[ISEA2020] Introduction: Mehdi Benboubakeur — Foreword Proceedings

On behalf of Printemps numérique (Montreal Digital Spring), our partner institutions, and the organizing committee, we are proud to present the ISEA2020 Online: Why Sentience? proceedings. The 26th International Symposium on Electronic Art is the first ISEA edition to be held entirely online and will take place in tandem with the second edition of MTL connect: Digital Week (Printemps numérique’s own online symposium), and will act as the latter’s creativity pavilion.
social distancing measures, economic shutdowns, sanitary rules and travel restrictions— and as a result the planning for the symposium was swiftly reconfigured to produce what we consider to be its most innovative iteration. The International Symposium on Electronic Art belongs in the digital space, where it can be accessible to all regardless of zone or continent; it is not only suitable but inevitable that the event should move to an online platform, where participants and presenters will reconsider in a myriad of imaginative and surprising ways the conduits of creative information dissemination and exchange.
The online event will consist of four full days of 12 hours of presentations on three different live streams: 108 full papers, 96 short papers, 24 panels and 18 posters, selected from nearly 1000 submissions from 58 countries. Our rich and interdisciplinary programme continues on the weekend with instructive workshops. In addition to this, ISEA2020 will be hosting an entirely virtual series of exhibitions, based on the following themes and their correlation with the symposium’s through line, Why Sentience?: Animality, The Ecosophic World, Politics of Sentience, Matter’s Mattering, The Planetary, Machinic Sense & Sensibility, and Sentient Difference.
Happening in tandem with the online offerings, ISEA2020 will be physically present in its host city, Montreal, with in-situ exhibitions and performances at Les maisons de la culture Claude-Léveillée, Janine-Sutto, and Côte-des-Neiges. This hybrid programming represents an exact reflection of our current societal modus operandi: full online connection, limited physical presence, for the optimal reach and impact in our local communities and those at large.
An extraordinary effort and help is required in organizing an International Symposium
such as ISEA, especially during a global pandemic. Printemps numérique would like to thank Erandy Vergara, for her extraordinary ability and leadership to guide the team and work together with the Academic and Artistic Chairs and Committees, specially her behind-the scenes work managing the content and form of ISEA2020 Online.
We also would like to thank the academic chairs Christine Ros and Chris Salter, whose
insight and vision regarding the 26th edition’s theme, Why Sentience, were both essential and without comparison, as well as Manuelle Freire, who all together curated the impressive academic programme and talks. Thank you the artistic co-chairs Erandy Vergara, Alice Jim and Caroline Andrieux for their rigorous yet open spirit in making the final selection of ISEA2020’s Juried Selection.
A deeply appreciative thank you to the ISEA2020 International Program Committee (IPC) and Artistic Jury. Thank you to the ISEA2020 team for their invaluable work, patience, and endless hours devoted to finding solutions for unprecedented challenges, and for their on-the-spot creativity and flexibility when it was crucial to getting the job done: Pauline Barthe, Maximilien Briat Martin, Sylvaine Chassay, Stephanie Creaghan, Margaux Davoine, Pascal Dufaux, Iriana Rakotobe, Marine Villedieu.
We would also like to thank the supporting institutions and various partners, without
whom the symposium would not be possible: the Gouvernement du Québec (Ministère
de la Culture et des communications and the Fonds d’initiative et de rayonnement de la métropole), the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Ville de Montréal, Tourisme Montréal, le Conseil des arts du Canada, le Conseil des arts de Montréal, Patrimoine Canadien, NAD (École des arts numériques, de l’animation et du design), Concordia University, Synthèse, Destination centre-ville, Reflector, ISEA International, Maison de la culture Claude-Léveillée, Maison de la culture Janine Sutto, Maison de la culture de Côtedes-Neiges, Maison du développement durable, Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art and Technology (York University) le Consulat de France, OFQJ France (Office francoquébécois pour la jeunesse), Goethe-Institut Montreal, Sporobole, New Media Gallery, Manifestations Festival, Scopitone Festival, Composite, Milieux Institute, ELEKTRA, Centre PHI, Espace art actuel, Ciel variable and Esse.
Lastly, ISEA2020 would like to thank all our participants, artists and scholars who applied to the symposium back in December of 2019 for your willingness to continue to work with us and evolve with us as we transitioned to the new online format. Your understanding and capacity to adapt are what made the symposium the success that it is. Your generous and insightful reflections on sentience proved more relevant than ever in the face of the pandemic, and we are eternally grateful for your contribution, participation, and adaptability.

  • Mehdi Benboubakeur, Executive Director, Printemps numérique, MTL connecte – ISEA2020