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'Superconversations: Machines that Matter' symposium live coverage, 12/11-12/12

Please join e-flux conversations for coverage of Superconversations: Machines That Matter, a symposium co-organized by e-flux and The New Centre for Research & Practice occurring Friday, December 11, 6–9pm
and Saturday, December 12, 3–7pm. A live stream will be posted prior to the event.

Superconversations: Machines that Matter brings together a range of thinkers and artists concerned with the intersection of technology and immanence, questioning the logic of vitalism while developing that of mechanism. The symposium builds upon several themes from e-flux’s Supercommunity / Superconversations project for the 56th Venice Biennale and forms the final installment of The New Centre’s Symposia 2015, a planetary series of in-person and simulcast video conversations that began in Graz and Melbourne in July and August.

The New Art panel concerns the status of art in the era of computation. If aesthetics has historically been defined in terms of the binary of techne and poiesis, what might a machinic art that takes the third step of deploying poises through techne look like? The implications of such a rethinking will address the extension and revision of the human via modes of virtuality as a form of collective imagination. The panel seeks a synthesis of prior theories of the relationship between art and technology, paving the way for new interventions.

The Science Fiction panel concerns the question of transgalactic emancipation as presented in the form and content of science fiction film, literature, and music. It examines collectivity in the era of interplanetary computation, departing from prior pieties of terrestriality and embodiment, with broad implications for the inhuman whole. Rather than beginning from the ubiquity of life, the panel focuses on science fiction that begins from the ubiquity of machines, heralding new possibilities for collective transformation that are irreducible to the social yet inseparable from the political.

The Computation panel concerns pan-computationalism, according to which, “if the laws of the universe can be reduced to binary code, there might be no actual difference between the universe and the computer,” and critical computationalism, in which intelligent machines are descendants of the long trajectory of inhuman prostheses which revise and extend the human beyond its biophenomenological substrate. Examining the emergence of artificial intelligence, the panel engages the process through which multiple, overlapping measurements result in ever more robust virtualizations.

:arrow_right: SCHEDULE

Friday, December 11, 6–9pm

6pm: New Art panel (
Maria Lind (via Skype), Olivia Leiter, Aaron Gemmill, Gregory Sholette, and Ana Teixeira Pinto (via Skype), moderated by Mohammad Salemy

8:30pm: Film screening
A Museum of Immortality, a collaboration between Anton Vidokle and Oleksiy Radynski

Saturday, December 12, 3–7pm

3pm: Science Fiction panel (
Renata Morais (via Skype), Ben Woodard, Ed Keller, McKenzie Wark, and Mark Dery, moderated by Jason Adams

5pm: Film screening
Julieta Aranda, Stealing one’s own corpse (An alternative set of footholds for an ascent into the dark), 2014

5:30pm: Computation panel (
Antonia Majaca, Ekaterina Zavyalova, Tai’ Smith (via Skype), Troy Therrein, and Reza Negarestani, moderated by Tony Yanick

For more information, contact

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Below are the live feeds for the panels. Feel free to make comments, pose questions, and post responses here - if they are timely and relevant we may ask them during the Q+A session. In addition to that, keep commenting on the videos as this event is happening, so as to have asynchronous conversations and dialogues. We believe this will be a great platform to discuss these topics, not just for those here in NYC, but from all of you as well.


Superconversations: Machines that Matter, Panel I — New Art
Friday, December 11 at 6pm est
Moderated by Mohammad Salemy

Maria Lind (via Hangouts)
Olivia Leiter
Aaron Gemmill
Gregory Sholette,
Ana Teixeira Pinto (via Hangouts),

Superconversations: Machines that Matter, Panel II: Science Fiction
Saturday, December 12 at 3pm est.
Moderated by Jason Adams

Renata Morais (via Hangouts)
Ben Woodard
Ed Keller
McKenzie Wark
Mark Dery


Superconversations: Machines that Matter, Panel III: Computation
Moderated by Tony Yanick
Saturday, December 12 at 5:30PM EST

Antonia Majaca (via Hangouts)
Ekaterina Zavyalova
Tai’ Smith (via Hangouts)
Troy Conrad Therrien
Reza Negarestani

Audio quality on stream is pretty low, anyway we can get a quick fix?

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Hi, is it better now? We just tweaked it.

And we’re off! Brian Kuan Wood introduces the conference to a lively crowd. He says the name “Supercommunity” describes a phenomenon endemic to the past few centuries for the form of social belonging which seems to have past, where a kind of human togetherness is seen as the end point or goal of ideologies. Once we all come together, he says, we will all become better. (Cute!) Now, it seems as if we’ve already come together due to globalization. But, it turns out that the globalization-form of togetherness is actually potentially a disaster. These are the prompts of Supercommunity. How do we live in a community that we actually want, that is not a political project? We were so happy, says Wood, that the New Centre was already exploring these ideas in depth, prompting their collaboration.

