Chair: Jessica Rajko
Early pioneers of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) like Vannavar Bush or Douglas Engelbart evidence a techno-optimism spirit that would carry much of digital culture through the new millennium. In the last two decades, however, that optimism has been dissipated by new winds bringing calls for critical reevaluation of the ubiquity of unchecked applications of digital technology. Interdisciplinary media art was a sometimes high visibility source of criticism questioning investments in techno-optimism and creative practice work critiquing and problematizing digital technology’s myriad social, environmental, or geopolitical implications. Non-stop bad faith actions from Silicon Valley betrays that even big tech CEOs don’t honestly believe in the possibility of novel social and aesthetic encounters, let alone that computers might play some part in affecting meaningful, liberatory change.
Historically invested in enacted and creative studies of embodiment, soma, or gesture, contemporary artistic practices around the movement and computing nexus (interactive dance, computational sensing and gestural sound, responsive media ecologies and immersive installation) have quite smartly begun to reckon with the limits of algorithmic representation in their own practices and its repercussions in the lives of practitioners, audiences, and other interlocutors. In this ArtLounge, we revisit the techno-optimistic (and pessimistic) legacies of media arts to ask: in this period of much-needed critique, after a year of Zoom, has Media Art lost its capacity to engender wonder? Can notions of wonder extend beyond pyrotechnics and techno-fetishism to conjure deeper, more sincere forms of radical joy? Is there a latent quirkiness lurking (like the playfulness surfaced by Engelbart or media artists Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz) that might help practitioners to reimagine how media art might re-enchant the world? How can examining loss transversally — as psychic or sensorial lack, in relation with somatic experiences of grief, as effect of algorithmic compression, as an effect of critique, as a loss of the will to again talk about techno-enabled loss — help us to mourn and move on from ambitions not meant for this world — and to dream, formulate, and plan new ones?
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