The Ethics and Politics of Virtuality and Indexicality
CongressCATH 2005, the fourth of a promoted by CentreCATH, will take place in Bradford, UK from the 30th of June to the 3rd of July 2005, at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television
The invited speakers are:
Katherine Hayles, University of California, Los Angeles
Brian Massumi, University of Montreal
Martha Rosler, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University
Samuel Weber, Northwestern University
Paul Willeman, University of Ulster
Hyped by the techno-enthusiasts and cybersurfers, virtuality is both a qualitatively new dimension of cultural practice and experience and a continuing, if shifting, term of human practice - writing is virtual, thought is virtual, psychic structures are virtual. The current opposition of virtuality to materiality or the contrast between older technologies of representation and information to newer ones are in need of critical re-evaluation. Opposing virtuality to indexicality insists upon the problematic of semiosis and representation but returns us to ethical and political questions about the production and dissemination of meanings and the processes of creative intervention in a rapidly shifting moment of technological, economica, political and social transformation. CentreCATH aims to intervene by bringing together in a transdisciplinary forum competing theorists and practioners to debate the tensions and politics of indexicality and virtuality.
The core areas we shall be investigating are: Narratives of the Web; Creative and Critical Art and Digitality; Philosophical Reflections on the Virtual; Global Networks and their Politics; Crises of History, Truth and Knowledge; Gender, Sexual and Cultural Difference and the Cyborg World Revisited; the Post-Human, Body, Mind and Psyche; History in the Age of New Technologies; Chaos, Turbulence and Liquid Theories of Modernity; Space, Place, Index and Virtual Creation; Democracy: Economy, Rethinking Indexicality and Representation.
The theme was suggested by Paul Willemen about the work of May Kelly in which he discussed recent videos/films in which the look of historical authenticity could be fabricated by the digital manipulation of imagery. In the moment of such technological virtualisation of image-world-making how could film makers or artists retain or create something that, in the semiotic terms of Charles Pierce, indexes the real, the social, and the historical? How do we know what is true or actual after the radical dissolution of the relations of representation that have been under extreme pressure since the beginnings of industrial capitalism as registered in the deep structure of modernist arts and literatures which pushed to the limits the dislocation of representation and its referents. A second point of entry comes through the debates about aesthetics ‘after Auschwitz’ or catastrophe in which the overwhelming character of the ‘real’ of genocidal atrocity refuses all representation - as re-presentation.
Virtuality is at the same time a creative tool in a range of modellings and scientific explorations of worlds that can be theoretically imagined but not tested according to traditional scientific models of observation. The visual imagination and the design of virtual worlds is a major area of creativity at the intersection with technology anticipated and explored in advance by science fiction while what was before considered imaginary now becomes a virtualised real accessed through digital technologies. Questions of the status of the body and its foundation for human thought and experience are also key to this debate and the philosophical currents of post phenomenological thought and the new directions marked out by Gilles Deleuze will form an important theoretical area.
Gender, sexuality and identity are also refashioned in the shift from indexical to virtual and this will form an important strand of the project and the debate about the human and the post-human. Artists working either with new media at the crossroads with communications and digital technologies will be in debate with others for whom the making and the experience of art are in resistance to the loss of boundaries
Many theorists, literary critics, philosophers and artists have been examining the implications of virtualisation in terms of truth, real, the fictive, the possible, in terms of its implications for subjectivity and theories of the human and the post-human. Others address the losses entailed; of the historically grounded, of the function of cultural memory as means of transmission and connection with historical pasts, of the erosion of what has been at the heart of humanist thought.
This conference will address the ethics and the politics of virtuality and indexicality hoping to bring together scholars, artists and thinkers to produce a balanced but engaged debate about the transformations created in the digitalised moment of information technology and new media, challenging the concepts of the post-human and exploring how relations of indexicality as a kind of necessary ‘reality’ check may be embedded in this stage of social and cultural life.