In 1984, my good friend Theo Hesper, who is a computer scientist with a strong cultural interest, proposed to me to organise an event where the world of computer generated imagery would meet with the world of computer music. The overall aim would be to have the realms of science and art work together, an enterprise that I, as a sociologist, considered as one of the most important challenges of our time.
Theo came up with the name First International Conference on Electronic Art, announced for 1986. We were too optimistic of course, and it was decided that ‘symposium’ sounded much nicer than ‘conference’. In the end the first ISEA took place in 1988, in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The format was an academic conference, surrounded by artistic events.
During the first years there were spontaneous requests by institutes around the world: ‘Can we organise it next year, or the year after?’. And so, the symposium went to Sydney, Minneapolis, Helsinki and Montreal. We started to formalise the procedure, so that host candidates had to send in a bid, including all the ingredients for a complete ISEA: the academic sessions, exhibition(s), concerts, etc.
So, in the year 2000, the Aziosmanef brothers brought us to a wonderful symposium venue, called Forum des Images, in a horrible shopping mall. 23 years later, we find ourselves back in this shopping hell. ISEA grew in importance, is now recognised as the most important nomadic event of its kind, being opened by mayors and ministers. ISEA2023 reflects this status, with a well organised academic kernel, and an abundance of artistic events surrounding it, including the exhibition at the Forum des Images.
I know what a major job it is to organise an ISEA. You need two years to get over it. So thank you ISEA2023 organisers, and a lot of strength to you, ISEA2024 organisers in Australia!
- Wim van der Plas (NL) is co-founder of ISEA. He studied social-cultrural sciences at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Currently he is an ISEA Symposium Archivist and co-organiser of the Summits on new Media Art Archiving.