Dreams and Terrors of Desktop Documentary — Kevin B. Lee at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

Lee Poster

On Wednesday, February 27 (5-7pm in the Board Room of the Stanford Humanities Center), the Digital Aesthetics Workshop will be hosting Kevin B. Lee for an event titled “Dreams and Terrors of Desktop Documentary”:

Desktop documentary is a form that both presents and critically reflects on the world as experienced through computer screens and online interfaces. Treating the desktop as a medium for non-fiction storytelling proposes a unique set of epistemological dilemmas, affective dimensions and aesthetic discoveries. These factors inform Bottled Songs, a collaborative investigation by Kevin B. Lee and Chloé Galibert-Laîné of online terrorist media. Screening excerpts from the project, Lee will elaborate on the desktop documentary approach and its applications in exploring the underlying networks — both human and technological — informing online terrorism.

Kevin B. Lee is a US-born filmmaker and critic. He has produced over 360 video essays exploring film and media. His award-winning film Transformers: The Premake played in several festivals and was named one of the best documentaries of 2014 by Sight & Sound. He was Artist in Residence of the Harun Farocki Institut in Berlin. He is now Professor of Crossmedia Publishing at the Merz Akademie, Stuttgart. In 2018 he and Chloé Galibert-Laîné were grantees of the Sundance Institute Art of Nonfiction Fund and artists-in-residence of the European Media Art Platform (EMAP).

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Can Computers Create Meaning? — N. Katherine Hayles at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

hayles-daw

Coming up in a few weeks: N. Katherine Hayles will be joining the Digital Aesthetics Workshop to present some of her latest research. This session will take place in the Humanities Center Board Room, on Tues. Feb 12, from 5-7 PM. Her event is entitled Can Computers Create Meaning? A Cyber-Bio-Semiotic Perspective.

We anticipate a full event, so you must RSVP to this google form link. We will circulate Hayles’s paper, which she will briefly introduce and then invite conversation around it. Here is her abstract:

Can Computers Create Meaning? A Cyber-Bio-Semiotic Perspective

N. Katherine Hayles

One of the promising areas to understand how computers cognize is biosemiotics, a field that draws on C. S. Peirce’s semiotics to argue that all living organisms generate and understand meanings appropriate to their contexts, even plants and unicellular organisms.  Although these approaches by such theorists as Jesper Hoffmeyer, Wendy Wheeler, and Terrence Deacon have considerable explanatory power, they share a common blind spot in arguing that such signifying capabilities apply only to living organisms, not computers.  However, many of their objections to networked and programmed machines creating, disseminating and understanding meanings become moot if the relevant unit is considered to be human plus computer rather than either alone.  The human species, this paper will argue, is in the midst of entering into a deep symbiosis with computational media. Still incomplete, this symbiosis is akin to endosymbiosis, where previously independently living organisms unite into a single entity, as happened for example with the absorption of mitochondria by eukaryotic cells.  The paper will conclude by exploring the implications of this symbiosis-in-progress.

Skin in the Game: Greymarket Gambling in the Virtual Economies of Counter-Strike — Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

boluk-lemieux-skin-in-the-game

Next Monday (January 14, 2018), we will be joined at the Digital Aesthetics Workshop by Stephanie Boluk & Patrick LeMieux. They are coming to us from UC-Davis, where Stephanie is Associate Professor of English and of Cinema and Digital Media, and where Patrick is Assistant Professor of Cinema and Digital Media. Boluk & LeMieux are scholars, critics, and artists who work largely around videogames and digital art. Their book Metagaming (Minnesota, 2017) wrenches open the ‘texts’ of videogames to consider them as tools, materials, platforms, and stages for all sorts of new social practices – it is easily one of the best works in game studies yet published. They have also co-created several critical games of their own that you can easily run on your laptop.

On Monday, they will be sharing in-progress material from their next book project, Money Games. Join us on Monday, January 14, 2018 (5-7pm in the Roble Arts Gym Lounge), and RSVP if you can! There will not be pre-circulated reading, though their games are recommended.

