Public Lecture Series (Autumn 2022)

This lecture series investigates the concept of immersion in art and design from aesthetic, historical and political perspectives. Guest lecturers come from digital arts, curating, media studies, and the histories of science and technology from the ZHdK, Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (New York), Haus der Elektronischen Künste (HEK, Basel) and the Technical University in Dresden. Topics will include contemporary artistic practices in multi-sensory immersion, extended reality and history of VR and the arts, and art and artificial intelligence.

Christopher Salter | September 27th, 2022 | 17:15-18:30
THE ARTS OF IMMERSION: SENSING, BODIES AND RESPONSIVE ENVIRONMENTS 

Kristof Timmerman | October 11th, 2022 | 17:15-18:30 
BREAKING THE FIFTH WALL: IMMERSION BETWEEN LIVE PERFORMANCE AND VIRTUAL SPACES

Sabine Himmelsbach | October 25th, 2022 | 17:15-18:30 
VIRTUAL WORLDS-INTERACTIVE ENVIRONMENTS: ART AS AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE

Michael Century | November 8th, 2022 | 17:15-18:30 
CONTESTING A “NEW MEDIUM”: VIRTUAL REALITY AS CULTURAL PROBE

Orit Halpern | November 22nd, 2022 | 17:15-18:30 
THE SMARTNESS MANDATE: AI AND UBIQUITOUS COMPUTING`S IMPACT ON ART AND DESIGN


Public Lecture Series (Spring 2022)

In this series, guest lecturers from the Swiss Institute of Technology ETHZ, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences HSLU, the University of Zurich UZH shared their specific views along with lecturers from the ZHdK. The topics covered Architecture, Virtual Reality, Virtual Forensics, Game Aspects in Theatre and Extended Reality.

Matthias Vollmer | Recording from March 8th, 2022
IMMERSE IN THE CLOUD – VISUALIZING WITH POINT CLOUDS

Christina Zimmermann | Recording from March 22nd, 2022
CHALLENGING THE INDIVIDUAL – PERCEPTUAL CON/FUSIONS IN VIRTUAL REALITY

Lars Ebert | Recording from April 5th, 2022
FORENSICS ON THE HOLODECK

Réjane Dreifuss | Recording from April 19th, 2022
LUDIFICATION IN THEATRE: THE EXAMPLE OF “GAME-THEATRES”

Christian Iseli | Recording from May 3rd, 2022
SHIFTING REALITIES, OR: WHAT ARE IMMERSIVE ARTS ANYWAY?


Public Lecture Series

The Immersive Arts Space hosts every semester a public lecture series with national and international guest lecturers. The lecture series aims to address artistic as well as theoretical aspects of immersion.

The current lectures are available via live stream.


Spring Semester 2024

Immersive Arts: Performative Perspectives on Immersion

This lecture series investigates questions of immersion from the perspectives of the performing arts including dance, theater and even real time animation. Our exciting list of five guest lecturers includes a world renowned choreographer and collaborating dance artist working with real time motion capture, the head of the theater program at the ZHdK and an expert in contemporary performance and digitality, a journalist and long-time editor of tanz, the most important dance magazine in the German speaking world, the head of the Ars Electronica animation jury and an Egyptian born, Greek computer scientist and dancer working on digital performance in Virtual Reality.

More infos [here]


Autumn Semester 2023

The Autumn Semester 2023 lecture series investigates questions of immersion from perspectives outside of the immersive arts. Guest lecturers come from curating, computer music and DIYelectronics, embodied human-computer interaction, animation and theater and scenography. Topics will include composing interactive systems, new concepts of extended animation, curating immersive experiences, disability and human computer interaction and new concepts of XR-based performative scenography in urban contexts. 

