Virtual Futures salon @ TROVE, Birmingham

October 24th saw the first of a series of Virtual Futures salon events.

Virtual Futures salon @ TROVE, 24 October 2012
Virtual Futures salon @ TROVE, 24 October 2012

This was a very sexy event: held in the TROVE gallery, a very Berlin-style disused warehouse right in the centre of the city, and showcasing some of the strangest and most avant-garde art and thought happening right now.  Prof. Johnny Golding from the Centre for Fine Art Research at BIAD, Birmingham City University, introduced the evening, which was organized by the director of Virtual Futures, Luke Robert Mason.

I spoke about maps and wiring diagrams, ‘photogenic drawing’, glitch, and (implicitly and probably entirely predictably) the dangers of animism, anthropomorphism, and the god in the machine. Dr. John Pickering from the Psychology department at Warwick University told us about the limitations of AI in military (and other) robots, digging a little deeper into the ways in which our mental constructs conspire to produce sympathy for machines, and bringing some much-needed historical rigour to the current drone-delirium. Sascha Pohflepp gave us selected glimpses of his artworks from the past five years, ranging from his genetically-modified plant visions (created with Daisy Ginsberg) to his simulations of spaceflight weightlessness, which touched a Stelarc-like VF nerve in their evocations of the human body reaching escape velocity.

The event then marked the return of Orphan drift, after fifteen years, to Virtual Futures and to the UK, when Mer Roberts introduced a screening of the Orphan drift film ‘A Wilderness of Nowheres’: timely, as the Orphan drift book Cyberpositive has just been published in a new edition. Franken Beaumont‘s eerie installation artwork sat behind the audience, its mouth moving as if echoing the speakers; Liam Worth‘s dynamic ferrofluid sculpture was also on display, as were J.R. Dooley‘s dancing, dynamic sonic/visual cellular forms. Pat Cadigan capped the evening with a masterclass in story-telling, her apparently effortless facility with verbal imagery giving us all a metaphorical lesson in the proper use of tools.

But the most momentous statement of the evening was left to Luke Robert Mason, who announced that the Virtual Futures conference will return next year, taking place as a city-wide festival in Birmingham, running from the 25 – 27 October 2013…

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