Here is the blurb for the event:

In 1987, a pyramid scheme called the “Plane Game” funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the pockets of “passengers,” landing at least six of the game’s “pilots” in jail. In 2018, more ubiquitous moneygames are played with smaller stakes across far wider fields. From the Valve Corporation’s Flatland to grey market gambling with Counter-Strike gun skins, this talk will move from from the Steam Workshop to the Steam Marketplace to series of third-party websites that explore the way in which money operates as a game mechanics and how game mechanics have come to operate as money. Although strict distinctions are made between gambling and gaming in both US law as well as 20th century philosophies of games and play, these terms’ etymological roots are tightly wound. In a post-2008 age of precarity, the wage has once again become a wager. In 2012, Alex Galloway proclaimed “we are all goldfarmers,” but gun skins and skin gambling represent an even more complex and complete financialization in that players have moved from one mode in which labour time is exchanged for a clear wage (even if it’s grinding in World of Warcraft) to one in which labour time itself becomes a wager. Ultimately skins are not simply texture files that wrap around the polygonal geometry of virtual weapons. Instead, they are objects of affinity and status, digital cash and casino chips, and a gun skins’ procedurally generated pattern, determined by a 9-digit floating point number selected upon unboxing, is more cryptocurrency than art asset. In this talk we follow the money, the skin, the flow, and the flight of new “plane games” as metagames become moneygames.

Plastic Dialectics: Community and Collectivity in Japanese Contemporary Art — Miryam Sas at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

Sas Poster

What do we mean when we speak of “collectivity,” collaboration, and community? How have artists and theorists in Japan questioned and created experimental practices that reframe these terms, so crucial to discussions of the arts today? Sas will reflect on issues of collectivity and assemblage as manifested in Japanese contemporary art, drawing examples from 1950s art theory, late 1960s intermedia art, 1970s site-specific photography events, and post 3-11 sculptural installation. Through site-specific critique and new modes of engagement with local space, artists in each of these distinct moments engage in a subtle but powerful rethinking of the frameworks and practices of collectives past and present.

At the next meeting of the Digital Aesthetics Workshop, Miryam Sas, Professor of Comparative Literature and Film & Media at UC Berkeley, will discuss Plastic Dialectics: Community and Collectivity in Japanese Contemporary Art. As we have throughout this quarter, we will meet on Tuesday, Dec 4, from 5-7 at the Roble Gym. RSVP to deacho@stanford.edu – we expect there will be a paper that we will pre-circulate this weekend.

Sas studies Japanese literature, film, theater, and dance; 20th century literature and critical theory; and avant-garde and experimental visual and literary arts.  She is the author of Experimental Arts in Postwar Japan: Moments of Encounter, Engagement, and Imagined Return  (Harvard, 2010); and Fault Lines: Cultural Memory and Japanese Surrealism(Stanford, 2001).  Sas is currently working on a book on media theory and contemporary art in Japan, Feeling Media: Infrastructure, Potentiality, and the Afterlife of Art in Japan, for which she was awarded a President’s Research Fellowship in the Humanities (2017-18).  She has published numerous articles in English, French, and Japanese on subjects such as Japanese futurism, cross-cultural performance, intermedia art, butoh dance, pink film and Japanese experimental animation.

Embodied Interactions & Material Screens: Camille Utterback at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

Utterback Poster

After a refreshing fall break, the Digital Aesthetics workshop will return with sessions on November 27th and December 4th . First up, we are thrilled to host Camille Utterback, Assistant Professor of Art Practice and Computer Science here at Stanford. We have always wanted to host an artist in the workshop, and could not be happier to build a conversation around Camille’s fascinating work and current questions. We look forward to seeing you there – please consider RSVPing so we can supply refreshments appropriately.

Embodied Interactions & Material Screens

w/ Camille Utterback

Tues, Nov 27, Roble Lounge, 5-7

rsvp to deacho at stanford.edu

After an overview of her interactive installation work, Camille will present on current works-in-progress which examine combinations of custom kiln-formed glass and digital animations. Her goal with her new work is to explore the possibilities of dimensional display surfaces that address the subtleties of our depth perception. What can be gained from more hybrid analog/digital and less “transparent” digital surfaces? What is at stake when our display surfaces maintain the illusion of a frictionless control vs an more complex and interdependent materiality? Camille is interested in developing a dialog around this new work, and welcomes a variety of critical input as she attempts to with situate her artworks in a theoretical framework. She has recently been reading Sensorium (ed. Caroline A. Jones), and  Meredith Hoy’s From Point to Pixel.

