgh.
Week 2, July 8-14:
- Gary Warner (AU) has a 40-year history of cultural engagement in Australian and international galleries, museums, botanic gardens and visitor centers as artist, curator, writer, creative director and digital media producer. He has collaborated with leading artists, exhibition designers and architecture firms, curated large-scale exhibition projects, directed and produced numerous multimedia installations, and researched and written interpretation of social history, natural sciences, contemporary art and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. While skilled in the use of digital media systems, he maintains a strong interest in hand-making, building small buildings, the adventure of materials and writing tanka poetry. Recent exhibition projects have included pencil drawings, folded paper and laser-cut plywood structures, and custom design of a timber and aluminium system for construction of geodesic domes. Gary was artistic director of ISEA92 (TISEA).
- Paul Sermon (UK) has, since the early nineteen-nineties, pursued practice-based research centered on the creative use of telecommunication technologies. Through the unique use of videoconference techniques in artistic telepresence applications he has developed a series of celebrated telematic art installations that have been widely exhibited throughout Europe, East Asia, the United States and Australia, including first prize awards at the Interactive Media Festival Sparky Awards in Los Angeles, the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica Award in Linz, as well as nominations for the San Francisco World Technology Awards, the ZKM International Media Art Prize Karlsruhe and twice Prix Ars Electronica runner up.
- Charlotte Gould (UK) is Senior Lecturer in Digital Media at the University of Salford, School of Arts & Media. Through her research she explores the creative and cultural potential that urban screens have to offer in the digital media age and how these emerging technologies and digital infrastructure impact on how the public interacts within the urban environment. She has undertaken a number of interactive installations and projects with key industrial partners, including interactive installations for Moves09 at the BBC Big Screen in Liverpool, the BBC Big Screen at the Glastonbury Festival and for ISEA2009 at the Waterfront Hall Belfast.
Week3, July 15-21:
- Deborah Ely (AU) is Chief Executive Officer at Bundanon Trust and convenor of the interdisciplinary, site based, project SITEWORKS. Prior to taking up her position at Bundanon Trust, an arts, education and research organisation, she was the Visual Arts and Craft Manager at Arts NSW. Previous positions include Director of the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney; founding Director of the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne; Coordinator of the first Experimenta festival of new media in Australia and Visual Arts Director of Watershed Media Centre in the UK. She was trained in Britain as a painter and art historian.
- Garth Paine (AU/US) is a composer, musician and academic. He is the Interim Director of the School of Arts Media and Engineering at Arizona State University where he is also a Professor of Digital Sound and Interactive Media. He previously established and directed the Virtual, Interactive, Performance Research environment (VIPRe) in Sydney Australia. Garth was an early explorer of interactive responsive environments where the inhabitant generates the sonic landscape through their presence and behaviour. These explorations extended to scores for dance, generated through real-time video tracking and/or bio-sensing of dancers. His work has been shown throughout Australia, Europe, Japan, USA, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Week 4, July 22-28: (Moderator: Simon Biggs)
- Clea T. Waite (US/D) is a research artist-scholar and experimental filmmaker investigating the correspondences between art and science via somatic, cinematic works. Her films are realized using animation, immersion, stereoscopic imaging, structural montage and unique interfaces as well as one inter-species collaboration with several hundred spiders. She received her SB and SMVis degrees from the MIT Media Lab as a physicist and 3D computer graphics developer. She has been an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, and a fellow at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Her artworks have been exhibited and awarded internationally, notably the IBM Innovation Prize for Artistic Creation in Art and Technology. She is currently an Annenberg Fellow at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts pursuing her PhD in Media Arts and Practice.
- Daniel C. Howe (HK/US) is an artist, hacker, writer, musician, and educator whose work focuses on networked systems for image, sound and text, and on the social and political implications of computational technologies. He has a PhD in computer science and an MFA in interactive media and digital literature. He currently lives in Hong Kong where he teaches at City University’s School of Creative Media.
- Ruth Aylett (UK) has been working with intelligent graphical characters for more than ten years and, more recently, with social robots. She has led large EU projects (VICTEC, eCIRCUS, eCute) in this area and has helped develop affective architectures driving virtual drama systems such as FearNot!. She has more than 200 publications and leads the Autonomous Affective Agents group at Heriot-Watt University, Scotland, where she is Professor of Computer Science.
- Sue Hawksley (UK) is a dance artist, bodywork therapist and artistic director of articulate animal, an interdisciplinary performance company which undertakes collaborative projects focused upon movement, identity and territory which have been presented internationally. She has previously performed with Rambert Dance Company, Mantis, Scottish Ballet and Philippe Genty among others, as well as on many freelance projects as performer, choreographer or educator. Sue holds a practice-led PhD from the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh College of Art. Her research critically examines concepts of embodiment through choreographic and somatic practices, philosophy, and mediation. She is Senior Lecturer in Dance at the University of Bedfordshire.