Roy Ascott Lecture

Syncretic fields: art, mind and the many realities

April 30, 2007, 4:00 pm   » 

In the late 20th century, the formative issues in digital art were about connectivity and interaction. Now, at the start of the 3rd millennium, our post-digital objectives increasingly will be technoetic and syncretic. During the previous two centuries, there was much ado about e pluribus unum: out of many, one: a unified culture, unified self, unified mind, unity of time and space. Now, at the start of this century, the reverse applies. E unum pluribus out of one, many: many selves, many presences, many locations, many levels of consciousness. A mobile paradigm is forming of on-body/in-body, locative/delocative, intensive syncretic interconnectivity. The many realities we inhabit: material, virtual, and spiritual, for example, are accompanied by our sense of being present simultaneously in many worlds: physical presence in ecospace, apparitional presence in spiritual space, telepresence in cyberspace, and vibrational presence in nanospace. As artists we deal with the complexities of media that are at once immaterial and moist, numinous and grounded; and the complexity of the technoetic mind that both inhabits the body and is distributed across time and space. Where all these differences could be at odds with each other, we are, in fact, developing a capacity, mostly unconsciously, to syncretise, that is, to analogise and reconcile contradictions, while melding differences, such that art and reality are becoming syncretic. This is emerging partly through the cultural coherence that intensive interconnectivity elicits, partly through the quantum coherence at the base of our world-building, and perhaps most especially through the spiritual coherence that informs the field of our multi-layered consciousness.

Roy Ascott is founding president of the Planetary Collegium, with its hub in the University of Plymouth, England, and research nodes in South America, Europe and Asia. His research is into art, technology and consciousness. Amongst many notable appointments, he has been Dean of San Francisco Art Institute, Professor of Communications Theory, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, and President of Ontario College of Art, Toronto. Internationally recognized pioneer of telematic art , Ascott has shown at the Venice Biennale, Electra Paris, Ars Electronica Linz, European Media Festival Biennale do Mercosul, Brazil, etc. He has initiated many online projects, including the seminal work of distributed authorship, La Plissure du Texte: a planetary fairytale (1983). Editor of Technoetic Arts, international journal of speculative research, he’s also on editorial boards of Leonardo, LEA, and Digital Creativity. He has advised new media centers and festivals in Europe, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Korea and the USA, as well as the CEC and UNESCO. He convenes the annual international Consciousness Reframed conferences. His book, Telematic Embrace: visionary theories of art, technology and consciousness. Edited with an introduction by Edward A. Shanken, is published by University of California Press.

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