Dr. Marije Baalman | September 26th, 2023 | 17:15-18:30
COMPOSING AN INTERACTION: A PRIMER ON BUILDING EXPRESSIVE INTERACTIVE SYSTEMS

José Luis de Vicente | October 10th, 2023 | 17:15-18:30
DRAMATURGIES OF THE ANTHROPOCENE: RHETORICS OF IMMERSION, PARTICIPATION AND AGENCY IN CONTEMPORARY ARTS

Livia Nolasco-Rózsás | October 24th, 2023 | 17:15-18:30
BRAINS IMMERSED IN A VAT. UNMASKING THE POLITICS OF IMMERSION

Dr. Katta Spiel | November 21st, 2023 | 17:15-18:30
LEISURE IMPOSSIBLE – PLAYING WHILE DISABLED

Dr. Shauna Janssen | December 5th 2023 | 17:15-18:30
AUGMENTED SCENOGRAPHIES AND PERFORMATIVE URBANISM: LESSONS FROM THE FIELD


Spring Semester 2023

The Immersive Arts Lecture Series for spring semester 2023 investigates artistic and design experiences in which humans, media and architectural spaces shape one another within the context of the built environment. Guest lecturers who come from the fields of digital arts, architecture, theater studies and the visual arts, will focus on specific artistic works from their practice, as way to open up critical discussion around emerging paradigms of bodily experience in spatial computing environments, human-machine interactions in architectural spaces, and immersive experiences between human, technical and natural systems.

Rasa Smite | March 7th, 2023 | 17:15-18:30
ON ATMOSPHERIC FOREST  

Christopher Salter | March 21st, 2023 | 17:15-18:30
ON ANIMATE

Daniela Mitterberger | April 4th, 2023 | 17:15-18:30
ON DEGREES OF LIFE

Selena Savic | April 18th, 2023 | 17:15-18:30
A DATA-DRIVEN DRAMA

Kurt Hentschläger | May, 2nd, 2023 | 17:15-18:30
THE AMBIVALENT PRACTICE OF IMMERSIVE INSTALLATIONS AND PERFORMANCES


Autumn Semester 2022

This lecture series investigates the concept of immersion in art and design from aesthetic, historical and political perspectives. Guest lecturers come from digital arts, curating, media studies, and the histories of science and technology from the ZHdK, Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (New York), Haus der Elektronischen Künste (HEK, Basel) and the Technical University in Dresden. Topics will include contemporary artistic practices in multi-sensory immersion, extended reality and history of VR and the arts, and art and artificial intelligence.

Christopher Salter | September 27th, 2022 | 17:15-18:30
THE ARTS OF IMMERSION: SENSING, BODIES AND RESPONSIVE ENVIRONMENTS 

Kristof Timmerman | October 11th, 2022 | 17:15-18:30 
BREAKING THE FIFTH WALL: IMMERSION BETWEEN LIVE PERFORMANCE AND VIRTUAL SPACES

Sabine Himmelsbach | October 25th, 2022 | 17:15-18:30 
VIRTUAL WORLDS-INTERACTIVE ENVIRONMENTS: ART AS AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE

Michael Century | November 8th, 2022 | 17:15-18:30 
CONTESTING A “NEW MEDIUM”: VIRTUAL REALITY AS CULTURAL PROBE

Orit Halpern | November 22nd, 2022 | 17:15-18:30 
THE SMARTNESS MANDATE: AI AND UBIQUITOUS COMPUTING`S IMPACT ON ART AND DESIGN


Spring Semester 2022

In this series, guest lecturers from the Swiss Institute of Technology ETHZ, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences HSLU, the University of Zurich UZH shared their specific views along with lecturers from the ZHdK. The topics covered Architecture, Virtual Reality, Virtual Forensics, Game Aspects in Theatre and Extended Reality.

Matthias Vollmer | Recording from March 8th, 2022
IMMERSE IN THE CLOUD – VISUALIZING WITH POINT CLOUDS

Christina Zimmermann | Recording from March 22nd, 2022 
CHALLENGING THE INDIVIDUAL – PERCEPTUAL CON/FUSIONS IN VIRTUAL REALITY

Lars Ebert | Recording from April 5th, 2022 
FORENSICS ON THE HOLODECK

Réjane Dreifuss | Recording from April 19th, 2022 
LUDIFICATION IN THEATRE: THE EXAMPLE OF “GAME-THEATRES”

Christian Iseli | Recording from May 3rd, 2022 
SHIFTING REALITIES, OR: WHAT ARE IMMERSIVE ARTS ANYWAY?


