World Report

Technological Aestethics and Artistic Semiosis in São Paulo

By Christina Ljungberg

Notes on the First Congress on Technological Aesthetics, Wearable Computers and Games 2006.

São Paulo, 1-4 June 2006
Organized by Lucia Santaella and Priscila Arantes

In June, Lucia Santaella opened her new Graduate Program Technologies of Intelligence and Digital Design at PUC, the Catholic University of São Paulo, with a congress on Technological Aesthetics, Wearable Computers and Games. Taking as its point of departure the contemporary interrogation of the human body, the congress focused on bodily transfigurations such as cyborgs, man-machine hybridization, genetic manipulation, body digitalization and telepresence. This is an area which art-science has been increasingly investigating by simulating and modeling complex biological behaviors and by exploring genetic algorithms, emergent systems and human-computer interfaces. Games play a vital role in this development as they enable players to expand bodily experience virtually beyond biological boundaries. The four days were organized into lectures, round-tables, parallel and poster sessions. Keynote speakers were Stephen Wilson (San Francisco State University), Winfried Nöth (Kassel University), Christina Ljungberg (Zurich University) and Jim Andrews (net artist, Canada).

Santaella’s inaugural address on the first afternoon was followed by Stephen Wilson’s lecture on “Artists at the Frontiers of Biology Research” in which he explored the historical role of the arts at the edge of culture becoming an independent research zone undertaking investigations ignored by commercial interests and academic science. This topic was further elaborated in a roundtable on cognitive interfaces in art-science discussing the generation of new aesthetic paradigms (Arantes), cognitive interfaces in interactive design (Kutschart), intelligent environments (Cantoni), net theory and artistic creative processes (Hildebrand) and cyberesthetics (Dominguez). A second roundtable focused on scientific research in art such as the aesthetics of computer images (Venturelli), co-developing interfaces (Zuanon), the body as a crossbreed of art and biology (Leote) and art, the net and cognition as poetics of recomposition (Almeida).

Winfried Nöth opened the second morning with his lecture “Cognitive sciences, semiotics, and the arts” in which he argued that, despite the focus on corporality and the embodiment of signs generated by the cognitive turn in semiotics, the disembodiment of signs and its consequences for the processes of artistic semiosis is the new topic on the agenda. The subsequent roundtable discussed performance in cyberspace with contributions on forms of being (Medeiros), behavior stimulating organisms (Fraga), remote controlled bodies (Spanghero) and Commedia dell’Arte and internet surfing (Barros). The afternoon dealt with cybrid spaces in the form of e.g. the dialogue between cypberspace and reality (Machado), interspaces in media art such as transcinemas (Maciel), immersion and “emersion” (Mello), and telematic bodies with contributions on the interface humans/machines (Bidcudo), virtual bodies (Nesteriuk) and digital poetics (Guasque).

On the third morning, Christina Ljungberg investigated how artists, by extending their bodily parameters by augmentation, open up interesting and often disturbing visions of an increasingly prosthetic and biocybernetic future humanity – or post humanity, which also has semiotic implications as to the representation of the body in cyberspace. These concerns were thematized in a roundtable on wireless aestethics such as wearable computers (Beiguelman), mapped and cybrid bodies (Leão), and wireless mobile games (Lemos). The afternoon focused on experimental poetics in digital media (Falci, Minelli, Jesus) and the influence of cyber technologies on fashion (Avelar, Fonseca) and fashion as a creation of vectors and bitmaps (Almeida).

Saturday morning’s lecture by Jim Andrews considered the literariness of video games as several netbased works of digital art use games as and within literary devices, subordinating the videogame dimension to those of literary and visual art. Subsequent roundtables on cognitive models and artistic interface dealt with game interaction (Tavares), new forms of somatic sensations generated by videogame bodily transmutation (Feitoza) or whether to play or not to play (Bastos). The concluding session on “Body transmutations and emerging subjectivities” with contributions on metabodies (Bousso), the body as superproduct (Santoro), “Marvelous men in their flying bodies” (de Carli) and subjectivity in the net (Laurentiz) brought the congress to its vibrant closure.