Camille Utterback is a pioneer in the field of digital and interactive art. Her work ranges from interactive gallery installations, to intimate reactive sculptures, to architectural scale site-specific works. Utterback’s extensive exhibit history includes more than fifty shows on four continents. Her awards include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2009), Transmediale International Media Art Festival Award (2005), Rockefeller Foundation New Media Fellowship (2002), Whitney Museum commission for their ArtPort website (2002), and a US Patent (2001). Recent commission include works for The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, California (2016), The Liberty Mutual Group, Boston, Massachusetts (2013), The FOR-SITE Foundation, San Francisco, California (2012), and the City of Sacramento, California (2011). Camille’s “Text Rain” piece, created with Romy Achituv in 1999, was the first digital interactive installation acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Camille holds a BA in Art from Williams College a Masters degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Art & Art History Department, and by courtesy in Computer Science, at Stanford University. Her work is represented by Haines Gallery in San Francisco.

Chroma Glitch: Carolyn Kane at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

kane_chroma-glitch

The Digital Aesthetics Workshop at the Stanford Humanities Center is entering its second year, and we are pleased to announce the first event: Carolyn L. Kane will share some of her current research with us, under the title Chroma Glitch: Data as Style. The discussion will encompass Takeshi Murata, Ryan Trecartin, and datamoshing, all within Kane’s broader project, tentatively titled Precarious Beauty: Glitch, Noise, and Aesthetic Failure. There will be a paper pre-circulated ahead of the talk; we will pass it along a week ahead of the event. We are thrilled Dr. Kane can join us – when we first came up with this idea for a workshop, her name became a token for the sort of scholarship we would want to bring in. She will launch a year already filling up with exciting speakers and a new graduate colloquium (more on that to come).

Carolyn L. Kane is the author of the award-winning Chromatic Algorithms: Synthetic Color, Computer Art, and Aesthetics after Code (U Chicago, 2014). [You can learn more about this fascinating project through this interview in Theory, Culture & Society.] She earned her Ph.D. from New York University’s Dept. of Media, Culture, and Communication in 2011, and was awarded the Nancy L. Buc Postdoctoral Fellowship in “Aesthetics and the Question of Beauty” at Brown University in 2014. From 2011 to 2014 she taught at Hunter College; she is now Associate Professor of Communication and Design at Ryerson University in Toronto.

This event will be held from 5-7p on Tuesday, Oct 9, 2018 at the Roble Arts Gym Lounge (TAPS department). Drinks and snacks will be served. Please RSVP to Doug Eacho (email in image above) if you can, and share widely.

Matthew Wilson Smith: The Nostalgia of VR

Smith poster DAW 2018

On Tuesday, May 15th, we’ll have our fourth and final Digital Aesthetics Workshop of the Spring quarter, “The Nostalgia of Virtual Reality” with Matthew Wilson Smith, at 4 PM in the Stanford Humanities Center Board Room. In this workshop, we will discuss the degree to which emergent technologies of virtual reality are indebted to longstanding concepts of presence and disembodied consciousness.

Matthew Wilson Smith is an Associate Professor of German Studies and Theatre and Performance Studies at Stanford University. His  interests include modern theatre; modernism and media; and relations between technology, science, and the arts. His book The Nervous Stage: 19th-century Neuroscience and the Birth of Modern Theatre explores historical intersections between the performing arts and the neurological sciences and traces the construction of a “neural subject” over the course of the nineteenth century. It was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. His previous book, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (Routledge, 2007), presents a history and theory of modern artistic synthesis, placing such diverse figures as Wagner, Moholy-Nagy, Brecht, Riefenstahl, Disney, Warhol, and contemporary cyber-artists within a genealogy of totalizing performance.