Cultural R>evolution

Electronic media exemplifies the dual meaning of revolution: to always create new while returning to the old. In this dynamic, where multiple centers and margins compete for attention, and borders to be transgressed are shifting, paradigms and practices must be replaced, repackaged and re-appropriated to keep up with the parallel evolutions in art, creativity, culture, society, and politics.

Topics of ISEA2016 Hong Kong 香港

Please click the topics to read more.

The New Geopolitics of (Art-)Making: D.I.Y. Ontologies & (De)institutionalization

For a long time, the southern region of China, including Hong Kong, has been known as the ‘factory of the world’. However, the geopolitical landscape in which electronic art practitioners operate is changing. The emergence of DIY movements and Fablabs parallel to established artistic, technological, economic and educational institutionalized practices bring rapid manufacturing technologies and factory-grade prototyping facilities within the reach of artists, hackers and makers. Movements like Open Hardware destabilize the reliance on factory-made boxed computers. What kind of new avenues of artistic and scholarly enquiry do these shifts open up? What kind of strategies and tactics are available for scholars and art practitioners to deal with the geopolitical, industrial and financial implications of the DIY and the new immediacy of micro-scale manufacturing? This trend recasts concepts into paradoxes: degrowth economy, economies of waste, and ecological-manufacturing. How are these emerging practices to be related to prevailing ontologies underpinned by rhetorics of progress and efficiency?

