Keynotes

Julian Stallabrass
Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art
The Courtauld Institute of Art

Friday 13 May | 3:30pm
Jackman Humanities Institute
170 St. George Street, Toronto
Room JHB100, 1st Floor

War and Photographic Speed
How does the transformation of the photograph from chemical trace to data object alter its relation to time? Prints aged and became historical objects, altering through time just as the events and scenes that they captured also receded. The digital file, short of catastrophic degradation, does not age. The apparently seamless digital collages of the standard museum display further complicate the relation of photography to time, as they bind up many moments and places of origin in one image.

One point at which different conceptions of time came into intense and terrible contention was the Vietnam War, in which the speed of an industrialised and high-tech military and a similarly rapid mass media met a slow, methodical, careful and very long-term form of struggle. The contrast is clearly seen in politics, tactics, culture and photography. The war was part of a process by which parts of Asia were forced into modernisation and ‘development’.

How did the fast and slow photographic techniques and practices of the Vietnam War compare with those in the demonstration war of our own time, in Iraq? Do the effects of various increases of speed—of making, transmitting, publishing, circulating and perhaps viewing photographs—have on the representation and politics of war?

Julian Stallabrass a lecturer, writer, photographer and curator with a particular interest in the relations between art and political issues. His research and teaching is in areas of modern and contemporary art, including the globalisation of art and the biennial scene, the history of photography and new media art. Most recently, he has been working on documentary photography, film and video, especially in the depiction of war. He has also been researching populism in contemporary art and politics.

His first book, Gargantua (Verso 1996) was about aspects of visual mass and popular culture, including street art, amateur photography and computer games. High Art Lite (Verso 1999) remains the only serious critical and analytical account of ‘young British art’, and was the subject of much controversy on its launch. With the Royal Academy, Julian wrote Paris Pictured (2002), an account of the rise and fall of street photography in the city, and the conditions for its flourishing in leftist politics, rent control and regulated development. Internet Art (Tate 2003) was the first book about the subject, and examined the challenges it presented to the art world and to conventional critical discourse. Art Incorporated (later published and updated as Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction) (Oxford, 2004/ 2006) analysed the globalisation of the art world, and art’s place in contemporary culture and society. It has been translated into six languages.

In 2008 Julian curated the Brighton Photo Biennial, Memory of Fire: Images of War and the War of Images, nine contrasting exhibitions about war photography. Materials from the exhibitions, and essays on the subject and interviews with photographers were later collected into the book, Memory of Fire (Photoworks 2013).

Lisa Parks
Professor of Film & Media Studies
University of California Santa Barbara

Saturday 14 May | 10am
University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC)
1265 Military Trail, Toronto
Humanities Wing, Room HW305

Interfacing the IMSI catcher: Total Awareness of Undetectable Interception
Known as a “man in the middle” device, the IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) catcher simulates a cell phone base station and is able to lock on to cell phones in a given vicinity, intercept data from and/or remotely reconfigure or operate them. IMSI catchers first hit the world market during the early 1990s and since then have been used by military units, state agencies, law enforcers, spies, hackers, and criminal organizations. Vernacularly referred to as Stingrays or dirtboxes, the IMSI catcher was relatively secret until recently. Organizations have used them surreptitiously and some manufacturers have required their clients to sign non-disclosure agreements forbidding public discussion of the technology’s use or operation. Over the past decade, a series of lawsuits were filed in connection with IMSI catcher use and civil rights organizations and journalists began to ask questions. Hackers also began to figure out how to build and detect them. The IMSI catcher is now part of a lawful interception industry that is expected to be worth $1.3 billion by 2019. In short, cell phone interception could become as common as cell phone use.

Addressing the theme of the conference – image / interface – the talk critically examines public audiovisual interfaces with the IMSI catcher, while highlighting the fact that the technology is predicated upon its undetectability. This contradiction, I argue, creates a paradoxical condition I refer to as total awareness of undetectable interception, a structure of feeling or epistemological position that is emergent within the current era of surveillance in Western democracies that involves being fully aware of the technical capacities for interception while being unable to detect them. Given this, the IMSI catcher serves as a useful site for thinking about the strategic/tactical modularity of the interface as well as the politics of cynicism, technical knowledge, and authoritarianism.

Lisa Parks, Ph.D. is Professor and former Department Chair of Film and Media Studies (2008-2011) and served as Director of the Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS) at UC Santa Barbara from 2012-2015. Parks has research expertise in the areas of media history and theory, media and globalization, media arts and activism, digital cultures, experimental methodologies, and feminist criticism. She has written extensively about satellites as cultural technologies, and her current research is focused in two related areas: media infrastructure studies; and media, security and surveillance studies. An interdisciplinary scholar rooted in the humanities, Parks’ research engages with fields of geography, international relations, science and technology studies, communication, and art. Parks is the author of Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual (Duke UP, 2005), Coverage: Vertical Mediation and the War on Terror (Routledge, forthcoming), and Mixed Signals: Media Infrastructures and Cultural Geographies (in progress). She is co-editor of: Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures (U of Illinois, 2015), Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries and Cultures (Rutgers UP, 2012), Undead TV (Duke UP, 2007) Planet TV: A Global Television Reader (NYU, 2003), and another in progress entitled Life in the Age of Drones (under contract, Duke UP). Parks has held visiting appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin, McGill University, University of Southern California, and the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. During the past decade, she has led international grant-funded research collaborations in Europe, Africa, and Central Asia, working with computer scientists, social scientists, artists, and local partners. Parks has delivered invited lectures in more than twenty-five countries and is currently a PI on major research grants from the National Science Foundation and the US State Department. She teaches such courses as Television History; Advanced Film Analysis; Social Media; Surveillance Cultures; Global Media; Media Historiographies; Women and Film; and War and Media.

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