[-empyre-] Missives on ISEA:

Lichty, Patrick plichty at colum.edu
Sun Sep 25 01:30:06 EST 2011

These comments come under a larger contextual framework of having been to ISEAs since 1997.

Ruth, Claudia, Nick, et al:
I agree with the adminition that the landscape is changing in society, cutlural production, and methods of sharing.  First, i ahve almost always been a proponent of independent organization of cultural production, and hav rarely done much event coordination with insitutions, even though i am now part of one.  I think the conversation that Ruth's post puts forth is prescient, brings up some old issues and some new ones.

*Cost/flying/et al. The idea that ISEA's organizational/production structure is unfriendly to the non-insitutional prctioner is an old admonition, and one that will not go away soon.  At the Future Forum, I tried to continue part of the conversation that I joined in with Nick Knouf on Nettime about high fees, access, and support for artists' projects like Claudia, Arzu, et al's Gun project.  A lof of conversation came from this, such as Cynthia Beth Rubin informing me that she passed a series of protocols in ISEA's guidelines to support independent production; ones that evidently went into thin air.  With my call to the Board to support autonomous production strategies and aninsitutional areas of engagement, I mentioned before that Andrea Polli said that the regional initiatives could address this, but I was concerned with the creation of these spaces at the main event.  In addition, Peter Anders graciously told me that he circled my comments in red and underlined them, which I only believe will go that far. For the most part, most of what i heard was how ISEA can strengthen its sponsors and institutional partnerships, which in itself ignores teh real core of current innovation and plays a Masque of the Red Death scenario with the current global socio/politico/environmental climate.  I would like to believe that a conference like ISEA would work to create greater diversity, but I don't expect much.  In fact, I feel that complaining about ISEA is somewhat counterproductive in that we know that the degree of change that will happen is probably quite small.

On the other hand Win Van Der Plas, the grand man of ISEA, told me that Sydney is ISEA's 21st conference, and as such should come of age.  During our talk on the boat, I truly got the feeling that he hears, understands, but also sees the limitations with ISEA.  In addition during the Future Forum, Lanfranco Aceti mentioned that he considered a fee-free conference, but quoted that the the free coffe and refreshments for 1000+ people alone were something like $18,000, which seemed steep.

I sometimes think that holding ISEA accountable is useful, but also sometimes is "barking up the wrong tree".  For example, I love the conference that Eva and Franco Mattes put on every year (The Influencers) which is much more in line with the grass-roots principles being created today.
In short, I think that ISEA is useful, bug for the concerned individuals looking at its problems, I think that a large contingency needs to jump ship and create a new conference using more sustainable practices.

I went to a few, and was generally shocked at how low the attendance was at the panels addressing local artists, although turkish work was mentioned in many panels, which is commendable.  I went to three panels (including my own) dealing with local issues and the attendance was very, very low.

As for the other panels, perhaps I was not in the mood, but I found little revolution in practices going on except for perhaps locative and AR, which I also found a bit shocking.  For this I'll give the benefit of the doubt in saying perhaps I did not go to the right panels.

The Istanbul Bienniale has been an important site for political statement, and this was no different, dealign with the fact that the site was once a munitions plant.  Dealing with Felix Gonzales Torres' work as a framing mechanism for the show, I felt that it was a great homage to this artist, but also that fact that a portion of the work was historical (like Burden's Shoot and photos by WeeGee from the 1940's) left me intrigued and discomfited.  I think to comment more, I need to get The Biennial Reader and go though it before using it as a doorstop (it's that heavy) to get a broader perspective on the different curators' visions of a Biennial, because this Istanbul Biennial seemed, just odd.  The fact that the focus on abject political and social themes gave a proper challenge to my sensibilities, but in some ways I found it overly bleak in places. Perhaps it might have been refreshing to offer historical works as a contextual frame, but at times  I found this frustration.  My favorite body of works was Muntadas' recreations of historical photos.  One pleasant surprise was a tangential exhibition of Tamiko Thiel's pieces commenting on the locale by using 'evil eyes" (nazar g.) as stacks of cannonballs outside the venue, which was very clever.

I apologize for my disjoint writing as I'm really suffering from jetlag, and for me it's 6 in the evening, but 10 am here.

Patrick Lichty
Asst. Professor
Dept of Interactive Arts & Media
Columbia College Chicago
916/1000 S. Wabash Ave #104
Chicago, IL USA
"Sometimes you do things not for the logic of them, but only for the fact that it is the right thing to do, and that is all."

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