Kevin Hamilton on Tue, 24 May 2011 04:24:46 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> ISEA 2011 fees


The broader conversation here has been great, and needed (and not without precedent. For online discussions, check the lengthy IDC thread post-San Jose in 2007). 

To that in a moment. But first, a reminder. Nick originally started this thread with a simple request - to hear a breakdown of expenditures from ISEA registration fees. In lieu of larger changes, or while we discuss larger changes, we should at least have access to such information as part of our individual choices in navigating institutional affiliation and participation. We have yet to hear a response to this simple request.

To the larger issues - 

As many have pointed out, ISEA serves (or served) at least two worthy functions. It functions as a place for academic workers to receive institutional validation toward their continued employment. It also allowed for a broader, ideally self-selected group to collectively discover and imagine new perspectives on media forms, their impact on human life. These functions have also co-existed within two disparate spaces at ISEA: the space of lecture/presentation and publication, and the space of exhibition and demonstration.

It's rare, useful, and precarious to see these two particular functions co-exist. Some would rather see the academic function put to an end. I'd rather look at ways to steward/bridle/exploit it.

Methods of academic approval and review CAN be exploited to ensure inclusion and a good use of everyone's resources, through the construction of a focussed dialogical space. Spaces that employ such methods don't have to adopt language of academic discourse: we can define the "peer" in peer review in terms of citizenship and stakeholder instead of academic rank. The result, which I think ISEA has managed at times, can be intensely critical and revelatory in ways no academic space can muster. Academic validation is merely a byproduct of such a space, not the goal. Key here is to avoid the identification of academic critique or review with criticality. To do so is both to exclude participants and to kill critique.

Similarly, I count ISEA's engagement in media spectacle as something worth trying to preserve, if with equal care and caution. Mass culture's use of media forms may be predictable, but the attending particularities of policy, sensation and affect require constant and experiential visitation. As long as one counts bodily experience of media forms as crucial to critique as well as production, and as long as the Powers understand this as well through the positioning of bodies and senses within media networks, critique of media will benefit from spaces for the creation of large-scale works.

What none of us need, I would argue, is participation in the conference/festival/tourism market of hotels and conference centers.

My suggestions for how to productively preserve, with great care and caution, both the academic and spectacular dimensions of ISEA:

1 - End the symposia, and instead devote resources to a free, annual peer-reviewed journal that makes critical analysis and reception of media forms in society a priority over disciplinary policing and definition. Explicit mission here to include, support, and potentially help fund or commission writing from practitioners across academia, activism, commercial and non-profit domains. Rotating, volunteer editorial and review board. Leave the dialogue, reception and argument to less expensive means than meeting together in an official space. Let temporary physical spaces/zones of collective reception and response form on their own.

2 - Continue the workshop, demonstration and exhibition component of ISEA as a two-year traveling exhibition, which also is the result of a reviewed curatorial selection, but with an emphasis on inclusion. Mix of large-scale, funded projects (outside funding of course) and small-scale reports and documentations via screenings and printed matter. Institutions around the world could individually raise funds to bring the exhibition to their venue for a long enough time to allow for visits from regional, if not proximal, visitors. Each host institution pays costs primarily to fund transport, with some funds going to help support the travel of the exhibition to at least a handful of venues where institutional financial support is spare. Emphasis here on partnering institutions where-ever possible for funding.

I have not run a venture like either one of these, so I concede that I may have no idea about the labor required. Just dreaming of the best possible scenario here.


On May 22, 2011, at 7:25 PM, John Hopkins wrote:

> thanks Eric -
> yes, I concur, no need for nostalgia!

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