[iDC] Re: Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?

Anna Munster A.Munster at unsw.edu.au
Sun Aug 20 20:45:05 EDT 2006

Hello list,

Rather belated comments on ISEA and perhaps this thread is dead
now...however, I would like to offer some observations as a 'non-USer'
visiting ISEA, the Festival and the US.

I have to say the conference was pretty bad and I was a selected
participant. Let's start with the themes - to which I also responded.
"Transvergence" ? well, what the hell was, is that? I really still have no
idea, after reading the Novak article many times, listening to various
panel sessions and also repsonding to the call and being selected. I can't
say there's much future in that as a concept. I also think new media can
dsipense with ridiculous jargon now and deal with some pertinent everyday

A better concept to descibe the conference, festival and I would say
probably the new media arts scene worldwide is: divergence. There is no
common thread to new media any more - there's  interactive/VJing/remixing
cinema, there's electronic audio and spatialised sound experimentation,
there's the locative thing, the wireless thing, the locational (different
from locative), global/anti-global thing...etc etc etc.

Actually, I don't think this is a problem but we certainly have to stop
hanging onto some 90s idea of new media arts as  amovement or looking for
the next big thing. It's not going to happen and new media art as a
unifying idea is finished.

I agree with Chris Byrne that the strongest parts of the Festival were the
fully curated parts - Edge Condidtions, Next New and also Frontera
Electronica as mentioned by John simply because it acknowledged a Latino
presence in what is after all a very heavily populated Latino city. And
yes, the lack of local interfacing with both Vietnamese and Latino
communities was pretty appalling. However, this is also an effect of the
urban planning around San Jose itself, which during the 1960s had most of
its inner city buildings raised to the ground in order to rebuild it as a
bedroom city for Silicon Valley. It would have been good to see some
projects that addressed this. Also some projects that addressed the now
ghosting out of Silicon Valley itself brought on by the IT industry
offshoring itself. For all of the 'locative' in locative media, it rarely
considers locale in any kind of sustained way. There are exceptions to
this of course and it's a pity the great artists doing stuff in this area
were not commissioned to produce works that responded to the real urban
condidtions of a dying tech city...

However, that's symptomatic of the 'Festival' aspect of the event.
Festivals, like Biennale's, are now events that are pretty much external
to the local and the located - they are art imports that come in with lots
of talk of global, critiques even of the global and then precisely land
like a great big Airbus 380 and do their 'thang' wherever they happen to
dock. Exactly the same issue has just happened at the Sydney Biennale,
which was supposed to be about the effects of globalisation - ie
displacement, dislocation, war, conflict and forced movements of people
around labour, war, refugees etc - but did not include any local
Australian work around these issues!! Amazing but true - and we happen to
be a country that is absolutley appalling on human rights issues around
refugees and then of course there is our entire colonial history and
treatment of indigenous poplulation who we basically killed off.

So, it doesn't surprise me that the Festival part of '01' completely
reproduced this formula. Festivals that work tend to be ones that have
grown  up out of the local needs and issues of the urban or regional
spaces from which they are formed.

However, I do think that the ISEA conference could have done  a whole lot
better. Quite frankly, I think the themes were just irrelevant really.

As a visitor to the US, it did seem to me absolutley remarkable that
really none of the art works or themes in ISEA this year addresses war. I
mean perhaps you guys are not aware but you are actually living in a state
of war at the moment. I was absolutely horrified by the US Army campaign
currently on television under the slogan 'Help them find their strength' -
this is complete 1930s-40s recruiting tactics being replayed here and
seems to me a lead-up to a re-introduction of the draft, which I believe
is on the cards as a real possibility for the US. Similarly, at US
airports there are frequent announcements about prvileges for military
personnel travelling. The security checks at immigration are unbelievable
- and this was before the recent 'plot'. My partner was engaged in
conversation by an American woman in Starbucks who basically told her that
the only solution was to "kill all the Muslims".

I mean come on...where is the concerted critique and addressing of these
issues from within media arts - and I mean from younger artists, not just
the established groups such as CAE etc...

...or do these issues just seem normalised to those now living in the US?

cheers Anna

Dr. Anna Munster
Senior Lecturer,
Postgraduate Co-ordinator
School of Art History and Theory
College of Fine Arts
University of New South Wales
P.O Box 259
NSW 2021
ph: 612 9385 0741
fx: 612 9385 0615

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