Signal was a four-day international symposium on network art that took place in the Autumn of 2012 in the multimedia studio at Méduse, a cultural hub in Québec City. I developed this event whilst working as Associate Curator at La Chambre Blanche, an art centre whose programming brings together intensive, site-specific residencies with art and technology projects. The symposium coincided with the Variable Geographies exhibition of media art, and received New Media awards from Quebec City Council, the Canada Council and the Quebec Arts Council.
Summary of the themes and participants:
Day One: Culture : Stability and Instability. Derrick de Kerckhove (CA), Marie-Christiane Mathieu (QC), Mike Stubbs (UK).
Day Two: Information and Mythology. Karina Montenegro (BR), Gregory Chatonsky (QC), and Natalie Loveless (CA).
Day Three: Ecologies and (Eco)systems. Gaia Novati (IT/DE), Shu Lea Chang (USA/FR) Kelly Jaclynn Andres (CA).
Day Four : Aesthetics and Politics. Olga Kisseleva (FR), Simonetta Lux (IT), Geoff Cox (UK/DK).
For this La Chambre Blanche event, I developed the curatorial and artistic research that I had been exploring in the years leading up to my relocation from Belfast to Québec City in late 2008. This work focused on the changing conditions and interactions between material and digital culture, and the ways in which archives produce and feedback into the present.
Building on the research and outcomes of Performing the Archive (2006-07)and Arkive City (2008), for SIGNAL I curated a group of twelve influential artists, theorists, critics and curators for four themed days of presentations and round tables. The four themes framed key aspects of the history and current practices of Network Art, and the broader question of network culture and the distribution of ideas, images, activities and relations that this implies. The goal of drawing in specialised as well as broader audiences interested in the presence of technology in our lives was signaled in the addressing of the event to the: pioneer, activist, hacker, author, anonymous, artist, user.
Day One, on the theme of Stability and Instability, featured presentations by Derrick de Kerckhove (CA), author of the seminal work The Skin of Culture, and Director of the McLuhan Programme of Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto from 1983 to 2008. Derrick invited the audience on a journey through the digital unconscious, proposing strategies for engaging creatively and critically with this energy and data field. He was followed by media artist Marie-Christiane Mathieu (QC), who addressed the random, the accident, and the ready made of the net. Mike Stubbs (UK), Director of Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in Liverpool, England brought the day to a close with his reflections on the notion of the digital revolution and the redefined self, drawing on numerous artworks commissioned by FACT.
Whilst the symposium was structured around themes, the four areas were strongly overlapping. The sense that ideas, histories and events are interwoven through patterns of movement and association was explored in a roundtable session and extended question time at the end of each day. This offered space for participants and contributors from the audience to elaborate on points of contact, rupture and connection. The roundtables concluded with a preview of the next day’s thematic.
Picking up on the discussions of the opening day, Day Two focused on the theme of Information and Mythology, with Karina Montenegro (BR), artist-in-residence at La Chambre Blanche, reflecting on the shape of memory through time, from the era of orality to the age of digital culture. The artist Gregory Chatonsky (QC) spoke about auto-archiving, tactical media and hacker culture, referencing his net.art collective incident.net Interdisciplinary curator and artist Natalie Loveless, (CA) concluded with a presentation challenging the myth that information is disembodied and outlining a feminist ethics of the matrix.
On Day Three attention was turned to questions around network Ecologies and (Eco)systems with a presentation by the artist and writer Gaia Novati (IT/DE) focusing on her experimental work in the areas of network counterculture, queer theory and pornactivism. Shu Lea Chang discussed groundbreaking art projects including Composting the Net (USA/FR) and Kelly Jaclynn Andres (CA) critiqued the notion of liveness, and the categories of organic and inorganic.
The concluding day examined the Aesthetics and Politics of networks and network art. The day opened with a presentation by Olga Kisseleva (FR), surveying her artistic research on flux and hybrids as they effect culture now through the economy, environment, nanotechnology and consciousness. Simonetta Lux (IT) situated the ‘paragraph’ of Network Art within a broader view dealing with the ‘chapters’ of art and communication, globalisation and feedback, and the artist as agent of social transformation. Geoff Cox (UK/DK) wrapped up proceedings with a critique of the propositions of freedom and participation in digital space. He reflected on the permeation of pre-programmed, computer-coded reality, and drew from his recent book Speaking Code.
Documentation of the presentations can be viewed here: https://vimeopro.com/lachambreblanche/signal