MASS symposium abstracts

Stephen Jones: A Systems Structure for Understanding New Media Practice.

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

The production of new media artworks involves a complex network of artists, technical and other collaborators (eg, sound and/or choreographic),

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technologies, funding institutions, curators and exhibiting structures all functioning concurrently in a context of cultural, political and technological strata. The people involved become a network consisting (in one language) of nodes and inter-connections. The operating process is a communicative activity best described through Wiener’s cybernetics and the indication of the circular causal loop structure of a system. The connections of the network consist in these feedback-loop structures. They are dynamic yet can develop an intrinsic stability through their capacity to handle variety and perturbation. When they function adequately they can become autopoietic and thus self-generating and self-sustaining. The system of interconnections is rhizomic in general and it is driven or motivated by desire in one or many of its multitude of types.

This analysis is very important for providing an

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adequate basis to the historiography of the media arts. In this paper I provide a basis for pedagogical curricula and presentation that uses the framework to bring to the students’ attention the wide range of interconnectedness of the study and practice of the new media arts.

Ian Haig: Media arts

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

I plan to discuss the history of one of the most unique and dedicated media art courses in the country ‘media arts’. Originally established in

1978 in the outer Melbourne suburb of Bundoora as Preston institute and later Philip and now currently at RMIT in the school of art.

I will discuss current challenges of media arts within a traditional fine art school and issues surrounding multidisciplinary practice and approaches. I will also talk about the history of media arts and its development as one of the first screen based art courses prior to the explosion of ‘multimedia’ and digital technologies and also how

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our sensibility as a course area operates in relation to these technologies.

In particular by establishing a more critical framework in regards to new technologies. We are less interested in the latest developments of new technologies for their own sake and more in the cultural histories of various technological media and the ability to combine them with newer ones.

I will discuss the all too common utopian mindset of the wondrous possibilities afforded by digital media which endlessly regurgitates the marketing rhetoric of Apple Mac. Where by creatively is locked into the world of software and the computer lab opposed to an awareness of older, vintage technologies whereby students can achieve outcomes that one can’t in current software.

Peta Clancy: Porous Boundaries

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

This paper will discuss shifting perceptions of biological boundaries. In order to solve the problem of development molecular genetics has focused on the genetic material thereby disregarding the rest of the cellular material such as the cytoplasm and nucleus. Bodily boundaries, at all different levels, are perceived as static borders between inside and outside. Whereas according to ideas in relation to Developmental Systems Theory (DST) this understanding of boundaries is problematic because bodily boundaries are active and never sealed. It is necessary for bodily boundaries, on a multitude of levels, to permit different degrees of communication, as Evelyn Fox Keller argues, “cells need to communicate with each other through intercellularsignalling.

DST offers ways for understanding development without relying on notions of gene dominance by proposing that in order to understand the organism it is necessary to investigate beyond its boundaries. This paper will draw on these conceptions of biological boundaries to discuss both my body of work Visible Human Bodies (2005) (created as artist in residence in the Cell and Gene Therapy Laboratory at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute) and Helen Chadwick’s photographic works Viral Landscapes (1988-89) (from my original research held at the Helen Chadwick archive at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK). Through this discussion of these works I intend to explore the notion of biological boundaries as active and permeable as well as evoke notions of the boundary between the interior of the body and the exterior environment as ambiguous and constantly shifting.

Matthew Perkins: Increasing Scholarship of Australian Video and Performance Art through Internet-Based Databases.

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Video and performance art are highly visible in contemporary art and artists, curators, students and academics at all educational levels are responding to this trend through their own work. The difficulty in Australia is that there is very little access

to historic and contemporary Australian video and performance art so students and academics find themselves looking overseas for inspiration.

The Australian Video Art Archive (AVAA) was founded in 2006. The aim of the archive is to provide an on-line educational hub which showcases new and historical Australian video and performance art works in the form of a database. These works can be viewed on-line or rented for educational, research and exhibition purposes. The lack of knowledge of Australian

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video and performance art is predominantly due to the scarcity and fragility of documentation but we have found that this documentation can be collected, archived and disseminated.

This paper will summarise the development of the AVAA highlighting key works in the database. The AVAA will have enormous benefits for curatorial practice and scholarship by contributing to the understanding of this important contemporary art genre.


Paul Brown Keynote: Hollow Promises

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

In the 1960’s and 70’s, early in my art career, I was an ardent proponent of critical theory and art-as-research. Back then they were pretty thin on the ground. Some of my contemporaries were amongst the first artists to be awarded doctorates for their work. Now, in the twilight of my teaching years I find myself more and more concerned about the preponderance of these aspects of art education. Or, to be more precise, concerned that theory and research – scholarly approaches to the arts – have usurped the teaching of art as an intuitive, studio-based and non-verbal activity. By doing so they have disenfranchised many gifted but semi-literate students who in the past were able to participate in the tertiary education process and attain significant qualifications and reputations in the arts. In this talk I hope to address the historical reasons that have led to this undesirable state of affairs and also suggest possible ways of redressing a

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more balanced curriculum. In particular I would like to focus on the role of the oxymoronically titled ‘new media’ (that are now some 70 years old!) as one of the major causes of this undesirable situation and how they might also be one of its possible solutions.

Paul Brown, Brisbane, June 2009