ISEA2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness

[uds-billboard name=”ISEA”]With thousands of participants and hundreds of activities throughout the state of New Mexico and the Southwest region, ISEA2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness, the Eighteenth International Symposium for Electronic Art will be one of the largest gatherings addressing the future of art, science, technology, and nature in the United States in recent history. The symposium will feature over 80 artists and close to 500 international presentations by artists, technologists, and scholars from more than 13 countries including Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom. A season-long, regional collaboration includes over 90 partnering organizations, with a main conference in Albuquerque September 19 – 24, 2012, pre-conference activities in Southern New Mexico and El Paso, post-conference days along New Mexico’s “Cultural Corridor” in Santa Fe and Taos, and several field trips.

Why Albuquerque?
As the home to many of the most “wild” places in the country, and some of the most advanced technologies and scientific discoveries, New Mexico and the Southwest region offer the world a site for reflection and inspiration. The current conditions of Albuquerque and its surroundings offer a unique microcosm of the social and environmental issues facing global communities in the 21st Century. For example, like many places around the world, the population numbers are rising. Due to climbing temperatures and drought, a water crisis and increase in destructive fires plague our region, our fragile desert ecosystems are disappearing along with the knowledge of how to live sustainably in this unique desert environment. Across the globe in the era of peak oil, our relative wealth of coal and gas brings serious social and environmental consequences.

However, the Southwest also offers unique opportunities to find innovative solutions to these problems. The isolation that was needed in the development and testing of atomic capabilities brought the greatest minds and most advanced science and technologies to this area through the national laboratories and major university research centers. Our bilingual culture and proximity to the border of Mexico provides a unique connection to the vast creative energies throughout Latin America. Our position in the center of 22 indigenous communities, many of whom have occupied the area for thousands of years, offers a wealth of knowledge and a deep connection to time.

Asking Hard Questions About Our Futures
In the 21st Century, when the technologies that have become embedded in our daily lives need to be reconsidered for their impacts on our futures, many of us ask – through this symposium – how we can re-examine and even break down the paradigm that separates industrial society from our environment. For example, ISEA2012-featured artists Ivan Puig and Andrea Padilla’s work S.E.F.T., examines the history of the United States-Mexico border and connects locomotive history to its successor the automobile; by so doing, they ask us to look critically at the impacts of our technological choices into the future. Through this and many other projects, ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness attempts to begin an international dialogue around the following three major questions:

1] What is wilderness in relation to science and technology?
We ask what historical and contemporary elements of technology and science should we be looking at to sustain our future – for example, holism and preservationism, electronic evolution, generativity, infinite possibility, and non-repeatability. We look critically at reductionism and reject a “technological fix” as the ultimate solution to any social or environmental crisis. Instead, we examine the “appropriate” technology based on local and temporal conditions. We understand that we can’t use the same mindset to fix a problem that we used to create it.

2] What is wilderness in relation to economics and values?
We value ecological intelligence over individual intelligence and acknowledge that the highly developed ecological intelligence of indigenous cultures has been largely silenced because of hubris and deeply held prejudices to our detriment as a community of species. We question the temple of resourcism that tabulates nature in terms of “deliverables” and instead attempt to examine wilderness on its own terms, valuing the lives of non-human species and creating spaces for harmonious habitation.

3] What is wilderness in relation to aesthetics?
This perhaps is the most complex question that we need to address because it not only encompasses science, technology, economics, and values, but also forces us to look at the essential and spiritual aspects of being in the world. It forces us to face our fears and prejudices and dig deeply into the purpose of humanity on the planet and as part of the universe.

Although we are asking these and other serious questions, joy and play is very evident in the featured works for ISEA2012. Many of these celebrate the independent, DIY spirit and guerilla-style action. Hacking, mashing, modding and repurposing are the modes of production evident in our contemporary culture. New entrepreneurs redefine commerce and exchange, electronics and hardware recyclers like the featured Brazilian group Gambiological merge high and low-tech methods, map hackers overlay sound, image and other media on the virtual environment and urban guerrillas creating new mobile and wifi autonomous networks and experiences. In a time of peak oil, the artists, scholars, workshops and discussions featured through Machine Wilderness are helping to re-define public and private space and offering alternative visions for a joyful transition.

As host to the symposium, Albuquerque is already part of a long and important legacy, but we have extended and transformed the symposium space by encouraging and supporting the development of new interdisciplinary works and partnerships. A team of leading international artists, scholars and curators have come together to form the critical and creative foundation of ISEA2012, for example Latin American scholar Andres Burbano, curators Steve Dietz, Nancy Mitlho, Giselle Biegulmann, Lea Rekow, and artist-scholars Tom Leeser, Catherine Harris, and Stephanie Rothenberg. We have not only brought together leading minds from around the globe, but have become an incubator for the creation of new works in and about our landscape through nearly 30 special projects and residencies. Each of these projects and residencies are unique in design and it is our hope that they and the ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness project as a whole will serve as a model for interdisciplinary site and wilderness-based collaborations nationally and internationally far into the future.

The main exhibition for ISEA2012 is based at both The Albuquerque Museum of Art & History and 516 ARTS, with off-site projects at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, Creative Albuquerque, Richard Levy Gallery and the Alvarado Urban Farm. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog published by the acclaimed Radius Books, which will be distributed internationally.

ISEA2012 is organized by 516 ARTS in partnership with The University of New Mexico and the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History.

ISEA2012 CONFERENCE – Albuquerque September 19 – 24, 2012
Registration now open at www.isea2012.org

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