Echoes of an upcoming revolution
Virginie Pringuet

The next edition of the ISEA symposium will take place in the UK. Unlike the previous symposia this be will a tale of two cities, Liverpool and Manchester. The two cities that together formed the cradle of the Industrial Revolution of which they remain a living symbol.

Each city will focus
on a particular theme: Manchester will tackle Revolution while Liverpool will try to get a grip on Terror.

These powerful and historically
charged themes seek to break with the somewhat apolitical stance that has become prevalent in the electronic arts milieu. The symposium will try to raise social and political issues that are relevant to the practice and theory of the electronic arts. It will thereby seek to open a clearer perspective on the status of the electronic arts, technology and science as well as their increasing interdependence in our postindustrial societies.

Taking a radical approach

The initial euphoric discourses
declaring the new technologies a panacea for society and the arts, merely mirrored the messianic messages of the computer industry and investors who glorified the expansion of these technologies into nearly every conceivable sphere of human endeavours. Given the interest at stake here, it seems incumbent upon an international community, such as ISEA, to examine interdisciplinary creative practices and theoretical projects from a more radical and critical point of view.

The power and control which
the new technologies confer upon those who master and produce them, is reactivating an historical debate centring on questions of access and democracy. What kind of power balance are we confronted with today, and which way does technology tip the scales?

Evolution / revolution

The key-ideas of the ISEA98 programme
- Alter Egos, Mind Travel, Media Blast, Bad History, Artificial Intelligence, Revolting - revolve around the various ramifications of the evolution/re-evolution dilemma. The so called digital revolution, vague and hyped as it may be, is in fact transforming our mediascapes and nourishing a composite imaginary that draws both on history and science-fiction. Our vision of the III millennium takes its shape here.

Subversion, 'détournement', activism,
piracy, hacking, cybernetic crash, media war... In a so called "information society" how can one conceive of revolutionary action, what meaning can it still bear? More specifically, what exactly is art's role within the vortex of this evolution/revolution ?

Must revolution of necessity inspire terror?
Or, on the contrary, does terror inexorably lead to revolution? What connections can one make between this fundamental historical notion with its promise of positive change and the universal dread of death. Or is it the end of millennium syndrome which makes us endlessly anticipate the apocalypse, the end of the world?

Join the debate

From a more pragmatic point
of view, can a symposium become a place of debate, a fertile ground for philosophical, or even revolutionary, ideas, the way in which the 18th century French salons, theatres, societies and academies were? In these places ideas travelled from the salons, from the upper echelons, to the middle floor and from there to the street level of the shopkeepers and craftsmen, finally winding down to the basement which housed the "powder kegs". Are the computers in our basements today's powder kegs? How will artists and theorists confront the question, or will they evade the required exercise; for after all since when has anyone ever become a revolutionary by request?

The Montreal ISEA headquarters
invite all interested artists, theorists, activists, curators etc. to debate these explosive issues so that we may lay the groundwork for ISEA98, to be held in Liverpool and Manchester from the 2nd to the 7th of September 1998. Don't be a mere spectator in this upcoming Revolution, participate in the debate.

Translated by Michel Lefebvre and Bernard Schutze