“Ecological Thinking in Nam June Paik’s Work”
– Isabella Altoé

South Korean artist Nam June Paik, known as one of the founders of video art, is famous not only for his pioneering use of television as an artistic medium but also for endorsing an enthusiastic and positive view of the social effects of new technologies. One of Paik’s major inspirations in that area was Marshall McLuhan’s concept of media ecology, which calls for the understanding of representation systems as interconnected circuits involving people and machines. However, Paik’s ecological thinking also attended to broader concerns about interspecies relations. Inspired by Zen Buddhism, Paik thought of nature and technology as sharing innate qualities, and his writings demonstrate a focus on cybernetics that blurs the boundaries between human and non-human, nature and culture. Along with TV sets, animals and plants have also been used as components in a few of his most notorious pieces. A visit to some of Paik’s artworks made between the 1960s and 1970s invites us to analyze how his production converses with and diverges from current environmental discourses and art practices.

Isabella Altoé is a PhD candidate in the Cultural Studies Program at Queen’s University, Canada, where she researches multispecies relationships in contemporary art. She holds an MA in Social Sciences, and her research interests include food cultures, human and non-human relations, environmental sociology, and collaborative art.

“Impersonation as a Service: Technologies and Practices of Identity Play in Contemporary Media Performance”
– Gabriel Menotti

Recently, avant-pop star Grimes released a website that allows people to use her AI-synthesized voice in their own songs, as if it were a filter. The next version of iOS will come pre-packaged with a similar function, enabling any iPhone user to synthesize their own voice with similar ease. These self-counterfeiting tools seem to participate in a larger trend of virtual impersonation powered by both 3D modelling and machine learning, among which we could also factor Vtubers and the “deepfakes” that graft one actor’s semblance into another’s body. With them, features commonly deemed characteristic of one individual can be conveniently abstracted and even licensed as a platform service. As such, these technologies expand the possibilities of identity play and put a new twist on the meaning of corporate personhood. Is this a glimpse into a future where identity becomes essentially commodified and made into an instrument? Drawing from the history of cartoon bands and poet Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms, this presentation explores what kind of performance practices are encouraged by virtual impersonation technologies, while examining issues associated with the dispossession of one’s own data and the quantification of the self.

Gabriel Menotti is Associate Professor at the Film and Media Department of Queen’s University. He holds a PhD in Media and Communication from Goldsmiths, University of London, and another in Communication and Semiotics from the Catholic University of São Paulo. He also works as an independent curator and artist-researcher in the broad field of moving images. His work on media technology has been published and presented worldwide. He is the author of “Movie Circuits: Curatorial Approaches to Cinema Technology” (AUP, 2019), and co-editor of “Practices of Projection: Histories and Technologies” (OUP, 2020), among other anthologies. He is also one of the coordinators of the Besides the Screen research network and festival, and convenes Museums Without Walls, a curatorial survey on media infrastructures and cultural institutions.