MIDAS Symposium and Performance (18 July 2014)

'Landscape' - Bryony May Kummer-Seddon Photographer: Lewis Allan Gibson-Grainger

‘Landscape’ – Bryony May Kummer-Seddon
Photographer: Lewis Allan Gibson-Grainger

The MIDAS Symposium and Performance was the third event in a series of four. This event took place on the 18th July 2014, led by Professor Sue Broadhurst. It was hosted by Brunel University, held in the nice and spacious Antonin Artaud Building AA001. It included a mix of presentations, activities, and discussion to explore the synergies, challenges, and potentials for new interdisciplinary insights into the digital and embodiment. Find below the presentations that took place.


‘Interrogating Embodiment, Aliveness & Agency in Digital Spaces’ by Stelarc

Stelarc is Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, SODA, Curtin University Perth. Stelarc explores Mixed and Augmented Realities. He has performed with a Third Hand, a Stomach Sculpture, Exoskeleton and a Prosthetic Head. He is surgically constructing and stem-cell growing an ear on his arm that will be internet enabled. In 2010 he received a Special Projects Grant from the Australia Council and was also awarded the Ars Electronica Hybrid Arts Prize. Publications include Stelarc: The Monograph, Edited by Marquard Smith, Forward by William Gibson (MIT Press 2005). Stelarc is currently a Distinguished Research Fellow and Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art (SODA) at Curtin University. In 1996 he was made an Honorary Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh and in 2002 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Monash University, Melbourne. His artwork is represented by the Scott Livesey Galleries, Melbourne.

Abstract: ‘Interrogating Embodiment, Aliveness & Agency in Digital Spaces’

This presentation is part of a series of talks on Body and the Digital: Approaches to interdisciplinarity, embodiment and performance, discussed during the day.

Faces are flickering, bodies are re-loading. Memories are transplanted, desires are re-coded, task envelopes are inflated. Fluid time, freeze frame. Connected but compressed. Static hissing. A remote manipulator is actuated. Tele-existent absence. Nobody is here, nothing has to be, everything is automated. Everyone is synchronised. Possibilities are collapsing. Cognition is augmented. Floating signifiers, liminal spaces. Absent and indifferent, someone somewhere reconsiders, reconfigures and quickly recedes. Simply. A muscle twitches, an eye scans, a finger swipes, a mouth prompts, an extra ear quivers. Excessively. Everything is becoming. Nothing is happening. Something finishes, nothing starts. Surveillance algorithms proliferate, hysteria is detached and deployed incrementally. Time to forget. Occasions not to remember. Inevitable regrets. Anamorphic anxieties. Thinking stretches then subsides. Spinning slowly, sighing with expectation. Amputated avatars. Phantom flesh. Never born, yet to die. Misplaced expectations and partially living chimeras of meat, metal and code. Contestable futures.

As biological bodies we perceive and operate in local spaces. And this has meant being situated in proximity to other bodies. To become aware and intelligent agents we need to move in the world. The body constructs its environment through its experience of undulating surfaces, textures and unexpected structures – from multiple viewpoints. Our musculature and nervous system determines our strength for tasks, our dexterity in manipulation and our speed of locomotion. Now, our identity and capabilities are no longer determined by our physiology but rather by our connectivity. Imagine hearing with the ears of someone in London, whilst seeing with the eyes of someone in New York, whilst someone from Tokyo is simultaneously accessing my body and remotely actuating it. This body becomes a host for multiple agents. Its sensory experience is beyond the boundaries of its skin and beyond the local space that it inhabits. Our interface and access to machines, instruments and computational systems determine our effectiveness and cognition. Clad in senors, stick-on circuitry and wirelessly connected, our bodies are immersed in data streams and virtual systems. We are increasingly expected to perform in Mixed and Augmented Realities.

‘Interrogating Embodiment, Aliveness & Agency in Digital Spaces’ Presentation by Stelarc from MIDAS_LKL on Vimeo.


