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ABQ Hosts International Symposium

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A satellite is launched into space and begins playing an algorithmic opera.

A group of Highlands University students design a dress made of LEDs, infrared sensor and origami paper.

Artists use an auto/rail car to chronicle life along abandoned rail lines in Mexico.

Art meets science meets technology starting Wednesday in Albuquerque when it hosts more than 500 international artists from 29 countries for the six-day International Symposium of Electronic Art conference.

The conference – or ISEA2012: “Machine Wilderness” – marks only the fourth time the United States has hosted the 30-year-old event. Previous hosts include Paris, Sydney, Helsinki, Singapore, Montreal and Istanbul.

If you go

WHAT: “ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness” conference. Related exhibitions will be up through January

WHEN: Wednesday-Sept. 24

WHERE: Various locations around Albuquerque


Getting Kids, Community Involved

In addition to the presentations, “Intel Education Day” will be held Sunday, Sept. 23, and is open to New Mexico students in sixth through 12th grades as well as teachers.

ISEA2012 executive director Suzanne Sbarge said the program is focused on teaching STEMArts (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) through art. The event will offer educational presentations, teacher training and youth activities.

“This is a chance for students who wouldn’t normally get the chance to get involved,” she said. “This is a rare opportunity that we have here, and we are trying to get the entire community involved. What they are learning is how we can work and create things for a better future.”

ISEA2012 artistic director Andrea Polli, who is a professor at UNM, said she has nearly 40 students volunteering to work the event.

“They want to gain the experience of working on an international event,” she said.

The education day will run concurrently with the ISEA2012 Downtown Block Party, which is free and open to the public. It runs from 4-9 p.m. next Sunday, and will take place along Central between Fourth and Sixth streets.

Sbarge said the event will feature artwork focusing on the transportation subtheme as well as hands-on interactive demos, performances, projections, illuminated projects and kinetic sculptures.

“This is the chance for the community to really see what is going on with many of the instillations,” she says. “We’ll have the streets blocked off and many of the presentations will take place down there.”
— Adrian Gomez

The event consists of a conference, a multisite exhibition and a seasonlong series of public programs around the region, according to Suzanne Sbarge, ISEA2012 executive director. She said related exhibitions will remain up through January 2013 at various locations in and around Albuquerque.

“ISEA is held every year in a different location around the world and has a 30-year history of significant acclaim,” Sbarge said. “This project is drawing a wealth of leading creative minds in New Mexico and is engaging our local community through in-depth partnerships, putting Albuquerque on the map in a whole new way.”

This year’s conference theme is “Machine Wilderness,” chosen by ISEA2012 Artistic Director Andrea Polli. She said she wanted to reference New Mexico as an area of rapid growth and technology alongside wide expanses of open land.

“As the home of not only many of the most ‘wild’ places in the country, but also some of the most advanced technology and scientific discoveries,” Polli said.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry said the timing of ISEA2012 couldn’t be better, because the state is still celebrating its centennial, pointing out that Albuquerque’s history has been shaped by its role as a place where heritage, culture, science and technology intersect.

“I am proud to say that now our city is earning a reputation as a growing center for the artistic, scientific and technological innovation and a gateway to exploring New Mexico’s creative and technological horizons,” he said.

Tania Armenta, vice president of marketing, communication and tourism for ACVB, agreed the conference is an opportunity for Albuquerque to showcase its art and technology scene.

“The conference is offering all of its guests an opportunity to see what the city has to offer,” she said. “Yet since there will be exhibits for months to come, it will offer visitors not associated with the conference a chance to see it.”

ISEA International was booked in 2010 with an expected attendance of 500, but it is anticipated that the group has grown to 700. ACVB is estimating a direct spend over half a million dollars.

Expert advice

Speaking in the conference will be artists and scientists from a broad spectrum.

Take Juan José Díaz Infante and the Mexican Space Collective, which are building a satellite called “Ulises I.”

The project involves launching the satellite into space, after which it will play an algorithmic opera, making it a music instrument. It was launched in 2011 and has been gathering data, and Infante will present its results at the conference.

Also giving a presentation are Mexican artists Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domené, who have created the manned railway exploration probe, “SEFT-1.” The vehicle is equipped with a Hi-Rail system, which is a metal wheel mechanism that enables it to move on rails. The duo records information from traveling along abandoned railways through Mexico.

One of the most notable speakers and performers is New York’s Laurie Anderson, who has built a decadeslong career as an experimental performance artist, composer and musician.

She is a pioneer in electronic music and has invented several devices that she has used in her recordings and performance art shows. In the late 1990s, she developed a talking stick, a 6-foot-long baton-like MIDI controller that can access and replicate different sounds.

Polli said through “Machine Wilderness” and the five subthemes, which are power, creative economies, transportation, wildlife and the cosmos, the symposium focuses on creative solutions for how technology works with the natural world in working on a sustainable future.

“Some of the brightest and best in their field will be here,” Polli said. “What’s great is that the conference isn’t about just art. It’s about science and technology and how art fits into helping create a better future.”

Duke City difference

Andrew Connors, who is a member of the ISEA2012 steering committee, said they wanted this conference to be different in “the sense that we want the community to be involved. Many of the events that we are having are open to the public and we want them to get involved.”

Local audiences can hear from some of the most innovative artists, philosophers and scientists in the world.

“One of the things that is so great is that it does bring together different disciplines,” he said. “And what we’re finding out is that though there are different disciplines, we’re all working on the same things.”

Many of the exhibitions, nearly 90 altogether, will be shown around the state. There will also be events held at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, KiMo Theatre, University of New Mexico School of Architecture & Planning, New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, 516 ARTS and Richard Levy Gallery.

Connors said there will be about 40 different presentations at the Albuquerque Museum.

“I love the idea of visitors coming from around the country and around the world,” he said. “… you can bring the world to Albuquerque and our local audiences can really participate in a world-class educational setting.”

Connors said the Albuquerque Museum has begun training its docents with the new information for the exhibitions.

“Their eyes were lighting up with learning about the technology used in the installations,” he said. “This is something that is very cutting edge, yet can resonate with non-specialized visitors.”

Connors said ACE Leadership High School students are working with European artist Hanna Hildebrand on an instillation at the museum. He also said Santa Fe-based collaborative Meow Wolf is currently working on its instillation.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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