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Institute of Contemporary Art Miami


Orit Halpern Lecture

Art + Research
Thu, Apr 20, 2017
Orit Halpern. Servers, July 2012, Songdo, South Korea. Orit Halpern. Servers, July 2012, Songdo, South Korea.

As part of the Art + Research Center’s Spring 2017 Semester, “New Social Abstractions,” arts theorist, writer and professor Orit Halpern will deliver a new public lecture, “The Smart Mandate: Ubiquitous Computing, Environment, and ‘Resilient Hope’” at ICA Miami.

The Smart Mandate: Ubiquitous Computing, Environment, and “Resilient Hope”

Today, growing concerns with climate change, energy scarcity, security, and economic collapse have turned the focus of urban planners, investors, and governments towards “infrastructure” as a site of value production and potential salvation from a world consistently defined by catastrophes and “crises”. From discussions about “disaster capitalism” to the embrace of a world after humans, the idea that some environmental, economic, or security catastrophe has arrived, or will arrive, is almost unquestioned. In response, there has emerged a new paradigm of high technology infrastructure development obsessed with “smart” or “ubiquitous” infrastructures. Such “smartness” must be understood as quite specific as it directly refers to computationally and digitally managed systems—from electrical grids to building management systems—that can learn, and in theory adapt, through analyzing data about themselves. Whether threatened by terrorism, sub-prime mortgages, energy shortages, or hurricanes, the response is surprisingly similar.

This talk will discuss the emergence of “smartness” as a seemingly necessary mandate by which to speculate upon, and anticipate, negative futures, and will attempt to ask about what types of artistic practices might be able to envision different ways to respond to the contemporary catastrophe that is impacting planetary life.

About Orit Halpern

Orit Halpern is a Strategic Hire in Interactive Design and Theory and an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Montréal. Halpern is also a co-director of the Speculative Life Research Lab a design research cluster at the intersection of art and the life sciences, architecture and design, and computational media that is part of the Milieux, Institute for Technology, Art and Culture. Halpern’s work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice. Her most recent book Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (Duke Press 2015) is a genealogy of interactivity and our contemporary obsessions with “big” data and data visualization. She is currently working on two books. The first, titled The Smart Mandate, is a history and theory of “smartness”, environment, and ubiquitous computing and the second is about speculative design practices and politics. She has also published and created works for a variety of venues including The Journal of Visual Culture, Public Culture, Configurations, C-theory, and ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany.