Accepted Paper:

Infrastructural Imaginaries: Resilience, Reverie, Response-ability  


Jamie Allen (Critical Media Lab Basel)
Orit Halpern (Concordia University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper asserts the importance of how technological infrastructures are imagined in relationship to both catastrophe and potentiality through the discussion of a set of historical and contemporary artistic, engineering, and architectural projects.

Paper long abstract:

In our present, "infrastructure" has become a dominant discourse in many fields, as an attempt to name confluences of technology and human action at global scales; but to what ends and effects? What potential futures and temporalities are emerging through this integral term, "infrastructure"?

For urbanists, architects and policy makers, infrastructure is often about resilience, optimization, and speculation, while for media and cultural theorists and artists, it examples both violent and emancipative potencies that make manifest the tension between technological imaginaries and their actualities. This tension now shapes countless catastrophic and utopian modes of thought, aesthetics, and futurity. Arguably, infrastructure hold us within a "reverie", a state of suspension in regard to the future.

This paper discusses the potentials, risks, and temporalities of these differing concepts of infrastructure ranging from the apocalyptic to the utopian, by engaging with a series of epistemological, territorial, and sensory projects traversing architecture, design, technology, and art. We will creatively address case studies ranging from the Japanese Metabolists, to Fluxus artists such as Paik and Beuys, to contemporary artists such as Bjork. What groups all these cases together is that they respond to seemingly catastrophic events at grand scales and envision different forms of life. We will do so to examine a genealogy of infrastructural imaginaries, to engage in how different aesthetic and pedagogical practices deploy "infrastructure" in multiple ways and to different political and ethical ends; and to investigate how different practices produce alternative understandings of human relations to technology and to the futures of life.

Panel T162
Infrastructural Futures : Speculation, Crisis, and Media Technologies