Lecturer of Art, Department of Art and Art History, Lake Forest College
“Possibility is not a luxury; it is as crucial as bread.”
– Judith Butler, Undoing Gender 
In his introduction to last year’s CAA Media Lounge events, Mat Rappaport explained that both the Art Space and Media Lounge were originally conceived as venues to highlight and celebrate the artistic and scholarly output of artists within the College Art Association community. This past February, the Media Lounge Committee—Mat Rappaport, Jenny Marketou, and Stacy Miller—continued in this developing tradition by facilitating the gathering together of academics, new media artists, artist collectives, alternative communities, filmmakers, and performers to lead workshops, present work, and generate informal, but productive discussions and exchange in service of exploring possibility. The theme, VISIBLE/INVISIBLE, Art & Politics, provided a fitting continuation of the previous year’s topic, Alternative Economies: as Alternative Economies investigated the global economic crisis as it manifests in the social/political/economic landscape, namely through expanding income inequality and the high cost of education in the United States, VISIBLE/INVISIBLE, Art & Politics continued its focus on socially and politically-aware new media art practices. Making the most of the CAA 2016 venue of Washington, DC—and in an election year, no less—these Media Lounge events explored the current state of identity and representation politics by fostering discussion of emerging artistic sensibilities poised to tackle the rapidly transforming sociopolitical landscape. The various subtopics guiding these sessions and screenings collaboratively interrogate these often difficult subjects—economic and ecological systems, social and political inequality and underrepresentation, tactical media, “implied aesthetics” , amongst many others—in order to further much-needed discourse toward engendering creative possibilities ultimately positively impacting our collective futures.
The first session, Intersections: Cinema, Performance, Networked Media, and Politics, featured presentations by artists and filmmakers focusing on the influence networked media, interactivity, and digital culture has had on the ongoing transformation of cinema and performance in the 21st century. Many of these works demonstrate how new uses of technology facilitate radical forms of political communication, organization, resistance, protest, and overthrow. Presentations by Nathan Halverson, Hello Velocity (Kevin Wiesner, Jian Shen Tan, and Lukas Bentel), Laura Nova, belit sağ, Sanaz Sohrabi, and Marc Tasman centered on a variety of interrelated cinematic/performance topics, including social networks, crowdsourcing and tactical social media, the internet as the apotheosis of theater, and “exploded cinemas” that challenge the divide between truth and fiction for the purpose of radical activism.
The session Ecologies of Creative Activism explored the term “ecology” as both the relationship between organisms within an environment, and the more recent context of political activism within these systems. Participants Andreas Zingerle and Linda Kronman (KairUs Art+Research), Leila Nadir + Cary Peppermint (ecoarttech), Desert Art Lab (Matthew Garcia), Fictilis (Andrea Steves & Timothy Furstnau), and Erin Colleen Johnson shared how their varied practices radically transform the conceptual groundwork of systems ecology studies to engage in creative methods of activism.
Procedural Art: Game Platforms for Creative Expression focused on how game platforms can provide a foundation for critical analysis precisely because of their unique semiotic and material construction; the form and language of digital gaming, through privileging tropes of interactivity, design, and aesthetics, have the power to deconstruct the often commercially-dominated world of videogames while also critically analyzing the complications arising from human-technological relationships. The participants, Hye Young Kim, Soraya Murray, and Susana Ruiz, explained past and ongoing projects demonstrating the creative use of digital games in both fine art contexts, and socially-aware acts of resistance, psychological exploration, and subjective experience of both real and constructed worlds.
Lastly, TRANSFORMERS: A Code and Data-Driven Animation Screening presented moving image work manipulating code and/or data. These works highlight how code not only shapes the interfaces and information they represent through their implied aesthetic, but also our understanding of the world in the form of news media, the built environment, and the many databases and libraries with which we interact daily. Despite its invisibility, computer programming has come to shape our perception of reality as we understand it.
Many thanks to the Media Lounge committee, Mat Rappaport, Jenny Marketou, and Stacy Miller, for truly championing the mission of the New Media Caucus as an interdisciplinary, collaborative organization by partnering with the Services to Artists Committee of the College Art Association. Thank you to the CAA professional staff for their help in promoting the events, as well as their assistance in organizing and running the events. Of course, special thanks is due to all of the New Media Caucus organizers who oversaw the calls for participation and guided the sessions and screenings: Darren Douglas Floyd, Sid Branca, Lydia Grey, Stacey Stormes, Thomas Asmuth, Elizabeth Demaray, Renate Ferro, Byron Rich, Victoria Szabo, Joyce Rudinsky, and A. Bill Miller. Lastly, every session would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and participation of the artists who shared their work, and the participants who engaged with them in such an open, collaborative setting. Again, thank you to all who made these events possible.
1. Judith Butler, “Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual Autonomy,” in Undoing Gender (New York: Routledge, 2004), 29.
2. New media artist Daniel Sauter coined the phrase “implied aesthetics” to describe the limited kinds of interactions users had with motion-awareness in 4th generation mobile devices. A more general reading of the term can be used to describe instances of computational design restricting interaction with technology. Though all software restricts interactions by virtue of its design to some degree, some cases are a cause for concern: for example, despite being labelled “creative tools,” often propriety software renders all of its output aesthetically similar as a function of its restrictive design. Sauter, “Implied Aesthetics: A Sensor-Based Approach to Mobile Devices,” in Design, User Experience, and Usability, Pt. II, ed. A. Marcus (Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2011), 645–654.
Tiffany Funk (Ph.D. ABD) is an art historian and artist living in Chicago, Illinois. She researches and develops work that explore both current and historical digital technologies, alternately taking the form of critical and conceptual writing, drawing, software, video, and installation. She received her MFA in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Chicago in New Media Arts, and has shown in galleries and media festivals in the US and abroad. This fall (2016) she will defend her dissertation, “Zen and the Art of Software Performance: John Cage and Lejaren A. Hiller Jr.’s HPSCHD (1967-1969) and its legacy in computational art practices,” at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently a Lecturer in Art in the Department of Art and Art History at Lake Forest College, and is the Editor-in-Chief of the forthcoming Video Game Art (VGA) Reader.