A Performance Preview of ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness

When ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness opens in Albuquerque on Thursday, September 19th, some performative and heady international electronic artists will be convening with scientist and technologist confreres for a six-day program that is extensive and intense, utopian and dystopic. The subtitle, Machine Wilderness, echoes a phrase coined in the 1960s by cultural geographer Ronald Horvath, who considered the impact of cars on the literal and poetical planes of the Southwest. Machine Wilderness today is taken to suggest solutions: that artists and technologists can present “ideas for a more humane interaction between technology and environment, in which ‘machines’ can take many forms to support and sustain life on Earth.”

If this particular language about electronic arts’ mission sounds like remedy, ISEA formed 22 years ago in the Netherlands as an organization then called the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts (now the International Symposium on Electronic Art). Its aim was to network individuals and organizations in the electronic arts field.  Having its first US venue since 2006 when the locus was San Jose, ISEA2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness as a gathering is multiples in every category: talks, lectures, performances, art shows, critical theory speak, film loops, ideations in matter and in brain matter.

As an organizing principle the symposium has five sub-themes and two focus areas.

Power, Creative Economies, Transportation, Wildlife and The Cosmos are the sub-themes, plugged conceptually into larger focus areas that here manifest as a forum on Latin America, and STEM education through art (STEM is Science/Technology/Engineering and Mathematics).

The organizational spine of ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness is Albuquerque’s 516 ARTS, as lead organization, along with the Digital Media and Social Media Workgroup of University of New Mexico (at the College of Fine Arts and School of Engineering); and the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (Andrew Connors), taking co-leadership roles.

Albuquerque’s selection as host (last year was Istanbul, and next year, Sydney), hailed from an idea of electronic artist Andrea Polli, whose title is Mesa Del Sol Endowed Chair of Digital Media and Director of the Social Media Workgroup at the University of New Mexico. Credit to Polli for instigating is made by Suzanne Sbarge, executive director of 516 ARTS, who said this week that her organization in the lead, raised $1.2 million for the symposium anticipated to have $2 million in economic impact. Some 100 New Mexico partner organizations are also participating in programming which in many cases runs through the end of the year.

“As a really teeny grassroots nonprofit we can do things in a very agile way that a lot of times larger institutions cannot do,” said Sbarge. “The first time we bid we lost out to Istanbul but I’m very grateful for that because we needed more time.”

The core conference program runs six days in Albuquerque (9/19-24) with two off-site (and non-conference) days, September 25, “Santa Fe Day” and September 27, “Taos Day.” Friday September 14th marks the last day for advance registration. (Conference coordination company Kessleman-Jones has run the registration process.) Once the symposium is under way, participants will be able to do on-site registration and can download a daily schedule by clicking this link.

By way of preview here are five performative picks not to miss.

Friday, September 21st, 4:15pm & 5:30pm; The Planetarium at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, 1801 Mountain Rd. NW, Albuquerque

David Moss: Hyperglyphx

Outpost Performance Space in partnership with 516 Arts presents a solo performer who, yes, has practiced, practiced, practiced, and in the process found his way to Carnegie Hall (and a Guggenheim, and many other awards and accolades). David Moss’s Planetarium performance (two seatings), Hyperglyphx, has a lot of sibilant sounds in it. Described as falling on “the edges of technology,” its madness and method include “warped words, found songs, phased phonemes, and scrambled texts from Wittgenstein, Cage and Calvino.”

Moss delivers a post-show workshop at Tricklock Theater Laboratory (112 Gold Avenue, Albuquerque) on Sunday from 12:30-2, and his approach to technology seems to be partly revealed by what’s in a title? The workshop called “A Spoon is Technology,” offers a definition of tech as “a transfer of power.” (Blueberries are powerful.) Moss, a new musician, vocalist and percussionist living in Berlin, works currently as the Artistic Director of the MADE Festival (Sweden) and remains founder and director of the worldwide Institute for Living Voice.

Saturday, September 22, National Hispanic Cultural Center

Latin American Forum

Coco Fusco

A showcase for Latin American digital culture, critical theory and media arts, Saturday’s forum has been curated by scholar Andres Burbano (who self-identifies on his website as Colombia+California). Burbano has invited Cuban-American performance artist Coco Fusco to speak on a panel titled “Technotopia,” about the colonization of the body as “ultimate frontier.” Fusco’s performance work from 2005-9 dealt with the loaded stage that are military prisons, “theaters” of combat in which female warriors (or their performative doubles) employ sexuality as actor and investigate it as acted-upon. Fusco on Saturday’s panel will join fellow scholars, critical theorists, artists and activists including Miguel Gandert, Vicki Gaubeca, Manuel Montoya and Adriana Ramírez de Arellano, to “problematize the Southwestern border of the United States… in its incarnation as a no-man’s land where late capitalism and empire merge, unleashing a techno-liberal assault upon the surplus of discardable bodies.” That’s a big one, but let’s just consider if it were a performance piece, there’d be kliegs of surveillance, with barbed wire and a story of contested borders that yes, Virginia, do bleed.

Sunday, September 23, 6:30 p.m, Parking Lot at Sixth Street and Central Avenue, Albuquerque

Symphony 505


Symphony 505 features Down Low Car Club lowriders

Mein Herren Meine Dammen, audience, step right up at the end of Symphony 505 — a collab of composer Christopher Marianetti and dancer/choreographer Mary Margaret Moore — who’ve made lowrider cars from the Down Low Car Club instruments of a new music and dance work in which the cars’ sound systems contribute to a vehicular orchestra and the audience, at the conclusion, can scratch and spin. Artists involved have made a set of trading cards that make, well, whatdyathink?, collectible.

Monday, September 24, 12:30 p.m, The KiMo, 423 Central Avenue NW, Albuquerque

Trash Dance

Trash Dance film directed by Andrew Garrison with performance choreographed by Allison Orr

Okay, you have to probably be my age to recognize the reference to bad 1980s fashion and a movie called Flash Dance. This film (Trash Dance) by Andrew Garrison documents an art project in Austin in which choreographer Allison Orr invited city sanitation workers to turn their workplaces, the dump trucks, into graceful beasts of burden. Orr followed city workers on their routines for quite a while, then managed to talk two dozen of the trash collectors into participating in a performance held on an Austin airport runway and attended by some thousands of Austinites. Andrew Garrison will be in the house.


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