Contact is touch and affect; it is a means of forming communities and collaborations; it is a vehicle for contagion; it is a place, an action and an interface.
The participating artists, technologists and scholars in CONTACT address a wide range of topics in their work: from climate change and sustainable food systems to space exploration, social protest, communal healing rituals, forgotten histories, the non-human world and material culture.
They do this through algorithmic music performances, interactive installation, herbal medicine workshops, textile design, immersive theater productions, participatory dance performances, worldbuilding and mindfulness workshops, poetry, wearable sculptures and much much more.
This year’s theme is CONTACT: In the contemporary vocabulary, “contact” is something to be avoided in physical interactions or something perhaps just out of reach in our remote relationships with others. Contact contains the promise of new and continued engagement within communities, among disparate institutions and so-called disciplines.
In lieu of a standard keynote address and in keeping with our focus on Contact, affect, and collaboration, our featured speakers were the members of the Centre for Emotional Materiality: Surabhi Saraf, Laura Hyunjhee Kim, Caroline Sinders, Marcus Brittain Fleming, and Mariah Hill.
This year’s commissioned artists spent the week at Connecticut College, building and finalizing pieces to present at the Symposium, while also meeting with our students and communities. Anonymous Ensemble presented “Llontop,” an installation and poetic theatrical performance that centers Quechua voices, employing cutting edge machine learning to activate objects using augmented reality with podcast-style content specific to the individual gaze of each audience member; Ensemble Pamplemousse performed “Envelop In In,” a composition that explodes the various implications of “shadow,” utilizing common musical tools and orchestration as well as computer self-determination; and Joel Ong showed “In Silence,” a sculptural sound installation using water and bone conduction to convey stories of migration and the Caribbean diaspora of Toronto embodied in migrants to pay tribute to the emotional turmoil through the pandemic.
The Ammerman Center also presented a Contact Exhibition in the Cummings Arts Center galleries (Nov 10–Dec 10), organized by commissioned curator René Cepeda. Highlights included Katerie Gladdys’ “Seedcabinet,” a piece that resembles scientific discourse to invite the audience to dig deeper reflecting upon their role in global and local food systems, and Peter Burr’s “Dirtscraper,” which simulates an underground structure whose ‘smart architecture’ is overseen by artificial intelligences.
Performance highlights included Morgan Green’s “Who Paints,” a durational performance in which the artist paints while being resisted by machines that control parts of her arm and body in the process; and Kathleen McDermott and Monica Duncan’s “How It Slips,” an improvisational performance in public space, and a surreal appropriation of a gesture of violent revealing (flashing) and choreographed seduction (stripping) and a consideration of how femme and queer identifying bodies reveal and conceal themselves in public spaces.
Papers and panel conversations included examinations of AR as a tool for decolonization by Alex Lee, the uses of the cringe in film by Jaimie Baron, and the intersections and subversions of contemporary art and pornography by Cory Wayman.
Finally, workshops included the activism-minded “Poems for a Revolution,” led by members of LabSynthE, collaborative digital world-building by Daniel Lichtman, and the art of livestreaming by Juanita Austin.
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