Autumn Semester 2021

In this series, concepts of immersion as well as embodiment were explored from the different perspectives of fine arts, design, film, performing arts and music, with concrete examples of artistic practices and research projects. 

Christian Iseli | Recording from October 12th, 2021
DOUBLE TROUBLE: DIGITAL AVATARS ON STAGE 

Anna Lisa Martin-Niedecken | Recording from October 19th, 2021
EXPLORING BODY-CENTERED DESIGN APPROACHES IN MIXED REALITY SPORTS

Olav Lervik | Recording from October 26th, 2021
GAMES IN CONCERT: LESSONS FROM MUSIC IN VIRTUAL REALITY 

Marie-France Rafael | Recording from November 23rd, 2021
POST-DIGITAL RELATIONALITY – EMBODIED EXPERIENCES

Melody Chua | Recording from December 7th, 2021 
BLACK BOX FADING: (DIS)EMBODIMENT WITH AN IMMERSIVE IMPROVISATION MACHINE


Spring Semester 2021

Marcus Maeder | March 16th, 2021 
AMBIENT: FROM IMMERSION TO IMMANENCE

Felix Stalder | April 13th, 2021
IMMERSION AS ESCAPISM, CONTROL, OR CO-EXISTENCE

Maike Thies | April 27th, 2021
ENTANGLED IN ARTIFICIAL WORLDS

Hannah Walter | May 4th, 2021
BECOMING WITH TECHNOLOGY. BECOMING CYBORG

Christian Iseli | May 11th, 2021
EXPANDED ILLUSIONS: CINEMATIC CONCEPTS OF IMMERSION


(DIS)EMBODIMENT WITH AN IMMERSIVE IMPROVISATION MACHINE

Melody Chua, Master of Arts in Transdisciplinary Studies

Public Lecture Series
DECEMBER 7th, 17:15 -18:30 | Kino Toni, ZHdK | Live stream

The improvisation machine is an elusive figure. It has no universally agreed-upon form but is instead in a state of continuous fluidity of audiovisual representations. Throughout the performance, it shifts between being treated as a distinct musical agent to being regarded as an embodied posthuman extension to its human counterpart. It is always in tension between the attempt to recognize it as a distinctly encapsulated entity and at the same time as a synergy of independent entities, the fluctuations between which are shaped through immersive representations of itself and the performance environment.
The development of and performance with an improvisation machine can, with careful reflection, serve as a practical method upon which to be relinquished from our traditional understandings of embodiment. The form of the improvisation machine—fragmented through spatially separated electronic devices and mediums—is inherently discombobulated. Indeed, the fragmentation of the improvisation machine reflects a mindbody conceptualization offered by media artist and researcher Lisa Blackman: “We are never a singular body, but are multiple bodies that are brought into being and held together through complex practices of self-production.”
In this lecture, I reflect upon the facets of immersion and embodiment as they manifest in the field of improvised music performance between human and nonhuman agents, using my work black box fading as a case study. How do immersive representations of and experiences between such agents on both audio and visual levels instigate different considerations of what embodiment can be? How can these reflect our biases concerning control, (dis)orientation, and vulnerability in immersive environments?

Melody Chua is an interdisciplinary artist working with interactive technologies in improvisation settings as both vehicles of narrative expression and as opportunities to destabilize the normatives present in one’s relationship with such technologies. The aesthetics of her work gravitate towards immersive futuristic fictions with undertones of nostalgia and introspection, pulling audiences into intimate worlds. Awarded a Fulbright-Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for the development of a sensor-augmented flute (Chaosflöte), Melody has performed and guest-lectured internationally at festivals and institutions such as the Swiss Digital Day, Network Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival Future Music Lab, La Côte Flute Festival, Performing Media Festival, Montreal Contemporary Music Lab, New Interfaces for Music Expression (NIME) Conference, University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart, University of South Florida, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, among others.


