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Superscript Conference Transcript: James Bridle Keynote

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the keynote by UK-based artist, publisher, and writer […]

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James Bridle. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the keynote by UK-based artist, publisher, and writer James Bridle.

Download a PDF of the full conference transcript. To view videos of all Superscript panels and keynotes, or to read commissioned essays and live blogging by participants in the Superscript Blog Mentorship program (a partnership with Hyperallergic), visit the Superscript Reader. To report errors in this document, email superscript@walkerart.org.

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Superscript Conference Transcript: Ben Davis Keynote

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of critic Ben Davis’s keynote on “post-descriptive criticism.” Download […]

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Ben Davis. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of critic Ben Davis’s keynote on “post-descriptive criticism.”

Download a PDF of the full conference transcript. To view videos of all Superscript panels and keynotes, or to read commissioned essays and live blogging by participants in the Superscript Blog Mentorship program (a partnership with Hyperallergic), visit the Superscript Reader. To report errors in this document, email superscript@walkerart.org.

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Superscript Conference Transcript: Credibility, Criticism, Collusion

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the conference-opening panel, Credibility, Criticism, Collusion, featuring short […]

Christopher Knight, Ryan Schreiber, Isaac Fitzgerald, Orit Gat

Christopher Knight, Ryan Schreiber, Isaac Fitzgerald, Orit Gat

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the conference-opening panel, Credibility, Criticism, Collusion, featuring short presentations followed by a group discussion with panelists Ryan Schreiber (Pitchfork), Orit Gat (WdW Review),  Christopher Knight (Los Angeles Times), and Issac Fitzgerald (Buzzfeed Books).

Download a PDF of the full conference transcript. To view videos of all Superscript panels and keynotes, or to read commissioned essays and live blogging by participants in the Superscript Blog Mentorship program (a partnership with Hyperallergic), visit the Superscript Reader. To report errors in this document, email superscript@walkerart.org.

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Superscript Conference Transcript: Sustainability, Growth, & Ethics

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the Sustainability, Growth and Ethics panel, featuring short […]

Susanna Schouweiler, Eugenia Bell, James McAnally, Carolina Miranda, Veken Gueyikian

Susanna Schouweiler, Eugenia Bell, James McAnally, Carolina Miranda, Veken Gueyikian

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the Sustainability, Growth and Ethics panel, featuring short presentations followed by a group discussion with panelists Veken Gueyikian (Hyperallergic), Eugenia Bell (Design Observer),  Carolina Miranda (Los Angeles Times), and James McAnally (Temporary Art Review), moderated by Mn Artists editor in chief, Susannah Schouweiler.

Download a PDF of the full conference transcript. To view videos of all Superscript panels and keynotes, or to read commissioned essays and live blogging by participants in the Superscript Blog Mentorship program (a partnership with Hyperallergic), visit the Superscript Reader. To report errors in this document, email superscript@walkerart.org.

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Superscript Conference Transcript: Connectivity and Community

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the Connectivity and Community panel, featuring short presentations […]

de2015SuperScript_ SuperScript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, May 28 - 30, 2015; Garden Cafe; Cinema. Lectures, Talks & Readings; Parties & Special Events.  Architecture/Design; New Media; Theater; Film; Literary Arts; Music; Visual Arts. SuperScript is a three-day conference that convenes an international array of thinkers to consider issues and questions about the brave new world of arts publishing in a digital age.  A gathering for writers, editors, artists, theorists, and curators in the thick of both the innovation game and the practical challenges of the still-evolving landscape of cultural publishing online. The conference is copresented by  the Walker Art Center and Mn Artists. Speakers and guests on May 30, 2015 include Fionn Meade, Paul Schmelzer, Claudia La Rocco, Ayesha Siddiqi, Alexander Provan, Brian Kuan Wood, Marisa Mazria-Katz, Dan Fox, Claire Evans, James Bridle.

Claudia La Rocco, Dan Fox, Alexander Provan, Ayesha Siddiqi

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the Connectivity and Community panel, featuring short presentations followed by a group discussion with panelists Claudia La Rocco (The Performane Club), Brian Kuan Wood (e-flux journal),  Alexander Provan (Triple Canopy), and Ayesha Siddiqi (New Inquiry).

