[SYMPOSIUM]……

TORQUE SYMPOSIUM
an arts and science platform where international thinkers present new ways language, brain and technology are twisting together.
 
11 – 6pm / Wednesday, 30th April @ FACT, Liverpool
 
Featuring a range of talks, short film screenings and Q&A with leading thinkers in the arts, poetry, technology and cognitive sciences, the Torque Symposium seeks to address urgent questions around the changing nature of our relationship to language and thought in a digital age.  In particular the day will address the ways technology affects our minds and modes of communication – and vice versa.
 
The symposium asks:
·      As cyber-prosthetics are replaced by imperceptible interfaces, where do we draw the lines between technology, mind and modes of communication?

·     What happens when technology becomes sentient?

·     How is our behaviour corralled and twisted by online surveillance, targeted advertising and the compulsive spectacle of not-so-social networking? 

·     And how can we better understand and empower our interaction with technology?
 
Participants:
Lambros Malafouris // Anna Munster (online) // Cécile B Evans 
Benedict Drew (video) // Imogen Stidworthy // Hannah Proctor 
Holly Pester // Stephen Fortune // Chris Boyd 
Alex McLean // Mez Breeze (video)
 
The symposium seeks in-part to foreground today’s technologies, and our use of them from the perspective of early tool making and use, and the feedbacks and blurred lines between mind and matter.”
 
The title of the symposium, a play on the verb ‘to talk’, and refers to torque’s original latin meaning ’to twist’, and also the twisting forces which distort language, technologies and cognitive processes by braiding them together.  The cerebral torque is also a central term used by neuroscientist Tim Crow in his 2009 thesis that ‘Schizophrenia is the price Homosapians pay for language’.
 
Selected presentation summaries:
Keynote speaker and ‘cognitive archaeologist’ Lambros Malafouris will present his Material Engagement Theory through the lens of clay tablets and knapped flint, exploring implications that follow the human predisposition to reconfigure our bodies and extend our senses by using tools and material culture.
Artist Cécile B Evans presents and speaks about her character AGNES, which inhabits the Serpentine Gallery’s website, interacting with visitors and testing the bounds of affective relationships with technology.
 
Live coding practitioner Alex McLean explores the connection between silicone computers and human weavers, and how live coding is blurring the distinction between programming and natural language.
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FURTHER DETAILS
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(PROGRAMME TBA)
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11AM - INTRODUCTION


NETWORK PHENOMENA


11:10 - CECILE B EVANS - AGNES

11:50 - ANNA MUNSTER - Technologies of Immediate Entanglement – What are we doing with our brains?


12:30 - LUNCH


MATERIALITY OF MIND AND THINGS


1:00 - LAMBROS MALAFOURIS - How Things Shape the Mind

1:45 - HANNAH PROCTOR - Grey on Grey: on Neuronal Narratives and the Written Troubles of the Brain

2:15 - STEPHEN FORTUNE - Voice Hearing, Bicameral Minds and the Black Stack

2:45 - BENEDICT DREW - The Onesie Cycle


3:00 - TEA BREAK


MACHINE POETICS


3:10 - BENEDICT DREW - Matériel

3:30 - ALEX MCLEAN - Textility of Live Code

3:50 - HOLLY PESTER - Hannah Weiner’s Code Poems

4:20 - MEZ BREEZE - Wish4[0]

4:45 - CHRIS BOYD- Halftrack Atrocity

5:00 - IMOGEN STIDWORTHY - A Crack in the Light


5:30 - Concluding Discussion


6:00 - Close

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PARTICIPANTS

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Cécile B. Evans - AGNES

AGNES is an affective spam bot created by Cécile B. Evans, the first digital commission from the Serpentine Galleries, curated by Ben Vickers. AGNES, born in 1998, lives on the Galleries’ website and engages with users both physically and digitally- through the website’s platform, live performance, interviews, installation, and video. As she shares her thoughts, feelings and useful information with users, she asks them to do the same. Through her interactions, AGNES underlines the value of emotional data and the impact of technology on the human condition (and vice versa).  AGNES refers to the history of affect in automatons and computers, from the late 18th and mid 20th centuries where humans sat in the center of the machine, to the interfaces of today: more personal than ever, their human makers and intentions rendered virtually invisible. 

