Reconstruction and the Lindellhallen

As most local HUMlab people know there is construction work going on in HUMlab right now. Of course, we are sorry to have to have the lab closed for some time, but we are also looking forward to opening a lab that has been improved in many ways: new floor, new lighting fixtures, a major new section, repainted walls, a new back wall ‘city scape’, some wallpapered pillars in the new section (nice green, flowery wallpaper), new cooling/ventilation system, upgraded network connections… The strategy is to make as many improvements as possible in one go.

At same time, there is reconstruction going on above us. The library has been expanded, and there have been major changes done to the Lindellhallen. This ‘hall’ is probably the center of the university and now they have raised the ceiling and created a large café space on top of the circular set of lecture halls. It looks really nice from where we have our offices. And I think there will be an inauguration tomorrow. I am very happy about having a large, nice-looking café with a great view (I assume) very close to the lab. And, of course, being at the very center is important to HUMlab. And both these reconstruction processes will create new oppurtunities and shape the future HUMlab.

Invitation to Art in Second Life

Tomorrow, Friday 18 January the exhibition Tagging Art will be officially opened in Copenhagen and in the virtual world Second Life. As I have already blogged about here, HUMlab is hosting work in the exhibition on our island in Second Life and therefore I would like to extend an invitation to HUMlab friends and colleagues to enter Second Life tomorrow between 16:00-18:00 (Central European Time) and visit the works, listen to speakers and experience the project.
Here is the time table of events:

– 16.00: People come, get a glass of champagne and mingle around in the rooms and in SL.

– 16.15: Welcome speech by Elisabeth Cederstrøm and Tagging Art. And thanks to sponsors etc.

– 16.35: Mogens artist talk

– 16.40: Sachiko artist talk.

– 16.45-18.00: people can freely see the exhibition.

The group in Second Life will be coming to the HUMlab Island at around 16.40 (there are multiple sites for the exhibition in Second Life). You can teleport directly to the HUMlab Second Life Island from the URL linked here (you need to have Second Life installed on your computer and to have an account/avatar but you will be prompted to do this if you follow the link and do not have). Welcome!

N00sphere Playground on HUMlab Island

The image comes from the new HUMlab Island in Second Life which is now hosting a project by the Japanese-Swedish artist Sachiko Hayashi, titled N00sphere Playground:

N00sphere Playground” is an interactive sound installation in which adults via their avatars join to create a sphere of enjoyment through play and experience of sounds. Beneath its surface is an underlying notion of noosphere, closely related to Henri Bergson’s idea of “Èlan Vital” and its role in evolution.

Sachiko Hayshi’s work is part of the Virtual Moves exhibition:

VIRTUAL MOVES is a row of 4 international art exhibitions in SecondLife (SL) and at Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK) in Copenhagen organized by TAGGING ART. The aim of the exhibitions is to explore and challenge SL as a platform for artistic practice, a public space, and a cultural community and to discuss critically how SL affects our notion of reality. The set off is a critical point of view and experimental focus. VIRTUAL MOVES explores the blog and SL as different digital platforms.

Sachiko writes more about her project on the HUMlab Island HERE. The exhibition (which HUMLab is very happy to be involved with) will be opened to the public on the 18th January 2008 with a month of activities and discussions in the Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK) in Copenhagen and in Second Life.


A Poet with Tools Reflects on Fish

“Will the Humanities Save Us?” is the title of a column by the eminent scholar Stanley Fish published recently by The New York Times. In the column Fish states:

How does one justify funding the arts and humanities? It is clear which justifications are not available. You can’t argue that the arts and humanities are able to support themselves through grants and private donations. You can’t argue that a state’s economy will benefit by a new reading of “Hamlet.” You can’t argue – well you can, but it won’t fly – that a graduate who is well-versed in the history of Byzantine art will be attractive to employers (unless the employer is a museum).

The column has resulted in an avalanche of comments on the site (293 at present) and I can completely understand why. I respect Fish, his work is an important part of the background to my own research, but his text seems to indicate his preoccupation with a concept of the humanities that I have had only a marginal amount of contact with over the last few years. Even if Fish is playing the rhetorical devil’s advocate, the column still belies a vision of the humanities that seems to ignore so much of the creative and communicative domains of the humanities, as well as the enormous amount of time, energy and (yikes) money that is being devoted to the production of culture today. Not to mention the research and critical thinking that makes possible things like virtual worlds, digital mapping, Libraries 2.0, computer games, collaborative and participatory authorship, activist arts, networks over distance via digital media, and digital archiving (to name just a few).

I don’t mean to sing the praises of my own organisation (….ok I will), but I see the evaluation and transmission of texts as just one, be it important, part of the humanities today. Since I began working in HUMlab as an undergraduate third term student in 2003 I have performed, constructed, arranged, critiqued, rearranged, published, listened, analysed, stolen, borrowed, given, and created a lot of materials. I have studied computer codes as one would have studied a lost language (no manual, trial and error), I have taken part in community based media actions that resulted in change in the lives of those who participated. Funding is always an issue but this is not unique to the humanities schools in universities today. Many schools across all disciplines are experiencing money problems.

Through all the activities and contemplation that is undertaken by the many people who have been working in HUMlab since I started, there are consistently moral or ethical considerations present in much of what we do. I have had many conversations in the lab around the topic of ethics; in relation to both research and the production of material artefacts. I do not think these exchanges could be as developed and relevant as they have to me if there was not a humanist tradition (be it ever changing) present. I would be interested in hearing the views of others regarding Mr Fish’s text.

Finally, we are in the final stages of what is strangely called ‘the Fall Term’ here in Umeå. It’s strange because looking out the window there is snow falling and it is already thick on the ground. The next six months promises to be an exciting time in HUMlab, with the doubling in size of the physical lab, new equipment and tools, interesting guests and numerous projects underway.