The New Centre for research and practice is a space of knowledge exploring the links between thought and action. They’re trying to explore links between the virtual and actual, and aim for that to be a constructivist form. Mo Salemmy is now espousing the virtues of e-flux conversations ( :grin: :sunglasses: :revolving_hearts:)!

Follow here for fabulous commentary by @mariana, @ian_e_k and yours truly.

Here’s some info for the New Art Panel, coming up now! :clap:

New Art Panel

Maria Lind is director of Tensta Konsthall in the outskirts of her native city of Stockholm, Sweden. Lind previously held posts as director of the graduate program at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in upstate New York, head of Iaspis in Stockholm, director of Kunstverein München in Munich and curator at Moderna Museet, also in Stockholm. In 2009, she became the fourth recipient of the Menil Foundation’s prestigious Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement. The anthology Selected Maria Lind Writing was compiled by Brian Kuan Wood and features essays, interviews, statements and research notes written in English between 1997 and 2010.

Olivia Leiter: In Defense of Interpassivity (in the face of hyperemployment)

Interactivity is everywhere. It occupies the virtual world, our work environment and particularly the space of art. Interaction holds the utopian promise of participation and equality. However, it has become an overused and therefore meaningless concept that is often instrumentalized by institutions to mask certain dynamics and operations. Today, our activities are constantly being outsourced to technologies. The flickering global screen defines our contemporary age and necessitates the remapping and reorienting of our interactions in a live stream of processes and events. The questions which I will try to answer in this presentation include: How might we affirm the interpassive essence of interactivity and activate it for productive use through delegating our emotional labor to machines? How might technology transform conceptions of employment, allowing us to interact less than before? In addition, as far as the experience of art is concerned, how might we reposition the terms of engagement around interpassivity?

Olivia Leiter is an artist based in Los Angeles. She holds a BA in Political Science and a BFA in Sculpture from Brandeis University and is currently pursuing a Certificate in the Art and Curatorial Program at the New Centre for Research & Practice.

Aaron Gemmill: Feedback Effects of Artworks & Social Practices Optimized for Machine Legibility & Network Circulation

Gemmill’s presentation consists of a slideshow concerning some problems and opportunities associated with the photographic network-image, including feedback effects of images and social practices optimized for machine/network legibility and circulation in contemporary art and the real world. Keywords: Contemporary Art Daily/computer-aided design; fitting the description; surveillance/sousveillance and photogenic extrajudicial murder; bureaucratic image/bureaucratic topology; consequences of human-machine collaboration; attenuating the virtual; visual absence and presence; spectator-operator and machinic punctum; sabotage.

Aaron Gemmill lives and works in Brooklyn and Yonkers, NY. He holds an MFA from Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.

Gregory Sholette: Maybe it’s Time to Invent a Turing Test for Socially Engaged Art and Art Activism?

How can we be sure if a given event is a spontaneous act of political intervention or a rehearsed performance of a political intervention? What distinguishes the organic singular gesture and a programmable version of that gesture? When a group of informally organized artists recently occupied a major contemporary art museum in New York City was this activism or art? Perhaps a tweaked version of Alan Turing’s famous test for determining the presence of machine intelligence is just what is needed to help exasperated critics, curators, historians, and administrators who are increasingly lost within the folds of the contemporary art multiverse.

Gregory Sholette is a New York-based artist, writer, activist, and founding member of Political Art Documentation/Distribution (PAD/D), REPOhistory, and Gulf Labor Coalition. His publications include It’s the Political Economy, Stupid, co-edited with Oliver Ressler, and Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture.

Ana Teixeira Pinto: Cognitive Mapping and the Digital Turn

In his seminal work Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991), Frederic Jameson coined the term “cognitive mapping” to address the crisis of representation which results from this gap between phenomenological experience and the economic structures, which determine it. The talk will address cognitive mapping as an artistic praxis. The digital turn appears to be correlated with a crisis of representation: though equipped with a growing variety of optical media, the subject is increasingly unable to represent the algorithmic totality, which surrounds him. Visual technologies produce manifold images of virtually everything, yet we can no longer identify whose gaze they represent. As Alexander Galloway noted, “data’s primary mode of existence is not a visual one” (Galloway, 2011). The twin forces of globalization and digitalization seem to open a gap between phenomenological experience and the economic structures which determine it.

