Friday Seminar Series

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The ethos of SymbioticA is that ideas are discussed and shared openly and the Friday Seminar Series is designed to allow an open forum to disseminate artistic, scientific, ethical and philosophical research and practice of resident researchers, visiting artists and scholars. Our Friday Seminar Series are held salon style, in our studio space and commence at 3:00pm on Fridays. All are welcome. 

If you have an idea for a SymbioticA seminar in 2017 get in touch:

The Square Kilometre Array and How it Will Work

Date: 12 May 2016
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Kevin Vincen

Kevin Vinsen is helping solve the extraordinary computational challenges facing the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). A Senior Research Fellow with the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), Vincen is a computational astronomy polymath - expert in numerous coding languages, artificial intelligence, genetic algorithms, high performance computing, data intensive astronomy, data mining, business analysis, games development, and command and control systems.

The data requirements for the SKA are astronomical, quite literally. When complete, the amount of data flowing from the SKA’s 10s of thousands of antennae will be measured in exabytes per day. Just one exabyte contains as much information as 2,000,000 Bluray Disks, a stack of 12km high each day.

Vincen enjoys talking about his passion for big science projects and speaks often at schools, community groups and for industry audiences. When he’s not dealing with super computers Kevin works on on a citizen science project called the PS1 Optical Galaxy Survey (POGS), a part of the SkyNet initiative. Using the collective processing power of home computers POGS is helping astronomers and astrophysicists to calculate the spectral energy distributions from optical infra-red and ultraviolet images to produce the first public catalog of its kind. This will require 10’s of millions of CPU hours to calculate and 100’s of TBytes of storage.

Vincen considers himself one of the luckiest astronomy geeks on the planet. He is paid to do what he loves - astronomy and computing with some of the biggest baddest computers on the planet. No wonder he is always smiling.

The Body is My Tool, Pain is My Medium

Date: 19 May 2017
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Håvve Fjell

Håvve Fjell's practice focuses on his own body, revolving around physical challenge and pain endurance. As a young boy Fjell had a close relationship with pain and as a teen he explored tolerance and pushed his threshold actively. Becoming a Fakir was more discovery than decision for Fjell; defining who he is and directing his life's work. In this talk Fjell will give an introduction to his work before opening for questions and casual dialog with the audience.

Håvve Fjell performed as a Fakir for the first time in 1991, forming his company Pain Solution in 1993. The evolution of Pain Solution was informed by members past and present, gradually shifting from ritualistic physical theatre and performance art to a focus on Sideshow and entertainment. Pain Solution has performed in 25 countries and work continues into the present day. In 2002 he formed the body suspension platform Wings of Desire which hosts the annual Oslo SusCon; the longest running event of it’s kind. Fjell also established The Fakir Academy: an education program dealing with issues in and around body suspension. Fjell's first book, ‘Ten Years of Pain’, made with sister and photographer Helene Fjell, was published by Hertervig Forlag (2003). The following publications, ‘Learning to Fly’ (2012) and ‘To Bleed or Not To Bleed’ (2015) by their own imprint PS Media. PS Media is currently working on ‘Stretched Skin’ by Stelarc, to be released in November 2017.

John Public As We See Him: Returning Authoritative Perspectives on “Midgets”, Science and Depression-era Show Audiences

Date: 26 May 2017
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Guy Kirkwood

Buddie Thompson, a self-described ‘midget’ with a penchant for studying his fellow human beings (both ‘little’ and ‘big’), navigated complex and competing conceptualisations of what being short-statured signified in the Depression-era United States. In these years the American ‘Freak Show’ no longer held the same widespread popular appeal it had had prior to the beginning of the century, while the discourses of medical science, reflecting the height of the eugenics movement as well as recent developments in the new field of endocrinology, intersected to make for particularly dangerous ground for those with ‘extraordinary bodies’. Thompson, and other ‘little people’ had career options which expanded beyond the increasingly moralised ‘freak show’, to traveling ‘midget troupes’, ‘Liliputian’ operatic companies, and miniature sized ‘midget city’ exhibits at World’s Fairs, but these involved no less fraught performative styles of self-representation. By closely analysing Buddie Thompson’s insider account of little person show performers, As I Know Them: A Midget’s Story of Show People, self-published in 1936, I will examine how Thompson developed a unique and authoritative perspective which engaged in the complex and competing discourses of both popular culture and medical science. Thompson specifically rejected the social authority of medical physicians and their advice on new experimental hormone treatments, but only by professing to a superior scientific knowledge of the functioning of ‘glands of internal secretion’. He also rejected popular and offensive ‘outsider’ accounts of ‘midget’ show life offered by journalists which traded in obscenity and perverse interest, while nonetheless retaining countless anecdotes which played upon stereotypes of prodigious (but nonetheless ‘healthy’) male midget sexuality. Most importantly, Thompson devoted large parts of his narrative to returning gaze upon ‘John Public’ himself/herself, making his audience and readers the target of a close sociological and psychological study typically reserved for those with supposedly pathological or non-normative bodies. While Thompson lived until 1968, his relatively short show career, which appears to have finished before the end of the 1930s but included involvement in important historical moments like the Chicago Century of Progress World’s Fair, spoke to the increasingly difficulties of self-exhibition for small-statured people as a potentially empowering and profitable occupation supplanted and specifically rejected by the more recognisable minority-modelled organisations such as the Little People of America.

Guy Kirkwood is a PhD student at The University of Western Australia whose research focuses on late 19th and early 20th century American 'freak shows'. His working thesis aims to locate the perspectives and performance strategies of specific individuals within different historical and cultural moments, as well as within distinct regimes of normalisation. He has also taught some second and third year units at UWA, focusing broadly on African American history, as well as American colonialism. Guy hopes to finish his PhD at the end of the year and to have the opportunity to pursue future projects in the 'sideshow' of academia.