Science and Technology in Cultural Context
DAW Symposium 2010


Committee & Contact

Overview & Schedule


Innovations Forum


Expanding Cities


Tangible Spiritualities

Digital Screenings

Digitally Asian

ReXpanding Cinema


Scores & Screens

Volumes & Visions

Piano Pataphysics



About Xi'an


Press Reports

Sponsor Infos


Last update: October 05, 2010, at 05:50 AM


Location: Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts
Date & Time: Thursday July 1st to Saturday, July 3rd, daily, times variable
Conference Host: Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts

About the Symposium

The conference unites the diverse topics that manifest in the artworks and the technologies they employ. Although separated into a series of blocks the conference unifies such diverse topics in the arts (realtime scoring, psychogeographics, audio-visual media art, mobile performance, new forms of music video) with the themes related to the technologies that make these possible (digital urban modeling, wearable devices, pervasive computing, wireless sensor networks).


Location: Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts
Date & Time: Thursday, July 1st, 9:00 to 16:00

The Transdisciplinarity thematic at Digital Art Weeks 2010 seeks to explore issues related to hybrid practices that involve, but are not limited to art, music, writing, science, theory, and spirituality. What does it mean to be a transdisciplinary practitioner and how is it possible to achieve genuine hybridity in an era still dominated by specialist disciplines? In a series of talks, performances, installations, demonstrations and hybrid events Transdisciplinarity will illustrate the fertile ground occupied by artists, scholars and scientists who have chosen to work in the cracks between mediums. Forgoing the banal rhetoric of “multimedia” that dominated the end of the 20th in the digital arena, we will instead attempt to illustrate the power of gaining expertise in unfamiliar terrain, of learning the styles, forms and tropes of the other. Pursuing new amalgams that would only be possible by adding one form of expertise to another subject area, Transdisciplinarity will serve as a starting point for discussing our possible transdisciplinary futures.

Steve Gibson and Donna Leishman

Keynote: Transliteracy: Crossing Divides
Prof. Sue Thomas, Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, UK

Talk: Creating a Transdisciplinary Research Institute: the Institute Of Creative Technologies at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.
Prof. Andrew Hugill, Director, Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, UK

Talk: This Is Not A Game
Donna Leishman, Programme Director, Illustration, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, Scotland

Talk: Prolonging Software Life for Digital Art Systems
Hongji Yang, Software Technology Research Laboratory (STRL)/Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, UK

Talk: The Art of Mobility
Prof. Martin Rieser, Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, UK

Talk: Game Arts and Ludic Society
Prof. Margarete Jahrmann, Department of Interactive Design, Zurich University of the Arts

Related Events
→ Piano Pataphysic
→ The Third Woman

"Panel Discussion with MA Qinyun"

Location: Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts → more info
Date & Time: Thursday, July 1st, 16:15

Artificial Life and Virtual Suburbia

In 1987, Christopher G. Langton, an American computer scientist coined the term “Artificial Life” (AL) and used it to a describe a new discipline of studying man-made (often digital) systems that exhibit behaviors characteristic of natural living systems. Langton spoke of creating “life-as-it-could-be” with software, Soft AL; hardware, Hard AL; and now synthetic biology offers Wet AL solutions to the notion of creating life or “hacking” existing life forms to instrumentalise them for human benefit. Some theorists even talk of “uploading,” which is the idea that our consciousness, or some part of it, could exist indefinitely in a virtual environment or storage facility of some kind.

AL has to exist in an environment. As SL shows, the creation of the environment is a significant part as well as a motivator for using it. Thus the creation and modification of the environment becomes as important as "living" in it. Actually, large-scale environment sculpting by individuals is a new form of self-representation not possible before.

Do virtual world technologies like Second Life represent an example of AL? How does the wide spread use of online avatar identity impact our sense of self and our sense of being human? What challenges do virtual world and other social networking technologies present to existing institutions? Can we define the boundary between the physical and the virtual?

This panel will debate these and other questions raised by AL in the context of emerging art, cultural and educational technologies.