 

To try AGNES visit www.serpentinegalleries.org and click on the hands icon. 

Cécile B. Evans (b.1983) is a Belgian American artist based in London and Berlin. She was the recipient of the Emdash Award which resulted in a commissioned work for the Frieze Art Fair in London (2012). She is the recipient of the Push Your Art Prize, which resulted in the production and exhibition of a new video work at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013). Recent exhibitions have included ‘La Voix Humaine’ curated by Saim Demircan, Kunstverein Munich and ‘How to Eclipse the Light’ curated by Karen Archey, Wilkinson Gallery, London.   

She was recently an artist in resident at the Wysing Arts Centre, UK and participated in talks series such as Rhizome’s ‘Seven on Seven’, Barbican, London, ICA Salon, London and Art Basel Miami Beach Conversations, Florida. Upcoming exhibitions include TTTT at Jerwood Visual Arts and Phantom Limbs at Pilar Corrias Gallery.  

www.cecilebevans.com 

 

Anna Munster - Technologies of Immediate Entanglement – What are we doing with our brains?

From neuroscience to predictive analytics, from media theory to wearables such as Google’s Glass, our brains and behaviour are increasingly micro-modulated through technical entanglements. If philosophy has recently asked, ‘what should we do with our brain?’, machine learning, statistical modelling and data mining seem to be saying that the brain’s future evolution is already predicated by post-media devices. Yet interactions with environments and software such as predictive text and digital assistants like Google Now reveal that ‘brain’ and ‘behaviour’ are no longer considered separate domains, subjects or objects. Instead, they need to be reconsidered as entanglements before they are posed as separate things or events. Predictive techniques presume a modelling of behaviour prior to any actual action, even though they are recursively dependant on many actions already having occurred. Your restaurant recommendation for tonight is only the summed probability of every meal you have previously browsed. 

 

How can we talk and feel about brain, behaviour, technicity differently? And from where might these thinking-feeling propositions and practices come? Can what we are doing with our brains also allow a different neuropolitics to emerge? I will offer three modes for transversally burrowing into the entanglements across predictive techniques, behavioural modelling and postmedia technologies. The presentation will proceed via a pdf text file available for the audience to read at the beginning of the presentation; an audio file to follow that elaborates upon the text; and finally a live Skype session that will open up discussion with the audience.

 

Anna Munster is a writer, artist and educator. Her recent book, An Aesthesia of Networks imagines network experience affectively and perceptually beyond models of links and nodes. She collaborates with Michele Barker to produce multi-channel installations and environments that propose enactive and embodied forms of perception. And she is an associate professor at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Her current research is engaged with a large international partnership with Erin Manning, Brian Massumi, Bodil Marie Stavening Thomsen, Andrew Murphie and others around the concept of ‘immediation’ in relation to art, media and event.

 

Lambros Malafouris - How Things Shape the Mind

The extraordinary plasticity of human mind and its reciprocal openness to creative evolution by way of learning and technology is one of the distinctive features of our species. We have a plas­tic mind, which is embedded and inextricably intertwined with a plastic culture. We create new things and technologies which in turn shape our minds. This ongoing dialectic at the heart of human becoming has long been recognized in archaeology, philosophy, and anthropology. It also seems natural in view of the way materiality conspicuously envelops our everyday life and thinking. But how can we use and apply our knowledge about this seemingly unique human predisposition to reconfigure our bodies and extend our minds, in order to understand better some of the challenging issues associated with the use of new technological mediations and prostheses? In my talk I will try to explore how a theory of material engagement (Malafouris 2013) can help us towards an understanding of the cognitive ecologies and emergent configurations of new prosthetic alignments (communicative, epistemic or ontological) between brain and culture.

 

Lambros Malafouris (Ph.D. Cambridge 2005) is a Johnson Research and Teaching Fellow in Creativity, Cognition, and Material Culture at Keble College and the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. His primary research interests lie in the archaeology of mind and the philosophy of material culture. His publications include How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement (2013, The MIT Press), The Cognitive Life of Things: Recasting the Boundaries of the Mind (2010, McDonald Institute Monographs, with C. Renfrew), The Sapient Mind: Archaeology Meets Neuroscience (2009, Oxford University Press, with C. Renfrew & C. Frith), and Material Agency: Towards a Non- Anthropocentric Approach (2008, Springer, with C. Knappett).

