Conn College hosts "Intersections" arts and technology symposium Thursday through Saturday
There are plenty of famous American crossroads. Height/Ashbury. Hollywood and Vine. Times Square. Elm Street at South Houston (site of the Texas School Book Depository). Oh, and of course that midnight Deep South junction where bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil.
Forget, though, the latitudinal and longitudinal restrictions of such things. Instead, ponder the vast possibilities of "Intersections: the Ammerman Arts and Technology 16th Biennial Symposium" taking place Thursday through Saturday on the campus of New London's Connecticut College. It's an all-roads-lead-to-the-future, multidisciplinary event where arts, culture and technology collide in breathtaking fashion.
At its heart, this year's symposium is focusing on how these elements can apply to the idea of social justice through the prisms of such factors as identity, race, gender, culture, sexuality, economics and technological advances.
"We've been doing this symposium a long time, and it's important to be topical," says Andrea Wollensak, director of the Ammernan Center. "This year, we connected and planned extensively with the CCSRE (Conn College's Center for the Critical Study of Race and Ethnicity), and the idea was to explore and express ideas on race, class, power and social justice. How do artists and scholars and people not even connected to academic institutions explore these notions? And, also, how do they do so through technology and the arts?"
Wollensak says the Ammerman collaboration with CCSRE started last spring when the groups created an overarcing theme for the symposium.
"With that in place, we reached out to artists and scholars addressing these issues in creative and expanding ways," she says.
For this year's gathering, over 90 participants from across the country, accomplished in a variety of disciplines, will present an array of concerts, installations, screenings, paper presentations, performances, exhibitions and workshops. Subthemes include such topics as "hybrid bodies," "experimental systems fo awareness equity and justice" and "alternative futurisms."
If those sound a bit arcane, well, possibly. At the same time, part of the purpose of the symposium is to present cutting-edge ideas and discoveries. It's also true that a major concern is to connect with Conn College students as well as citizens at large. Other than academic paper presentations, most of the scheduled activities are free and open to the public.
"We work very hard to make the event accessible," says Libby Friedman, assistant director at the Ammerman Center. "We see a lot of community members at the galleries and concerts, and this marks the third symposium where we've partnered with Hygienic Art in downtown New London. That's exciting. Plus, we have artists and dancers and composers taking part, and they have followings. We get people traveling from Boston or Washington, D.C., and New York to see them. And, of course, while they're here, they get to experience everything else that's going on."
Students also benefit beyond the programming and experiences of the symposium proper. The artists and participants might utilize students to help with installations or performances, and faculty members also bring classes to visit during various stages as the symposium comes together.
Krzysztof Wodiczko, an internationally famed artist whose large-scale projections on urban buildings and monuments are striking and thought-provoking, delivers the symposium's keynote address at 9:15 a.m. Friday in Oliva Hall at Cummings Arts Center on campus. His works include "Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.. 1988-2000," one of the world's most iconic public artworks. The museum has restaged the work, running through today, which includes a series of images — including a gun and a lit candle addressing such topics as abortion laws and the death penalty — specifially designed to embrace the building's distinctive, curved facade.
"Woriczko's work is amazing," Friedman says. "He gives priorities to those who've been least heard, and they're acknowledged in a very public way through an anti-representation of what a certain building or monument represents."
Also highlighted at the symposium is artist Natalie Bookchin, whose featured exhibition runs through March 2 in the galleries at Cummings Arts Center on campus. Her work examines long-term implications of digital imaging against a backdrop of aesthetics, labor, leisure and politics, and she'll speak at 4:15 p.m. Thursday in Oliva Hall.
Wollensak says, "Natalie works in video, and she's an incredible editor. She collects found video fragments uploaded by the general public on YouTube, then edits them to create the modern equivalent of an ancient Greek chorus. It's dramatic commentary on the misdeeds of the powerful."
One excellent aspect to the event is that no presentations or events run concurrently, and attendees won't be faced with a "one or the other" situation. That sort of planning is perhaps a small consideration but, in conjuntion with the broad reach and ambition of the whole enterprise, it's emblematic of the planning and attention to detail.
"I think we're pretty proud of the fact that this symposium has an international reputation," Wollensak says. "It combines people from all countries and disciplines, students and faculty, New London residents and people from the region, and it's an engaging and provocative experience."
If you go
What: The Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology 16th Biennial Symposium
When: 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. today-Saturday
Where: Connecticut College, 270 Mohegan Ave., New London
How much: Most events are free and open to the public
For a complete schedule and more information: (860) 447-1911, conncoll.edu/cat/symposium2018