Moderator: WANG Yifan, PhD Candidate of University of Victoria

Introductory Statment: MA Qinyun, Dean, USC School of Architecture

Panel Members:
Simon Schubiger, ETH Zurich, CTO Procedural Inc
John Craig Freeman, Emerson College
HE Dan, Xi’an Academy of the Arts
Anna Dumitriu, Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics

"Re-Expanding Cinema"

Location: Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts → more info
Date & Time: Friday, July 2nd, 13:45 to 18:15

Re-Expanding Cinema will feature new forms of audio-visual media art from a diverse body of artists and sound practitioners. New forms of audio-visual hybrids will be explored including: mobile audio performance; synaesthetic performance; DJ/VJ performance; sound-based installation; live video and sound; web-based audio and multimedia; new forms of music video. The proliferation of audio technologies, audio-visual collaboration, and hybrid forms of live performance in the new millennium is striking. Audio and video artists are exploring the areas of mobility, virtuality, performance, and audience interaction from an experimental point-of-view. Artists and practitioners working in audio or audio-visual based new media will present research in a broad range of audio-visual practices.

Art Clay and Steve Gibson

Keynote: The Mega Pixel. New Medium, Or Just a ‘Shinier’ Surface?
Peter Richardson, Programme Director, Time Based Art & Digital Film, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, Scotland

Talk: Spatial and Physical Art
Steve Gibson, Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, UK

Talk: New Understandings of the concepts of the mimetic and the diegetic in the creation of Art
Terry Flaxton, AHRC Senior Research Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts, University of Bristol, UK

Talk: Exploring Digital Space in Musical Performance Art
Lily Dai, Shanghai Music Conservatory

Panel: Social Psychology And Digital Aesthetics
Moderator: F. Scott Taylor (CAN) Panelists: Ted Hiebert (CAN), Margarete Jahrmann (AUT), Donna Leishman (GBR), Martin Rieser (GBR), Sue Thomas (GBR)

Related Events
→ Exploding, Plastic and Inevitable Redux
→ Expanded Cinema Screening

"The Intangible Materialism and The Tangible Spirit: Contemporary Art and Spirituality"

Location: Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts → more info
Date & Time: Saturday, July 3rd, 9:00 to 16:45

In 1911 the abstract artist, metaphysical theorist and synaesthete Wassily Kandinsky wrote:

When religion, science and morality are shaken . . . and when outer supports threaten to fall, man withdraws his gaze from externals and turns it inwards. Literature, music and art are the most sensitive spheres in which this spiritual revolution makes itself felt. They reflect the dark picture of the present time and show the importance of what was at first only a little point of light noticed by the few. Perhaps they even grow dark in their turn, but they turn away from the soulless life of the present toward those substances and ideas that give free scope to the non-material strivings of the soul. (Concerning the Spiritual in Art or The Art of Spiritual Harmony)

Nearly one hundred years later, global culture finds itself in a similar condition, and electronic art continues to seek similar goals through exploring the virtual in art. Computer processing and digital networks are now able to create virtual environments that blur and remove the traditional distinctions of interior and exterior space. Haptic interfaces now immerse participants in the inside-out of the human, artistic and cultural experience. But what does this portend for the practicing artist and for culture at large?

Participants of the Xian Conference will address modern inquiry regarding plastic and electronic art to help discover and articulate the “inner resonance” of contemporary art. Through such investigation, Eastern, Western and global perspectives will be discussed upon how leading-edge media facilitates the spiritual in art and initiates new domains of communication. This unique conference will present the observations and goals of theorists, historians and art practitioners who have been influenced by global art culture, especially with those artists whose work is concerned with spiritual ideals. Various papers, panels and discussions will reveal knowledge ranging from religious iconography and the iconoclastic to investigations of spiritual representation and practice in contemporary art and new media so that global culture might again more fully intuit inner necessity and see through “spiritual eyes.”

