Courtesy of Bruno Scramgnon
Commiserate is an art initiative that explores new ways and meanings of feeling in new media art. Commiserate hosts an annual art festival and ongoing online programs to reflect on how we live, create, and entertain as artists across the social and geopolitical boundaries.
Commiserate believes that subcultural experiments with humor, multi-media research, web culture, DIY, and hacking help shed light on the relationships between technology and human experience. Commiserate provides space for critiquing technofetishism — an obsessive fixation with flashy technology for the sake of novelty — which has become the norm in today’s media art scene.
Commiserate was founded in 2019 as the administrative committee behind Commiserate Chicago new media arts festival. The first festival was held in February 2020 and based in Chicago, a city distant from both the East and West Coast art spheres. The event brought artists and scholars together to consider the state of media art just before the global pandemic.
During COVID-19, we have been struck by how heavy reliance on telecommunication improves the accessibility of information. This paradigm shift is shown by growing numbers of online events, free streaming and conferences, greater mastery of telecommunication software, and more dedication to online engagement. Therefore, this shift inspires our team to expand beyond geographic boundaries and to build a community that is accessible to all on the web.
Starting February 29th through March 1st, the inaugural Commiserate Chicago featured 29 artworks, 7 workshops, 7 talks, 6 special screenings, 3 performance and 2 keynotes. Selected artworks covered vast range of media such as interactive installation, kinetic sculpture, virtual reality experience, olfactory video game, and book. Our invited guest speakers came from diverse backgrounds of cyber security, computer-human interaction, studio art, net art, media studies, and open-source development. Our special screening received videos and films through domestic, as well as international authors. The event was held at the MADD Center at the University of Chicago.
OOOHack was a 3-day collaborative event that explored the meanings and options of gaining sensual gratification from objects. We selected a cohort of 24 participants that included artists, designers, developers, researchers, activists, sex workers, and thinkers from different parts of the US. To think about the future of sex, during the Hackathon, participants worked in groups and were advised by 4 invited mentors who work professionally with different aspects of sex. The cohort received mentorship from experts; access to sex toys, hardware, and crafts to experiment; and operational instruction for fabrication facilities.