Bonjour de Paris!
I’m writing today quite early in the morning before I head out to Charles de Gaulle and return home. In my short stay I’ve had difficulty sleeping, so I thought I might make use of some of that time while everything is still relatively fresh in my head. Its likely I won’t get it all here before I begin traveling, but I couldn’t wait to get started.
The Computer Art Congress is an international gathering around Art, Science, Technology, and Design. The first edition was celebrated in Paris (2002), followed by Mexico City (2008), Paris (2012), and and Rio de Janeiro (2014). In fourteen years, this community of artists, curators, researchers, scholars, scientists, designers, students, and professionals have contributed to the domain of knowledge surrounding digital media with artworks, papers, round tables, workshops and exhibitions. This edition of CAC was held in Paris, at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme and extended this tradition under the theme “Digital Art: Archiving and Questioning Immateriality”. It was held from October 26-28 2016. CAC.5 was developed through 45 accepted proposals from 80 submissions and included representatives from 19 countries.
Each panel and paper was well developed, and presented a different aspect of the selected theme. Because the congress is a relatively small and welcoming group, I was able to attend all of the panels. To me this was an added benefit because, as many of you may experience at academic conferences, I didn’t have to select between different panels that were concurrent. The panels were also complemented by performances and an exhibition. I’m going to mention only a small handful of things that stand out to me in this report (although I would love nothing more than to continue the discussions initiated by each paper, performance, and artwork). Several of us used the #cac5p to share our observations in realtime and perhaps that might give a different sort of snapshot.
In the first panel, Daniela de Paulis discussed her work on the project OPTICKS which uses moonbounce to sound/receive images. The performances described used a radio telescope to transmit images in an earth-moon-earth circuit. It struck me as an interesting appropriation of historical equipment developed for military and scientific purposes in the service of artistic expression. The work embraced interference and the potentials caused by transforming and transmitting images between digital and analog technologies. Among the other presentations, Christa Sommerer shared the interactive work that she and Laurent Mignonneau have develop in recent years with flies as a visual metaphor or momento mori.
The first day of CAC.5 was closed by an invited keynote from Bernard Stiegler. The philosopher presented his well developed concerns regarding the anthropocene and exosomatization. Although the talk was dense, Stiegler presented his thoughts in a lucid and engaging way. I was struck by his ability to explain the transformation or traces of words that describe how we think about the world through time… at once historical but also cross-referenced with our current or contemporary understanding. To me, it was a philosophy as a form of alchemy – searching for the trace of a formula for more complete understanding of our experience in the world as the world begins to disappear.
Day two begin with Andres Burbano giving us an overview of the first programmable flatbed plotter-type drawing machine developed Konrad Zuse around. Later in the day Ricardo Dal Farra shared his research into the collection and preservation of electroacoustic and electronic music from Latin America that is supported by the Daniel Langlois Foundation. In the evening he gave a performance titled “ORGANIC” that was a form of visual music wherein the animated forms were developed by algorithms that were also used to produce sound. The performance just prior to this was from Naoyuki Tanaka and included animation projection mapped onto an robot. In this work, titled “monkeyTURN”, Tanaka performed the visuals, robot, and sound at once creating a unified sequence that called into question the relationships between man, animal, and machine.
The third and final day of CAC.5 continued the program of thought-provoking and expressive ways of considering the question of the immaterial in digital art practices. Frank Soudan gave an overview of the work “FFF” that he has been developing with Marc Veyrat. The project explores the use of data as a material for sculpture and not in the service of visualization. It pulls data from participants Facebook streams to generate and accumulate stoppages on the mesh of an interactive sphere. This was followed by Malu Fragoso‘s recent work creating artificial interfaces with natural and organic elements that are developed through hybridization, telematics, and networked or distributed materiality. Colonies of bees are tracked using simple DIY electronics systems and the data is streamed into the artistic installation that includes objects, sounds, smells, and projections related to the data. The invited keynote later in the day was given remotely by Lev Manovich who had recently submitted a draft for his forthcoming book on Cultural Analytics.
At the close of the congress, a round table announced the plans for CAC.6 to be held in Guanajuato City in 2018. The plans will be developed over coming years as will the theme which will include topics related to digital art education. I look forward to the potential of meeting and seeing everyone at the next Computer Art Congress. In closing, I’d like to thank the Everardo Reyes, Khaldoun Zreik, and everyone at Computer Art Congress for having me, my paper, and my artwork… it was a wonderful time!
A. Bill Miller is an Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin – Whitewater.