Doug Jarvis, Arthur Clay, Yi Fan Wang

Keynote Bhutoparikalpo'sti, Unreal Imagination Exists
F. Scott Taylor, Communications Theorist & Author

Talk: The Wonderland of Virtual Reality
Yi Fan Wang, Visual Arts, University of Victoria, BC Canada

Talk: When am I? Avatars as a Persistence of Form
Doug Jarvis, University of Guelph, ON Canada

Talk: The Emergence of Consciousness
Anna Dumitriu, University of Brighton. England

Talk: Imaginary Selves and Impossible Solutions
Ted Hiebert, University of Washington Bothell

Talk: The Church According To Marchall McLuhan tentative
Art Clay, University of the Arts Zurich, Switzerland

Talk': Virta-Flaneurazine Clinical Trial Results
Will Pappenheimer and John Craig Freeman

Related Events
→ A Swiss Re Mix

Talk Abstracts (in alphabetic order)

The Performative Surround

Art Clay

The term „Performative Surround“ is an artistic derivative of a term, the Technological Surround which is widely used in comminciation theory to refer to global network of new elcectronic communciations methods. The Performative Surround refers however to a form of modern “Gesamtkunst”, which is concerned with the use of the electronic enhancement in the performing arts and the technology that drives it. Here, electronic media is employed to articulate the performer’s presence through the possibilities of the multi-sensuality of electronic media. Also, the possibilities of blurring the divide between public and performer to bond them through powers of dissemination and inclusion as well as how communication between both performer and public can be interactively networked in real time through various forms of computer enhanced dialoging are native elements for creating a performative surround. The communication theory behind the concept of the Performative Sorround & the technological surround can be applied in various private and public spaces and can provide the basis for the possibility of breaking down the “public-performer” divide on even a networked global level.

Exploring Digital Space in Musical Performance Art

Lily Dai

The research presentation is concerned with digital space in the application of music & performance art. The theoretical analysis is based on theories of digital space in art and how digital space is realized in performance. Through this case study, a generalised musical theory of digital space will demonstrate an innovation new performance practice.

The Emergence of Consciousness

Anna Dumitriu

The “Emergence of Consciousness” project is a collaboration between artist Anna Dumitriu, philosopher and a computational neuroscientist.

The project draws together rigorous practice-based artistic methodologies and scientific research to attempt to investigate the notion of conscious experience from a philosophical point of view, inspired by perspectives of embodiment (Varela, Thomson and Rosch, 1992) and situatedness (Brooks, 1991) in evolutionary robotics and neural network learning systems. An outcome will be a new performance artwork using sensory and movement deprivation (e.g. blindfolds, physical restraints etc) and augmentation to reflect physical developments in the human body (from infancy to old age). It will create an embodied representation of how experience might be constructed, through physical interaction with the environment and other performers, and the emergence of shared beliefs.By taking on the role of a robotic agent the artist will try to begin to understand her own mind in new ways and by working with a scientist and a philosopher meaningful interactions can develop with the potential to produce innovative outcomes.

The project is funded by Arts Council England and The Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics at The University of Sussex.

New Understandings of the concepts of the mimetic and the diegetic in the creation of Art

Terry Flaxton

Until now, in the West, appreciation of the nature of art was derived from archaic and classical values. This was then augmented with the rise of modernism which introduced the ‘interpretation’ of art as meaningful and significant because of its value when interpreted. But new digital technologies are changing the parameters of the discussion about what matters in terms of the display and exhibition of art. By examining new ideas of ‘entrainment’, where immersivity, resonance, and synchronicity and direct response become the factors that reveal art to a contemporary audience, I wish to re-examine how an art object or event functions with special regard to the identity of digital high-resolution technologies. As the worldwide audience develops beyond cultural definitions presented by either East or West this paper seeks to examine and reveal new ideas and concepts around the production, distribution, exhibition and display of art.