POST-DIGITAL RELATIONALITY – EMBODIED EXPERIENCES

Marie-France Rafael, Department of Fine Arts

Public Lecture Series
November 23rd, 17:15 -18:30 | Kino Toni, ZHdK | Live stream

What does it mean to think, to see, to act, to feel and to live through the post-digital? Since the 2010s the boundaries between public and private, online and offline have become increasingly blurred due to digitalization and social media. In contemporary art digitality has assumed a new kind of presence—no longer a mere virtual sphere of sociality, but increasingly as a technological interface that structures our most embodied experiences. Today, contemporary art cannot escape digital image production, circulation, and consumption, so what may it look like to engage it–thematize it even–in the work of art itself? A younger generation of artists is specifically focused on the mass circulation, connectivity, and constructedness of images. The production of artistic content, its circulation, and its reception are thus increasingly intertwined processes that are no longer distributed among different instances: Artistic practice has undergone a drastic transformation: it is shaped by the notion of the presence of the digital even beyond digital media and explores new forms of (post-)digital relationality as well as embodied experiences between on- and offline.

Marie-France Rafael is a Tenure Track professor in the Master program of the Department of Fine Arts at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) since 2019. She holds a PhD in Art History. She studied Art History and Film Studies in Berlin and Paris. From 2011 to 2015 she was a research associate at the Free University of Berlin and until 2019 at the Muthesius University Kiel, Department of Spatial Strategies/Curatorial Spaces. Her monograph «Reisen ins Imaginativ. Künstlerische Displays und Situationen» (Cologne: Walther König, 2017), examines artistic strategies of presentation in contemporary art. Other publications include «Brice Dellsperger. On Gender Performance» (Berlin: Floating Opera Press, 2020), «Ari Benjamin Meyers. Music on Display» (Cologne: Walther König, 2016), and «Pierre Huyghe. On Site» (Cologne: Walther König, 2013).


REFRESH

REFRESH is a yearly, international conference on Design, Arts and Technology. It is initiated by the Department of Design (Maike Thies) and the Immersive Arts Space (Christopher Salter) and taking place in different locations within Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).


REFRESH#5

The interdisciplinary festival REFRESH (initiative of the Department of Design and the Immersive Arts Space of ZHdK) took place for the 5th time from November 9th to 12th, 2023. It addressed pressing issues at the intersection of the arts, design and technology in keynotes, masterclasses and a multi-layered exhibition. International designers, artists and researchers provided insights into their work and discussed it with the interested public. The critical topics of this year’s edition were «Immersive Journalism», «Design Realities», «Future Technologies», «Worldbuilding», and «New Ecologies».

With guests such as Nikolaj Schultz (sociologist, author of «On the Emergence of an Ecological Class» (2022) with Bruno Latour and author of «Land Sickness» (2023), Sarah Kenderdine (Head Curator EPFL Pavilions and Professor of Digital Museology at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL), Ian Cheng (Digital Artist), AATB (artist couple focused on experimental robotics) and Sam Wolson (Visual Features Editoris for the New Yorker and an Emmy award-winning director, photographer and journalist).

The Immersive Arts Space had two Spotlight events on November 9th and 10th.
Spotlight I featured an exhibition of three currents projects, that are developed in the lab: Possible Worlds… (Oliver Sahli, Chris Salter), Changing Matters (Lorenz Kleiser, Floris Demandt) and Friendly Fire (Manu Hendry, Florian Bruggisser, Paulina Zybinska uvm.)

Spotlight II on November 10th was be a work exhibition of Zangezi, a Russian Cubo-Futurist poem/play written by the poet Velimir Khlebnikov in 1922. Fragments of Zangezi will be performed as a work in progress that takes the form of a theatrically staged reading within the technical machine of the Immersive Arts Space itself. The work exhibition includes a Q&A with the team members, discussing the usage of AI generated meta humans, environments and characters as well as the usage of a Large Language Model in a artistic project like Zangezi.


REFRESH#4

The fourth edition of REFRESH, from 10th to 14th November 2021, focussed on the topics «Immersive Journalism», «Immersive Play», «Digital Identities», «Digital Doubles» and «Techno-Biological Futures». The conference featured keynote speeches including panel discussions with national and international guests as well as a large exhibition have been part of the conference. Photographs of the conference have been published and can me viewed in this gallery.