Download a PDF of the full conference transcript. To view videos of all Superscript panels and keynotes, or to read commissioned essays and live blogging by participants in the Superscript Blog Mentorship program (a partnership with Hyperallergic), visit the Superscript Reader. To report errors in this document, email superscript@walkerart.org.

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Superscript Conference Transcript: Artists as Cultural First Responders

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the Artists as Cultural First Responders panel, featuring […]

Fionn Meade, Dan Fox, James Bridle, Marisa Mazria-Katz, Claire Evans

Fionn Meade, Dan Fox, James Bridle, Marisa Mazria-Katz, Claire Evans

From May 28–30, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishing’s current challenges and its possible futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited transcript of the Artists as Cultural First Responders panel, featuring short presentations followed by a group discussion with keynote speaker James Bridle, and panelists Marisa Mazria-Katz (Creative Time Reports), Dan Fox (frieze), and Claire Evans (Vice), moderated by the Walker’s Fionn Meade.

Download a PDF of the full conference transcript. To view videos of all Superscript panels and keynotes, or to read commissioned essays and live blogging by participants in the Superscript Blog Mentorship program (a partnership with Hyperallergic), visit the Superscript Reader. To report errors in this document, email superscript@walkerart.org.

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Superscript Keynote: Ben Davis on “Post-Descriptive Criticism”

Throughout its history, art criticism has developed in contexts of relative image scarcity—print publishing—and hence “description” has long been at its core. The Internet, on the other hand, offers a relative surplus of available images, but the way we think about what art writing does hasn’t yet caught up. For his Superscript keynote, Ben Davis […]

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Throughout its history, art criticism has developed in contexts of relative image scarcity—print publishing—and hence “description” has long been at its core. The Internet, on the other hand, offers a relative surplus of available images, but the way we think about what art writing does hasn’t yet caught up. For his Superscript keynote, Ben Davis aims to name, define, and dig into the topic of “Post-Descriptive Criticism,” looking at the history of writing about art and the new opportunities opening up now.

“For me,” he explained in a recent email, “this thought comes out of a very personal experience of working in an evolving online art media over the last 10 years, seeing its intensifying demands, and trying to solve a problem: Why is it that, pragmatically, reviews don’t work online? They simply do not get traffic relative to commentary or news. So, I want to propose that this is partly because we are working with a form that is embedded in a certain kind of expectations about communication, and that there is a need and an imperative to invent a new kind of writing.

“From a very simple pragmatic observation about media, you then expand out into the political dimension of the question. Since this thought is partly about trying to rethink how art criticism functions online, it is also partly about how you preserve critical thought online, with art criticism being just a particularly symptomatic case, because it deals with images. Can you think about forms of criticism that are more image-based, without collapsing into a pure uncritical fascination with the image?”

Ben Davis is the author of 9.5 Theses on Art and Class (Haymarket, 2013), as well as numerous essays on contemporary art that have appeared in venues include Art Papers, Frieze, New York, Slate.com, and The Village Voice. He is currently critic-in-residence at Montclair State University, and National Art Critic for artnet News. He delivers his keynote for Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age on Friday, May 29 at 5 pm. To participate, register for the conference or tune in to the livestream.

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Announcing the Superscript Blog Mentorship Program, presented in partnership with Hyperallergic

Update 05.22.15: Congratulations to Merray Gerges, Ryohei Ozaki, and Sam Wisneski, the bloggers selected to provide live response to Superscript. Learn about them at Hyperallergic, and follow their work on May 29 and 30 at Superscript Reader. To put ideas discussed at the Superscript online arts journalism conference into practice, we announce the Superscript Blog […]

Screen shot 2015-04-08 at 9.25.30 AM

Update 05.22.15: Congratulations to Merray Gerges, Ryohei Ozaki, and Sam Wisneski, the bloggers selected to provide live response to Superscript. Learn about them at Hyperallergic, and follow their work on May 29 and 30 at Superscript Reader.

To put ideas discussed at the Superscript online arts journalism conference into practice, we announce the Superscript Blog Mentorship, presented in partnership with Hyperallergic. This responsive blogging program will create a pop-up newsroom in the Walker Art Center Library and engage a trio of enterprising bloggers in covering the three-day convening.