Spatial and Physical Art

Steve Gibson

Focusing on his work for body-based interactive systems, Steve Gibson will present the concepts, technologies and politics behind his pieces Grand Theft Bicycle, Virtual DJ and Exploding, Plastic and Inevitable. Outlining a strategy of radically active user participation, Gibson will present an ideology and aesthetic that is distinct from couch-potato point-and-click interaction. Simultaneously he will demonstrate that technique, concept and politics are not diametrically opposed to each other but form a core of creating meaningful digitally-based art.

Imaginary Selves and Impossible Solutions

Ted Hiebert

There are times when it's not enough to be realistic, moments when statements such as always or never fail to be convincing, instances when one must exaggerate or over-emphasize or simply lie in order to accurately represent the stakes of a question. Such questions, of course, are no longer simply questions but gambles, attempts to commit to an absurdity, an impossibility, a manifestation of that which shouldn't happen but does so anyways. These are aesthetic moments, moments where probability as a scientific endeavor fails to represent the actuality of the moment -- fails precisely because the scientific solution is always reducible to its own possibility. Yet, for these aesthetic moments there are impossible solutions, represented by the imaginary manifestation of probabilities greater than one, or less than zero -- that which happens more often than always, or less often than never -- quixotic terms that are nevertheless more representative of the moment than a science could ever hope to be. Part theoretical speculation, part artist talk, this presentation will seek to give shape and form to the plausibility of impossible solutions as a symptom of imaginary engagement in an electronic era.

Creating a Transdisciplinary Research Institute. the Institute Of Creative Technologies at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.

Andrew Hugill

The Institute Of Creative Technologies (IOCT) was established in 2006 to sit at the intersection of research in science and technology, the arts and humanities. Since its inception it has initiated over one hundred projects involving around ninety researchers and generated millions of pounds in external income. All IOCT research is either interdisciplinary (applying the methods from one discipline to another), multidisciplinary (teams from various disciplines combining to investigate a research question) or transdisciplinary (across and beyond all disciplines). This talk charts the conception, implementation and challenges of such an institute, tackling questions of structural and cultural barriers, funding and institutional support, impact and future planning.

When am I?

Doug Jarvis

Avatars as a persistence of form is a discussion of the avatar in a contemporary art context. Avatars are modeled on ancient manifestations of gods and in a Nietzschean ‘post-death of god’ world, digital representations of humans outside of the corporeal body start to take on spiritual significance. I will not argue that this is where the spirit resides, but that these forms borrow from ancient systems of suspending existence and agency outside of the suburban human form. Building on this, I will explore how we are now able to program our own information agents, digital avatars, contributing to the synthesis of our material and non-material selves. I will discuss my work with Second Front, an avatar performance art group in Second Life and how our group actions exercise aspects of controlled environments to test and challenge the parameters of those environments themselves, establishing notions of shared presence and agency. This will support my current research on ghosts and other non-material entities as audience for my artwork.

This Is Not A Game

Donna Leishman

“At its most direct, interstitial design insists and expatiates upon the materiality of expression. It embodies precisely the opposite of ‘seeing through,’ in that it holds forth its own mediation, along with that of other texts, for relentless inspection…’ (Moulthrop, 1999 in Style vol. 33 no. 2, pp. 186).

As a practitioner and researcher I find myself straddling betwixt and between the fields of art, design, electronic literature and games studies. Neither fully a member of one but rather a permitted 'other', this position at times makes me a person of curiosity, of suspicion and worth interrogation. Using the ongoing debate around the aesthetics of interaction, this presentation will discuss my primary experiences of being trans-disciplinary and the associated positives and pitfalls. Exploring a mix of contemporary practice and theory, I will go on to present an argument as to why journeying between disciplines can be productive, and indeed offer some life saving techniques.

A functional trans-disciplinarian practitioner, ideally within a team, has the potential to become an intermediary between research and production, to deduce scenarios and strategies, to interject provocations into aging fields, to diminish our ability to look through a glass darkly.

