[-empyre-] Layers of ISEA2011: Corporate/Financial (Murat Germen)

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Tue Sep 20 19:18:17 EST 2011

I was grateful for the overall messiness of the event. I was staying
with Turkish friends, and was pleased to hear that they heard about
the gallery shows through radio ads for the Biennale, and though they
are not artists or academics they wanted to come with me to see what
it was all about.  I don't know what overall attendance at the ISEA
exhibitions will be, and how much of that will be drawn from the
Istanbul....  but it was the first time that I have gone to a
conference of this sort where there seemed like a realistic
possibility that the academic/artist bubble would be pierced by the
people living in and around the event.  Uncontainable was a theme, and
I felt like it was achieved.

And though some of the logistical difficulties experienced by artists
and scholars getting from event to event were certainly there, I am
glad that this was also a part of the event.  At every turn, I found
that the daily realities of life in Istanbul present in the conference
itself.  Walking through security barriers, spending hours in traffic,
crossing the street with an eye on traffic, riding the buses and
trains, witnessing rather directly just how effectively wealth
stratifies...  these were inescapable realities of the conference.  I
found that the mixed feelings I have all the time...  needing to pay
bills and care for my family, depending on institutions, but knowing
the injustice they often represent, wanting something better, trying
to find what is good about the fine things and what is bad about them,
seeing what is good about the low things and what is bad about them,
too.  There was something madenning about walking into and out of the
towers, and it made the critical experience of the works and the
criticism feel sharper and more acute than any other conference I have
been to.  I could walk into a paper discussion, and get lost in
something light and trivial, and then it would vanish just as quickly
as I left the room.  On the other hand, there are certain experiences
that stuck with me and resonated in a way that might not have, had it
not been for the irresistable power of 15 million people throbbing
like a heart in the center of the world.  For instance, this piece,
http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/dr.montgomery, made me breathe deeply
in and out, wanting my pulse to join with the millions around me, my
blood to flow through the wires and out into the street, and into the
veins of everyone there.  I wanted their pulse to move my heart, to
carry me.  I wanted to cry.  I don't know when the last time I felt
this way about a work of art (it happened at when I was touching Light
Contacts, too).

I know that these thoughts don't critically address the serious issues
raised here....  but the serious issues raised here are the same ones
that magnified these sentiments and blew them all out of proportion
for me.  Instead of spending a couple minutes watching cool
biofeedback, I wanted to my heart to be able to solve every problem
for everyone for all time.  And I think that can only happen when art
confronts reality with such intensity.  I didn't care how the piece
worked or why it was made or what anyone else thought of it.  For a
moment in time, I was a better person.  I don't really know how else
to describe it.

However, I do think that we should do anything and everything to make
events such as these readily available.  Keeping fees down, lining up
institutional support that is consistent with the mission, figuring
out clever ways to get people in the door....  these are important
things to me.  I was only able to go because I am already in Europe
and could afford the out of pocket expense as a result.  But if I were
an independent artist or an adjunct faculty member or had chosen to
attend a different conference this year or did not have friends to
stay with in Istanbul, ISEA would have been unattainable for me.  And,
of course, I felt bad that my hosts wanted to attend my presentation,
but would not have been admitted through the security without
badges.....  on the other hand, they were very happy that the
galleries were open to them.  I don't know if a sliding scale might be
the way to help blunt the costs....  people who have department
budgets that support travel should pay, people with other means should
pay less, and those without should pay nothing.

I'm back in Norway, now.  But I was very happy to see those who made
it!  And I hope that you are enjoying the time in Istanbul as much as
I did.


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