We are seeking three bloggers to create live online responses to the conference—under the guidance of three world-class editorial mentors, led by Hyperallergic’s Jillian Steinhauer—through quick-hit blogging, Q&As, profiles, issues essays, and other formats. Each participant will produce a series of blog posts to be published on the Walker blogs and Mn Artists throughout Superscript, leading up to longer piece for publication on Hyperallergic. This program aims to create a dynamic documentation of Superscript 2015, for attendees and online audiences alike, while offering emerging writers invaluable instruction from seasoned arts journalists, publication experience with three digital platforms, and access to the speakers and attendees of Superscript.

Each mentorship participant will receive:

  • Free admission to Superscript (a $200 value)
  • Journalistic mentorship from three top arts editors
  • A $100 publication fee paid by Hyperallergic
  • Publication bylines on Hyperallergic, the Walker Art Center blogs, and Mn Artists
  • Access to the speakers and attendees of Superscript
  • A Superscript tote

Applicants must:

  • be available for a one-hour training session on Thursday evening, May 28 and throughout the duration of the conference,
  • have a fluent command of English (spoken and written),
  • have a working knowledge of key digital tools including WordPress, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, etc.,
  • have knowledge of and interest in contemporary art in all its forms (visual, performing, moving-image art, and new media art; design; architecture; public practice) as well as online cultural publishing,
  • have access to a laptop and camera for use during the conference,
  • be self-motivated, energetic, and open to learning,
  • be calm under pressure, communicative, resourceful, and efficient.

Open Call for Participation

Applicants must be within three years of graduation from college and cannot derive their main source of income from arts writing. They must have a demonstrable interest and commitment to the arts as well as enthusiasm and high energy.

To apply, please email the following to superscript@walkerart.org, with “Superscript Blog Mentorship Application” in the subject line:

  • Cover letter stating in 500 words or fewer why you’re interested in the program and what you hope to gain from it,
  • CV,
  • 2–3 writing samples (published or personal writing accepted)

All application materials must be submitted as a single PDF.

Deadline for applications: Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age is a three-day international conference to be held at the Walker Art Center May 28–30, 2015. Copresented by the Walker and Mn Artists is convenes artists, critics, editors, and writers—including Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber, poet-critic Claudia La Rocca, the New Inquiry editor Ayesha Siddiqi, artnet News editor Ben Davis, and many others—for a discussion on digital cultural publishing’s present realities and its possible futures.

About Hyperallergic

Hyperallergic is a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art and culture in the world today. Since 2009, Hyperallergic has published more than 500 writers and is read by close to 1 million people per month.

@hyperallergic

The Team

jillians-sqJillian Steinhauer, the project’s lead editor, is senior editor of Hyperallergic and a writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in Slate, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review Daily, and other publications. A graduate of NYU’s Cultural Reporting & Criticism program, she was recently nominated for a 2014 Best Art Reporting award from the International Association of Art Critics. She’s served as juror/judge for art festivals, cat video festivals, and tote bag competitions.

@jilnotjill

nicolec-sqNicole J. Caruth is the former editorial manager at Art21 and founding editor of the Art21 Magazine (est. 2013). Her writing has appeared in a range of publications, including ARTnewsC MagazineGastronomicaPublic Art ReviewWalker Art Center Magazine, and the Phaidon Press books Vitamin Green and Vitamin D2. She has held positions at the Brooklyn Museum, School of Visual Arts, and Wangechi Mutu Studio. She is currently Artistic Director for Exhibitions and Public Engagement at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

@nicolejcaruth

islaly-sqIsla Leaver-Yap works with artists to produce texts, events, and shows. As the Walker’s Bentson Film Scholar, she researches and publishes on works in the Ruben/Bentson Film and Video Study Collection and examines its context and legacy within the field of artists’ moving image in contemporary art. She is currently working with artists Moyra Davey and James Richards on producing new works for the collection. She is based in Glasgow, where she is the Project Director of LUX Scotland, and commutes twice a year to the Walker.

@islaly

Staff

Paul Schmelzer is editor of the Walker homepage and blogs. A past editor at Adbusters, he’s written for Artforum.com, Art 21, Cabinet, Medium.com’s re:form, Raw Vision, and Utne Reader, among others. Former editor of the Minnesota Independent and managing editor of its DC-based nonprofit parent, he’s the first digital journalist in Minnesota history to win a Society of Professional Journalists Page One Award or a University of Minnesota School of Journalism Frank Premack Award for Public Affairs Journalism. He blogs at Eyeteeth.org.

