The Symposium

The two-day symposium convened artists and researchers to discuss the state of media art and our survival as a community. 11 speakers spoke about the limitations of technofetishim and Ludism, relations between technology and our interiority, and rethinkings of how we engage with media sensorially and as consumers. Presentations were held at the University of Chicago’s new Media Arts, Data, and Design Center. Keynote speakers included media artist Sophia Brueckner,  Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, and media theorist Desiree Foerster, Post-Doctoral research at the University of Chicago. Alongside talks, a series of workshops were programmed exploring open source arts and the dark web.

Keynote: "Critical Optimism"
with Sophia Brueckner

On one side, there are those who are blindly optimistic about technology. This attitude is sometimes termed “technosolutionism”, the naïve idea that every problem can be solved with technology. At the other extreme are those so critical of technology that they adopt an unrealistic Luddite attitude, avoiding technology altogether; or they assume that a dystopian future is inevitable and, as a result, become passive. Critical optimism navigates between these two extremes, encouraging an earnest hopefulness that also incorporates a healthy dose of criticality. What futures are possible, which are probable, and, most importantly, which might be preferred?

Keynote: "Is sharing caring?"
with Desiree Foerster

Desiree Foerster talks about immersive artworks that enable us to become sensitive for the phases that lead up to subjective experience and take a critical look at works that assert to create empathy for (human/more-than-human) others. What does it mean to become sensitive for the contexts that shape subjectivity? To attune to the relational dimension of life?

"Prosthetics of Interority"
with Martha Poggioli

Mapping the development of these devices, a rich evolution is revealed. Repressed, overlooked, and by nature, physically concealed from view, they are an industrial species, irrevocably tethered to the bodies they inhabit.

Translating this research into artistic practice allows a deeper, more poetic and nuanced understanding of form and body, especially when considering histories of the female body in sculpture, medicine and popular culture. Unpacking discoveries made through this ongoing study, Poggioli will share the ways in which her research and working methodology can expose new perspectives of the banal.

"Channel TWo Digressions"
with Channel TWo

What happens when you do whatever you want? Launched in 2010, Chicago-based Channel TWo (CH2) is Paige Treebridge, Jess Parris Westbrook, and Oskar Westbridge. CH2 is interested in luck, levels, trespassing, paradigms, complexity, contradictions, and cognitive dissonance.

CH2 produces information experiences, and mixed up realities. CH2 [somethings] authorized formats + unauthorized ideas, systems of control + radical togetherness.

"Terrarium: an alternate reality game"
with Patrick Jagoda

Terrarium was an alternate reality game (ARG) scaled for approximately 1,700 people during the University of Chicago orientation for first-year students in 2019. This experience used transmedia storytelling and gameplay to increase understanding about and engagements with climate change.

Terrarium was an experiment in mixed reality storytelling that combined the streaming platform Twitch, Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) software for live streaming, live-action performance, video game mechanics, and puzzles that stretched to various websites. Through several phases, this ARG invited players to participate in co-imagining a preferable climate future.

with Maryam Faridani

The suspect was later identified as Nasim Aghdam, who wounded 3 people before killing herself. Using the uncanny format of Nasim’s videos, this lecture tries to unfold the complications of Aghdam’s life as an immigrant woman who found her calm in her online persona.

"Their Tools, Ur Rules"
with Nick Briz

Either we have arrived at an open source utopia and we simply need to keep using these social networking tools appreciatively in the ways that they afford; or the agency of our radical ‘resistance’ has been rendered irrelevant because the corporations have decided to let the people eat cake. The agency that de Certeau’s consumer enacted to tactically reassemble the one-to-many media broadcasted to her in 1980 is being increasingly usurped by institutionally recommended (and protocologically enforced) modes of interactive behavior. Once the consumer mistakes these institutional ‘suggestions’ for the exercises of her own tactical agency, she fails to exercise that actual agency. With so many ‘customizable options’ available, how can she ‘resist?’” In this talk, Nick Briz will answer this question, by sharing techniques and work that misuse developer tools and APIs to undermine the intended uses of online platforms.

"Why not the nose?"
with John Anderson & Tammy Burnstock

“New Media” at its most interesting is experienced across multiple sensory modalities: visual, auditory, haptic (touch), somatosensory (physical sensation), and olfactory (smell).

Smell, our most primitive sense, is memory, emotion and THE final frontier in opening the door to full sensory engagement in immersive experiences. The scented documentary “In Glorious Smell-O-Vision!” explores the secret history and promising future of scented cinema.

"Really Uncanny Bodies"
with Martha Poggioli & Nicky Ni

Ni will briefly introduce the history of using simulation in the medical field and the affect of animation.

Poggioli will share how these subjects can evoke meaning beyond their original context, to provoke questions surrounding reality, simulation and humanity.