Art and electronics collide as city hosts mind-blowing global symposium (VIDEO)

SFU Woodwards transforms into a techy art space where non-conformity and new forms rule.

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Beautiful disruption

This year’s theme is Disruption: ISEA2015 will focus on the sometimes-artificial barrier between art and academia. From there, the programming will explore digital art’s place in the wider world; in how it relates to issues ranging from climate change, urban development, and media activism to DIY technology, geopolitics, and our own rapidly-digitizing selves. For example, Inuk contemporary artist Geronimo Inutiq’s ARCTICNOISE will encompass multimedia, performance, and remixing to facilitate some very sensitive and necessary discourses, right here in the Coast Salish territory that is Vancouver. Armstrong says it's all within the theme:

“It’s a social, political, economic, and aesthetic investigation into the disruptive forces in our culture.”

Geronimo Inutiq: ARCTICNOISEImage from ARCTICNOISE, Geronimo Inutiq


ISEA is an international body, but each year’s event takes on the DNA of the host city, says Armstrong: “So much of what happens in terms of articulating the event itself is happening on the local level.” Armstrong and Levy have been working as a curatorial team for a decade, specializing in projects where art and technology intersect; so this was right up their alley.

The academic program, which Pasquier is overseeing along with Dr. Thecla Schiphorst, is as gargantuan in scale as the artistic program.

"Between the time we got the first artists to submit and the last notification of acceptance it took nine months," he says. "The actual peer reviewing of papers (that we selected) started Jan. 31, and while the notifications were sent three months later, we are still working with accepted authors on camera-ready version of the papers as we speak.”

Philippe Pasquier and Thecla SchiphorstPhilippe Pasquier and Thecla Schiphorst (photos supplied)

You can do it (yourself)

Don’t let the academia scare you. Master disruptors the Yes Men will close the symposium with an address on the use of creative expression for subversion and disruption. You might have already seen them in action:

You’ll also learn to make electronic drum kits from junk, and turn your inbox’s junk-mail folder into a work of literature.

“We live in a society that is saturated with electronic devices, that we literally spend a third of our waking life on,” says Pasquier. “How does that influence the ways we make art? How does that influence our culture? What are our cultures becoming – or what should they become – in the context of digital media, and our increasingly technological world?”

Armstrong points to the active discussion on how contemporary art and media art communities are blending, and what the relationships are now in terms of legacy, currency, and the future.

“Maybe that’s the real answer to why we wanted to do this at all: to try to broaden the debate.”

In hosting ISEA2015, SFU is flexing its motto, “Engaging the World." Now Vancouver has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the electronic-arts world first hand. What will we do with it?

Registration for ISEA2015 ends Aug. 6, though that may change; many of the exhibitions are free and open to the public.

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