@iteeth @walkermag

Susannah Schouweiler is a writer, arts critic, and editor-in-chief of Mn Artists, an artist-driven, online media platform based at the Walker Art Center covering the art and artists of the Midwest. Before her work with Mn Artists, she served as the editor of Ruminator, a nationally distributed art and literature magazine. She lives and works in St. Paul, Minnesota.

@susannahs @mnartistsdotorg

Presented as part of

<a href="/superscript">Superscript</a>

A screenshot of the Superscript website

 

The Internet has always been an experimental publishing platform.

In contrast to the linear nature of most publishing endeavors in history, the hyperlink was invented in 1965 by Ted Nelson, who was obsessed with keeping track of his neurotic and divergent paths of thinking, and in turn, the publishing of his writing. Superscript, the Walker’s first conference on arts journalism and criticism in a digital age, intentionally puts the hyperlink — one of the definite features of new media — in the forefront of its design. The hyperlink is not simply a software feature; it is telling of our shift in thinking beyond linearity and context to an arena of layered networks and interconnectedness: the medium is the message. The web is a postmodernist tool necessitated by a postmodernist perspective.

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One of Ted Nelson’s mockups of transpointing windows, 1972

Screenshot of the hyperlink working demo, 1998

I. Text

Publishing online ranges from prebuilt platforms with uniform templates and one-click submission buttons to articles that have custom layouts that take months or years to implement. The aesthetic of the Superscript website is intentionally retro, stripped down and typographically emphatic, to pay homage to text as the only necessity in publishing.

We can see this minimalism within modern services such as Readability or Pocket; sometimes we just want to digest the text-as-information like a machine. Text speaks to our modern combinational approach of social communication with computational models:

Text is the most socially useful communication technology. It works well in 1:1, 1:N, and M:N modes. It can be indexed and searched efficiently, even by hand. It can be translated. It can be produced and consumed at variable speeds. It is asynchronous. It can be compared, diffed, clustered, corrected, summarized and filtered algorithmically. It permits multiparty editing. It permits branching conversations, lurking, annotation, quoting, reviewing, summarizing, structured responses, exegesis, even fan fic. The breadth, scale and depth of ways people use text is unmatched by anything. –always bet on text

In digital publishing, text is our data where books are the compiled program. Superscript’s starkness allows for easy consumption as an informational website by foregrounding the letter.

II. Conference Websites

There are limitless examples and templates of typical conference web design. But as a conference that is devoted to digital publishing, it would be a mistake to miss this opportunity for creating something unconventional.

A typical conference will have a navigation bar with multiple items (e.g. Speakers, Schedule, Register, Location). I wanted to call out navigation-as-hyperlink-as-content, so as to not necessarily distinguish between them. This purposely obfuscate details as to create a dialogue between the page and the user. So-called best practices instilled in design to create an interface as no interface creates a one-sided transaction that is hardly memorable. In willfully obscuring, we create conversation. Although there are risks in this approach, such as alienating readers, we know for the most part that those seeking this conference will have both the curiosity and engagement to grapple with a novel display.

III. Page Dimensionality

out

Triple Canopy’s long form layout

A screenshot of the Tankboys website

The horizontal layout of the site is inspired by two publication platforms: Triple Canopy and Tankboys. The landing page serves as a merged Cover and Page 1 with an index and key information. It imitates the format of a book or a magazine, using headings and paragraph blocks, split across two leaves. However, when clicking a link on an index leaf, it branches out. The interacted hyperlink shows its essential function, not necessarily to open another page, but to unfold more information. On this unfolded branch, hyperlink clicks are then used to unfold more information, albeit as toggles that expand vertically. Then, hovering on hyperlinks of names overlays images of those individuals. These three interactions — (1) the vertical extension of the leaf, (2) the horizontal toggling of details, and (3) the hovering of overlay images — create a visual three-dimensionality that encapsulates the networked and stratified modularity of the hyperlink.

