- ISEA 2002Orai: At the Crossroads of Meaning
This issue of Leonardo is the first of two presenting projects from the ISEA 2002 conference in Nagoya, Japan. As our readers may know, ISEA—The Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts—is an international organization that fosters dialogue among the arts, sciences and emerging technologies. The organization sprang from a series of symposia begun in 1988: the International Symposia on Electronic Art. Ensuing events brought together individuals and organizations from around the world to share their experience in the emerging field of electronic art. ISEA symposia have been held both annually and biennially in a variety of international venues. The conference at Nagoya was the eleventh event, following others in sites such as Paris, São Paulo and Montréal.
The theme of ISEA 2002 was orai, a Japanese word denoting "comings and goings." Participants were invited to explore the word's meaning in the context of emerging art forms and advances in science and technology. The results took the form of papers, workshops, panels and exhibitions presented in Nagoya's waterfront area. In this and forthcoming issues of Leonardo we offer some of the more compelling papers and projects from the symposium. Roy Ascott's "Orai, or How the Text Got Pleated" serves as our introduction, demonstrating the elusive nature of orai by subjecting the term to a web search. The result—a computer-assisted stream of consciousness—extends orai's definition to other languages, cultures and institutions. Ironically, Ascott defines the word by uncoupling it from any one definition, leaving us only with crosscurrents of meaning.
Michael Punt pursues this theme further with "Orai and the Transdisciplinary Wunderkammer." He suggests that the composite changes in meaning that arise from shifting contexts imply an all-embracing space of choice, one that he calls the "Quotidian Multiverse." Punt proposes that this space may be a general context of being. Thus, our consciousness is the trace of ongoing transitions between parallel realities, whether these be domains of identity, custom or conviction.
The multivalence of being is also at issue in Anne-Sarah Le Meur's work Into the Hollow of Darkness and Nancy Nisbet's Pop! Goes the Weasel. These interactive artworks focus on perplexities of observation—if focus is the right word. Indeed, Le Meur's work addresses peripheral awareness, that which lies outside our focus. If awareness is a measure of our presence, the artist here explores the boundaries of our being. Nisbet, in contrast, inquires into the contents of these boundaries. Her installation challenges expectations arising from surveillance technologies. With the implantation of multiple transmitter chips within her body, she recalls Eduardo Kac's earlier work with these devices; however, she turns our attention to the conflicting meanings arising from their use.
Orai appears uniquely suited to ISEA, given the symposium's history and heterogeneity. Its connotations of exchange and flux find parallels in the ongoing dialogue between the arts and the sciences and among those attending the symposium. We hope in these pages to recall the excitement of the Nagoya event and to stimulate interest in ISEA and its activities. [End Page 194]