Artificial Imagination

A sympsium on artistic practice, machine learning and artificial intelligence

This symposium brings together a group of cutting edge artists working with new technologies to discuss and share their experiences, their practices and their perspectives on algorithms, artificial intelligence and machine learning. It will be an exchange of ideas among them and with the public, and we hope to articulate a unique artistic perspective on the pressing conversations unfolding around our new machine collaborators.

10:00 am

Start: 18/02/2017

End: 18/02/2017

Sunday, February 18th
Arts Court Theater
2 Daly Ave

(piece includes one image, “Image Credit: Ben Bogart, “Through the haze of a machine’s mind we may glimpse our collective imaginations (Blade Runner)” — 2017 (Detail of frame #6266))


Please check out the video documentation here


Confirmed participants include: Sofian Audrey, Ben Bogart, Kristin Anne Carlson, Chris Salter, Jackson 2Bears, Allison Parrish

This winter Artengine brings together artists and curators to discuss art in the age of algorithm. As the sophistication of algorithm technology has developed, our collective imagination about artificial intelligence has once again caught fire. The wildfire is not without a spark in reality as research and technology in this expanding field has undergone incredible advances in recent history. There are the dramatic effects on financial industries from adaptive autonomous trading technologies; the development of self-driving cars; personal assistants embedded into your mobile device and your home; increasingly complex automated delivery of treatment by medical technologies, and the list goes on.

From an artistic perspective, there is, of course, a desire to explore the creative potential of any new technologies, teasing out the playful dimension of advanced developments, but many feel that there is much more at stake in these particular technologies and the changes they may usher into our lives. What is art in a time of computer assisted creativity? Is it any different than it was before? Or before before?

Art at its best offers an experience that is both of this world and out of it. A space seemingly almost out of time in which some of the most fundamental questions about ourselves find resonance. The complicated conversation around artificial intelligence is both exhilarating and frightening, often at the same time. The symposium will add an artistic perspective to consider AI and the dialogue unfolding around it. For instance, what is the nature of these ‘intelligent’ things being made? What kind of world are we going to make with them? But also what role do artists have in authoring these new ‘intelligences’?


We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Session 1

Susan Kite and Jackson 2Bears, moderated by Elizabeth Barron.

The first theme of the conference will consider the relationship between cosmology and electronic and digital technologies. How are histories and cultural ways of knowing and thinking embedded into certain tools? How do artists engage and subvert these embedded cultural elements? If machines are learning, who are they learning from?

Session 2

Kristin Anne Carlson, David Rokeby and Chris Salter, moderated by Nell Tenhaff

Our second panel will address notions of the body, sense and consciousness. If our body is essential for our perception of the world, what happens to the perception of an intelligent thing without a body or at least a distributed body? What does creative movement and expression look like when it is authored by an intelligent machine? Whether as a thing separate from us or as something we wear or even something inside us, can and/or how do we co-create with an intelligent machine?

Session 3

Ben Bogart, Sofian Audrey and Allison Parish, moderated by Nora O’ Murchú

The third conversation of the day is focused on acts of consciousness and the machine. With much resources invested in the instrumental or problem solving aspect of artificial intelligence and machine learning, what do we make of the useless parts of the technologies? Scientific thinking tends towards an explanatory model of the universe where everything can be known, but what role does creativity have in a world where everything is known? Will an AI machine be able to recognize its own poetry? Perhaps most importantly, can machines dream and will those dreams matter to us?


Sofian Audrey

 Sofian Audrey is an artist, scholar, Professor of Interactive Media within the School of Media at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) and Co-Director of the Hexagram Network for Research-Creation in Art, Culture and Technology. Their work is inspired from artificial intelligence, artificial life, biology and cognitive sciences. Their computational artistic practice branches through multiple media including robotics, interactive installations, immersive environments, physical computing interventions, internet art, and electronic literature.