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(1) The vertical extension of the leaf

(2) The horizontal toggling of details

(3) The hovering of overlay images

III. Identity

The identity and personality of Superscript was done by Dante Carlos, a senior designer at the Walker. It is his attention to both print and web typographic styling and mixing that is able to demarcate the hyperlink while not backgrounding plain text. Although there was only a postcard designed with this identity in mind before the website was launched, it went through many iterations:

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.47.34 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.48.10 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.48.44 AM

Two distinct graphical elements that I gleaned from his sketches were the use of spinners and graphs. The spinners serve as a visual cue of process when it comes to producing or publishing. On the web, there is the indeterminate loader when waiting for the design and content elements to load; in print, there is the printing register to align design and content properly. The graphs are arbitrary trend lines. They are telling of the dichotomous cycle of publishing: enduring and disseminable yet ephemeral and disposable.

IV. Outro

Although Superscript is a conference occurring on-site, this does not mean we will be subordinating our virtual audience. The Superscript website will go through two additional phases: a live version and an archival version. As the conference is occurring, a video stream, live stenography embed, and Twitter feed will be added. Once the conference is over, we will be archiving all the live material that was produced. In addition, we will be hosting a second page called Superscript Reader that will aggregate digital keynote commissions, Walker Channel film commissions, and related article and blog entries.

This is a unique conference that coincides overlapping domains of design, curation, editing, publishing, and technology. It is a distinct time to condense and skim this online activity to a singular aggregate reflection. This mirrors our everyday browsing: we consume a neverending flood of hyperlinks that we filter and coalesce internally. The screen emerges outward through us.

Postscript

My personal list of Superscript must-sees include Pitchfork, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, The New Inquiry and e-flux. If you’ve gotten all the way down here, you should probably buy a ticket.

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Catalyzing Conversation and Transcending Technology at INST-INT

INST-INT—an international conference of acclaimed creators exploring the intersection of art, technology, and interaction—returned to the Walker for its second year over the weekend. Organized by the same folks responsible for the Eyeo Festival, the September 25 through 27 gathering focused on installation art, interaction, responsive environments, smart objects, public art, and the challenge of creating engaging experiences.  A series […]

Obscura Digital project illUmiNations: Protecting Our Planet, presented by the United Nations Department of Public Information in partnership with the Oceanic Preservation Society and Insurgent Media, New York, 2014

INST-INT—an international conference of acclaimed creators exploring the intersection of art, technology, and interaction—returned to the Walker for its second year over the weekend. Organized by the same folks responsible for the Eyeo Festival, the September 25 through 27 gathering focused on installation art, interaction, responsive environments, smart objects, public art, and the challenge of creating engaging experiences.  A series of amazingly inspirational presentations covered a wide range of topics, from machines conveying sociopolitical messages to public sculptures made with advanced material studies to the use of technology as an extension of the body. The most interesting were those projects that not only made use of technology in creative ways, but also used it to catalyze conversations about social or political issues and examine ideas beyond the technology itself.

Social and Political Interaction

For example, Japanese artist Sputkino presented her Menstruation Machine,  a wearable device fitted with a blood dispensing mechanism and electrodes simulating the lower abdomen that simulates the pain and bleeding of a five-day menstruation process. Sputkino also presented The Moonwalk Machine, a work that reimagines NASA’s Mars Rover to leave female traces on the surface of Mars through the use of new wheel tracks outfitted with high heels. I could not help to draw parallels between these works and a project by Megumi Igarashi (aka Rokudenashi-ko) in which she distributed electronic data that could be used to replicate models of her genitalia using a 3D printer, a project that landed her in jail on charges of obscenity. These projects are inspiring as a form of social activism in the face of the shifting role of women in Japan.

Dan Goods, a visual strategist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, gave the most inspired talk of the weekend, focused on the “million things that could mess up your visionary project.” Dan talked about how bad wires, Congress, holes in the ionosphere, the Vatican, and other unforeseen circumstances can threaten to derail your project, and he discussed ways to plan for disaster. About his work, he said, “I am passionate about creating moments in peoples lives where they can interact with something beautiful, meaningful, and/or possibly profound,” and expanded on this by saying he wants to, “create experiences where people have a moment of awe about the universe.” This passion really became evident during his presentation on the HI JUNO project, where more than 1,400 ham radio operators collaborated to transmit “HI JUNO” in Morse code, in unison, as the spacecraft made its slingshot pass around earth. The work made it clear that some of the best projects are those that give many people a chance to consider the unknown and to imagine the space beyond our physical world. Goods closed his talk by demonstrating a Muon detector and described how these invisible particles are bits of exploded stars that are moving through all matter on earth, equating our bodies with space matter and recalling the temporality of life.

