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Isea 2011 Istanbul: A Report. Art At The Crossroads

 

Every International Symposium on Electronic Art has its own stories and achievements. These symposia and festivals are massive endeavors, catalyzing local and international people, resources and interests. [1]Lanfranco AcetiISEA2011 Istanbul Artistic Director and Conference Chair, Editor in Chief Leonardo Electronic Almanac (LEA), Kasa Gallery Director.

The 17th edition of the ISEA – International Symposium on Electronic Art, the leading world conference and exhibition event for art, media and technology, took place in Istanbul from 14 to 21 September 2011. The Symposium was the outcome of the synergy that was developed between the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Sabanci University of Istanbul, under the direction of the ISEA2011 Istanbul Artistic Director and Conference Chair Prof. Lanfranco Aceti (Goldsmiths College, London, Sabanci University, Istanbul, LEA Editor in Chief, Kasa Gallery Director) and the Conference and Programme Director Özden Şahin (LEA Editorial Manager, Kasa Gallery Vice Director & In-house Curator).

As a gate-away between Europe and Asia, the city of Istanbul provided a creative meeting point for the current debates in art, science and technology and for hosting an international gathering of leading and emerging thinkers and practitioners working at the interface of those fields. The event took place across the European and Asian sides of the city, establishing an active engagement and an evolving dialogue between the Symposium and its geographical context.

 

The ways in which digital media are reshaping contemporary society have been the main focus of ISEA2011 Istanbul. Despite its special focus on digital and electronic arts, ISEA2011 Istanbul was open to both theoretical and practice-based analyses at the intersection of art, science and technology. As the Symposium appealed to the humanities, the art community and hard sciences, it offered a rich variety of thematic strands ranging from digital art to curatorial studies, from electronic media to digital architecture, from the intersection of art, science, and technology to the concept of the digital city, from digital humanities to social media, from nanotechnology and art to urban ecologies, from trans-culturalism to mobile art and many others.

The total number of ISEA2011 Istanbul local and international participants reached 1,350 people. ISEA and Sabanci University focused on the international nature of the event through the development of partnerships with national and international art organisations, universities and foundations as well as public and private institutions. International synergies with a wide range of institutions took the form of pre-symposia, seminars and workshops leading to the main conference event. These activities allowed the development of panels, foci areas, curatorial and research projects as well as art and science collaborations, surpassing the conventional structure of Symposia.

ISEA 2011 Istanbul Conference was the academic core of the Symposium and took place mainly at the prestigious Sabanci Center‘s towers situated at Levent, the rapidly developing and expanding business district of Istanbul. The ISEA2011 Istanbul Conference hosted more than 450 paper presentations, over 70 panels and 60 workshops that were complemented by fora, networking, meetings and special events. All submissions were selected and reviewed by an international jury of professionals and academics from various disciplinary backgrounds.

Sean Cubitt, Roman Verostko, Oliver Grau, William Uricchio, Jay Bolter, Sara Diamond, Christiane Paul and Terrence Masson contributed as keynote speakers. The Conference comprised of a rich variety of topics including mapping, user experience and space; perfection, error and the sublime; art and activism in the digital age; interdisciplinary teaching and new media arts; algorithmic art; robotics; sound; bacteria art; consumption; augmented reality; hacking, and many others.

 

 

The combination of presenters, the themes and the structure of presentations inspired rigorous discussions on emerging issues, inspired new ideas and potential, while facilitating the development of new collaborations and partnerships.


“Uncontainable” was the ISEA2011 Istanbul Exhibition that was part of the official Parallel Programme of the Istanbul Biennial. The main exhibition took place at the central area of Taksim that is the core of the Istanbul art scene. In his introduction to the Conference and Exhibition Programme, Prof. Lanfranco Aceti explains his curatorial concept:

The traditional invisible divide between technologically based art and ‘fine art’ is something that I wanted to overcome by making the Uncontainable exhibition and events part of the official Parallel Program of the 12th Istanbul Biennial.[2]

Over 100 international artists participated in the exhibition, including visual artists, musicians, dancers, designers, engineers, software artists, researchers, theorists, media activists and other practitioners working across disciplines with recent technologies and exploring the artistic, creative and critical potentials of digital and electronic media. Exhibitors included leading artists such as Manfred Mohr and Roman Verostko as well as emerging artists. The migratory nature of artistic practice, the possible re-definitions of the aesthetics of interaction between art, science and technology surpassing the divide that is artificially constructed between new and old media, were some of the exhibition highlights.

The exhibition was complemented by a rich programme of performances, screenings and events including the Southern Mediterranean Forum, the Australian Forum, the ISEA Lounge and ISEA2011 Istanbul Digital Arts Market – Boat Cruise Events on the Bosporus, the International Digital Media Animation and Moving Images Screening and many others.