Recap Video by Marco Bach ZHdK©2021

The Immersive Arts Space hosted the Lab Insights and a VR exhibition. Team members offered insights into the projects Shifting Realities (Chris Elvis Leisi & Olliver Sahli (Multiuser VR), Martin Fröhlich, Max Kriegleder, Joel Gähwiler, Roman Jurt, Mariana Grüning (Helium Drones/ SAR)), Neural Volumetric Capture (Florian Bruggisser), Digital Twins (development of animated digital avatars based on photogrammetry and Meta Humans) and cineDesk (Norbert Kottmann, Valentin Huber). 

Further Credits:
Sound Design: Luca Magni
Lights: Sébastien Schiesser
Project Lead: Martin Fröhlich
Production: Kristina Jungic
Head of Unit: Christian Iseli
Photography: Regula Bearth

REFRESH #3

REFESH #3 Exhibition. Photo by Regula Bearth, ZHdK ©2020

REFRESH #3 took place from 17th to 20th September 2020 featuring keynotes, workshops, performances and an exhibition. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic it was designed as a hybrid event with online presentations of many speakers. The third edition was devoted to the topics «Digital Evidence», «Digital Humans», «Immersive Worlds», «Extended Realities» and «Imagine New Tomorrows».

Selected speakers:
Eyal Weizman (Forensic Architecture)
Kiira Benzing
Derek Bradely (Disney Research)
Jakob Kudsk Steensen
Hsin-Chien Huang
Francesca Panetta & Halsey Burgund (MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality)
Thomas Oberender (Berliner Festspiele)
Susanne Kennedy
Tabita Rezaire

REFRESH #3 Conference. Photo by Regula Bearth, ZHdK © 2020

REFRESH #2

REFRESH#2 took place from September 26th to 28th at the
Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK, featuring keynotes, workshops, 
performances and exhibitions. The second edition focussed on the topic of Experimental Futures and Immersive Experiences. In close cooperation with Digital Festival and Hack Zurich at neighboring venues.

Selected speakers:
Thomas Oberender, curator and artistic director @Berliner Festspiele
Sarah Ellis, director of Digital Development @Royal Shakespeare Company
Kevin Curran, vision director @Space10
Gayatri Parameswaran, immersive journalist @NowHere Media
Andreas Refsgaard, artist & creative coder
Galit Ariel, future tech expert @Wondarland
Yakeshi Yamada, recruiter @teamLab
Yasaman Sheri, creative director, designer and researcher
Tobias Gremmler, visual artist

Dancing Digital performance on September 26th 2019. (Photo by Davide Arizzoli, ZHdK 2019).

Lecture Series (Autumn 2021)

In this series, concepts of immersion as well as embodiment were explored from the different perspectives of fine arts, design, film, performing arts and music, with concrete examples of artistic practices and research projects. 

Christian Iseli | Recording from October 12th, 2021
DOUBLE TROUBLE: DIGITAL AVATARS ON STAGE

Anna Lisa Martin-Niedecken | Recording from October 19th, 2021
EXPLORING BODY-CENTERED DESIGN APPROACHES IN MIXED REALITY SPORTS

Olav Lervik | Recording from October 26th, 2021
GAMES IN CONCERT: LESSONS FROM MUSIC IN VIRTUAL REALITY

Marie-France Rafael | Recording from November 23rd, 2021
POST-DIGITAL RELATIONALITY – EMBODIED EXPERIENCES

Melody Chua | Recording from December 7th, 2021
BLACK BOX FADING: (DIS)EMBODIMENT WITH AN IMMERSIVE IMPROVISATION MACHINE


Immersion and Embodiment

October 12th | Christian Iseli | 17:15- 18:30h
DOUBLE TROUBLE: DIGITAL AVATARS ON STAGE

October 19th | Anna Lisa Martin-Niedecken | 17:15- 18:30h
EXPLORING BODY-CENTERED DESIGN APPROACHES IN MIXED REALITY SPORTS

