ISEA2014: 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art

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20th International Symposium on Electronic Art


Dubai, United Arab Emirates


30 October – 8 November, 2014

Organised by:

Zayed University


ISEA2014 was organised by the Zayed University in the Emeritates Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The major part of the symposium took place at the Zayed University, Dubai campus. Other parts were held at the American University in Dubai, the American University of Sharjah and the New York University Abu Dhabi. Exhibitions were staged at both the Zayed University locations, the Creekside cultural heritage village in Dubai and a number of galleries in Dubai, the American University of Sharja, the Maraya Art Park in Sharjah, New York University Abu Dhabi and the Art Hub of Abu Dhabi. A number of artists werte invited for residencies at the Art Hub, preceding ISEA2014. The symposium was opened by H.E. Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development and President of Zayed University.



The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a location with exquisite contradictions. Its location not only provides a place with world renowned architecture, but also boasts its development along the waters, its original trading ground. The 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art weaved local UAE traditions and history into the global context of new media science, art and technology. ISEA2014’s over-arching theme of “Location” references the nature of where the UAE positions itself. It is a major transfer hub, a meeting place where dreams can happen, but greater yet, a place for innovation and change.

The symposium explored eight subthemes: Speculative Mediations; Technology, Science and Art: East Meets West; Emerging Economies/Emerging Identities; Nomadic Shifts; Digital Archaeology and Collaborative Spaces; Interlacing Worlds: Fiber and Sensory Mediation; Nomadic Highway/Bridging Media and Connecting Worlds/Linking Ideas. Themes were specifically chosen with both local importance and international relevance and the results continue to resonate both near and far. The subthemes framed the nomadic symposium that ranged in research questions, but were built with discussions on how we navigate place with breadth of community engagement and new technologies.

ISEA2014 was a unique and fruitful experience for presenters and attendees. Conference and keynote presentations, along with exhibitions, brought site-specific relevance, with a cross-over exchange of ideas, including student participation which made the location of Dubai unique. It was an opportunity to access a wide range of ideas that can contribute to future goals and development.


Speculative Mediations

The media play a primary role in our perceptions of the world around us. It can be argued that in some ways the media helps to create the world around us. What is our role as new media artists and manipulators? How do we engage in the world around us through the media? How do we move beyond speculations and get to the truth? Should we disclaim our personal bias within our work? If so, how?

Technology, Science and Art: East Meets West

From the very zero that makes possible the binary data that the information age is built upon to the recursive geometries of Arabesque patterns, the long history of mathematical, scientific and artistic contributions from the Arab world is well known. Within the context of the current state of geopolitical flux, speculation is solicited with regard to the contemporary and future balance of technological progress between East and West with prospects for trans–global cooperation and project collaboration.

Emerging Economies/Emerging Identities

Dubai has been the emerging economy to watch over the past 15 years. Both the unprecedented triumphs and dramatic overreaches have played a role in shaping identity and in many ways the reverse is also true. How has the course of emerging economies like Dubai’s at the turn of the 21st century played into the identity of the developed world and in the world that has yet to emerge? In what way has this influenced the work of artists?

Nomadic Shifts

The rich history and cultural identity of the Emirati people is closely tied to nomadic lifestyle. Microclimate, geography and biology of the region are the generative cause of the nomadic life of the Bedouin. Today, the idea of the nomad has taken on a multitude of diverse connotations with new generative causes. How do these new notions of nomadic existence affect the practice of new media art?

Digital Archaeology and Collaborative Spaces

Digital tools and applications are being used to recreate lost communities and to better understand spatial and cultural histories. In architecture and planning, virtual worlds create the opportunity to push the boundaries of materials and concepts (chaos, uncertainty, responsive environments) — that may or may not be realized. How does this practice impact the evolution of social systems? How has this practice influenced education and collaborations across disciplines?

Interlacing Worlds: Fiber and Sensory Mediation

Trading states along the Silk Road, by their nature as wealthy cross – cultural meeting points, played a catalytic role in advancing the evolution of luxury or exotic goods. In nomadic societies, fabrics — whether for clothing or housing — were developed from products in their surrounding environments. Today, technology has advanced to allow fibers and fabrics to engage upon our senses through optics and feedback response. The rich history of and the future possibilities for the influence of textile and related materials by digital technology are explored.

Nomadic Highway/Bridging Media

Social networks have played a pivotal role in today’s communication system. The Internet and other digital media are indispensable in the effort to illuminate and advance the public discourse on complex social themes and political systems. This theme provided a forum for the exploration of the future of social media in art and its potential influence on the evolution of social ecologies.

Connecting Worlds/Linking Ideas

As professors try to provide a better learning platform for students, to diversify their subject matter and engage interdisciplinary platforms, this theme focuses on the connection between art and science in the classroom. With the world ever more connected, how can educators embrace new technologies to create new and stimulating ways to link ideas and cultures around the world. Can art that has been developed by new intersections with science and technology lead to a new visual culture that link people and their ideas instantaneously, crossing all borders?