 

 

ISEA2011 Istanbul offers an extended publication programme supported by the Leonardo Electronic Almanac (Leonardo/ISAST–MIT Press) and Goldsmiths College, University of London. The programme offers many important advantages to delegates and attendees alike: it reaches a large international audience through e-platforms ensuring maximum exposure of the participants, it operates not only as an archive but also the ‘afterlife’ of the event through facilitating opportunities for future collaboration and synergies. For instance, it is possible to create clusters of academics and researchers so that a research project or an idea for an academic publication that has emerged during the event can be developed and implemented. The various online platforms are designed to include an Art Gallery, an Event Gallery, the“Uncontainable” Exhibition Catalogue, the Conference Proceedings, LEA Special Issues and the blog-style booklets Annotations.


“Mapping & the User Experience” was one of the paper sessions of the ISEA2011 Istanbul Conference andtook place on 19th September 2011 at Sabanci Center. The issue of mapping was one of the most important emerging topics that dominated several paper sessions and workshops such as “Mapping the City and Urban Identity”, “Mapping and the Subject as Body”, “Mapping as Walking as Learning to See in the Digital Age”as well as exhibitions and events dealing not only with space and architecture but also with a rich variety of other emerging fields, discourses, inter-disciplinary types of international research and practice. The importance of mapping is recognised and highlighted as a challenging integral part of spatial practice and research across digital and electronic media arts, hard sciences and the humanities. The session was chaired by Dr Steve Gibson (Reader in Interactive Media Design at Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK).


As part of the “Mapping & the User Experience”
paper session, I delivered my presentationentitled “Mapping Uncertainty”. [3] The focal point of the paper was the issue of exactitude in mapping the physical world, which has been debated extensively in science and has deeply influenced the development of scientific paradigms.Selected cases from my practice and research in digital site-specific art and other examples of spatial practices and research in art and architecture were discussed in conjunction with the relevant scientific, cosmological and philosophical theories.

 

 

As we pass from Modernist mathematical formalism to complexity, uncertainty and complementarity, our perception and understanding of the relationship between physical and virtual worlds are changing in the most unexpected ways. The developments in Quantum physics and scientific visualisation have revealed an emerging kind of multiple dimensionality that characterises the fuzzy (or rather, transitional) boundaries between reality and virtuality. A closer investigation of what is understood as paradigm shifts, may show certain ambiguous interchanges between reduction, abstraction, complexity and complementarity, in a context where not even a single definition of complexity seems to be universally accepted. Instead of seeking to achieve the unattainable, that is, to map the changing reality with exactitude and certainty, the most relevant challenge would be to map the boundaries and uncertainties of our knowledge and its applications.

 

One of the most challenging possibilities arising, is to creatively reveal various interstitial spaces of emergence that derives from complexity; from the invisible and unsettling potentiality fields between the transitional states of spatial transformation and exchange. Such a condition of emergence calls for new modes of presentation, interaction and aesthetics, in relation not only to the issue of boundary but also of understanding reality per se. Instead of ignoring or introducing unpredictability and uncertainty, their hidden existence in digital visualisation systems can be creatively revealed and explored in depth. In this way, new modes of innovative practice that do not comply with the established doctrines of representation, formalism, constructivism and their opposites, can be developed. Imperceptibles and intermediates would emerge, as we unravel what is observable.

New modes of site-specific drawing are developed in my practice, fortracing and interacting with the half- and by-products of algorithmic flows that remain unbuilt, their meta-dimensionality and the emerging paradoxes, through different modes of innovative spatial intervention. Instead of creating a singularity e.g. translating a digital design into a building, or developing progressions and sequences as in animation, the aim is to create inter-passages between the unsettling heterogeneous and interacting layers of architectural space. Interstitial spaces can be creatively revealed through the use of material/immaterial mediums such as light and line as well as through the processes of drawing and diagramming, for opening up the interfaces of thought, VR and built architecture. Innovative spatial interventions can be realised through a) site-specific drawing of and onto the actual site, b) interactive spatial diagramming as realised in a site-specific semi-immersive virtual environment. When entering interstitial spaces, viewers encounter neither a mere place, nor an absolute or utopian space, but a kind of inter-passage between real conditions, VR and thought, where an unprecedented kind of spatial experience emerges.

 

 

Another three presentations took place during the “Mapping & the User Experience” paper session, offering inspiring and challenging contributions to various emerging areas of research and practice across diverse disciplines and fields including cartography, informatics, psychogeography and many others.

Dr Dennis Krannich (Senior Researcher, Digital Media in Education, University of Bremen, Germany) presented a paper entitled “Users become Re-creators: Enhancing Experiences through Mapping” (co-authored by Anja Zeising, University of Bremen, Germany). [4]

Dr Dennis Krannich presented the latest advancements in the field of interactive installation through introducing new strategies of User Experience Design. ‘Mapping’ is used as a method for redefining the user’s role from passive consumer/user to active “re-creator”. In this way, the limitations of action/reaction communication are surpassed, as the user’s experience and engagement are enriched and enhanced. For example, the actor is allowed to edit the action-reaction framework and modify the installation’s behaviour rules. Moreover, through an additional interface, the re-creator is enabled to reflect on technology, aesthetics and experience. Technology becomes a visible artifact of the installation, as the emphasis is placed on processes rather than products.

