POM Berlin 2021
Overview

Politics of the Machines
Rogue Research

The 3rd POM Conference
September 13-18, 2021

In a state of ontological crisis, all boundaries between human and machine, nature and culture, and the organic and inorganic have been severely blurred. These are times of curious contrivances, novel natures, inescapable automation, and posthuman performances – where human and nonhuman find themselves being entwined, meshed and muddled into new unwitting entanglements. But from biased machine-learning to surveillance capitalism and digital colonisation – what power-structures are implicitly and covertly being embedded into these technologies?

In a demand for more transparency, multiple movements are making a turn toward democratising knowledge and technology. They are exploring the potentials of open data, software, hardware and wetware to battle concealed hierarchies and partisan paradigms – eliciting a practice of counter-coding in a proliferating politics of machines.

Within the Politics of the Machines conference series – following Copenhagen (2018) and Beirut (2019), the third POM conference will take place in Berlin on 13-18 of September 2021, hosted by the chair for Open Science at the Technische Universität Berlin and the Einstein Center Digital Future.

The goal of this edition of POM is to debate and devise concepts and practices that seek to critically question and unravel novel modes of science – what roles do academia, researchers, scientists, artists and designers have to take on in times of crisis, how must we re/position ourselves? What chances or challenges might the democratisation of technology and knowledge elicit, and what potential do practices such as critical making, community science, trans/feminist hacking or citizen forensics hold to bend the hierarchies of power – how can we work with active matter and technical turmoil to re/act?

‘POM Berlin – Rogue Research’ aims to probe new methodological approaches from art, design and civic activism within the framework of academia in order to surface an inter- and transdisciplinary terrain that attempts to exceed the boundaries of theory and practice, academia and activism, and science and civil society.

We aim to carry out this conference as a hybrid online/offline event based in Berlin, should the circumstances of the current pandemic permit. However, notwithstanding the format, the contributions will form the foundations for the planned publication.

Tracks
Based on a call for topics
Track 01
Decolonizing the Machine
Track 02
Spaces – Encounters, Subjectivities + Environments
Track 03
(Micro)biocontrol and Ethics of Care
Track 04
Digging Earth
Track 05
Open Science/Critical Spaces
Track 06
Interferences of the Multitude
Track 01
Decolonizing the Machine
Track Chairs
Christina Shoux Casey (Aalborg University, DK)
Grisha Coleman (Arizona State University, US)
Marco Donnarumma (Academy for Theatre and Digitality, DE)
Elizabeth Jochum (Aalborg University, DK)
This track explores black feminist critiques of posthumanism in and through artistic practice and performance research that utilize robots, machine learning, and computation. While robots and cyborgs have potential to figure posthuman forms of subjectivations, in algorithmic societies they often reinforce human-machine, self-other, or abled-disabled binaries, and gloss over the racist and dehumanizing exclusions that uphold neoliberal forms of power and Western conceptions of the human. This track is designed to cultivate and expand upon recent critical race and disability scholarship to uncover how hierarchies are encoded through biased digital technologies that systematically harm persons of colour and elide people with disabilities.

We invite contributions that critically inquire issues of race, gender and disability as they relate to performing machines/technological bodies. We aim at diverse and inclusive scholarship and practice that emphasise decolonial thinking/making. In coordination with the POM theme ‘Rogue Research’, we encourage theory and research involving critical and experimental approaches.

Such inquiry might address topics such as:
– Race/gender/disability bias in robotic/cyborg art
– Algorithmic oppression in robotic/cyborg art, computational racialization
– Critical phenomenology and histories of race and technology in robotic/cyborg art
– Indigenous technologies/epistemologies in art and performance
– Black feminist theory, critical race studies, critical feminism, critical embodiment studies, disability studies, cybertheory, somatechnics, critical posthumanism

Track 02
Spaces – Encounters, Subjectivities + Environments
Track Chairs
Ingrid Cogne (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, AT)
María Antonia González Valerio (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, MX)
This call aims at re-mapping space of co-agency among living organisms, and invites papers and artistic research projects that observe, question or speculate on a plurality of perspectives that condition or are conditioned by being ‘in’. Being – as we, I, they — ‘in’ something. Being – as everything that there is: Plants, animals, bacteria, sound, light, the planets – are ‘in’ something. The ‘in’ is constantly being modified. There is no ‘in’ as an identity to itself that can contain everything that there is and everything that we are; that can contain everything that there was, as well as everything that we were and wanted to be. The reciprocity among organisms and environments, and the idea that the structural and functional details of organisms are not completely coded by the genome, is explored from a point of view that considers space understood in a broad sense – as a fundamental factor that is intra-active, in continuous formation and in entangled relations of becoming, conditioned – and at the same time – that conditions the becoming of organisms and their behaviour.