October 26th | Olav Lervik | 17:15- 18:30h
GAMES IN CONCERT: LESSONS FROM MUSIC IN VIRTUAL REALITY

November 23rd | Marie France Rafael | 17:15-18:30h
POST-DIGITAL RELATIONALITY – EMBODIED EXPERIENCES

December 7th | Melody Chua | 17:15-18:30h
BLACK BOX FADING: (DIS)EMBODIMENT WITH AN IMMERSIVE IMPROVISATION MACHINE


Christian Iseli, Immersive Arts Space

Digital characters have been around for decades. In mainstream cinema, photorealism proved to be a cost-intensive challenge and a long road through the Uncanny Valley. In the game universe, the need for real-time rendering required simplification and abstraction. Meanwhile however, with the help of ever-faster computers, game characters have come closer to their movie siblings and with the real-time capacity of game engines, digital avatars have now entered the live environment of the stage.
In this lecture, the development of digital characters in the media context will be outlined, in order to then address the specific problems that arise when doubles and twins enter the universe of theater and performances. Here, the audience needs to be able to see both the actor (in a motion capture suit) and his or her avatar so as to confirm that the avatar’s performance is indeed being created live, and not the result of a pre-recording. However, the double appearance also has its downside. The spectators need to constantly decide whom to look at: The actor or his or her digital avatar. The research project Presence and Absence of the Immersive Arts Space addressed this specific problem and focused on alternatives to the twin appearance. The outcome of the artistic explorations are discussed in detail.

Christian Iseli has been teaching and researching at the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK since 1995. He holds a professorship for Immersive Arts, heads the Immersive Arts Space and teaches in the MA Film program. After studying history, German and English literature at the University of Bern, Iseli was a director of documentary films and worked in editing and cinematography on feature films and documentaries.
  



Anna Lisa Martin-Niedecken, Institute for Design Research

Powerful technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) take sports, fitness and rehabilitation to a next level. Traditional movement concepts are expanded through interactive technologies and blended with immersive and playful experiences: Gamified fitness training, physical esports, and immersive rehabilitation are pointing us towards the future of physical activity.
In this context, the multisensory and -modal involvement of the user’s body becomes a crucial component and quality feature of these body-centered experiences. However, there is still a lot of untapped potential in the area of attractive and effective mixed reality training applications.
In this lecture, approaches, results and learnings from various interdisciplinary R&D projects in the fields of fitness, rehabilitation and (e)sports will be presented and possible directions for future sports design will be outlined. In particular, topics such as technology-based balance of fun and exertion, empowerment, and social immersion will be highlighted and discussed as potential enhancers of immersion and embodiment in mixed reality sports.

Anna Lisa Martin-Niedecken is head of the Institute for Design Research as well as Senior Researcher at the Subject Area Game Design, Department of Design at Zurich University of the Arts. With her background in sports science (PhD, Institute of Sports Science, Technical University of Darmstadt) and her expertise in game research, Anna’s research and teaching activities mainly focus on the design and evaluation of Serious & Applied Games for health, (e)sports, fitness and rehabilitation, as well as health design.
Besides her job in academia, Anna is Co-Founder and CEO of the ZHdK spinoff Sphery Ltd, a fitness gaming startup, which received multiple prestigious awards for their research-based core product, the ExerCube, as well as for the establishment of the world’s first physical inclusive eSports league, the ExerCube League.



Olav Lervik, Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology

Games in Concert was a research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation at the ZHdK from 2016-2018. The goal was to explore the possibilities of musical environments for musicians in VR and to look for the artistic potentials that lie in the implementation of mechanics more known to the world of game design.
An visual VR environment was programmed with virtual instruments specifically designed to use the advantages of VR. Unto three musicians were able to interact musically with each other in VR while a forth character was used to lead the public through the performance while it was happening. Finally the project was presented at SigGraph Asia 2018 shortly after its conclusion.
During this lecture, while diving into the in and outs of “Games in Concert” the question arises which mechanics and which concepts hold potential for future musical VR environments and which challenges and lessons unfolded during this project.