Considering the recent People’s Climate March, I was also extremely inspired by the Obscura Digital project illUmiNations: Protecting Our Planet, organized in partnership with the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) as a lead-up to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit. For this project, many organizations collaborated to create a 30-story architectural projection, which lit up the United Nations Headquarters in New York with images of extinct species and a call to make climate action a reality in every society across the globe. As a prelude to the People’s Climate March, which filled the streets of New York with more than 300,000 people who marched to protest international inaction on climate change, the intent of this project was to inspire citizens to take climate action. This theme of social or political action was evident in many of the projects in various forms. This opened up some larger conversations about the role of art in society, need for many different forms of interaction, and the power of participation in public space.

Architecture, Materiality, and Virtualization

The relationship between built form, public space, and our connection an imagined world were important aspects of many of the projects presented by showing how they pushed material limits, reclaimed public space, or questioned our relationship to digital technology. Jen Lewin’s presentation titled Please Touch the Art detailed her large interactive art installations created to activate and connect community. One question she is interested in is, “How can interactive sculpture be used to transform and change public experience?” Looking at projects like The Pool and her Light and Sound Harps, it becomes clear how she has found a way to bring together her interests in painting, light, architecture, and dance. Using specialized rotational molding of plastic and other fabrication techniques her studio creates interactive public art that has withstood the abuse of more than 4,000 people in one day—an effort that requires significant material research.

Janet Echelman Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks, Vancouver, Canada, 2014

This need to explore and examine the materality of physical form was no more evident than in the work of Janet Echelman, who discussed her largest most interactive sculpture, Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks. In collaboration with artist Aaron Koblin, creative director of the Data Arts Team in Google’s Creative Lab, Studio Echelman developed a massive suspended sculpture of net and mesh for the TED conference’s 30th anniversary in Vancouver. Pushing material boundaries, this project was made possible through the development of custom 3D modeling software that allowed Echelman to simulate environmental conditions and complex geometries. Using Honeywell Spectra fiber, a lightweight, durable material 15 times stronger than steel, this work spans 745 feet between Fairmont Waterfront and the Vancouver Convention Center, and is equipped with an interactive lighting environment that allows visitors to use their phones to interact with the work.

Klaus Obermaier and Ars Electronica Futurelab, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) by Igor Stravinsky, 2006

Taking a different approach to interaction, Klaus Obermaier discussed his staging of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) in his talk titled Interactive Installations vs. Interactive Performing Arts. Recontextualized for contemporary society, this 1913 ballet and orchestral concert work is transformed by Obermaier into a live 3D projection performance, in which the dancer and the orchestra contribute to the form of the work through real time interaction, generating the viewer experience. Amazingly, this work premiered in 2006, when things like Kinect motion tracking did not even exist. Of course, this work is not just about technology, and that’s what makes it so interesting. “The issue of the day is the authenticity of experience in the light of the ongoing virtualization of our habitats,” Obermaier said. “It is the dissolution of our sensuous perception, of the space-time continuum, the fading dividing line between real and virtual, fact and fake, that takes us to the limits of our existence.” Indeed, we find this struggle in our own lives, all to often consumed with social media and digital culture. By reinterpreting a controversial historic work through the lens of technology, Obermaier asks powerful questions about the effects of technology on humanity and significance of being in relationship to the digital world.

Clearly, many themes emerged during the conference, but the real value was in connecting with such inspiring people. As a rich open-source community, almost every person at this gathering was willing to not just share their greatest ideas, but also give you the building blocks of their projects to use and modify as your own. It was an amazing opportunity that offered a chance to see the most cutting-edge interactive, experience-driven, technological work from artists who traveled the globe to have conversations about the direction of new media, find new ways of collaborating, and to develop methods for making work. Thanks to all the people at INST-INT for another fabulous gathering of minds. I was honored to participate. Be sure keep a lookout for the talks to be posted online, and don’t miss it next year.

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