ISEA is one of the world’s most prominent international arts and technology events, bringing together scholarly, artistic, and scientific domains in an interdisciplinary discussion and showcase of creative productions applying new technologies in art, interactivity, and electronic and digital media.
For 2020, ISEA Montreal turns towards the theme of Sentience. Sentience describes the ability to feel or perceive. To be sentient is thus to be “capable of feeling,” from the Latin sentientem (nominative sentiens) while “feeling,” the present participle of sentire “to feel,” refers to “being conscious” of something. To feel or perceive something at first seems to suggest that sentience is a uniquely human trait. Yet, sentience implies sensing the world and acting on it across all entities—animal, plant, mineral, environment or machine—rather than cutting things into binaries: human/non-human, animate/inanimate, alive/dead, human/machine, nature/technology.
ISEA2020 will be fully dedicated to examining the resurgence of sentience—feeling-sensing-making sense—in recent art and design, media studies, science and technology studies, philosophy, anthropology, history of science and the natural scientific realm—notably biology, neuroscience and computing. We ask: why sentience? Why and how does sentience matter? Why have artists and scholars become interested in sensing and feeling beyond, with and around our strictly human bodies and selves? Why has this notion been brought to the fore in an array of disciplines in the 21st century?
ISEA2020 invites artists, designers, scholars, researchers, innovators and creators to contribute to this growing discussion about our sentient world and to address the following questions:
– Why sentience now? Why has this ability to feel (or perhaps, inability or underused ability to feel) become crucial to “our” historical present (indeed, whose historical present)?
– What are the histories and geographies, places and non-places, temporalities, processes, specificities and intimacies, residual colonialisms of sentience, as explored in media arts and technological aesthetics?
– Should sentience be a genuine part of a climate or environmental aesthetics and politics?
– Is sentience queer? Is it an alternative to and a deep questioning of human/nonhuman binarism, identity categories and heteronormativity? Does the investigation of sentience redefine queerness? Is sentience an emerging queerness?
– How is sentience investigated in Indigenous media arts, aesthetics, philosophy, humanities and social sciences?
– Is there such a thing as a politics of sentience? Is this politics necessarily progressive? Could it be deceptive? What is sentience’s relationship to power and knowledge?
– How does sentience intersect with ideologies of ability and disability? Who counts as worthy of rights and in what way? What would constitute a neuro-diverse politics and aesthetics of sentience?
– What is the role of sentience in a post-factual world? In the age of neoliberalism and globalization?
-Where are the sites that sentience takes place? In the laboratory, the street, the gallery, the museum, the forest, inside bodies, the planet?
– How does sentience reframe contemporary understandings of artificial intelligence, perception, cognition, and consciousness?
With these questions, contributors are asked to identify their submissions with one or more of the following seven tracks:
- Animality — beyond human sense, liveness, panpsychism and hylozoism in species other than us.
- The Ecosophic World — sentience across scientific, environmental, climate and mental ecologies and their current crises.
- Machinic Sense and Sensibility — autonomy, emergence, artificial life, machine intentionality, learning, perception and agency.
- Sentient Difference — sentience beyond or against norms: “race,” gender, queer, trans, ability/disability, LGBTQ+.
- Matter’s Mattering — bodies, circuits, infrastructures, any matter and how they come to be.
- The Politics of Sentience — post-truth, post-sense, sensorization, surveillance, racism, weaponization, control, inequality and discipline, quantification, globalization, capitalism, neo-liberalism and intense re-bordering.
- The Planetary — the sentient rethinking of the global into a possible reaffirmation of the right to move; the “sharing” of the planet across differences in the context of the migrant crisis.