What Time Is It? Technologies of life in the contemporary
14-16 December 2017
Have we finally entered the End of the End of History? (E-flux, 2014) Recent media technological transformations have thrown into confusion many existing political and social theories; art, media philosophy, politics, biology; in fact all ideas of life presented in the last century. Are these the jumbled signs of ‘our’ contemporaneity? The idea of the contemporary has been around for a few decades, seen variously as a period, a critical gesture, and a disciplinary frame for literature and art. We believe the time is right to revisit the idea of the contemporary from a different lens, outside the closeted frameworks of a Euro-American debate where contemporaneity appears as a unstable successor to modernity and postmodernity.
In the past decade we have seen the worldwide spread of media and information networks. Since value is now gained from experience, new corporations and political parties deploy strategies of agglomeration using digital media technologies. Growing computational grids inaugurate storage and surveillance technologies that are affecting fields like the environment, finance and law. Machine time disturbs historical continuity and sequence. Genetic engineering and life storage technologies disrupt the idea of the biological life span; media memory and recording technologies have already transformed the lives of mobile phone users in the world. Media-enabled populations in Asia, Africa and Latin America are now part of a new infrastructure of the senses. New technologies are being retailed, even researched in India and China by media corporations; Africa is one of the global pioneers in mobile money. Surveillance and biometric technologies loom large in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Since 2000 digital infrastructures have produced a new generation of art and media practitioners. Like the West, capitalist enterprises in Asia, Africa and Latin America are facing new challenges and opportunities with informational networks. Like everywhere, such transformations have set in motion a sense of indetermination and flux, providing opportunities, shadow zones and critical discourses.
This conference, part of an international network to research and engage the contemporary, seeks to explore experience from the vantage point of these media- informational transformations. We will be debating art practice, cultural theory, media aesthetics, social theory, forensics, urbanism, and the landscape of the political. Time horizons and its philosophies are a major concern of the conference, as we seek to displace the idea of the contemporary as (just) a ‘present’ without limits.
The conference will have academics and artists, scholars and practitioners. We will experiment with a series of hybrid formats, including lectures, public debate, screenings, online networks and publishing.
Editorial Collective: Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, Ravi Sundaram, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Ravi S Vasudevan.
Leverhulme International Network in Contemporary Studies
University of St Andrews, Glasgow School of Art, University of Paris 8, and the University of Quebec, Montreal, Sarai-CSDS, Delhi.