Report from Upgrade! International

Jo-Anne Green and Helen Thorington of and Catherine D'Ignazio of Art Interactive attended Upgrade! International at Eyebeam, NYC from September 23-25, 2005. The event—which included an exhibition, an Upgrade! New York presentation and performance by Sala-Manca Group, a one-day symposium, and a half-day brainstorming session—brought together 30 presenters and institutions from around the world to discuss the possibilities for growth of the Upgrade! network. It was a very exciting environment as there are now Upgrade! monthly event series' in Boston, Chicago, Montreal, Munich, New York, Oklahoma City, Scotland, Seoul, Tel Aviv, Vancouver, Istanbul and Toronto. Presenters from all of these locations were present at the conference.

The Upgrade! exhibition was open to the public for 7 days. The exhibition consisted of 10 large-scale projections with a screen for each location along with a set of computer kiosks for people to browse the archives of each location. The screen for each location exhibited documentation of work that has been presented at each location. Upgrade! Boston included kanarinka; Institute for Applied Autonomy, jackbackrack, John (Craig) Freeman, microRevolt, Carmin Karasic, Sal Randolph, Martin Wattenberg, Brian Knep and Brooke A. Knight. The exhibition space was fairly massive - probably around 3000 sq. ft.

The symposium was open to the public on Saturday. At this time, each location gave a 20-30 minute presentation on the Upgrade! event in their location, how it fits in with their presenting institution's mission, and/or how it fits in with their artwork. Jo-Anne and I gave the Boston presentation and it was very well received. There were representatives in the audience from a number of New York new media institutions present, including, the New Museum, ITP program, and so on. Altogether, the attendance on this day was probably around 100 people at any given time.

On Sunday, the meeting was private and solely for the purpose of brainstorming how to take this international network to the next level. At the very least, it looks like the Boston Upgrade! will participate in an annual Upgrade! conference. It was also discussed that Yael Kanarek, founder of Upgrade!, and Liz Slagus of Eyebeam may form a non-profit to start raising funds for the production of these conferences and possibly the additional exhibitions and publications that we discussed.

In organizing and hosting Upgrade! Boston, Art Interactive and are in the company of some excellent artists & presenting institutions. The institutions included Eyebeam, New Media Scotland, SAT in Montreal, Art Center Nabi in Seoul, InterAccess in Toronto, Western Front in Vancouver, NOMAD in Istanbul, and UNTITLED [art space] in Oklahoma. Most of these are larger (budget-wise) than ourselves and have diverse missions and strategies for the presentation and distribution for new media work. Most of these institutions also have a commitment to a diverse and multiplicitous set of presentation formats & programs, including exhibitions, live performance & events, education, artist commissions, tool development, Artist in Residency programs, research programs and new genre public art. Any way you look at it, it's an exciting group to affiliate with.

In any case, I wanted to share these observations also along with the excitement that I feel about being part of an international community of new media organizations. Using a networked model similar to IndyMedia (i.e. local autonomy, everything mostly decentralized, as few "standards" as possible) this model supports a diversity of new media practices and cultural concerns while simultaneously facilitating dialogue at an international scale. There is a lot of potential here that might lead to national and international collaboration in the future, sharing resources, producing events, doing networked performances, and so on. It is already an interesting, emergent form of cultural production that can be seen as a potential alternative to the hierarchies of the traditional art world (bottom-up, emergent production vs. top-down controlled selection).

Catherine D'Ignazio
Director of Exhibitions & Programs, Art Interactive

see full agenda >>
see Eyebeam page >>

The Upgrade! International exhibition at Eyebeam. They filled a huge space with 10 large-scale projections of the work that has been presented in each location. There was also a computer kiosk designated for each upgrade location.

Each Upgrade Presenter gave a presentation on the Upgrade event in their locale. Here is Tamiko Thiel discussing the Munich Upgrade.

A Day of Private Conversations between Upgrade Presenting Organizations