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Rethinking Symposia

As part of the ReGrowing Digital Arts research project with Dr Michael Pierre Johnson, a creative economy researcher based at the Innovation School, The Glasgow School of Art, NEoN recently appointed Nathan Jones to develop a ‘Digital Arts Symposia Provocation’ that can push the boundaries of what academic and arts-based conferences can be.
We caught up with Nathan and he told us a little about himself, and how he will approach this commission.

I am a digital artist and a researcher in new media art at Lancaster Univerity. I regularly publish and practice at the intersection of new media art and language. As well as making my own work, I have produced several symposia and performance events at Tate, FACT, Furtherfield, and Abandon Normal Devices Festival (AND), and from 2010-2016 I curated various performances and new media programmes at Liverpool Biennial. Most recently my focus has been on thinking through new technologies, in particular how they might provide different models for thinking and speaking about new media art in a changing world. Through my work with Torque Editions for example, I have been involved in a variety of discussions around new publishing platforms, from blockchain to artificial intelligence to speed readers.

I responded to NEoN’s call for someone to produce a Digital Arts Symposia Provocation, which I interpreted as an opportunity to respond to the various crises faced by the symposium with a new model for thinking, inspired by the kinds of technology and artistic intervention NEoN has historically championed. I plan to use the provocation research period to develop my notion of “distributed critique”, which I first piloted with The New Network Normal’s Freeport programme in 2018, and wrote about here in PARSE Journal.

One of the major problems I identify in this paper is that new media art processes, objects, methodologies have become increasingly complex and “hard to grasp”. This problem is in fact an opportunity that can ‘spark a [new] public into being’, inviting us to rethink symposia and similar discursive activities at arts festivals towards the kinds of collectivity the world needs now. That is the starting point for my work with NEoN.

In this, I will continue to use distributed computing as a metaphor to structure how conversations can happen between and among different kinds of interest groups, and how the activity of diverse groups of people can be networked and ‘gathered’ by a responsive institution.