ISEA Istanbul 2011

Istanbul's Bosphorus: a great place to discuss electronic arts!

Closeby, at the Istanbul Museum of Archaeology, a lion's glazed eye gazes from the Ishtar Gate.

I recently got back from the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA2011), which was in Turkey this year. It will be in New Mexico next year (they really do know how to pick magical settings) and if you're interested in going, you can find information on submitting proposals here. It's a great community of researchers, thinkers, tinkerers, rebels, artists and technophiles who come together to discuss the state of electronic media from a critical perspective.

The conference lasted for 7 days. Every morning started with 5 panels (each with about 4 presenters), followed by a daily keynote address, then 5 paper sessions (again, each with about 4 presenters), and finally, 5 more paper sessions. Oh, but there were also about 6 workshops happening throughout the day, simultaneously. Several galleries were presenting works by ISEA artists, and there were also performances associated with the conference. Compute that together, and it adds up to...probably more than 500 presentations on the topic. It was exhausting!

MIT's William Uricchio delivers a keynote on The Algorithmic Turn at ISEA2011

On the third day, I taught a workshop on making impressions of magnetic field patterns of credit card magstripes. Along with teaching this subversive, yet crafty technique to a diverse group of ISEA-ites, I also forced them to watch my powerpoint on the history of our knowledge of magnetic fields. (Yawn, for most. Sorry! I loved sifting through the history, though.)

The rest of the time (and apart from stealthy trips to Istanbul's breathtaking cultural sites, like the Aya Sophia and Topkapi Palace), I tried to take in as much of the conference as possible. There was a general lack of debate, but a few very heated moments stood out. A panel on hackerspaces (Hackerspaces, DIY Bio and Citizen Science: The Rise of Tinkering and Prototype Culture) instigated some very important questions about the future of alternatives to the institution. It was moderated by Denisa Kera, and featured some very colorful presenters: Venzha from honf, Christopher Coenen talking about transhumanism, Marc Tuters on the familiar topic of design fiction, and the brilliant Rob van Kranenberg.

The inspiring Turkish sun sets Aya Sophia aglow.

I was hoping for more critical analysis of the wearable technology crafting community from Open Culture + Wearables (I think there is an over-reliance on things like the cyborg aesthetic and materials like conductive yarn creating an unfortunate set of cliches that dampen the radical potential of the field.), but the speakers were incredibly informative. Then, there was a totally redeeming moment at the end of the Art - Science Relations panel where SymbioticA co-founder Oron Catts and others accused the capitalist economic structure of co-opting science, and a palpable sense of anarchy was in the air. It was great!

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