Space is something constructed and negotiated with and through many agents and agencies. Space hosts both physical and perceptive navigation and occupation. The question is ‘How’ to enter a physical-material space that proposes possible entangled modes of being in, becoming, constituting, as well as accepting the invisible and perceiving the immaterial ‘in’ spaces.

Inquiries might address topics such as:
– Translating spaces
– Voices, wordings and non/humans
– Conversing with immaterial and invisible presences
– Reading bodies: Navigations – occupations – relationalities
– Organisms and environments

Track 03
(Micro)biocontrol and Ethics of Care

Track Chairs
Mariana Perez Bobadilla (DeTao Masters Academy, CN)
Clio Flego (University of Genoa, IT)
Marta de Menezes (Cultivamos Cultura, PT)
Joel Ong (York University, CA)

Among our commitment to practices that bend the hierarchies of power, biotechnologies and the biopolitical logics they are managed by, cannot stay out of the discussion. The bio/zoe track for POM Berlin invites proposals critical to biocontrol and biosurveillance. It implies new logics on the distribution of life, death and pain (Braidotti 2013) by questioning human exceptionalism and transforming the relationship with non-humans and connected macro-systems. We are asking for ways of expanding our senses and understanding identity through biotech ventures and experimentations that explore the ramifications of the self. How biotechnological mediated bodies are transformed and what are the implications in terms of temporalities of care. Carol Gilligan (1982) introduces the notion of ethics of care as a form of interdependence valuing relationship, the importance of everyone being listened to carefully. Care is also fundamental to Anna Tsing’s (2017) ‘arts of living on a damaged planet’ and Donna Haraway’s (2016) stitching together of improbable collaborations without worrying over much about conventional ontological kind. This track invites proposals reflecting on or working with living matter from transdisciplinary methodological approaches where art and the life sciences, function as material research into alternatives to deal with the challenges of the present.

Inquiries might address topics such as:
– Making kin and the ethics of care
– Challenging the structures of biocontrol and biosurveillance
– Adaptive strategies, including feminist making approaches to working with living organisms
– Composite/distributed identity and forms of non-human perception
– Integrated self and applied microperformativity

Track 04
Digging Earth

Track Chairs
Catherine Bernard (State University of New York, US)
Matt Garcia (Colorado State University Pueblo / Desert ArtLAB, US)

From the myth of the El Dorado and the colonial exploitation of earth resources on indigenous lands, to the twenty-first century development of renewable sources of energy, new technologies and the demand for rare minerals, the extraction of earth resources has been strategized to meet the demands of heavily industrialized countries. Deep sea mining is the next frontier for the extraction of rare earth elements, while a lucrative space industry is developing plans for asteroid mining.

Relayed by a number of grassroots and activist groups, artists and collectives in various world communities are mounting a growing opposition to the disregard of the extractive industries for ecological destruction and the disempowerment of local communities.

Inquiries might address topics such as:
– Politics of the extractive industries, geo-politics, land appropriation, the commons, exploitative mining on indigenous lands
– The impact of extractive industries on local and indigenous economies and livelihoods
– Gender roles in the exploitation of earth and natural resources, feminist justice strategies for the sharing of natural resources
– Complex interdependencies between renewable energies and the extraction of minerals
– Electronics and military sector dependencies on rare earth elements and the environmental impact of their extraction

Track 05
Open Science/Critical Spaces

Track Chairs
Gameli Adzaho (Global Lab Network, GH)
Thomas Mboa (Mboalab, CM)
Khadidiatou Sall (SeeSD, SN)

