Empyre Discussion July 2013

Pre/Post Symposium Event Title:

  • Empyre Discussion July 2013

Pre/Post Symposium Event Organiser(s):



  • Empyre Discussion July 2013: Resistance is Futile, ISEA2013 Sydney. July’s discussion on empyre will engage the themes and activities underlying and emerging from this year’s International Symposium on Electronic Arts, held at the University of Sydney and other locations in and around Sydney, Australia during June 2013. ISEA2013 functions as a snapshot of developments at the intersection of the arts, culture, and technology and offers an opportunity to pick up on current discourses and practices. ISEA2013 was a wide-ranging and multi-layered event, with five parallel conference tracks, several official exhibitions at a number of different venues, conference workshops, and satellite events around the city, including performances, concerts, exhibitions, and public interventions. No single person could have gained a full sense of ISEA2013 as it was not physically possible to be at every event – or even most of them. Any individual experience of ISEA2013 was therefore partial and particular. We hope that this discussion on empyre can help construct a critical overview of the event through the multiple experiences and points of view our discussants can provide, for both those that attended and those that didn’t. The primary theme for ISEA2013 was “resistance is futile”. How are we to interpret this? Resistance to what? The conference programme offers a positive take on this statement – proposing that the electronic arts have moved from the margins to occupy a central role in contemporary culture. But has this happened – and, if it has, is it generally the case or only so in certain contexts? Resistance can be a positive or a negative form of agency. Are we talking about resistance as something heroic or reactionary – or both? What of those aspects of our technologised society which many of us would wish to resist? Do we seek to be the willing subjects of the pervasive surveillance systems the ISEA keynote Julian Assange spoke of and which are again in the news after Edward Snowden’s recent revelations? Do we wish to be gamified and appropriated into the attention economy? Is it possible to resist these forces? Other themes were also apparent at ISEA2013, addressed in the various conference tracks and emergent in the creative works presented.

    Important questions were asked about:

    1. sustainability – how this can be achieved in relation to the environment but also how artists, arts groups, academics, and activists might ensure their activities are sustainable as the processes of technologisation and globalisation unfold?
    2. notions of the human – what does it mean to be human now, in the context of developments in genetics and ICT?
    3. globalisation, diasporas, and cultural identity?
    4. the boundaries of the real – where virtual and augmented realities have become pervasive media?
    5. the post-digital and its implications for aesthetics and questions of agency?
    6. the challenges and opportunities associated with big data?
    7. urbanism, activism, and the socially disruptive potential of technology?

    We hope this empyre discussion will offer discussants and list members a context for the conversations initiated and pursued in Sydney to be developed and sustained and for those who could not attend the event to gain a sense of what transpired and make a contribution to those debates.