Olav Lervik is a classically trained freelance composer and pianist who studied in Weimar, Stuttgart and Zurich. His works cover a wide variety of disciplines including scoring music for games and films and sound design for VR/AR applications but also classical orchestration. Olav is currently a lecturer in composition for film, theatre and media and also in sound design at the Zurich University of Arts.



Marie-France Rafael, Department of Fine Arts

What does it mean to think, to see, to act, to feel and to live through the post-digital? Since the 2010s the boundaries between public and private, online and offline have become increasingly blurred due to digitalization and social media. In contemporary art digitality has assumed a new kind of presence—no longer a mere virtual sphere of sociality, but increasingly as a technological interface that structures our most embodied experiences. Today, contemporary art cannot escape digital image production, circulation, and consumption, so what may it look like to engage it–thematize it even–in the work of art itself? A younger generation of artists is specifically focused on the mass circulation, connectivity, and constructedness of images. The production of artistic content, its circulation, and its reception are thus increasingly intertwined processes that are no longer distributed among different instances: Artistic practice has undergone a drastic transformation: it is shaped by the notion of the presence of the digital even beyond digital media and explores new forms of (post-)digital relationality as well as embodied experiences between on- and offline.

Marie-France Rafael is a Tenure Track professor in the Master program of the Department of Fine Arts at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) since 2019. She holds a PhD in Art History. She studied Art History and Film Studies in Berlin and Paris. From 2011 to 2015 she was a research associate at the Free University of Berlin and until 2019 at the Muthesius University Kiel, Department of Spatial Strategies/Curatorial Spaces. Her monograph «Reisen ins Imaginativ. Künstlerische Displays und Situationen» (Cologne: Walther König, 2017), examines artistic strategies of presentation in contemporary art. Other publications include «Brice Dellsperger. On Gender Performance» (Berlin: Floating Opera Press, 2020), «Ari Benjamin Meyers. Music on Display» (Cologne: Walther König, 2016), and «Pierre Huyghe. On Site» (Cologne: Walther König, 2013).



Melody Chua, Master of Arts in Transdisciplinary Studies

The improvisation machine is an elusive figure. It has no universally agreed-upon form but is instead in a state of continuous fluidity of audiovisual representations. Throughout the performance, it shifts between being treated as a distinct musical agent to being regarded as an embodied posthuman extension to its human counterpart. It is always in tension between the attempt to recognize it as a distinctly encapsulated entity and at the same time as a synergy of independent entities, the fluctuations between which are shaped through immersive representations of itself and the performance environment.
The development of and performance with an improvisation machine can, with careful reflection, serve as a practical method upon which to be relinquished from our traditional understandings of embodiment. The form of the improvisation machine—fragmented through spatially separated electronic devices and mediums—is inherently discombobulated. Indeed, the fragmentation of the improvisation machine reflects a mindbody conceptualization offered by media artist and researcher Lisa Blackman: “We are never a singular body, but are multiple bodies that are brought into being and held together through complex practices of self-production.”
In this lecture, I reflect upon the facets of immersion and embodiment as they manifest in the field of improvised music performance between human and nonhuman agents, using my work black box fading as a case study. How do immersive representations of and experiences between such agents on both audio and visual levels instigate different considerations of what embodiment can be? How can these reflect our biases concerning control, (dis)orientation, and vulnerability in immersive environments?

Melody Chua is an interdisciplinary artist working with interactive technologies in improvisation settings as both vehicles of narrative expression and as opportunities to destabilize the normatives present in one’s relationship with such technologies. The aesthetics of her work gravitate towards immersive futuristic fictions with undertones of nostalgia and introspection, pulling audiences into intimate worlds. Awarded a Fulbright-Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for the development of a sensor-augmented flute (Chaosflöte), Melody has performed and guest-lectured internationally at festivals and institutions such as the Swiss Digital Day, Network Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival Future Music Lab, La Côte Flute Festival, Performing Media Festival, Montreal Contemporary Music Lab, New Interfaces for Music Expression (NIME) Conference, University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart, University of South Florida, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, among others.