The movement of open science is rapidly expanding, bringing into being critical spaces that challenge established hierarchies of power. Giving communities the power to redefine their relationship to knowledge and production, labs across the globe are bringing together professional scientists, DIY practitioners, hackers, critical makers and activists to make new artefacts, conduct experiments, produce and analyse data, and to incite social and political change. Connecting open science to sustainable development means instigating bottom-up civic-driven approaches to issues such as education, health, gender, environmental sustainability and urban development. As local knowledge meets open technologies, a possibility to take issue with an unfolding ‘technocoloniality’ emerges – with the logics of coloniality driven by technology, neocapitalist practices, coloniality of knowledge and a rhetoric of techno-utopia. How do these communities assemble and prototype alternative visions, produce knowledge and initiate practices? What issues are being addressed and what potential do they hold? What are the opportunities and challenges of open science for sustainable development?

Inquiries might address topics such as:
– Democratizing science and development
– DIY tech: open source software, hardware and wetware for development
– DIY biology, biotechnology, bioeconomy, open education and environmental activism
– Making in response to crisis
– Spaces and practices of techno-decoloniality

Track 06
Interferences of the Multitude
Track Chairs
Patrícia J. Reis (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, AT)
Taguhi Torosyan (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, AT)
Stefanie Wuschitz (TU Berlin, DE)
In an era of ongoing crises made visible and sensible in the recent global turmoil, the question of ‘normality’ is increasingly under scrutiny. One can no longer be sure what ‘matters’ the most, as the normal was the problem in the first place. ‘There can be no return to normal’ has become the new social and political mantra – we might rather need to give attention to the experimental conditions of our observations. To accomplish this task, artists and researchers search for methods and tools to intra-act with and care for what matters in the realms of a potential future. We take this call as a chance to feel those who question established disorders – an invitation for people from diverse fields working in theory and/or empirical methodologies and practices for critical (art) making.

Inquiries might address topics such as:
– Transfeminist hacking – towards a (new*) method
– Feminist economies vs gendered commodity chains
– Eco-feminism and its discontents, de-growth ecologies and possible futures – zero cost, zero waste, zero harm
– Ethical hardware – tools of the redistribution of the sensible
– Empirical methodologies and practices for critical (art) making

Interventions

Intervention 01

The Quantum Biology of Politics

Intervention 02

Training to Deal with Otherness

Intervention 03

Beyond Classification: The Machinic Sublime

Intervention 04

Emotional Machine

Intervention 05

Ambivalent machines

Intervention 01

The Quantum Biology of Politics

Clarissa Ribeiro (Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, USA/BR)
Mick Lorusso (Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, USA)

“The quantum mechanics of politics, then, demands from us an understanding that flux is neither good nor bad but inevitable” (Flora Lewis, November 6, 1983, Foreign Affairs’ column for The New York Times)

We invite artists and researchers to jump collectively with us from one space of possibility – where quantum mechanics asserts, we “don’t know” and “can’t know”; to the next – in which experimental techniques such as time-resolved microscopy, ultrafast spectroscopy, single molecule spectroscopy, or even single particle imaging enable us the precision of observing and measuring infinitesimal dynamics at very small length and time scales. What does quantum biology offer us as multiplicities and alternative realities when considering the attempt to subvert and confront absolute order, stability, and control in the socio-political sphere? We offer the POM audience an immersion in live video performances speculating on quantum effects in living systems, using DIY microscopy, data visualization, machine learning, and other media art techniques.

Part 1: Clarissa Ribeiro (Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, US/BR) / Mick Lorusso (Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, US) / Karina Lopez (Los Angeles, US/MX)

Part 2:
 Victoria Vesna (Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, US) / Jim Gimzewski
(Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, US)

Part 3: Claudia Jacques (Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, US) / John Bardakos (GR/FR/CN)

Part 4: Kaitlyn Bryson (Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, US) / Matea Friend (Los Angeles, US) / Submercence Collective (Los Angeles, US)

Part 5: Ivana Dama, (Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, US) / Clinton Van Arnam
(Art|Sci Collective, UCLA, US)

Intervention 02

Training to Deal with Otherness

Laura Popplow (Code & Context, TH Köln, DE)
Christian Faubel (Code & Context, TH Köln, DE)
Lasse Scherffig (KISD, TH Köln, DE)
Andreas Muxel (Faculty of Design, HS Augsburg, DE)
and students of all three programs