Ana Teixeira Pinto is a writer from Lisbon, based in Berlin. She is currently a lecturer at UdK (Universität der Kunste), Berlin, and her writing has appeared in publications such as e-flux journal, art-agenda, Mousse, frieze d/e, Domus, Inaesthetics, The Manifesta Journal, and Texte zur Kunst.

Mohammad Salemy is an independent curator based in Vancouver and New York and an organizer at the New Centre for Research & Practice.

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Mo Salemy speaking before introducing Ana Teixeira Pinto, one of the questions is how art will respond to the demands for further constrain and control the internet in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, etc—given that it is a constraint demanded of users and not necessarily of the governments, corporations that currently surveil it?

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the sound is still pretty muffled…

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Hm, ok. Tweaking again…

Olivia Leiter: Describes a end-of-workday FB visit. This is the basic proposition: nothing is precisely interactive. Interactivity is utopian, promising participation. The museum becomes a space of “experience.” Leiter describes her experience as a museum worker & the lRL scripted actions of our workplace and compares to the detachment social media allows, for example. Worker emotional detachments are thus compared, while an image of a air hostess “no smile strike” is in the powerpoint above.

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Olivia Leiter speaks about “interpassivity,” which seems to be directly connected to the concept of affective labor. How can we transfer the female-gendered work of affective labor to machines? How can emojis become strategic tools? Substitution is the primary activity of interpassivity, says Leiter, substituting humans for machines. So, how can we offload some of this smiling to machines?

This brings to mind writer Joanne McNeil’s Chrome extension “Gmail Emotional Labor,” which peppers your “overly direct” emails with quaint comments about the weather.


Olivia Leiter: “How can interpassivity respond to the underpaid or nonpaid demands of the workplace?”

This reminds me of that the IRL equivalent would be the mask workers were recently allowed to wear in China to relieve them of expressing their emotions. In a way, Leiter is perhaps in defense of emojis as the digital mask!


In her paper, Ana Teixera Pinto revisited Frederic Jameson’s 1991 book Postmodernism or the Culture Logic of Late Capitalism and specifically his theory of cognitive mapping. Under late capitalism, we experience a crisis of representing the divide between perception and structure. We are, with the exception of a small number of elites, deprived of the intellectual tools to understand our own position in the matrices of capital and power. This is accompanied by a general shift from formal to informal economies (where real social benefits are replaced by social media likes, for example), capital frees itself from its dependency on labor power, labor becomes endlessly indebted to capital, and vast excesses of liquidity are locked away by elites in luxury assets such as real estate and art. Meanwhile, the global circulation of images on the web is conjoined with segregation in the social sphere, and digital devices double as control mechanisms under the ubiquitous gaze of capital. Quoting Trevor Paglen “the sky turns against us,” with drones as punctuation marks, and the landscape becomes an extension of paranoid subjectivity.

In light of these developments, Teixera Pinto describes narrative form in visual art practices as essential. She cites Jeremy Deller’s “Battle of Orgreave” (a reenactment of a 1980s mining strike in Great Britain), and works by Akram Zaatari, Chto Delat, and Hito Steyerl. She also cites the work of the Forensic Architecture program at Goldsmith’s.

I’m struck by the focus on narrativity here, especially during a symposium on machines. To what extent is narrativity now dependent on, or entwined with, the mechanic? Or, rather, does experimentation with narrative form, and especially the narratives of non-elites, provide recourse in a world where we’re haunted by machines that surveil us in the name of state and corporate interests?


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Lol what is this @mariana ?

@karenarchey gif-as-narrative-format? :slight_smile: Ana Teixeira Pinto talked of Steyerl’s Liquidity Inc and the artist’s broader questioning (beyond this work) if the mechanisms that allow for cultural representation in the digital sphere actually inverse forms of political representation, a shinny liquid blob seems adequate in that respect as well.

<img src="/uploads/default/original/2X/3/3fb92addf168b1637fdcc6f7f9163f5fd24f6326.png" width=“800”

Gregory Sholette is speaking about socially engaged art. He speaks about Conflict Kitchen, an artist-run kitchen in Pittsburgh serving meals to the broader community, which obviously shares many characteristics with Gordon Matta Clark’s “Restaurant” in New York in the 1970s. How do we tell the difference between socially engaged art practices and actual political activism. The kind of hilarious title of his talk is, appropriately, “Maybe it’s Time to Invent a Turing Test for Socially Engaged Art and Art Activism?”

How would these sort of social practice tartists take a subversion of their own world by activists, stripping bare the sacrosanct artistic component of their projects? Would they come to embrace this infiltration, or see this as a way out of the constraints of the small art elite? Perhaps the space between representation and reality would disappear, and the need for art experts (such as Sholette himself) would disappear. So, how do we tell the difference between socially engaged art and social work? Let’s build Social Practice Turing Test!