Author: AK

Media History from the Margins

Retreats are one of my favourite ways “to conference” for both the intellectual work that can be done in this format, and the personal relationships that are inevitably formed after spending a week (or sometimes more!) together.  I was lucky enough to participate this August in the Media History from the Margins summer seminar in Monte Verità, Ascona, Switzerland, which was a definite success on both accounts. As the call originally stated: The summer seminar aims to rethink media history from the margins and to place at the center of our attention neglected, alternative, or censured media texts, uses, and technologies. By shifting the discussion from hegemonic actors, dominant institutions, and successful mass media to the fringes of media history, it pursues the double objective of rewriting media history into media histories, and of opening a space to rethink historiographical practices and methods. The writing of marginal histories is inseparable from a reflection on the modes of operation and politics of historical writing: bringing together established and emerging scholars, the seminar investigates what has been …

CFP – Biometrics: Mediating Bodies

Special issue #60 of PUBLIC: Art/Culture/Ideas Publication Fall 2019 Biometrics refers to the way that bodies are measured and identified. It uses the logic of calculation to reduce the identity of a body to a set of data. In her work on facial recognition, Kelly Gates (2011) reminds us that biometric identification is a way of addressing the “problem of ‘disembodied identities,’ or the existence of visual and textual representations of individuals that circulate independent of their physical bodies,” a situation that has been particularly exacerbated with the rise of media technologies since the nineteenth century. This issue of PUBLIC works to understand the many ways that biometrics reinserts the body into mediated communication. Signatures are one pre-digital example of the ways that we have extracted something produced by the body as a form of authoritative representation. Today, features of the body itself—such as the face, heartbeat, gait, fingerprint, DNA, voice—are used not only by humans to recognize each other, but also as a way to program computers, machines and electronic systems to read bodies …

Spring conferences on recognition

I recently presented some early work thinking working towards a political philosophy of media art that pivots around the technologies, the practices, and the concept of recognition. First at SCMS in March 2018 I gave a talked called “Facial Recognition in Art and Storytelling” as a part of a panel I chaired called “Recognizing Bodies.” Then in May 2018 I participated in a great conference in Copenhagen called EVA Politics of the Machines – Art and After. My talk was called “Emotional Reactions, Empathetic Interactions: A Talk on the Concept of Recognition.”

“Nano-Optical Image-Making” in Leonardo

This article has been a long time coming but it is finally available in online form in Leonardo’s Just Accepted (and on my Academia page). Nano-Optical Image-Making: Morphologies, Devices, Speculations ABSTRACT This article provides a technical overview of nano-optical image-making produced between the author, engineering scientists at the Ciber Lab in Vancouver, and the artists Christine Davis and Scott Lyall. It situates the work in relation to other optical technologies like holographs, to the primary application of nano-optical images as authentication devices, and to other artistic practices interested in nanoscale interactions of light and matter. The paper articulates the convergence of visual technologies and designed materials by explaining how the principles of structural color can be used for the production of images. Building a discussion on the shift from device to medium that is anchored around questions of remediation and reproducibility, it concludes with a speculation on informatic matters, or the convergence of mediating functions at the surface of things.

Artefact Lab

The Artefact Lab is new space for research and exploration in the field of media studies in the Department of Communication at the UdeM. Privileging a reflection on media materialities across scales, time periods, cultures, and practices, the activities of the lab are located at the intersection of the following research axes: Media archaeology and history Technical and biological materials and matters of mediation Imaginaries, representations and cultural dimensions of the technical universe Practices and aesthetics at the crossroads of art and technology, including electronic, media and bio arts Digital infrastructures and emerging technologies Media spaces, environments and milieux Philosophy and epistemology of the arts, science and technology The lab is organized and directed in collaboration with my colleague Ghislain Thibault. It will host monthly meetings of its members and graduate students, reading groups, invited speakers, and other special events. Website