Artificial intelligence and machine learning promise machines that learn from us. The myth of the machine that meets us as an equal has been with us since, at least, Licklider’s ‘Man-computer Symbiosis’. It is found in the idea of human-centered design, smart interfaces, and intelligent agents. In contrast, human-computer interaction has always been about how to perform commands and embody interfaces – about learning how to act like a machine. Acknowledging this, we assume that interaction occurs where technology eludes our expectations, where it needs to be repaired, kept running and performed, or where it develops behavior that is unexpected and unpredictable. When machines behave in ways that are contrary to our expectations, our relationship to them will be challenged – and it might become apparent how many different actors are involved in their functioning. In these moments, machines become Others with whom we have to find a way of dealing.


The intervention brings together designers of future machine systems: Practitioners and students from three programs dealing with design and/of technology and the complex entanglement of teaching machines and being taught by them. Together with the participating public, the intervention will stage three practices in human-machine relations: TRAINING is the key activity when working with machine learning systems, an activity that needs time and timing, in which there is a fragile balance between needing more training or over-training a neural network. REHEARSING specific gestures that create relations between humans and machines, we will stage a shared embodied experience in the Zoom session, exploring and inviting reflection about how machines are both trained by us and training us. Through MAINTENANCE and enactment of these collective and individual gestures, we will experience how much daily and everyday performance work is needed to deal with the Otherness of human-machine relations.

Intervention 03

Beyond Classification: The Machinic Sublime

Robert Twomey (Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, UNL, US)
Eunsu Kang (Artist, Founder Women Art AI, US)
Joel Ong (Computational Arts, York University, CA)

The gap between current technological development in AI and the complex and mysterious process of human intelligence remind us of the very intersections of the mundane and the sublime in our history. The journey towards machinic sublime might feel long and disoriented yet be a place to find the most important questions of today where hyperobjects of technoscience – such as the internal distribution of the brain or cognitive functioning in multi-species, the networked consciousnesses over social media, ecosystemic developments in mixed reality, edge sensing and smart homes – recast life in general as protean, plastic and ever in potentia.

This intervention is an experimental theatric conversation/performance via webconferencing, a new kind of Turing Test. In a multi-agent roundtable, human interlocutors and machinic partners argue the possibility of a machinic sublime. Together, these interlinked discussions become an emergent system. In this roundtable format, audience interventions are welcome.

Intervention 04

Emotional Machine

Hege Tapio (OsloMet, NO)
Marco Donnarumma (Independent researcher, DE)
Florence Razoux (Independent researcher, DE/FR)

What kind of relationships can emerge from “emotional” machines interacting with biological beings, human and non-human? This panel questions the current cultural and technological path towards machines’ emotion technology. Emotion technology seeks to interpret, mimic and use the language of emotions to engage humans. In this field, machines are imbued with emotion recognition and processing algorithms so that they can be modeled and customized with personalities that may emotionally support a user. But what if these perspectives were tilted?


Research into Emotion technology is conducted by various actors in different fields – artists, scientists, designers, philosophers, psychologists and activists. Some of them experiment with the possibilities of these technologies, others seek to critique these developments by arguing that emotions are not something to be registered, monetized and engineered. In this panel three artists/researchers shape some perspectives on the possibilities and the impossibilities of a convergence between emotions and machines. Following concise presentations by the panel members, the conversation will be open to the audience aiming to collaboratively answer some urgent questions on the topic.

Intervention 05

Ambivalent machines

Luz María Sánchez Cardona (Transdisciplinary artist and researcher, MX)

Amanda Gutiérrez (Concordia University, CA)
Jordan Lacey (RMIT University, AU)

Ambivalent Machines Intervention [AMI] proposes to critically question biological and technological control at the present times of bio-emergency. Suddenly the Anthropocene has been challenged through a non-human element – the virus – that inhabits and ravages humans. Our human economic system came to a full stop. Shall we re-start the machine? The AMI involves three layers that will ‘unfold’ from a hybrid entry point [HYP] that will be online and onsite: Berlin, Córdoba, Mexico City, and the Terrick Terrick landscape of South-East Australia.

