[ISEA2008] Introduction: Gunalan Nadarajan — Introduction to ISEA2008 Symposium

Introductory Statement

The global and unequally distributed proliferation of information, communication and experiential technologies has led to the development of a highly differentiated and structurally complicated media arts field. Even as the advent of some technologies is actively celebrated and their potential exploited by some groups, others have barely come to grips with the possibilities of ‘long-obsolescent’ technologies. Even as some struggle with the newness of certain technologies, others, somewhat jaded with the determinative influence that the ‘newest’ and ‘best’ have on their lives and creativity, are consciously opting for ‘old’ and ‘low’ technologies.

In such a globally differentiated situation, the very notions of ‘new’ and `old’ technologies though pandered as an issue of relative sophistication is revealed as an issue of relative access largely determined by historical, political, economic and cultural contexts. That such technologies have become important engines of economic development has made a critical evaluation of their complicities in and complex relationships to particular socio-cultural, economic and political ways of being especially difficult. That one can simultaneously critique technologies and yet enjoy the benefits and pleasures of some particular technologies might seem like a compromise and sell-out for some, but is a necessary aspect of one’s being in a world infused with such technologies to a point where opting out is both pragmatically impossible and ethically irresponsible. In the art world, the problems of how one critically evaluates creative uses of technology are often confused with the questions of how one creatively enables the critical uses of technology. ISEA2008 Symposium seeks to engage and respond to the challenges of new and old technologies in creatively engaging the critical problems and possibilities of our age.

Hosting the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) in Singapore, only the second time the symposium has been held in Asia, represents a wonderful opportunity not only to define, shape, and affect the development of creative media in Singapore but also to support related developments in the Asian region and beyond. In recent years, Singapore has witnessed a tremendous growth in interactive and digital media and it is our hope that ISEA2008 provides a vibrant and internationally refereed context within which the growth of these sectors and its inherent connections to creative individuals and energies can be explored, developed and exemplified.

We are especially excited that the juried exhibition of ISEA2008 will premiere sixteen new art works that have been developed by international artists during their residence in Singapore. With the generous support of the National University of Singapore, ISEA2008 hosted an Artists In Residence (AIR) programme that facilitated more than twenty artists to work in over ten technological labs and research centers at the university to produce these new works. In addition to this juried exhibition that will be hosted in the National Museum of Singapore, one of our co-presenters, there will be four other exhibitions from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Switzerland hosted in the Sculpture Square, The Substation, Singapore Management University and LASALLE College of the Arts respectively.

We are also delighted to have the support and participation of all the major tertiary institutions in Singapore working in the relevant areas of media arts and design — specifically, National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, LASALLE College of the Arts and Republic Polytechnic — and hope that ISEA2008 will significantly support their own missions to engage and develop creative media. We are extremely grateful to several national agencies that have generously supported ISEA2008, namely, Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts, Media Development Authority, Infocomm Development Authority and Singapore Tourism Board. Indeed this event would be impossible without their continuous and enthusiastic support.

We are confident and sincerely hope that ISEA2008 will be as rich and worthwhile an experience for you as it was for us in developing and presenting it.

  • Gunalan Nadarajan, Artistic Director, ISEA2008, on behalf of the ISEA2008 Organising Committee