A cartography-based collaborative project on mapping the common resources of Athens was presented by Daphne Dragona (PhD student, Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, University of Athens) in her paper Mapping the Commons, Athens”, a Cartography of Alternate Economies and Practices in Times of Crisis.[5]Mapping the Commons, Athens” workshop was led by Hackitectura, organised by and hosted at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (1st – 8th December 2010). Participants included an interdisciplinary group of young researchers and students from Athens. The purpose of the workshop was to seek for, examine and document the areas where new forms of common wealth could be located. Seeing beyond the “public” and the “private”, different types of commons were mapped which were based on collectivity, sociability, open and free access, gift economy or peer to peer practices. The online collaborative maps and the blog that were created, highlight the need for a re-invention of a new common experience and memory. A number of further possibilities and challenges arise as the project unfolds, the most important of all being, the ways in which the citizens can re-appropriate the commons and form a new type of resistance.

 

 

Il Prof. Jack Toolin (Assistant Visiting Professor, Pratt Institute and Adjunct Professor, Polytechnic Institute, NYU) presented his paper Here to There and In-between: Commuting through Mediated Perception. [6] In his current project “Here to There”,Prof. Jack Toolin investigates how the perceptions about the passageway between home and work, as well as the general relationship between the two, are influenced by various forms of social media and data.The focal points of the project are the tension and the “dialogue” between experiential and mediated geographies. In particular, the project deals with the ways in which commuter perceptions compare to those of the community members, and to the general perception of a community as it can be perceived through the Web.


Essentially, commuters are immersed in a construct that is both product and producer of interconnected lives. The “Here to There” project will be realised as an artwork through the use of locative media, video and Internet search for visualising connections between commuters, locations, and perceptions.

Laura Plana Gracia’s paper Geopolitics / Mapping / Cartography. GPS image satellites and the Aero-Spatial Policies was also included in the paper session programme. The paper presents a genealogy of space through the concepts of geopolitics, mapping and cartography. [7]

 

 

As a conclusion, ISEA2011 Istanbul has been particularly successful overall for offering a very rich programme of paper sessions, panels, workshops, exhibitions and other events that complemented each other in many interesting and inspiring ways. Both in terms of structure and content, the ISEA2011 Istanbul programme facilitated creative and inspiring dialogues and exchanges between various fields of research and practice at the intersection of art, science and technology, enabling an equally rewarding participation for delegates and attendees alike. The two most important aspects of the Symposium have been its expansive structure and the publication programme for enabling a variety of promising synergies and collaborations to be formed and for supporting their development.

 

 

http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/

Notes:

[1] - Aceti, Lanfranco in ISEA2011 Istanbul Conference and Exhibition Programme, ISEA/14 – 21 Settembre 2011, Istanbul, http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/isea2011-istanbul-program, p.2

[2] - Ibid, p.2

[3] – Fratzeskou, Eugenia, “Mapping Uncertainty”, in ISEA2011 Istanbul Conference, ISEA/ Università Sabanci, 14 – 21 Settembre 2011, http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/paper/mapping-uncertainty (per uno studio più estensivo dello spazio interstiziale vedere anche Fratzeskou, Eugenia, Visualising Boolean Set Operations: Real & Virtual Boundaries in Contemporary Site-Specific Art, LAP – Lambert Academic Publishing, 2009,  Fratzeskou, Eugenia, New Types of Drawing in Fine Art: The Role of Fluidity in the Creation Process, LAP – Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010, Fratzeskou, Eugenia, Operative Intersections: Between Site-Specific Drawing and Spatial Digital Diagramming, LAP – Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010 e i miei articoli presso Digicult http://www.digicult.it/en/Archive/EugeniaFratzeskou.asp).

[4] - Krannich, Dennis & Anja Zeising, “Users become Re-creators: Enhancing Experiences through Mapping”, in ISEA2011 Istanbul Conference, ISEA/ Università Sabanci, 14 – 21 Settembre 2011,   http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/paper/users-become-re-creators-enhancing-experiences-through-mapping.

[5] - Dragona, Daphne, “Artists as the new producers of the common (?)”, in ISEA2011 Istanbul Conference, ISEA/ Università Sabanci, 14 – 21 Settembre 2011, http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/paper/artists-new-producers-common.

[6] -Toolin, Jack, “Here to There and in Between: Commuting through Perception”, in ISEA2011 Istanbul Conference, ISEA/ Università Sabanci, 14 – 21 Settembre 201, http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/paper/here-there-and-between-commuting-through-perception.

[7] -Gracia Plana, Laura, “Geopolitics / Mapping / Cartography. GPS image satellites and the Aero-Spatial Policies”, in ISEA2011 Istanbul Conference, ISEA/ Università Sabanci, 14 – 21 Settembre 2011, http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/content/mapping-and-user-experience.

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