Subtle Technologies v.16



What comes to mind for most people when thinking of immortality is the concept of extending one’s life to live forever. While we will touch on this at our Festival there are other aspects we want to investigate. We also want to consider the preservation of cultural knowledge and artifacts. From burying such artifacts in amber to sending messages into space, we will be investigating preservation as a way to achieve collective immortality. Through the lens of immortality, we will discuss de-extinction, the idea that science may be able to resurrect extinct species.

As in past years, when investigating a theme we stretched the boundaries of a subject to make unexpected but poignant bridges between topics and disciplines. One such presentation looked at neutrinos as the ultimate immortal, a quantum particle that once born continues to travel relatively unimpeded forever. As important to the idea of immortality as an ever-living body is the idea of an ever-living mind. We will look at future possibilities of “mind uploading.” What does it mean to upload our mind to silicon and leave our carbon-based body behind? As well as many interesting presentations on these and other topics, we are looking forward to a panel discussion on what role immortality plays in pop culture. The recent popularity of vampires and zombies reflects western pop culture’s ongoing interest in immortality.

– Jim Ruxton, Director of Programs



Co-presented with InterAccess

Thursday, June 6, 2013, 2013, 6:00 – 10:00 pm
InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre

Led by visual artist, Ryan Jordan, retro-death-telegraphy was an experimental workshop where participants explored and built a range of  devices which have at some point been believed to have the potential to aid in communication with the afterlife. This workshop was presented in collaboration with InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre.


The Beyond Category 
Co-presented with the Beaver Hall Gallery

Friday, June 7, 2013, 2013, 7:00 – 10:00 pm
Beaver Hall Gallery

Featuring works by: David Khang, Scott Kildall / Nathaniel Stern, John Paul Robinson, and Alan Sondheim.

Curated by Willy Le Maitre

On view at the Beaver Hall Gallery from Friday, June 7№ to Sunday, June 16-h, 2013

The Beyond Category mused on surpassing the thresholds that define our mortal existence. What are the criteria for being in a beyond? Imagining the self as medium; its expression travels to the shores of forever.

Wednesday – Sunday: 12:00 – 5:00 pm
Monday-Tuesday: Closed

Saturday, June 8: 12:00-7:30 pm

The Amber Archive 
Co-presented with Ryerson University

Featuring work by John Paul Robinson

The Amber Archive, an annual participatory art project, examines the implications of deep time and evolution by promising a kind of immortality. Each year, works by artists, designers and scientists are encased in pine resin and placed in time capsules designed to facilitate their fossilization into amber. Evidence of our existence preserved in amber, to be found by beings walking on a beach millions of years from now. The playfulness of the Amber Archive makes it the perfect vehicle for examining the realities of time, evolution and extinction. Contemplating the personal implications requires a sense of humour.

DNA “Mating Call”
Co-presented with Ryerson University

Atanas Bozdarov, Artist and designer
Johny Bozdarov, Scientist

A sound piece that used the artist’s DNA sequence (A, C, G, and T) as notes for a musical composition. Using various science techniques, the HLA portion of the DNA was cloned. HLA genes are involved in the human immune response mating, thus the music produced from this sequence was treated as a “mating call.” This work discussed immortality by permanently recording the structures of life. The presentation consisted of images/diagrams explaining the processes of generating the musical compositions, science work, and featured a recording of the artist’s “mating call.”

Tweets in Space
Co-presented with Ryerson University

Scott Kildall, Independent Artist, San Francisco

Nathaniel Stern, Associate Professor of Art and Design, Peck School of the Arts, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

“Tweets in Space” beamed Twitter discussions from participants worldwide towards GJ667Cc – an exoplanet 22 light years away that might support extraterrestrial life. This project by Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern was originally performed on September 21st, 2012, as part of the International Symposium on Electronic Art in New Mexico (ISEA2012). During the 30-minute performance, tweets were collected via the #tweetsinspace tag. More than 50 press articles led to worldwide participation, where over 1500 texts were gathered, about 1 tweet per second. Then, the tweets were transmitted via high-powered radio telescope on November 18th, 2013. A response is anticipated in 44 years.

Les ateliers Angus: individuals and collective memory in the digital age
Co-presented with Ryerson University

Line Dezainde, PhD student in Semiotics at Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM) and digital media artist

From day to paper to digital formats, memory has never been so fragile, as archives are stored on impermanent supports or within electronic systems which are bound for “techno oblivion” with every new update. Drawing on the example of the online artwork, Les ateliers Angus, which is composed of digital archives, this paper presented reflections pertaining to the dissemination of digital archival elements through hypermedia fiction as a prospective multiptatform mise-en-scene of the elements that comprise an archive.

DNA from Fossils, Time Travel and De-Extinction
Co-presented with Ryerson University

Hendrik Poinar, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Paloegenetics, McMaster University

We use DNA isolated from archeological, paleontological and forensic remains to address questions about origins, migrations and extinctions of past peoples, animals and microbes. The genomes of extinct animals and hominids can be pieced together using the short stretches of DNA isolated from both temperate and fossils. This allows us to study their origins, evolution, relatedness and extinction. With dramatic advances in stem cell research and molecular biology, the possibility of reversing extinction and bringing back these species is becoming increasingly likely. The question remains, even if we can, whether or not we should.

Undoing Forever: A live radio documentary presentation
Co-presented with Ryerson University

Britt Wray, producer at CBC Radio/Radio-Canada and Science Storyteller at Synbiota

“De-extinction is a game-changer for the conservation biology movement. It changes one of our principal arguments, that extinction is forever.”

