[ISEA2016] Introduction: Jeffrey Shaw – The Landscape Of Electronic Art

Introductory Statement

Preface to the ISEA2016 Art Catalogue

The landscape of electronic art has over the years produced certain ‘must see’ loci of which ISEA is certainly one of its most important points of convergence. Instigated in the Netherlands in 1988, ISEA has managed to maintain currency and urgency by so far travelling to twenty-one cities across the world and continuously being reinvented and reinvigorated by the passion of its organizers in those cities. The landscape of electronic art has undergone remarkable transformations and evolvements over the last 50+ years. This has been driven by artists’ perennial urge to renew (to regenerate and rehabilitate) the practice of art, in conjunction with the exceptional flourishing of new media resources and new modalities of intercommunication. ISEA, together with the other landmark institutions, festivals and exhibitions that have sprung up to celebrate this efflorescence of creativity, constitute vital communities of practice that consolidate and replenish the aesthetic and conceptual vigor of this hyperbola. It is Hong Kong’s privilege to host ISEA in 2016 – to take its place and to contribute to the current and future trajectory of electronic art. It is also an opportunity to promulgate and integrate its own proud traditions of media art that have been a dynamic feature of Hong Kong’s cultural landscape for over 30 tears. The Asian contribution to the history of electronic art is paramount – its luminaries and singular formations have inculcated media art with many of its most essential aspects. Each ISEA is a fortuitous concatenation of the enthusiasm (and hard work) of those persons who pull it together, and the ardent engagement (and hard work) of those artists and writers who give content to its body of programs and exhibitions. It is also the purposeful platform for a community of zealots and supporters (and critics) to come together from all over the world and share and learn from direct experience. Electronic art today operates under the sway of the global entrancement with the ever more ‘out of this world’ prospects of an electronic future. The allure of the new, of ‘innovation’, goes without question and is an infatuation that underpins economic and social policy almost everywhere. The philosopher Bernard Stiegler talks about the immense transformation that is currently underway “…that is leading globalized consumerism to liquidate all forms of knowledge (savoir vivre, savoir faire and savoir conceptualiser, knowledge of how to live, do and think).” If our academic and artistic project is about ‘creating new knowledge’, then in Stiegler’s words we need knowledge that “ …enriches and individuates the social organization in which (we) live without destroying it.” This at heart is the project of ISEA2016 ‘Cultural R>evolution’.

  • Jeffrey Shaw (Australia), Artistic Director ISEA2016, Chair Professor of Media Art, School of Creative Media, City University Hong Kong, HK