19th International Symposium on Electronic Art

Stories
Jun 13, 2013
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The 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art  presented by Australian Network for Art and Technology  (ANAT) and supported by Destination NS W to align with Vivid Sydney  showcases the best media artworks and future-focused ideas from Australia and around the world until Sunday 16 June 2013 at venues across greater Sydney.

ISEA International, founded in The Netherlands in 1990, fosters interdisciplinary exchange among culturally diverse organisations and individuals working with art, science and technology. Last seen in Sydney in 1992, the annual International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) returns 21 years later to deliver another ground-breaking event.

How are computer technologies enriching the lives of Orangutans in rescue centres and zoos in Indonesia? What kind of projects are being developed by the European Space Agency Arts & Science Initiative? How are innovations in motion tracking, voice recognition and digital projection inspiring new kinds of dance choreography and performance? And how are children’s narratives being reformulated by digitally enhanced, interactive picture books?

These are but a handful of the topics under discussion at the International Symposium on Electronic Arts, which took place at the University of Sydney from 11th-13th June. Presented by the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT), the conference is co-chaired by Professor Ross Harley, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, and Dr Kathy Cleland from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. Oriented by the provocation ‘Resistance is Futile’, ISEA2013 is all about recognising that the cutting edge of digital art has moved from the margins to become part of the fabric of everyday life.

With sessions running across 5 concurrent streams over three days, the conference showcased an inspiring array of speakers from all over the world including artists, scientists, technologists, curators and theorists. Keynote presenters included Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, pioneer media artist and researcher Michael Naimark, and Professor Brian Rogers, known for his groundbreaking research on the psychology of visual perception. ISEA2013 takes place in conjunction with Vivid Sydney, during a packed week of exhibitions, workshops and artists’ talks. Many speakers are treating the conference as a forum for elaborating on projects which are being exhibited, performed and workshopped in locations such as Carriageworks , Cambelltown Art Centre , the Powerhouse Museum , Artspace , Sydney College of the Arts  galleries, the College of Fine Arts , and at the University of Sydney’s Tin Sheds  and Verge galleries . Creative projects were also on show during some of the conference sessions, with presenters conducting interactive experiments with audience members and demonstrating wearable and motion tracking technologies.

While some projects under discussion were being developed in well-resourced university research labs, others had a more DIY flavour and have been catalysed by warfare, poverty and grassroots activism. The diversity of presentations at ISEA2013 testify to the remarkable ways in which electronics offer opportunities for experimentation, problem-solving and invention. From robots to holograms, from stem cells to big data, the speakers probe both the political and poetic implications of the technologies that are rapidly changing human experience in the 21st century. 

Many sessions contained an eclectic mix of formal presentations, while others consisted of panel and roundtable discussions between peers and collaborators, such as members of the influential CRUMB  (Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss) collective and affiliates of the pioneering Art/Science research laboratory SymbioticA . Session themes included ‘Mixed and augmented realities’, ‘transformative cinema’, ‘technology, expression and wellbeing’ and ‘new media performance’.

ISEA2013 also carried on the recent ISEA tradition of hosting a suite of Latin America Forum sessions. These sessions provided a platform for the discussion of electronic arts practices in Latin America, Indigenous Australia and other specific cultural domains which have followed different paths to those pursued in European and American centres.
The Museum of Contemporary Art  hosted a series of public keynotes including presentations by groundbreaking performance artist Stelarc , Mark Hosler from American audio visual collage group Negativland, and Genevieve Bell, Intel’s anthropologist on the culture of technology. Also at the MCA will be a series of presentations by artists who are exhibiting in the ISEA2013 program.

Whether the conference was an opportunity to explore new terrains in the electronic arts, or an intensive primer on how the technologies which bewilder many of us are being interpreted and mobilised by those who really understand them, ISEA2013 is essential for all artists, scientists, technologists, policy makers, curators and theorists with an interest in the intersection of art, science, technology and culture.

Full Program