Nomadic Transitions: Thinking about
Chaired by Drs. Jill Scott and Sigrid Schade
Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst (HGKZ), Zurich, Switzerland,
April 10-12, 2003.
In collaboration with the Planetary Collegium, The University of Plymouth
and The University of Wales
Reviewed by Dene Grigar
Texas Womans University
Telematic networks, interactive virtual sound machines,
hypermontage performance, visual theology, intelligent sculptures, strategy
game scripts, computer-based memory theatres, cyberpunk fictionthese
are but a few of the wide-ranging topics explored at "Nomadic Transitions:
Thinking about Art," a conference hosted by the Department Cultural
Studies in Art, Media and Design at the Hochschule für Gestaltung
und Kunst (HGKZ) in Zurich, Switzerland, in collaboration with the Planetary
Collegium at The University of Plymouth and The University of Wales,
from April 10-12, 2003.
For three days theorists and practitioners came together to "address
the controversies surrounding the discourses of Art, Art Theory, Perception,
Media theory and Media Technology" and question "new concepts of creativity
and co authorship, as well as the future of theoretical education in
relation to contemporary art and media practice" (Scott and Schade 00).
Co-chaired by Jill Scott and Sigrid Schade, the conference was well-conceptualized
and organized, a fact readily evident in the numerous papers that focused
on the conference theme and goals, as well as the smooth implementation
of technology and simultaneous translation made available to participants.
While the underlying theme, that of "nomadic transitions," alludes to
the idea of wandering scholars coming together to discuss topics unsettled
by transitions due to technological innovation and change, it also suggests,
perhaps more importantly, an epistemological approach. Nomad, taken
from the Greek word nomein meaning to "pasture" or "feed," implies
that wandering results in the partaking of knowledge. Simply put, to
find the food of knowledge one must journey to it; in the journey comes
knowing. Nomadic, in this sense, was made clear in Hans Peter Schwartzs
and Jill Scotts opening remarks, as well as Roy Ascotts
introduction to the "Planetary Colleguim." Framing the conference was
Michael Punts closing talk, entitled "Nomadic Transitions: The
View from the Blender," a polemic about the perceived differences between
paranormal and scientific phenomena, differences that have resulted
in the privileging of science over the paranormal to the detriment of
knowledge. As Punt points out, these two areas are "historically far
closer" than we may realize, for both are deeply rooted in the anxieties
surrounding notions of truth and reality.
Presentations by Sigrid Schade, who examined the themes of global migration
and voluntary and involuntary enforced migration found in Vera Frenkels
video installation, "From the Transit Bar;" Roy Ascott, who described
the journey covering three continents and a wide theoretical landscape
that led him to an understanding of "continuity and connectivity" as
seen from "the emergent planetary network of telematics, to the ancient
embodied biophonic network of living entities;" Margarete Jahrmann,
who discussed MODing in relation to "Anti-War," a strategy game; Kieran
Lyons, who talked about consciousness and the "human double" in relation
to Marcel Duchamps "Jura-Paris Road;" Diane Gromala, who explored
proprioception and viscerality and their potential for producing a "transformative
awareness by some forms of interactive art;" and Mike Phillips, who
looked at "issues surrounding the role of the computer and
its code as the very significant other and co-author
of digital work" all stood out for their compelling subject matter,
thoroughness of research, andin the case of Phillipsironic
humor (Scott and Schade 7-37).
The brainstorming sessions were a good addition to the conference in
that they offered the potential for participants to engage in smaller
group discussions about a particular theme. The most successful were
those whose the moderators allowed for a balanced representation of
the data and the conversation to flow and be shared with the participants.
In this vein, the heavily attended "Art and Science: The Interface between
Art and Science" led by René Stettler and Otto E. Rossler leaned
heavily in its views toward science. Better was Jill Scotts "Art
with a Political Agenda" that opened the floor to all participants and
provided a forum and methodology for differing views.
Did the conference address controversies? Yes, as Yvonne Volkarts
cyberfeminist critique of "hegemonial society and its reigning structures"
showed. Did the conference participants raise questions about practice
and theory and their relationship to education? Yes, several papers,
notably Marion von Ostens work in the area of "curative approaches"
and Annika Blunck and Rebecca Pichts notion of "custom made ready
made," both demonstrate this. But more important than reaching stated
goals, the conference stayed true to its philosophical roots by bringing
together notable, nomadic scholars for the purpose of sharing knowledge,
research, and new visions for the arts, new media, technology, and the