Major international conference for electronic artists arrives in Albuquerque to explore relationship of environment and machines
By Mallory McCampbell
There are few things in this world that truly move us. Moments that simultaneously provide inexplicable clarity and astounding wonder are rare and precious. As naturally curious beings, we want to explain the unexplainable. We are capable of being conscious of the beauty and genius of something without truly comprehending its mechanics.
Witnessing the raw power of a thunderstorm, the profound grace of new life or simply standing on a mountain and knowing that humans had no part in creating such breathtaking beauty can be deeply stirring. Just as impressive is witnessing, and utilizing, the technology that has become such an integral part of everyday life. With the tap of a button, the flick of a switch, we create light, send messages through space. It doesn’t seem surprising that a conflict can emerge between the natural world from which humans are born, and the (maybe) equally impressive mechanical world which we have created.
|ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness, International Symposium on Electronic Art
Multiple events and venues $400/$250 (stu.)/$100 (one-day pass)
The war between the natural and the artificial is an ancient one. Mother Nature vs. Technology. Who wins? This year’s International Symposium of Electronic Arts
(ISEA) has posed itself to explore the relationship between the two worlds, seeking solutions for more harmonious interaction in which machines can support and sustain natural life on Earth, rather than contradict it.
Founded in the Netherlands in 1990, ISEA has in previous years inhabited such global cities as Berlin, Munich and Istanbul. Thanks mostly to Andrea Polli, ISEA 2012’s artistic director and a professor at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque is honored to be hosting the conference this month.
Over a hundred artists from 29 countries will be traveling here to partake in the week-long conference. The exhibits that are a result of this collaboration, however, will be lasting for a couple months. Local iQ
had the opportunity to talk to both Polli and the executive producer of the conference, Suzanne Sbarge
of 516 Arts
—who had the job of orchestrating this huge event in collaboration with the Albuquerque Museum.
Escape by Neil Mendoza & Anthony Goh
This year’s theme, titled Machine Wilderness
, was originally coined by the cultural geographer Ron Horvath
in the 1960s. Horvath was intrigued with the automobile’s ability to transform the landscape of the American Southwest. Polli, inspired by Horvath’s research and the transforming capability of machinery, adapted the term to apply to the relationship between technology and the natural world that confronts ISEA artists and our society today.
“ISEA is about art, science, and technology,” said Polli. “I wanted to really focus on how things are changing today within the community of ISEA artists. We are questioning technology, and looking critically at the technologies around us.” And New Mexico is a perfect environment in which to ask these questions. “I wanted to frame the theme around New Mexico’s unique landscape and the American Southwest,” said Polli.
This year’s ISEA conference has been in the making for a couple years already — challenging 516 Arts, a small, Albuquerque-based nonprofit by presenting them with the task to organize and execute an elaborate and extensive global arts project.
Camera Van by Harrod Blank
“It’s been really challenging for a small nonprofit like 516 Arts to organize a project of this scale,” said Sbarge. “But it’s expanded our minds, stretched our network and given us a wonderful opportunity.”
In close collaboration with the Albuquerque Museum
, 516 Arts has been working hard to have exhibitions set up in both locations, featuring work from the artists who are traveling from all parts of the world to participate in the conference.
The conference is packed full with presentations, talks, forums and lectures, all listed on the ISEA website. Artists, young and old, new and established, use their creativity to explore the meeting of worlds and the conflicts humans continually face as our lives become more and more impossible to live without technology.