– Stanley Temple, biologist

De-extinction is a new movement with a mission of species resurrection through synthetic biology. The daunting question is no longer what is technically possible, but what a post-natural world should look like and who gets to decide. Britt Wray brought radio into the live hall for a hybrid sonic performance-lecture that left our ears buzzing with the words of scientists, skeptics and philosophers. What is next for culture, nature, and technology when extinction is no longer forever?

Speed Networking 
Co-presented with Ryerson University

Saturday June 8, 2013 2:00-3:00 pm
Ryerson University, Library Building, LIB 72

Like speed dating, but without the overt romantic overtones, this speed networking gave artists and scientists an opportunity to sit down and talk about their work, their interests and whatever else they could cram into 5 minutes of face time. When the bell rang, you moved to the next table until you had met as many people as you could in an hour.


Saturday, June 8, 2013, 7:30 – 10:00 pm
OCAD University, Auditorium, Room 190

Curator and Moderation: Greg Van Alstyne, the Director of Research at sLab
Presenter: Randal A. Koene,  CEO, and Science Director of Foundation 2045
Filmmaker: Doug Wolens, Independent Filmmaker
Panelist: Trevor Haldenby, Design Futurist, Co-Founder, The Mission Business

This film screening event is presented in collaboration with Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) at OCAD University.

Neural Interfaces, Neuroprostheses and Whole Brain Emulation 
Co-presented with OCAD University

Randal A. Koene, CEO CarbonCopies and NeuraLink Co., and Science Director of the 2045 Initiative

There is a convergence right now in neuroscience that is leading to new tools that provide detailed access to the architecture and to the dynamic activity of neural circuits throughout the brain. Randal A. Koene’s work includes development of one such technology in the form of wireless implantable neural probes. Our experience of the world and our social interactions take place entirely through neural circuits. Neural interfaces and brain prostheses present the opportunity to elevate our awareness of each other, to anticipate problems, to deal with novel challenges and to continue our existence.

Film: The Singularity
Co-presented with OCAD University

Doug Wolens, Filmmaker

The singularity is defined as the point in time when computer intelligence exceeds human intelligence. This notion of superhuman machines has long served as fodder for tales of science fiction. Yet most scientific leaders argue that these changes are inevitable, based on the accelerating rate of technological progress. Ultimately if we become more machine-like, and machines more like us, will we sacrifice our humanity to gain something greater? Or will we engineer our own demise? THE SINGULARITY is a comprehensive and insightful documentary that asks the question: what kind of humans do we want to become?


Sunday, June 9

Digital and Physical Collapse

Alan Sondheim, Independent new media artist, scholar

The planet is going through catastrophic environment changes; immortality is out of reach as we approach ecological collapse. How do we deal with this, online and off? Alan presented video/audio work created in virtual worlds.

Born in the Big Bang – Neutrinos – The Ultimate Immortals

Scott Menary, Professor

The Big Bang is the accepted scientific account of the birth of our universe. All of the fundamental building blocks that make up our world were created then including the ephemeral particles known as neutrinos. The universe is essentially transparent to neutrinos so there are a number of neutrinos zipping around today that were actually created during the Big Bang. The study of neutrinos offers us a unique window to view regions (e.g., interior of the Sun) closed to other types of light. Scott explained what neutrinos are and how we are using them to probe the hidden universe.

Amelogenesis, Imperfecta/Beautox Me!

David Khang, Adjunct Faculty, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, Doctor of Dental Surgery, University of Toronto

“Amelogenesis Imperfecta” is an experimental borrowing technologies and biomaterials from dental science, the potentials for growing enamel were  explored to produce what were in effect enamel sculptures. “Beautox Me” took the faces of actors as the canvas for artistic intervention. In an era of High Definition media, actors curious enough to experiment with modified facial expressions were recruited for botox facial injections. The collaborating actors then posed for before and after video shoots while reciting highly affective scripts. The two channels are synchronized to highlight the botox-induced muscle paralysis.

sound landscape memory

Don Hill, sound artist and associate researcher, Behavioural Neuroscience Laboratory, Laurentian University

Sound never ages. A sonic pitch – the note C, for instance – is immutable, if the conditions that give rise to that pure frequency are maintained; it is an ideal carrier wave for cultural memory. Sound never disappears. Like a river that goes underground, it can pop up in unexpected places. Don described how ancient landscape architecture is infused with sonic memory, and how it plays back over time – speaking directly to the human central nervous system; the recordings I have made in situ of ‘songs in the land’ will serve as a potent demonstration.

Trophies and Talismans: The Traffic of Human Remains

Myriam Nafte, PhD Candidate, McMaster University

Myriam looked at two seemingly opposed institutions within Western culture that defir authority and history through the use of human remains. These are the Roman Catholic Church with their rich tradition of making and displaying relics, and the field of medicine in the creation and promotion of anatomical specimens. Both institutions have also influenced and informed a variety of visual artists who integrate human remains into their artwork. Myriam presented these works, highlighting the strong connections between personal narrative, institutional identity, and the transformation of the dead body into objects of culture.

“We Will Be Different”: Some Notes on Science Fiction and Immortality

Veronica Hollinger, Professor, Cultural Studies Department, Trent University

How does science fiction address the problems and promises of longevity and immortality? Veronica started with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and then focused on some of science fiction’s current obsessions with posthuman bodies, alternative pfatforms for mind, and the possibilities for living after the Singularity. As the literature of technologically saturated societies, science fiction is one way of thinking critically about the politics, ethics, and social implications of techno-scientific developments. The achievement of significant longevity, even if not true immortality, promises radical social revolution. “We will be different” is one of science fiction’s favourite stories.

Panel Discussion 

Curator and Moderator: Roberta Biuani, ArtSci Salon


Veronica Hollinger, Professor, Cultural Studies Department, Trent University

Eric Boyd,