Themes/Focus Areas

Machine Wilderness:

Re-envisioning Art, Technology and Nature

The title for the overall ISEA2012 project is Machine Wilderness. As part of a region of rapid growth alongside wide expanses of open land, New Mexico presents a microcosm of this theme. ISEA2012: Machine Wilderness presents artists’ and technologists’ ideas for a more humane interaction between technology and environment, in which “machines” can take many forms to support and sustain life on Earth. The project focuses on creative solutions for how technology and the natural world can coexist. The term “Machine Wilderness” was originally coined by cultural geographer Ronald Horvath in the 1960s to describe the transformation of the landscape of the American Southwest caused by the automobile. For ISEA2012, the term “Machine Wilderness” is being reclaimed to represent the potential for humans, animals and machines to coexist in a positive, sustainable future. ISEA2012 featured artists, presenters and organizations seek to define wilderness and our place in it in the 21st century.

Subthemes of the conference, exhibition and collaboration include:

The Cosmos:

"Radical Cosmologies"

The "Radical Cosmologies" theme gazes at the universe and questions our place in it. It explores a wide range of creative perspectives and practices around the cultural, scientific and philosophical possibilities of contemporary astronomy. This theme incorporates various forms of media, written word, performance and installation, as well as workshops, community-based actions, lectures and online projects to offer viewers fresh interpretations and experiences of cultural myths, indigenous histories and contemporary science.

Creative Economies:


From the local to the global, the "Econotopias" theme engages a critical dialogue around the challenges and excessive demands of the global marketplace and its impact on everyday life. It explores the future of creative economies as drivers of possibility in diverse communities and environments and through new technologies. By bringing local and international artists, engineers, economists, labor specialists and community organizers together, "Econotopias" focuses on the need for more sustainable social and production practices through programs on topics such as open-source ideologies, the gift economy, micro-credit, the culture industry and global outsourcing.


"Trans-Species Habitats"

Coyotes, bears, peregrine falcons, many charismatic mega-species are making cities their homes. Bees, bats and other smaller animals are suffering disease and perhaps species collapse. Plant and animal communities are failing due to the control of natural cycles such as flood or fire to accommodate settled human development. However, humans are copying animal adaptations and replicating complex natural systems in sustainable design from Velcro to storm water infiltration. The "Trans-Species Habitats" theme showcases work that re-imagines the city as a viable space for the integration of overlapping species flowing in patterns and spatial organizations.



The once-simple task of moving from point A to point B has become a minefield of choices and consequences. The "Dynamobilities" theme features artworks and presentations that ask questions about and offer possible solutions to the issue of 21st century mobility. Featured projects include new devices for moving through space, mobile media that depend on the user’s movement through space, projects examining the power needed for mobility and question the need for speed, as well as theoretical presentations addressing the mobility of people, goods and ideas.



Flip a switch and the lights come on. Flush a toilet and waste disappears. Swipe a card and money is transferred. Sophisticated yet often invisible grids of power sustain contemporary life throughout the farthest reaches of our world, providing electricity, gas, water, sewage, finances, materials, transportation, communication and more. Rolling blackouts, economic fallout, climate change and natural disasters test the viability of this interconnected system of dependence. The "Gridlocked" theme aims to provide a multi-layered exposé of the structures and infrastructures of power, and make visible their origins, mechanisms, consequences and alternatives. Featured programs explore power in its simplest manifestations as well as its complex hold on global society.

Focus Areas of the conference, exhibition and collaboration include:

Latin American Forum

The Rio Grande River creates a natural conduit between the U.S. and Mexico. The path it follows has created a geographical, cultural and linguistic bridge between Latin America and the United States both historically and in the present day, providing a unique context for collaboration and the exchange of ideas with Latin America. The ISEA2012 Latin American Forum showcases some of the recent and historical production of Latin American digital culture, critical theory and media arts, highlighting fresh contributions from south of the border.

STEMArts Education Program

The ISEA2012 Education Program, sponsored by Intel, focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) education through Art. It centers around the Intel Education Day of the conference, and includes outreach activities such as the STEMArts Competition and the Downtown Block Party presented with Creative Albuquerque and highlighting the Transportation theme, the Visiting Artists Teaching Program, a curriculum for teachers, and an artist-scientist residency with Intel. The program demonstrates innovative ways for the arts to improve STEM education, with a special focus on culturally diverse students.