(1) New Forms of Resistance: To Achieve Lucidity is a face-to-face dialogue with transdisciplinary specialists. Unfolding into a theoretical layer, the dialogue will take place exploring the question: Shall we re-start the machine? in a reflective and in-depth approach. (2) The Field of Aural Assembly is an augmented aur(e)ality walk, featuring the sonic works of three sound collectives working in sonic activism and political listening. The project emphasizes sound as a pivotal medium to approach social and political assembly in/from the public space. These sound pieces have created disruptive forms of collaboration through field recordings, editing, and collective listening, opening dialogues among localities, social temporalities, and individual voices. The collectives considered are Escuchatorio, Public Voices!, and Ultra-red Collective. (3) Rock-pool dialogue is a collaboration of recorded light and sound, generated from machinic and performative recordings in the Terrick Terrick landscape of South-East Australia, situated on the lands of the Barapa-Barapa and Wemba-Wamba First Nations people. In 2020, soundscape artist Jordan Lacey, experimental filmmaker Dirk de Bruyn, and conceptual artist Michael Graeve accidentally converged on the site and explored its unique environment. This dialogue probes the intersections of recordist, machine, non-human and rock-well to disclose a multitude of luminous-sonic worlds. 

Call for Papers

March 15, 2021

Applicants are invited to submit a 500-word abstract under one of the six conference tracks by 15.03.2021. Submissions without a track selection will be assigned to an appropriate track by the conference organizers.

Following acceptance of the abstract, authors are requested to submit their full paper (max. 4000 words including references) by 30.08.2021.

All submissions will undergo double blind peer-review and accepted papers will be presented in the conference programme and published in the open access conference proceedings.

All participation in POM Berlin will be free of charge, however, please keep in mind that we cannot provide financial support.

Important Dates
Last updated, Jan 2021
Submission

15.03.2021 Submissions of Abstracts
01.06.2021 Notifications of Acceptance
30.08.2021 Full Paper Submission
20.10.2021 Final Paper Submission

Conference

13.09.2021-18.09.2021
POM Berlin – Rogue Research /
Hybrid Digital-Live Conference

Venue

Technische Universität Berlin /
Einstein Center Digital Future

Following Copenhagen (2018) and Beirut (2019), the third POM conference is planned to take place in Berlin on 13.-18. of September 2021, hosted by the chair for Open Science at the Institute of History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Literature at the Technische Universität Berlin and the Einstein Center Digital Future.
The conference will take place over six days, comprising a series of tracks, interventions and a student exhibition. We aim to carry out this conference as a hybrid online/offline event, should the circumstances of the current pandemic permit – based in Berlin, the conference aims to have globally distributed conference satellites providing spaces of social encounter. However, notwithstanding the possibilities of the format, the contributions will form the foundations for planned publication.
Interventions

Additionally to the six conference tracks, a series of invited interventions will take place during the conference in September. These formats will provide an interactive space for debate, taking the form of panels, performances, discussion groups etc.

Student Exhibition

A collaborative exhibition with student works crossing the disciplinary fields that surround the conference topic is planned to take place during the time of the conference in September. More information on the student exhibition will be published soon.

Committee
POM Berlin 2021

Dr. Michelle Christensen
Visiting Professor
(Open Science / Critical Culture)
Technische Universität Berlin / Einstein Center Digital Future
Berlin University of the Arts / Weizenbaum Institute

Dr. Florian Conradi
Visiting Professor
(Open Science / Critical Design)
Technische Universität Berlin / Einstein Center Digital Future
Berlin University of the Arts / Weizenbaum Institute

Dr. Morten Søndergaard
Associate Professor / MediaAC Academic Director
School of Communication, Music, Art & Technology – Aalborg University
Dr. Laura Beloff
Associate Professor of Visual Culture and Artistic Practices – Aalto University
Dr. Hassan Choubassi
Associate Professor/Director
Institute of Visual Communication
The International University of Beirut
Mr. Joe Elias
Associate Director
Institute of Visual Communication
The International University of Beirut
Dr. Dehlia Hannah
Mads Øvlisen Fellow, Art and Natural Science
Aalborg University-Copenhagen
Affiliated Fellow, Institute for Cultural Inquiry Berlin