‘Soft Circuits, Smart textiles and Mobile Video in Participatory Performance’ by Dr Camille Baker

Camille is an artist-performer/researcher/curator within various art forms: participatory performance and interactive art, mobile media art, tech fashion/soft circuits/DIY electronics, responsive interfaces and environments, and new media curating. She has fascination with all things emotional, embodied, felt, sensed, the visceral, physical, relational, and participatory projects, that involve video, communication devices and biofeedback. Her PhD research, with the SMARTlab Digital Media Institute, involved social mobile VJing called MINDtouch, as part of research on Liveness and Presence in mobile performance media. Camille has presented internationally: The Future of Art and Computing: A Post-Turing Centennial Perspective Symposium – AISB Conference, Goldsmiths College, April 6-8, 2014; ICT 2013, Vilnius, Lithuania, November 6-8, 2013; EVA Conference 2013, London; ACM Creativity and Cognition, June 17-21, 2013, Sydney, Australia; TekStar Art and Technology Festival, June 14-16, 2013, Byron Bay, Australia; (ISEA) International Symposium of Electronic Art 2013, June 8th-16th, 2013, Sydney Australia; Becoming Nomad: Hybrid Spaces, Liquid Architectures and Online Domains, April 10, 2013,University of York St John, York, UK; Exhibiting Performance Conference, University of Westminster, March 3rd, 2013; and many more.

Abstract: ‘Soft Circuits, Smart textiles and Mobile Video in Participatory Performance’

This presentation was part of series of talks on Body and the Digital: Approaches to interdisciplinarity, embodiment and performance, discussed during the day. In this talk, Camille examines her current artist practice and research with a focus on working with soft circuits, smart textiles and mobile video in participatory performance. Emphasis in talk will be on the ongoing collaborative project ‘Hacking the Body’ (now Hacking the Body 2.0) with Choreographer/Media Artist Kate Sicchio, which examines the practice of computing hacking and how choreography and participatory performance can be shaped by its ethos, methods and approaches. The conceptual framework, examines current rhetoric on personal code and data collection in the modern world to extend and question a variety of parameters of the states of the human body. ‘Hacking the Body’ also explores emerging technological tools and devices to find new ways to devise engaging performances as artists, and as a means to make immersive experiences for audiences and participants. Dr Baker also discusses her earlier artist projects, such as her Masters project the Dream Pod, PhD research MINDtouch, or the incomplete Video Love Letters project, which all led to or influenced this work. Baker will also briefly discuss the EU FP7 FET funded project FET-Art/ICT & Art Connect, that she was the Principle Investigator for this past year, and which helped progress Sicchio’s other choreographic work, with knock on effect to their collaborative work.

‘Soft Circuits, Smart textiles and Mobile Video in Participatory Performance’ Presentation by Dr Camille Baker from MIDAS_LKL on Vimeo.


‘Becoming virtual’ by Dr Olinkha Gustafson-Pearce

Olinkha Gustafson-Pearce is module leader and lecturer in Graphic Communication in The School of Engineering and Design at Brunel University. She studied Graphic Information Design at Westminster University, and completed her doctoral research work in Information Architecture at Brunel. The focus of her research work is Information Architecture, with an emphasis on structure and navigation in Virtual Learning Environments, primarily virtual worlds. She is project leader of virtual Brunel, which is the Brunel University Web 3D site. As such, she has conducted research into how to build effective virtual spaces for both education and public engagement.She is a founding member and fellow at the Human Centred Design Institute.

Abstract: ‘Becoming virtual’

Since the 1980s cyberspace or the ‘digital realms’ have become ubiquitous across the globe. Through computers, mobile phones and tablets, we increasingly spend more of our lives living in cyberspace. In the early days, only science fiction created ‘virtual’ human ‘forms’, we ‘ordinary’ humans had to make do with a text username on the various sites and platforms we inhabited. Although these are still our main way of engaging with the various systems, since the advent of 3D virtual worlds, we can also have an avatar who represents ‘us’ as ‘beings’ in the cyberspaces of virtual worlds. The avatar is usually ‘customizable’ and the individual personalizes it to fit their perception of the character they feel represents ‘them’ in that domain. Many people spend a large number of hours designing and altering their avatar and it becomes their main interface with the virtual world. As an avatar we are unique and instantly recognizable (if we want to be) to our colleagues and friends, and we can indeed spend a large part of our lives, living through the experiences of our avatar. But what is our avatar? How do we relate to it? Is it simply a tool, or, is it something more?


Performance by Dr Dani Ploeger

Dr. Daniël Ploeger is an artist and theorist. His work involves consumer technologies and readily available medical devices, and explores themes around technologized bodies, ecology, sexuality and vanity. Dani’s artwork has been featured in galleries and festivals throughout Europe, North-America and China, and his writing has been published in journals and books in the field of digital art and cultural studies. Dani is Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for Performance Arts at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. He is also Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded research project “Bodies of Planned Obsolescence: Digital performance and the global politics of electronic waste,” which will include workshops, symposia and exhibitions in China, Nigeria and the UK during 2014-15.

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