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14 May 2012

Vital Beauty - Symposium, May 16, de Balie, Amsterdam

Vital Beauty - Symposium
V2_Institute for the Unstable Media


May 16, 09:00 - 17:15 de Balie

Moderator: Lars Spuybroek
Speakers: Thierry Bardini, Wendy Steiner, Arjen Mulder, Tim Ingold, Philip Beesley
Tickets: 40 / 25 EUR

Joke Brouwer
+31(0)10 206 72 72

de Balie
Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 10
1017 RR Amsterdam
the Netherlands

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V2_ presents: 'Vital Beauty,' an international symposium and publication as part of the Dutch Electronic Art Festival 2012.

This symposium focuses on the question of how the age-old notion of beauty can have a meaning fit for the 21st century. Our need for beauty and our pleasure in it have not been annihilated, as hard as the 20th century's various forms of modernism tried to erase it from art and life and supplant it with 'the sublime.' The sublime is awesome: it does not evoke empathy, let alone sympathy with the world and the things in it. Beauty does: it not only makes life interesting but brings well-being into the picture.

We do not associate beauty in any way with Prince Charles-type neoclassicism, but neither do we link it to recent attempts to come up with a 'bioclassicism' that would reintroduce the ideal proportions of natural systems as measures for human aesthetics. Technology is the new nature, and the updated kind of beauty we'll explore in this symposium is a technological one. We will call this beauty 'vital,' in honor of the 19th-century art critic John Ruskin, who distinguished between 'typical,' conventional beauty and the 'vital' kind, which surprises us with new connections, relations and potentialities.

We start with two statements by Alfred N. Whitehead, that 'Beauty is a wider, and more fundamental, notion than Truth' and that 'Beauty is the one aim which by its very nature is self-justifying.' It is our belief that, without beauty, calls for sustainability and all other forms of ecological responsibility lack conviction. This is why we wish to explore vital beauty as a means of making all living processes valuable again.

V2_'s new publication Vital Beauty will be released during the Symposium. The book features essays and interviews by: Tim Ingold, Thierry Bardini, Daniel N. Stern, Arjen Mulder, Wendy Steiner, Mark Frost, Lars Spuybroek, George Gessert, John Ruskin, Gustav Fechner and Philip Beesley.


Lars Spuybroek is a professor in Architectural Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He worked as an artist and architect with his Rotterdam-based office NOX, producing works as diverse as HtwoOexpo, the Maison Folie in Lille, Son-O-House and D-tower. Over the years, he has exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, the Venice Biennale, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He has published several books, including NOX: Machining Architecture (Thames and Hudson, 2004), The Architecture of Continuity (V2_Publishing, 2008), Research and Design: The Architecture of Variation (Thames and Hudson, 2009). The second book in the Research and Design: Textile Tectonics (NAi Publishers, 2011) and The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design (V2_Publishing, 2011).


Tim Ingold is professor and the Chair in Social Anthropology at the School of Social Science at the University of Aberdeen. He has been instrumental in setting up the UK's youngest Department of Anthropology, established in 2002. In his latest research he has been exploring three themes, all arising from his earlier work on the perception of the environment, concerning first, the dynamics of pedestrian movement, secondly, the creativity of practice, and thirdly, the linearity of writing. Ingold is researching and teaching on the connections between anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture, conceived as ways of exploring the relations between human beings and the environments they inhabit. Taking an approach radically different from the conventional anthropologies and archaeologies 'of' art and of architecture, which treat artworks and buildings as though they were merely objects of analysis, he is looking at ways of bringing togetheranthropology, archaeology, art and architecture on the level of practice, as mutually enhancing ways of engaging with our surroundings. He is the writer of many books, among which Lines: a brief history (London: Routledge, 2007).

Arjen Mulder is a biologist and media theorist and has published several books of essays on the relationship between technical media, physical experiences and art. His books include Book for the Electronic Arts (2000), Understanding Media Theory: Language, Image, Sound, Behavior (2004), and From Image to Interaction: Meaning and Agency in the Arts (2010). Mulder teaches at the MaHKU in Utrecht.

Agronomist (ENSA Montpellier, 1986) and sociologist (Ph.D. Paris X Nanterre, 1991), Thierry Bardini is full professor in the department of communication at the university of Montréal, where he teaches since 1993. From 1990 to 1993, he was a visiting scholar and adjunct professor at the Annenberg School for communication at the University of Southern California, under the supervision of Everett M. Rogers. His research interests concern the contemporary cyberculture, from the production and uses of information and communication technologies to molecular biology, or, in other words, everything that concerns the fictions of science and the science fictions of code. He is the author of Bootstrapping : Douglas Englebart, Coevolution and the Genesis of Personal Computing (Stanford University Press, 2000), Junkware (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) and Journey to the End of the Species (in collaboration with Dominique Lestel, Éditions Dis Voir, Paris, 2011). He now works on a new project on DIY biology and biohackerism.

Wendy Steiner is the Richard L. Fisher Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, past Chair of the Penn English Department, and Founding Director of the Penn Humanities Forum. Among her books on modern literature and visual art are The Real Real Thing: The Model in the Mirror of Art (2010); Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art (2001); and The Scandal of Pleasure: Art in an Age of Fundamentalism (listed among 'New York Times 100 Best Books of 1996'). Her cultural criticism has appeared widely in U.S. and U.K. papers and her honors include Guggenheim and ACLS fellowships. Most recently, Steiner has turned to multimedia opera, as librettist and producer/director of The Loathly Lady (2009; composer Paul Richards; artist John Kindness) and Biennale (composer Richards; artist Andrew Lucia; in development).

Philip Beesley practices digital media art and experimental architecture in Toronto. His creative work has focused on 'field' oriented sculpture and landscape installations over the last two decades. He received a Bachelor of Fine Art from Queen's University in 1978 and received his professional degree in Architecture from the University of Toronto in 1986. He maintains a practice that combines sculpture with public buildings, exhibitory and stage design. Distinctions for his work include the Prix de Rome in Architecture (Canada), a Governor-General's award, an Allied Arts Medal from the RAIC, two Dora Mavor Moore Awards and three OAA Awards for Architectural Excellence. He frequently works within art collaboratives and was a founding member of the Kingston Artists Association, an ANNPAC parallel gallery. In parallel with his sculpture work he teaches architecture at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture in Cambridge, Ontario and is co-director of Waterloo‟s Integrated Centre for Manufacturing, Visualization and Design, a facility combining high-performance computing and automated manufacturing of architectural components.