 

Hannah Proctor - Grey on Grey: on Neuronal Narratives and the Written Troubles of the Brain 

The increasing convergence of brain and computer takes many forms - new digital technologies are changing the ways in which our brains function, neuroscience relies on advanced computing and computers are themselves being modeled on the brain. But garish digital images of neuronal activity produced by innovative machines are also accompanied by written representations of the mind. Narratives of cerebral (mal)functioning - both literary and scientific - are consistently popular. But how does the language that we use to describe our brains impact on our understanding of them? What are the ideological and political implications of these narratives? This paper will think critically about the increasing ubiquity of neuroscientific discourse but rather than focusing on the newest technological innovations, it will probe the persistent influence of a much older technology - the book.  

 

Hannah Proctor is a PhD student at Birkbeck, University of London. She works on the history of Soviet psychology and neurology (@hhnnccnnll - twitter/tumblr)

 

Stephen Fortune - Voice Hearing, Bicameral Minds and the Black Stack

Following in the vein of his essay tracing the links between voice hearing, Bicameral Minds and the Black Stack Stephen Fortune will draw on cognitive archaeological approaches to the coevolution of mind and technology to illuminate our contemporary co-determination with digital systems. The posthumanities search for ‘new subjectivities’ will be explored alongside prior forecasts of and rubrics for ‘the Selfs’ demise in order to trace what, if any, possibilities there are for a new sense of self. The space where automaticity and ‘extended mind’ meet will be excavated to that end.

 

Stephen is an interactive media artist and writer. He is senior editor for AVANT, a new art | sci | tech publication, a member of the Open Systems Association and has previously worked with YoHa and Mozilla. Stephen constructs contraptions as kludged inversions of the epistemic objects operating within computational culture: with specific research interests in data, biotechnologies and grey media. He curates the Wetware Ontologies Tumblr, to chart the terrain where the conceptual engines of informatics are encroaching onto and into biology.

 

Benedict Drew - The Onesie Cycle // Matériel

The Onesie Cycle is the central element to a large three room installation, this single screen work, tries to articulate a horror of the high street, a gasp of despair from underneath a mountain of primark clothing and fried chicken bones. 

Matériel  is a fictional story inspired by a real event. In 1954, a Musique Concrète concert took place at the Aldeburgh music festival. A narrator describes a member of the audience as he attempts to recreate this music, imagining magical properties hidden within Musique Concrète that are able to bend time and space. There are, however, side effects…

 

Benedict Drew works across video, sculpture, music and their associated technologies. Recent solo exhibitions include The Onesie Cycle, Rhubarba, Edinburgh; Now Thing, Whitstable Biennale; This Is Feedback, Outpost, Norwich; Gliss, Cell Project Space; and The Persuaders, Circa Site / AV Festival, Newcastle.

http://www.benedictdrew.com/

 

Alex McLean - Textility of Live Code

Live coding is an emerging, improvisatory practice, which allows musicians and video artists to create their work for audiences by working live with programming languages. As a practice, live coding allows us to explore abstraction through our senses. This is analogous to knitting; where we follow abstract patterns, and feel the results form. However, when live coding the computer generates the work, which we guide by manipulating the programmatic pattern that it follows. Through this process, we don’t work directly with material, but instead work with abstract descriptions, exploring and making, by composing and manipulating language. The material however still works directly in and upon us, in that we continually experience the output of the program we are manipulating. We work within a loop of discrete action and continuous reaction.

 

In this presentation I will outline how code can be worked with as material that we follow and explore, rather than design, by drawing metaphors with textile traditions. Drawing from Ellen Harlizius-Klück’s work in uncovering the origins of mathematics in ancient hand looms, and more recent connections between programming and Jacquard looms made by Babbage and Lovelace, as well as referencing Paul Klee on creative feedback, Tim Ingold on the textility of making, and Emma Cocker on kairotic coding.

 

The discussion will be grounded in videos and demonstrations of live coding interfaces, focussing on how time is represented in terms of threads, twisted and manipulated into the higher order structures of music. I’ll conclude by relating live coding practice with choreography and dance, connecting code with the body.

