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October 1–2, 2022
On October 1 and 2, 2022, the New Centre for Research & Practice will organize Incredible Machines 2022: Model Is the Message in association with Richmond Art Gallery. The conference attendees will publish a book on the subject as a follow-up to the event.
On March 7-8, 2014, Vancouver, Canada hosted the first Incredible Machines conference, a two-day live, in-person and online event. It was designed as a transdisciplinary event for discussions about the transformative potential of computational technologies, bringing together a sizable group of thinkers and artists in a novel presentational format that challenged conventional wisdom about technology both inside and outside the field of contemporary art. Incredible Machines 2014 was the first academic conference with both online and in-person presentations, and it was organized by Mohammad Salemy and Access Gallery. The event, which included guest speakers and a sizable international audience, served as a springboard for the establishment of The New Centre for Research & Practice the following September as an online platform with year-round programming focused on technology and futurity issues. The center is now in its ninth year of operation.
The Incredible Machines 2022 will examine recent technological advancements in a broad sense, particularly those with ontological foundations in scientific, social, cultural, and political technologies, while keeping discussions about the original event in the rearview mirror. Techno-instrumental capitalism’s logic and insatiable appetite for human attention characterize our modern era, leaving us with less and less time to create, consider, or even value original and in-depth explanations, reflections, and critiques of the existing world.
If the declining value of meaningful content in the postwar world was summarized by Marshall McLuhan’s famous words that “the Medium is the Message,” today, we are confronted with a changing world in which, according to the Philosophers of Technology Benjamin Bratton and the computer engineer Blaise Agüera y Arcas, “The Model is the Message.” Can a shift from the medium to modeling enable us to circumvent observations and critiques to instead arrive at alternative modes of operation that bring forth consequential interventions in the world?
Models are distinguished by their strong grasp on the technological and scientific world as well as their pervasive function in task execution. They serve as an example of how representational quality and practical limitations interact and are traded off. Models help us handle conflicts and conformities between various theoretical and practical frameworks as well as the friction between our theoretical and practical resources and reality.
In this sense, models are not just useful fictions, idealizations, or indirect ways of speaking or acting about the world, but rather they are encapsulations of the know-whats and know-hows underlying theoretical and practical commitments pertaining to framing and unframing the world, i.e. knowing and acting upon it. Models can either reveal or covertly carry and reinforce these characteristics due to their entanglement with the suppositions and partialities—implicit or explicit—included in theoretical and practical frameworks. They develop what are known as “black box systems” or “black box societies,” in which automated programming methods of operation are also kept hidden from our awareness and interference.
The potential that the domains of design and architecture might serve as a safe haven for artists and thinkers to directly incorporate their own descriptive and critical views as speculative yet practical and implementable models will also be explored in Incredible Machines 2022. With this strategy, we might be able to redefine the role of models such that they serve not only as development blueprints but also as technologies to safeguard original concepts for eventual execution.
The project will feature contributors from the original conference and others whose research and interests coincide with our investigation. The guests include Jean-Pierre Caron, Ross McElwain & Jay Springett, Ed Keller, Katerina Kolozova, Anna Longo, Cecile Malaspina, Mattin, Reza Negarestani, Judy Radul, Stephanie Wakefield, Mi You, and Daniel Young. The complete list will be posted on thenewcentre.org on September 15.
Incredible Machines 2022 is designed to be a place where innovative concepts can be tested through meaningful interactions between conference attendees and academics from many disciplines. As a result, attendance will be limited, and observers will be chosen based on their areas of expertise and research interests.
If you are interested in being an observer, please complete this form, and we will contact you soon with instructions for attending the conference.