Audry studied computer science and mathematics (BSc, 2001), machine learning (MSc, 2003), and communication (interactive media) (MA, 2010) before completing a PhD in Humanities from Concordia University (2016). In 2017, they were a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and between 2017 and 2019, held Assistant Professor positions at the University of Maine and at Clarkson University. Sofian is an honorary member of artist-run center Perte de Signal (Montréal, Canada) which they led as president of the board in 2009-2017, and is actively involved in many open source softwares including MapMap and Plaquette.


Ben Bogart

Ben Bogart is a non-binary agender adisciplinary artist working for nearly two decades with generative computational processes (including physical modelling, chaotic equations, feedback systems, evolutionary algorithms, computer vision and machine learning) and has been inspired by knowledge in the natural sciences (quantum physics and cognitive neuroscience) in the service of an epistemological inquiry. Ben has produced processes, artifacts, texts, images and performances that have been presented at galleries, art festivals and academic conferences in Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Turkey, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Brazil, Hong Kong, Norway and Spain. Notable exhibitions include solo shows at the Canadian Embassy at Transmediale in 2017 and the TechLab at the Surrey Art Gallery in 2018. They have been an artist in residence at the Banff Centre (Canada), the New Forms Festival (Canada) and at Videotage (Hong Kong). Their research and practice have been funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the British Columbia Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Ben enjoys tickling various mosses, can eat a lemon slice including peel without flinching, and if they had to be a bird would love to be a swallow.


Kristen Anne Carlson

Kristen Anne Carlson is an Assistant Professor in the Arts Technology Program at Illinois State University, exploring the role that computation plays in embodied creative processes. She has a history of working in choreography, computational creativity, media performance, interactive art and design tools due to her background in movement, technical theater, interaction design and programming. Kristin is a researcher with the movingstories: Tools for Digital Movement, Meaning and Interaction research partnership exploring the cognition of movement experience and designing movement applications for creativity support tools. She was the Executive Producer for the 21st International Symposium for Electronic Art (ISEA2015) held in Vancouver, Canada and publishes in the fields of cognitive science, computational creativity, movement and computing and electronic art. She holds a BFA in Dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign, an MSc and PhD from Simon Fraser University in Interactive Arts and Technology, studying with Dr. Thecla Schiphorst and Dr. Philippe Pasquier. Kristin holds an AmSat certification in Alexander Technique and is finishing a certification in Laban Movement Analysis.

Chris Salter

Chris Salter is an artist, Professor of Computation Arts in the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University, Montreal, Co-Director of the Hexagram network for Research-Creation in Arts, Cultures and Technologies, Director of Hexagram Concordia and Associate Director, Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia.
Living and working in both Montreal and Berlin, Salter’s work explores the borders between the senses, art, design and new technologies through large-scale installations as well as books, critical writings and lectures on the international scene. His immersive and physically experiential works are informed by theater, architecture, visual art, computer music, perceptual psychology, cultural theory and engineering and are developed in collaboration with anthropologists, historians, philosophers, engineers, artists and designers.

Salter studied economics and philosophy at Emory University and received his PhD in theater directing and dramatic criticism where he also researched and worked at CCRMA. In the 1990s he collaborated in London, Frankfurt, Salzburg and Paris with Peter Sellars and William Forsythe/Frankfurt Ballet. In 1996, he co-founded the art and research organization Sponge.

Jackson 2Bears

 Jackson 2Bears is a Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) multimedia installation/ performance artist and cultural theorist from Six Nations and Tyendinaga, who is currently based in Lethbridge Alberta, Canada—Treaty 7, Blackfoot Territory. Since 1999, 2bears has exhibited his work extensively across Canada in public galleries, museums and artist-run centres, as well as internationally in festivals and group exhibitions.
Some recent exhibitions include: Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal; Urban Shaman (Winnipeg, MB); Bbeyond (Belfast, Ireland); SAW Gallery (Ottawa, ON); A Space (Toronto, ON); the Vancouver New Music Festival (Vancouver, BC.); Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver, BC.); Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (Victoria, BC.); EM Media (Calgary, AB.); the Banff Centre (Banff, AB.); Redshift Gallery (Saskatoon, SK.); Digital Art Weeks (Zurich, Switzerland); North American Indigenous Games (Cowichan, BC); and the Futur-en-Seine Festival (Paris, France).

