Subtle Technologies Symposium :: Boo Chapple

1 – 4 June 2006, Toronto Canada

The purpose of my trip was to attend the Subtle Technologies Symposium in Toronto, 1st-4th June, where I presented a poster in the symposium exhibition. I was also able to spend some time in Montreal and New York and I stopped over in London on my return journey. In each place I met with curators and other practitioners. In New York I gave a presentation at Eyebeam for Upgrade, New York.

Subtle Technologies is an interdisciplinary art/science event that has been taking place in Toronto since 1998. The theme of Subtle Technologies this year was Responsive Architectures with a strong focus on sound. The work that I presented at the conference was research towards making audio speakers out of bones – a project that l am working on as part of a residency at SymbioticA. There was a fair amount of interest in the work and is was valuable to get feedback from a variety of people with different disciplinary backgrounds. The symposium itself was quite inspirational in the way it managed to bring together artists and scientists. The focus on a common theme meant that a lively dialogue was able to occur, despite the widely divergent backgrounds of the participants. There were many interesting presentations and I was able to make a number of potentially useful contacts.

On the down side I felt that the poster exhibition was not as well curated as it could have been. The only formal opportunity for the poster exhibitors to discuss their work was sidelined by a drinks occasion and none of the poster exhibitors were introduced in the symposium despite most of them having made the effort to attend. It turns out that this is the first year that they have had a poster exhibition, so hopefully these issues will be smoothed out in future. Other issues were that the event was not catered which meant that much opportunity for networking was lost as people had to disperse each meal time to find food, and I feel that there was just too much squeezed into a short period. If the event had been extended by one day there would have been more time for discussion based formats and informal conversation.

During my time in Toronto I was also able to attend the launch of a publication on the work of Cut performance artist Tania Bruguera, as well as several other gallery and performance events.

In Montreal I met with and presented work to a number of people including; Monique Savoie, Director of the Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) and Marie-Christiane Mattieu, the director of Studio XX with whom I discussed the possibility of a residency and involvement in their bi-annual exhibition program HTMelles.

In New York, I gave a talk at Eybeam for Upgrade!, which is part of an international network of discussion forums for art and technology based practice. I presented previous work as well as some of my work in progress from SymbioticA. This led to an interesting discussion about the emerging area of bio-art and about issues that arise in the process of working with science for artistic outcomes. It was very useful for me to receive feedback on the work from a different perspective than what I have been exposed to at SymbioticA and elsewhere in Australia. At Eyebeam I was also able to meet with producer, Margaret Heinlen, to discuss their residency program as well as with resident artists and research feIIows. This enabled me to gauge how some of my projects may fit within the Eyebeam context, should I apply to work there. While in New York I was able to visit the Whitney Biennale and PS1 as well as numerous other galleries, both in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

In London, I met with and presented work to Rob La Frenais of The Arts Catalyst, Kathleen Rogers from the Surrey Institute of Art and Design and Brendan Walker from the Interaction Design program at the Royal College of Art. I was given the opportunity to meet and discuss work with students from this program who had been working on biotech and nanotech project briefs. I also met with Manick Govinda from Arts Admin to discuss potential outlets and opportunities for my work in the UK and spent an afternoon in the Live Art Development Agency study room researching opportunities and UK based media and live art practice. While in London I was able visit the Tate Modern, the Hayward gallery, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Hunterian Museum of Surgery.

Overall,this has been an invaluable opportunity to broaden my understanding of, and connect to, contemporary art practice outside of Australia and to allow me to see and experience things not easily accessible within Australia. The opportunity to meet with and present my work to a diverse array of people will no doubt have important repercussions for my practice in the future. I now have a better understanding of how to situate my practice internationally and a great deal of food for thought to fuel future projects. Unfortunately, most universities and art schools in the northern hemisphere are closed at this time of year for the summer break, which meant reduced opportunities for artists talks. This is something that I shall take into account next time I travel north.

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