Talk: Game Arts and Ludic Society

Margarete Jahrmann

This talk will synthesize how the coinage of the term Ludics emerged from a combination of the arts practice of the author, with a theoretical and historic analysis of Ludic Interfaces and contemporary ubiquitous technologies. The research question deals with the heightened requirement of play affordances in the uses of technological objects of everyday life. An original element of this thesis is that this question informed a methodology of intervention in the arts of play. In addition, this conclusion will suggest the potential impact of Ludics for future applications in social intervention through play affordances in, for example, arts-research, social design, cultural and technological studies. Firstly, the analysis undertaken in this thesis detects a severe lack of enjoyment – the neglect of the concept of Jouissance - but foremost of political consciousness, in the introduced methods of games research. This is in opposition to a rising, technologically informed, play culture in everyday life. Secondly, this talk aims to provide a toolbox for new forms of analysis and activism of playfulness cultures, which overcomes these ascertained lacks in the existing field of studies of games and play. Thirdly, this convergence finally results in the claim for the Ludics field, as a specific method and assigned agency based on playfulness and game arts.

Virta-Flaneurazine Clinical Trial Results

Will Pappenheimer and John Craig Freeman

Virta-Flaneurazine (VF) is a potent programmable mood-changing drug for online virtual worlds. It is identified as part of the Wanderment family of psychotropic drugs because it automatically causes the user to aimlessly roam the distant lands of worlds like Second Life. VF was developed to treat Wanderlust Deficit Disorder (WDD), or Internet Addiction as it is sometimes known, an increasingly common disorder characterized by long hours of rote repetitive Internet use and the inability of individuals to depart from their daily routines in both their physical and virtual lives. As the prograchemistry takes effect, users find themselves erratically teleporting to random locations, behaving strangely, seeing digephemera and walking or flying in circuitous paths. Two years ago the *doctors/artists complete the laboratory synthesis of VF and began clinical trials, first at Fringe Exhibitions in Los Angeles in September of 2008 and then at ISEA in Belfast in August 2009. The clinical trials included an installation and participatory performance that dispensed and evaluated the drug’s effects on volunteer subjects. The results from the first two studies have been compiled and are ready for peer review. In addition to the presentation of these results, the *doctors/artists will continue the clinical trials in Xian.

The Mega Pixel. New Medium, Or Just a ‘Shinier’ Surface?

Peter Richardson

In 1881 Hendrik Willem Mesdag unveiled the ‘Panorama Mesdag’ - a cylindrical painting 14 meters high and 120 meters in circumference depicting the coastal village of Schevenigen. The high definition era had begun.

In this talk I survey the diverse forms of visual representation afforded by high definition imaging technologies and examine their use by artists and filmmakers, making particular reference to the interpretation of music and sound within the music video form. The Scopitone, Cinebox and Color Sonics systems of the 1950’s brought visual representations in 16mm of recording artists’ performances to wider audiences. Throughout the eighties and nineties MTV was the broadcast exhibition space for the art form as well a its principle distribution system. You Tube, Vimeo and myspace continue this tradition. Until the early 2000’s 16mm film remained the default medium for music videos. Using examples ranging from Billie Holliday to the Beatles via the Butthole Surfers I argue that it is new methodologies and in particular Hi Definition and the ‘mega pixel’ that will alter the course of the genre, not new distribution systems.

The Art of Mobility

Martin Rieser

This paper will examine and critically align a number of projects using mobile and pervasive technologies, which have challenged the design and delivery of mobile services from around the world, as documented on the author’s weblog and forthcoming book Mobile Audience. The examined range of artist’s work in locative media also raises key questions on the underlying conceptual frameworks necessary for an effective locative experience.