nano-verses website…coming soon

For the past few years I have been working with artists and scientists to explore optics and substrates at the nano scale. The project is called Nano-Verses, and I’m currently working with web designers in Montreal to bring it all together through an accompanying interactive website to launch in early 2018. For now, we have a landing page. Here is a longer blurb on the partnership and the web project: Nano-Verses is an ongoing project working across disciplines to explore optics and substrates at the nano scale. The team of researchers and artists has been working together since 2015 to produce nano-optical objects based on the principles of structural colour to display unprecedented interactions between light and matter. Originally inspired by the nano scale structures that produce the iridescent blue of morpho butterfly wings, nano-optical devices have been primarily developed and used as an authenticating feature by the black-boxed security industry. Working from a desire to open up these technologies, Nano-Verses asks how technical inquiry and innovation mutates when different questions are asked, and how …

Porting Media II

Looking forward to presenting at Porting Media II, happening in Montreal October 12-14. I immediately loved the whole concept for this conference when I saw the call: Porting Media is a conference and workshop that draws on the nuances of the word “port” to investigate the transportation, translation, and reconfiguration of media within particular sites. Porting is a concept and metaphor useful for rethinking discussions of circulation and infrastructure; media transposition (or transmedia); game and cell phone cultures of portability; media archaeological approaches to portable technologies of transmission and telecommunication; and the porting of paradigms of analysis across different geographies and institutions. Thus, porting draws together multiple phenomena that participants will investigate together, in a manner that cuts across these multiple sites of inquiry. My paper is called “Import/Export: Tracking Authenticities in Motion.” I’ll be trying on some new ideas as part of ongoing work on authentication devices.

Spring conferences

I recently presented some early work on my authentication devices research, first at SCMS then at CCA. Below a bit of detail from both. Article version in the works. SCMS March 2017 –  “Security Matters and Devices: Towards an Archaeology of Irreproducible Media” This paper uses and questions the rhetoric of security to propose that systems of legitimation and control demand a continuous supply of black box technologies designed to be secretive, opaque, and extremely difficult to copy. Vigilance over amateur access, technical disclosure, and reproducibility become politicized matters of “national security,” requiring an alternate media history that hinges on a notion of irreproducibility. Excerpt: …The ongoing need to complexify security devices to stay ahead of the copy-er has resulted in a particular alterna-tale within the story of media technologies that is driven not by ambitions of mass production or consumption, by ever-expanding accessibilities and usabilities, but rather by the controlled management and administration of legitimacy. Security devices are not just used by states, but by industries for objects of all kinds: credit cards, circuit …

Audible Walls, Breathing Vaults, and the Fantastic Sites of Re-Imagination

Based on a presentation at the Media Art Histories conference in Riga, Latvia a couple of years ago, the final paper of my longstanding Polish media art project has been published in Acoustic Space #15: Open Fields. Art and Science Research Practices in the Network Society. It looks at the fantastic as a productive mode of re-imagination and re-making, inspired by that famous Shklovsy notion of ostraniene, or defamiliarization. The article turns to Polish media artworks that—through images, experiences, and encounters —are not only strange but also disruptive, challenging the architectures, broadly defined, of the contemporary condition. Dominik Lejman’s Breathing Cathedral (2005) provides a case of a media art practice that harnesses the interplay between materiality and immateriality to re-imagine urban history, civic politics and architectural heritage; in Making the Walls Quake… (2012) Katarzyna Krakowiak creates a space where architecture becomes audible; and in She-Ona: Media Story (2008) Izabella Gustowska produces a fantastical experience of our mediated environment in a way that reflects back on the structures of the digital condition and transforms the technologies …

