Last weekend I attended the Altered States Conference at the University of Plymouth, UK, organised by Roy Ascott and Michael Punt. There was an intriguing mix of papers. Here are notes on just a few:
Ian Gwilt showed a series of images of the screenbased interface, most notably a hand-drawn dos prompt which seemed to me to be intensely charged. I must locate this and use it somewhere....
Sue Palmer spoke about 'psi: mid space' a performance piece based on clairvoyance and the Ganzfeld telepathy experiment.
Michael Punt described Aby Warburg's enormous transdisciplinary library in which the books are organised by idea rather than the Dewey or other cataloguing system. Reminded me of social software tagging by the user's own keywords.
Martin Rieser showed the beginnings of an intriguing digital art installation to be shown at Bath Abbey this autumn and inspired by the famous Jacob's Ladder friezes on the outside of the building.
Roy Ascott spoke about material and immaterial connectedness and asked ' Is our drive to create wider and deeper networks an evolutionary impulse to engage more fully with a universal mind?' His talk also introduced me to a new concept, vegetal reality, connected to psychoactive plant technology, and to the work of Tom Ray, who has moved from modelling A-life to consciousness research. So many cross-overs, so many intriguing intersections.
Perhaps the strangest crossover of all was the presentation from which this photo comes. Brian Reffin Smith, a Member of the College of 'Pataphysicians (always an indicator of strangeness ahead) spoke of zombies, the ultimate condition of constraint in which one manifests no qualities at all. There was some effort on his part to indicate that computers are zombies because of this, but generally the talk ranged far and wide beyond that including an exhortation to the audience to simulate zombies by tying up their heads in toilet paper (9 sheets would do it). As you can see from the rather fuzzy picture taken with my phone, this group of highly professional transdisciplinarians had no hesitation in complying. Since it was in pursuit of higher knowledge I, too, participated by tying a loop of tissue under my chin. I have felt just a little bit more profound ever since...