How I Spent (part of) My Summer Vacation
I passed a pleasant week in Vancouver at the 2015 International Society for Electronic Arts in mid-August, exhausting myself in the name of electronic art. Here’s a little bit of what happened (it’s not at all scientific, thanks for asking).
You’re probably more likely to run into myself or one of my colleagues at NIME or SEAMUS or the occasional ICMC, so ISEA might seem a surprising place to hang out.
Not really – In addition to Max users being engaged in all kinds of work (in addition to their teaching responsibilities), ISEA is a chance to meet some new faces and talk with them about how we’re doing and the things they dream about. In particular, it was interesting to have these discussions in a place where Canadian academics dominated various audiences (their discussions about program formation and how their respective institutions’ systems worked – along with an entire day dedicated to how ISEA and institutions interact – was extremely interesting to me.
There was a fascinating Saturday afternoon “birds of a feather” session that gave us all some insights and ideas here in Maxland (my thanks to Arne and Philippe for helping to make this happen).
Here’s a panoramic view at the midpoint of the affair [Those of you who left early or arrived late aren’t in the picture. Sorry!]:
The range of subjects covered at ISEA ran the gamut of theorizing to practicing, with rest stops on the way.
Maybe the best way to get a sense of the terrain would be to run down this year’s list of the keynote speakers.
- Dominique Moulon on digital art
- Brian Masumi on the politics of affect (you think he’s only cool for his eminently readable translations of Attali and Deleuze/Guatteri? I’ll be picking up a copy of his new book on the subject in the near future, based on his keynote)
- A dizzying sprint through the history of new media art in Vancouver with Sara Diamond
- Rhizome editor and curator Michael Connor
- Hildegarde Westerkamp (who focused us all wonderfully), and
- Two of the now-many Yes Men.
See what I mean?
The things to make and do were equally broad – hacking Brother KH-930e knitting machines, live coding OpenGL shaders, or goggling at all the stuff in the New Text room – interesting explorations of creating, writing, and reading texts.
The display included a chance to see the full 24-volume version (one volume for each hour in the day – all of the raw material for the project) of Willow Pattern – an Australian project that gathered a team of writers and editors together with the challenge of writing, editing and publishing a book (print and digital, thanks for asking) within a single 24-hour period. (it’s the first project along the lines of the Invisible Seattle project to come along in quite a while).
Here’s the complete 24-volume version.
No conference would be complete without papers and discussions….
…and poster sessions chock-full of amazing work and interesting people every afternoon:
Max-implemented musical swings,
Second Life for the barnyard,
drones at work,
navigations of the surreally-visualized city,
Detroit re-imagined by kids as Minecraft,
and lots more. Our evenings were a whirl of gallery events and evening musical workouts – a fantastic algorave
and some spectacular Mutek-curated showcases.
Although I’m doing my best to pretend at being the detached observer, there were a few things that I particularly enjoyed.
Poutine. And really fine local beers to accompany it.
Oh. You mean art stuff….
For me personally, one of the high points were seeing the work on Musebots: autonomous software agents (running in Max or Java) that work together to generate music in real time. Oliver Bown (who turned in a scorching set at the ISEA algorave), Arne Eigenfeldt, and Philippe Pasquier ran a workshop on Musical Metacreation, set up a chill-out room with the ‘bots in full array, did some concert curation which included a rare appearance of George Lewis’ Voyager program, performing (sans George) in an ensemble with Francois Houle and Lisa Cay Miller.
Also, on the interesting developments to watch front, Joris Weijdom and a number of his colleagues at the Maplab at HKU in the Netherlands are working with the z25.org Foundation to develop a an orchestration protocol (ZOCP) for live performers, rapid prototyping and the Internet of Things. You can read about it here, or watch a video presentation about it.
My own ISEA ended on Granville Island with a virtual reality evening hosted by Emily Carry University.
In addition to some fine local wine and sushi, it was for a little headset haberdashery, traversal of urban spaces, getting your oldskool Mystish thrills playing Six Elements, or enjoying a beer with a grizzly bear. No, really. Here’s my friend Ben Houge enjoying a beer with Brutus the bear. The beer and the bear were pretty awesome, but we decided on some non-virtual food and libations to end the festivities. Whatta week!