Polish Media Art in an Expanded Field

Polish Media Art in an Expanded Field (Intellect/University of Chicago Press, February 2016) Publisher’s website Polish Media Art in an Expanded Field situates media art—as technologies, practices, and experiences—in the politics of postsocialist Eastern Europe. It considers how artistic activity became representative of the tensions between global cosmopolitanism and national self-enfranchisement after Poland joined the European Union in 2004. Within this context, the book considers how media artists questioned and reimagined their site—historically, politically, technologically—and situates their works within the specific ecology of Poland’s aesthetic traditions and political history. This expansion of the global history of media art to include Eastern Europe’s heritage explores a key moment in Europe’s political and cultural history that brings together art history and criticism, media and cultural studies, globalization and nationalism studies, and political theory. In order to articulate a site-specific context to an art form often considered as belonging to the “non-place” of a global digital culture, the book proposes a genealogy of Polish media art through the lens of Polish experimentation, one that includes the Constructivists of …

Making and Doing: Cultures of Creativity

A graduate seminar I offered at Ryerson University in Fall 2015. DESCRIPTION This is a course about making. We will be thinking about making, but also making in order to think. We consider current trends around what has been described as “maker culture” or the “Maker Movement.” These communities of “makers” are reviving traditions of craft, the handmade, the open source, and the DIY through practices like knitting, weaving, or woodworking, but also 3D printing, hardware tinkering, and physical or digital hacking. But what is making? We will work through this question first by situating making in the broader history and philosophy of tools and technologies. Why do we make? The concept of critical making will provide us with a way to think about hands-on practice as a form of reflection and analysis, before we consider in particular craft, DIY, and hacking in the context of a renewed attention to materials, objects, and things. The question of community is woven throughout, as it propels the maker “movement” away from the myth of lone inventors. We …

Technologies of Wonder

I chaired a special session panel called “Technologies of Wonder ” for the New Media Caucus at the 2015 College Art Association meeting. The papers were then published in Media-N. The entire issue is available online, including my intro, and my paper on “Seeing Nano: Vision, Optics, and the Sight of Impossible Things.”

Designing Nano-Media Across Disciplines

As part of my Postdoc with SFU, I worked with a lab specializing in nano-optics. One of my interests was to bring artists to the lab to see how we could engage and present this emerging technology in innovative and creative ways. The result was an insert featured in the journal PUBLIC. The story of the project, including technical background, connections with art- and media- making processes, as well as production/manufacturing challenges, are discussed in a paper I presented at ISEA 2015 called “Designing Nano-Media Across Disciplines: Circular Genealogies and Collaborative Methodologies at the Optical Frontier,” which can be found here.

Art in the Public Sphere

I taught this graduate course at OCAD University in Summer 2015. CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION As the mythic narratives of collective unity, nationalism and progress have faltered in the era of postmodernity, what then is the public role of art? This course will examine contemporary art and design as it critiques and reformulates the notions of monument, memory, audience and community. While art and design may serve the ideological interests of institutions, there also lies the potential for intervention and activism as well as a more critical relationship with popular culture. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION The central problematic of this course is the public domain as a zone of contestation, transformation, exchange, and participation. We will begin by examining the relationship between public art and the elusive concepts of “the public” and the public sphere. We will consider the role of public art as a prism through which to understand wider cultural, societal, and political issues and trends. Public implies more than moving outside the gallery, and entails new forms of interaction between artists, audiences, and communities. Some themes …

Cultures of Light from Sun to Screen

I offered this intensive graduate summer course in Spring 2015 at Sensorium, Centre for Digital Arts and Technology at York University. It was devoted to thinking about light in relation to our visual cultures and material practices, continuously exploring the relationship between optics and vision. Derrida described light as the “founding metaphor of Western philosophy”; it is the medium that allows us to see, but that also transforms the way that we see by compelling us to develop practices and technologies that extend our vision. This course explored different epistemological and phenomenological dimensions of light and how they have historically shaped our vision, perception, and knowledge, transformed our landscapes, formed our media technologies, and engaged the arts in myriad ways. The analytical framework developed in the course drew upon an interdisciplinary selection of writings from media studies, visual culture, philosophy, science and technology studies, and film and photography. Throughout the course we investigated light as a medium that is both “pure information,” as McLuhan argued, and invested with numerous other qualities: symbolic, aesthetic, therapeutic. To …