2bears is currently a member of Beat Nation [Live]—a First Nations artist collective that combines hip hop, live music and digital technology as a way to celebrate the spirit of contemporary Indigenous culture. He is also a co-founding member of Noxious Sector—a communal forum dedicated to the exploration of interdisciplinary artistic practice and creative expression. 2bears is presently co-director of 2Ro Media with Mohawk poet, performance artist and producer Janet Rogers—their short documentary, NDN’s on the Airwaves, premiered on APTN in 2017. A new documentary project about the Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson is currently in production, and is expected to premiere in 2020. In addition two new, interrelated, multi-year projects are currently in production—IIKAAKIIMAAT and Ne:Kahwistará:ken Kanónhsa’kówa í:se Onkwehonwe involve the development of large-scale, site-specific, multimedia installations, which are being developed in-community—one project in the Blackfoot communities near Lethbridge, and the other in 2bears’ home community of Six Nations. The first is expected to launch in 2020, and the second in 2021.

Nell Tenhaaf

Nell Tenhaaf is an electronic media artist and theoretician with extensive publication, lecture and exhibition credits across Canada, in the US and in Europe. Her practice focuses on the intersection of art, science and technology, using digital media to integrate elements from these different fields. She is represented in Toronto by Paul Petro Contemporary Art.
In 2005 Professor Tenhaaf was awarded a major grant through the New Media Initiative, jointly funded by the Canada Council and the National Science and Engineering Research Council, for a collaborative project with Professor Melanie Baljko in York’s Department of Computer Science. The Lo-fi project uses art and science to create interactive installations in which humans interact with artificial agents. The interactive sculptures Push/Pull (2009) and WinWin (2012) are outcomes of this ongoing project.
Professor Tenhaaf has published numerous reviews and articles that address the cultural implications of biotechnologies and of Artificial Life (an area of research that studies dynamics in nature through computational models as well as software or robotic agents with lifelike behaviours). She was a jury member for the Madrid-based Vida art and artificial life competition from its inception in 1997 until it wrapped up in 2014.
Professor Tenhaaf is cross-appointed to Digital Media and Visual Art & Art History. She has served as associate dean and as coordinator of the Digital Media Program in AMPD. Prior to joining York University in 1997, she taught at Concordia University, the University of Ottawa and Carnegie Mellon University.

Nora O' Murchú

Nora O’ Murchú is a curator & researcher, whose research examines the intersections between the fields of art, design, software studies, and politics. Her multidisciplinary practice embraces narratives, and fictions and results in objects, exhibitions, and interventions. Her research aims to help people understand how complex socio-technical systems are imagined, built & used. She has curated exhibitions and events for institutions including Akademie Schloss Solitude, LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, Rua Red, and The Science Gallery. Notable exhibitions include Coded After Lovelace at Whitebox Gallery in New
York and Land/Sea/Signal at Rua Red in Dublin. She has held positions as a research associate for the Interaction Design Centre at the University of Limerick, the Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, and CRUMB at the University of Sunderland. Her research on the impact of technology on curating has been published at Goldsmiths Press, Taylor & Francis and Springer. She currently serves as a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at the University of Limerick in Ireland.

Allison Parrish

 Allison Parrish is a computer programmer, poet, educator and game designer who lives in Brooklyn. Her teaching and practice address the unusual phenomena that blossom when language and computers meet. Allison is currently the Digital Creative Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University and an adjunct professor/”something-in-residence” at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, where she teaches a course on writing computer programs that generate poetry.