 

Alex McLean is a musician and researcher based in Yorkshire, UK. He live codes with his Tidal mini-language solo as Yaxu, but more often within a range of collaborations including Slub (with Dave Griffiths and Adrian Ward), Canute (with Matt Yee-King), the Hession/McLean Duo (with Paul Hession), and Sound Choreography <> Body Code (with Kate Sicchio). He is active in the digital arts, including as co-founder of the AHRC Live Coding Research Network, the runme.org software art repository, the TOPLAP live coding collective, Algorave, ChordPunch recordings, and the dorkbotsheffield and dorkbotlondon meetings. Alex completed his PhD thesis “Artist-Programmers and Programming Languages for the Arts” in 2011 at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is now Research Fellow and Deputy Director of ICSRiM in the School of Music, University of Leeds.

http://yaxu.org/

 

Holly Pester - Hannah Weiner’s Code Poems

This paper will revisit Hannah Weiner’s 1960s work Code Poems, a long poem/performance score using the coded signalling system for ships at sea. I will use this historical work to consider the contemporary relationship between: poetry and code; performance and body; voice and signalling. In my enquiry into Weiner’s work I will ask, how is the drama of being hailed by the lyric of poetry stored in the code?

Hannah Weiner (1928 -1997) was a poet, performance artist, clairvoyant, contributor to the 1960s New York avant-garde and significant to the bicoastal Language Poetry scene over the 1970s and 80s. Code Poems, or full title, Code Poems: from the international code of signals for the use of all nations, was published in book form in 1982 but was the basis of many public performances throughout the 1960s. At the Central Park Poetry Events of 1968, code poems were “performed with the aid of the U.S. Coast guard, using alphabet flag hoists, semaphore signalmen, flashing light signals, megaphones, and flares.”

 

Holly Pester works with sound poetry and live texts. She is undergoing a practice-led doctorate at Birkbeck College, Contemporary Poetic Research Centre.

http://www.hollypester.com/about/

 

Mez Breeze - Wish4[0]

A compilation of several of the more topical “Wish4[0]” entries. “Wish4[0] is based on a poetic interpretation of the maxim “Be Careful What You Wish For”. The title of the work, Wish4[0], is a truncation – and linguistic reworking – of the idea of wish fulfilment in the digital age, one where willing users and audience members are subjected to an “always-on” news cycle. This cycle operates via social media and content streaming, where privacy and restraint are often elastic concepts. Wish4[0]explores the pull of a user’s desire to be continually digitally connected. This project takes as its inspiration this perpetual tugging at a user’s consciousness by the digital: each day, for 40 days, an artistic “wurk” was created that took as its immediate inspiration a headline - or item - drawn from the electronic news cycle of that specific day. Many of the wurks use a hybrid language of code conventions and English [called “mezangelle”] in their construction. 

 

Mez Breeze is an Australian-based artist and practitioner of net.art, working primarily with code poetry and digital multimedia works combining text, code, image and sound. Born Mary-Anne Breeze, she uses a number of avatar nicknames, including Mez and Netwurker. She received degrees in both Applied Social Science [Psychology] at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, Australia in 1991 and Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong in Australia in 2001. In 1994, Breeze received a diploma in Fine Arts at the Illawarra Institute of Technology, Arts and Media Campus in Australia.

 

"Mez does for code poetry as jodi and Vuk Cosic have done for ASCII Art: Turning a great, but naively executed concept into something brilliant, paving the ground for a whole generation of digital artists.” (Florian Cramer). The impact of her unique code/net.wurks [constructed via her pioneering net.language has been equated with the work of Shakespeare, James Joyce, Emily Dickinson, and Larry Wall. 

http://netwurker.livejournal.com/ 

 

Chris Boyd - Video Excerpts

Art After Metaphysics, 2014

A video combining animation and live action that traces the semiotic vacancies at the ontological centre of Western Being, where in a Post-Metaphysical age all certainties of meaning have collapsed.

Halftrack Atrocity, 2009

A delirious poem capturing the cognitive dissonance caused by a picnoleptic crash. Text and code collide as floating signifiers propel themselves over digital noise.  