Bhutoparikalpo'sti, Unreal Imagination Exists

F. Scott Taylor

The art-scientist provides synthesis for disparate arts and science specialties by inventing new analogies among them for serious contemplation. In this presentation, a provisional, trans-disciplinary cosmology is provided to examine the current state of digital “info-aesthetics” in terms of art, science and spirituality. The Buddhist “void” or “unreal imagination” as described by Maitreya, The Buddha to Come, is compared to the Physics of The Cosmic Commode (which includes “The Black Hole”) as well as to how artists and scientists have illustrated this parallel. In the first of two sections the “unreal imagination” is described and defined in terms of the pluralist imagination of our times. Then background on the Physics of The Cosmic Commode is furnished with additional commentary on analog and digital approaches to the nature of human reality. This is concluded with a model illustrating the integration of the terms introduced towards a general creative and critical imagination appropriate for our times. The second section provides examples from art-science which lend credibility to the thesis that the “info-aesthetics” of global techno-culture can be analogically related to theories of The Black Hole. Underlying the inquiry is the question of whether “info-aesthetics” can be represented in iconic form when computational networks involve dynamic, non-visual processes. Paradoxically, is hyper-visual culture disappearing into a digital black hole? Is global techno-culture caught in the real-time “event horizon” of a pervasive “Culture of The Black Hole”? While such questions are left open, a substantial number of artists and scientists appear to be representing just such a world-view.

Panel: Social Psychology And Digital Aesthetics

Moderator: F. Scott Taylor
Proposed Panelists: Ted Hiebert, Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts, University of Washington Bothell. Margarete Jahrmann, Professor for Game Design and Ludic Studies, University of Arts Zurich. Donna Leishman, Course Leader in Illustration, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. Martin Rieser, Professor of Digital Creativity, Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University. Sue Thomas, Professor of New Media, Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University.

The panel will discuss some of the most salient features of aesthetics regarding the social psychology or social/personal interplay of digital art and aesthetics. The discussion will particularly explore Ramachandran’s eight neuroaesthetic heuristics (experiential rules), but will also include peripheral discussion of McLuhan, Adorno, Schmidhuber and Zeki. The emphasis on neuroaesthetics acts as a means to ground more general exploration. Areas of expertise demonstrated by the panelists include Transliteracy; Lacanian Psycho-Analysis; Multi-Semiotic, Interactive Literary Art; Multimedia Performance; Digital Game Art, as well as general knowledge of digital aesthetics.

The panel will discuss contemporary concerns regarding the social psychology of digital aesthetics.

Transliteracy: Crossing Divides

Sue Thomas

The concept of transliteracy has been developed by the Transliteracy Research Group at the DMU Institute of Creative Technologies to assist understanding in a transdisciplinary environment. It is the literacy of convergence, connecting many diverse disciplines, cultures and technologies from the past, present and future. Transliteracy is currently defined as the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. It has attracted attention from a range of areas including digital arts and writing, information science, language studies, e-learning and new media publishing. This talk introduces the concept and invites debate and discussion. For links and resources please visit

The Wonderland of Virtual Reality

Yi Fan Wang

Virtual reality, rather than simply being understood as a technology, is an ambitious attempt in which human beings challenge the outer material world and the inner sensational world. In the scientific realm, it has been used widely in different areas such as military training, medical practice, architectural modeling, etc. Artists, as “the only person able to encounter technology with impunity,” were immediately aware the technical advantage of VR and have used it as a powerful tool to facilitate experimental artistic practices. This talk will primarily focus on the development of VR from the perspective of the arts. I will illustrate how Wagner’s original concept of Gesamtkunstwerk has evolved and influenced contemporary VR art works, for instance Char Davies’ Osmose. It will also cover a discussion of art and technology, and furthermore will address my current study of the direct experience obtained from Buddhist meditation practice and from immersive VR environments.

Prolonging Software Life for Digital Art Systems

Prof. Dr. Hongji Yang, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

In the Digital Britain strategy published in June 2009 by the UK government, one of the stated aims is to enable Britain to be a global centre for the creative industries in the digital age, delivering an ever-wider range of quality content, including public service content. Software is playing a vital role in Digital Era. Software is presently very complicated to develop and maintain. Controlling software systems in order to allow them to run reliably, economically and correctly in a project's life cycle poses a challenging task. This talk will cast insights on prolonging software life for digital art systems.

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Page last modified on October 05, 2010, at 05:50 AM