Game Over - Play Again Y/N
Media-archaeological excavations during the past decades have found traces of a technological, perhaps also cultural, origin shared by computer games and electronic art. Despite their shared origins, the discourses of ‘electronic art’ and ‘art games’ remain largely separate. We believe that cross-exposing these paradigms is mutually beneficial: ‘playability’ emerges as a waypoint on the art-historical trajectory of interactive art. Not unlike ‘plot’ in film or ‘image’ in visual arts, playability’s presence in an artwork is subject to exclusion and incoherent implementation. How does the taking into account of the possibility of play challenge the existing paradigms of aesthetics and critique? Playable works oscillate between performance and signification – what are the strategies for dealing with this ambiguity? If play absorbs its players utterly and completely, what role does critical reflection play in playable art? What is to be learned from ‘serious games’ that aim for simultaneously critical yet pleasurable play?
The Animal and the Technological: Para/Post-Human Paradoxes
Non-human agency and beings are typically approached either from the point of view of technological or animal others. The technological and the animal seem to be the opposite ends of a spectrum. Traditionally defined, technology is artificial, refined, organised and masculine, while nature evokes instinctive chaotic grounded femininity. Containing both, we merge the extreme others in ourselves: human, dispersed across an arbitrary middle, is both a cyborg and an animal. In light of this coexistence of cultural, technological, and natural, we ask: where are the intersections of technological and animal(istic) agency? When, why, and how do the two meet and what is the friction that occurs? Is it possible, through closer explorations, to substitute the bipolar distinction with more flexible and fluid accounts? Could the teleological trajectories of humanity be supplemented with parallel alternatives? How to conjointly define feral, native, subhuman, posthuman, or parahuman in code and nature?
Massless: Liquid E-Occupy
After a 20th century of mass movements, labor revolutions, and explorations of the psychoanalytic subconscious, the 21st signals the birth of new methods of massless collectivity that (dis)empower the (dis)embodied: low-orbit ion-cannon DOS, doxing, whistleblowers, wikileaks, liquid democracy, e-occupy, Internet ‘votations’, distributed sit-ins and long-tail internet-niche ideological-ecologies … What are the shapes of future real-time populist movements? Is the era of the street over, or is fiberoptics impotent without blood? What technically-optimized granular strategies can displace dystopia?
Code, Language, Network, Politics
For millennia literature and politics have been inextricably linked, both by those recognizing the emancipatory potential of the word, and by those attempting to leverage it for control. As computational, networked services play an increasingly critical role in contemporary life, algorithmic practices represent a new confluence for writing and politics, one in which symbolic, aesthetic, and political elements are inextricably entwined. What does it mean for new writing to take a form that is at once symbolic and executable? What will the next generation of writers (whether human, machinic, or hybrid) be able to tell us as linguistic practices continues to (r)evolve?
Noise Contra Signal
Modern communication technologies aim to minimize noise in signals, privileging ‘purity’ in the transmission of information. The quality of digital representations are judged by the minimisation of noise and artefacts. Media transmitted across the network spawn countless identical copies, such that the notion of any ‘original’ signal is no longer relevant. This sub-theme invites participants to question this paradigm, foregrounding noise (margin) over signal (center), the mutation over the exact copy, and the unexpected over the predictable. Why have interactions between humans and computers proven so often to be noisy and unexpected, rather than smooth and predictable? How, as theorists and practitioners, can we act as accumulators and curators of such disturbance, leveraging new forms of noise in networked culture? How can we inject creative and critical noise into dominant cultural signals, obfuscating their ‘original’ con/in/tent and imbuing them with new meanings?
Biopolitics/biopower: Genetics (G), Nanotechnology (N) and Robotics (R)
The ancient human urge for dominion (control/power) over all living things re-emerges as simultaneously the promise of augmented evolution and the threat of the anthropocene. In this context, Foucault’s notions of ‘biopolitics’ and ‘biopower’ offer a chance for informed interdisciplinary investigations of what Ray Kurzweil refers to as “the three overlapping revolutions” of the Singularity: genetics, nanotechnology and robotics. The increasing sophistication of drone warrior and/or companion robots, micro-medicine and/or CRISPR gene-editing suggest the emergence of customized organisms and robotic presences (at all levels of scale) both as research vectors and as commodified entities. Can modalities of increased synthetic control be fused with a revived ethics? In what ways do ‘biopolitics’ and ‘biopower’ offer ways to re-think agency and relations? How does the entropy of current GNR developments alter the problematics of political rationalities and social governance?
Regardless of ideological labels, after most revolutions, oligarchies homeostatically reclaim power. Currently the international art-market propagates core values through branded artists, mega-galleries, investor collecting, superstar art-fairs, illicit flows, freeports and tax-havens; recently the peripheries are in flux: gift-economy gatherings, crowd-sourced startups, high-frequency-traders, crypto-currencies, and data-driven virtual trade. What do digitally-networked transactions, diffusion, exchange and value imply for aesthetic/conceptual interventions? How do emergent economic digital forms (blockchains, micropayments, etc.), de/re-stabilize ancient inequity? How can mediated art expose the anatomy of financial power inherent in data flows?
Digital extensions of commercial sex toys, computer games that celebrate sexuality, porntubes and VR porn, and intercourse with robotic entities are examples of how advanced technologies enter private human encounters. Surrounded by excitement and titillation, as well as fear and anxiety, digital enhancements of human/human or human/technology sex have created a lively and restless pornosphere. How are techno-sex, women’s rights campaigns and online sexuality contributing to the fields and ideologies of social networks? What gender considerations or gender and queer activism results from globalized tech industries? What is the role of art in exploring the ethics and socio-cultural aspects of these changes? Who are the cyber-queers online and offline? Where do reproductive technologies meet robotic partners? And finally, since techno-sex and the pornosphere in greater China are governed by a battle over civil rights, how do people and online citizens creatively use them and what are the major issues of social activism?
New Media and Cultural Heritage
Museums, archives, and other institutions dealing with cultural heritage are increasingly turning into new media for the purposes of preserving, researching, and disseminating both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. How can new media meaningfully support scholarly, archival, and educational practices involving cultural heritage? Which cases are worth special attention to learn from? How does the pervasiveness of social media challenge the screen-based paradigms in the context of new media in museums? How are recent innovations in immersive display and information visualisation technologies reflected in the discourse of cultural heritage? How do the historical, social, economical, institutional, and political complexities of cultural heritage practices map with those of new media technologies, and vice versa? What kind of creative and institutional strategies appear feasible for dealing with these complexities?