The Calling, 2006

A single channel version of a four channel video installation. The beginnings of life jump cut to a self organising swarm of people floating in a virtual void. A human culture so large and out of proportion to the earth that it has replaced nature and forms a spiralling galaxy. The camera pulls back in a characteristic orientation of a creator looking down at their creation.

Chris Boyd is a British contemporary artist whose multi-media work is preoccupied with the interrelationships with technology and modes of being. Boyd has shown work at a wide variety of galleries, events and venues, including Tate Online, FACT, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, The Lowry, Roundhouse, Urbis, Corsica Studios, The Bigger Picture with The Cornerhouse. A broad spectrum of Boyd’s visual art and commercial work has been broadcast including music video channels, MTV, 4 Music, BBC 2, Channel 4 and Channel 5. He was joint winner of the Big Art Challenge UK Art Prize 2004, a 6 part series on channel 5. A recipient of a Microwave award from FACT in 2004. In 2005 he provided a video in 40 Artists 40 Days, a special Tate Britain project supporting London’s Olympic bid that brought the games to Britain in 2012.

http://www.qboyd.com

 

Imogen Stidworthy - A Crack in the Light

Imogen Stidworthy and Nathan Jones discuss the forms of reading on display in Imogen’s work A Crack in the Light.  This work starts from two images: one is a man called Sacha van Loo, a wiretap analyst with special gift for languages and extraordinary sensitivity in listening, which helps him to read and interpret the voices on wiretap recordings.  The second is a piece of dried up bread that Solzhenitsyn was given for his last supper in Lefortovo Prison in Moscow, before he was deported from the Soviet Union in 1974.  A Crack in the Light draws a connection between van Loos’ work, and a fictional figure from Solzhenitsyn’s novel In the First Circle, which is set in the 1950’s in a Soviet ‘Special Prison’. The character Rubin has an ambiguous and complex relationship with the auditory surveillance technology he is forced to develop in the prison.  The reading of voices and the reading of the prison bread are the basis of the work. The title is a reference to a poem by Rilke, in which he describes a blind man making his way along the pavement as being ‘like a dark crack in the light’.

For further details of the project see a Q&A here:http://www.kunstforum.as/2013/09/qa-with-imogen-stidworthy/

          

Imogen is a Liverpool-based artist working with sound, voice and video.  Prizes include Dutch Prix de Rome,1996, the Liverpool Art Prize 2009. Imogen was shortlisted for Beck’s Futures 2004, The Northern Art Prize 2008, The Jarman Award 2011. Her work is in collections including Centre Georges Pompidou, FRAC Bourgogne, MuHKA Antwerp, Dommerung Collection (NL), LUX London and the Vries Museum (NL).

http://www.imogenstidworthy.com/

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Symposium Curators:

 

Sam Skinner

Artist and producer, whose work moves between art and other fields, combining an interest in art history and theory, in particular new media and public space, with more engaged practice, including murals, workshops, animation, set design, gardening, archival research, writing, and ebooks. He has a BA from LJMU and an MA from Sussex, both in Art History. Current projects include the design of furniture for a new green-space in Brighton and an accompanying schools participation and engagement project, in collaboration with Charles Holden and Plan Projects. 

http://samskinner.net

 

Nathan Jones

Artist, poet and curator.  Nathan is the Creative Director of Mercy, with whom he has produced performance and writing at Liverpool Biennial for the last three festivals. He produced the Electronic Voice Phenomena programme throughout 2010-13, and now co-edits, with Tom Chivers, an accompanying blog at electronicvoicephenomena.net  Nathan’s art practice is based in language noise and digital media performance, and he writes theatre with the artist Mark Greenwood. Current projects include SYNDROME a residency and laboratory programme in Liverpool, looking at interaction and affect in performance; and TORQUE.

http://alittlenathan.co.uk

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An associated workshop programme in collaboration with Mencap exploring ideas, processes and technologies related to the project is running throughout April and May 2014 at the FACT Media Lab - contact Sam or Nathan for further details.

A live *Torque* performance event will be happening at Rich Mix London in June 6th, 2014 and a project ebook will also be published - further details to follow. 

Follow the tumblr to keep up to date.