Performing Materialities: Water & Waste – AZ

“Performing Materialities: Water & Waste” at Balance-Unbalance International Conference, Arizona State University, March 2015. (co-authored with Laura Forlano; panelists: Liz Miller, Gisèle Trudel, John Hopkins)

Mél Hogan (panel organizer)
Illinois Institute of Technology



This panel brings together process-oriented audiovisual investigations engaging art, science and technology. The five panelists tend to the materiality of media, to water’s participation in processes that are of ecological concern and of ongoing social and cultural significance. Specifically, examining local/global sites–canals, waterways, bridges, islands, floods, sewage, waste water, shorelines, sea levels, droughts and deserts–this panel moves from the representational and relational (of media, labor, and institutionalized power) toward effective community action and social change.

Filmmaker, Liz Miller, is the creator of The Shore Line, an online documentary that profiles educators, artists, architects, activists, scientists, city planners, and youth organizations from Canada, the U. S., Panama, India, and New Zealand, who are actively grappling with the balance-imbalance faced by coastal communities. Miller uses the online documentary format to instigate a critical dialogue about coastal squeeze, climate displacement, and rising sea levels.

By way of performative audiovisual microevents, Gisèle Trudel exposes waste water systems presented in Canada, Germany and New Zealand. The research and production of this work (light, sweet, cold, dark, crude (LSCDC) (2008-on going)) originates in the « Eco Machines » system, pioneered by biologist and ecologist Dr. John Todd situated at the Vietnam Veteran’s War Memorial of Sharon, in Vermont, and the Station d’épuration des eaux usées, an industrial system for the city of Montreal, juxtaposed with images of the southwestern U.S. deserts.

John C. Hopkins relies partially on a background in geophysics to guide his visual-sonic explorations of elemental energy flows. The author argues that the human organism’s impact on its proximal and distal environment—expressed through the techno-social system—may be better understood using the model of thermodynamics and entropy as a starting point. One simple, ongoing performance series “Changing the Course of Nature” demonstrates, onsite in the desert West of the US, how life at all levels expends the energy it consumes and thus changes … everything.

Laura Forlano and Mél Hogan (co-authors) use Goose Island, an artificial island in the North branch of the Chicago River, as their site of inquiry. The island’s history includes industrial plants as well as, more recently, corporate R&D facilities. With respect to water, a variety of “Smart City” projects that map underground tunnels and waterways as well as seek applications for so-called “green technologies” are scrutinized. Drawing on critical feminist technology studies, this project uses a camera with built-in GPS sensors to document the role of water in the economy, historically, and in the context of the present-day material labor of the city.



Technical requirements are standard A/V (audio/video)



Liz Miller is a documentary maker and professor interested in new approaches to community collaborations and documentary as a way to connect personal stories to larger social concerns. Her documentary projects offer new and critical perspectives on gender, the environment, human rights, social movements and media. Liz teaches media production in Communications Studies at Concordia University (Montreal) and is an active member of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television. Her films/educational campaigns on timely issues such as water privatization and immigration have won awards, been integrated into educational curricula and influenced decision makers.


Gisèle Trudel is an artist. In 1996, she cofounded Ælab, an artistic research unit with Stéphane Claude, who is an electronic and electroacoustic composer and audio engineer. Ælab’s commitment to collaboration and creative dissemination are ways of thinking and doing that try to bridge different disciplines of inquiry. Their process-oriented investigations creatively engage art and technology as intertwined processual philosophies in an ecology of practices. Their work is presented regularly on the international art scene. Trudel is also professor at the École des arts visuels et médiatiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, co-founder of Grupmuv, the research group for drawing and the moving image, and co-director of Hexagram, the International Network for Research-Creation in Media Arts, Design, Technology and Digital Culture. Trudel is co-chair of Re-create 2015, the 6th edition and the 10th anniversary of the international Media Art Histories Conference series, to be hosted by Hexagram in November 2015. / /


John Hopkins is a nomadic artist and learning facilitator. He holds a transdisciplinary creative practices PhD from La Trobe University/University of Technology Sydney, an MFA from the University of Colorado Boulder (where he studied film under renown experimental film-maker, Stan Brakhage), and a BSc in Geophysical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. His trans-disciplinary research and workshops explore issues surrounding sustainable creative practices, ‘big-picture’ system views, networked & tactical media, distributed and community-based DIY & DIWO processes, and Temporary Autonomous Zoness. His international media arts practice explores the role of energy in techno-social systems and the effects of technology on energized human encounter. He has taught across more than 20 countries and 60 higher education situations. He is currently materializing a successful Kickstarter project in the mountains of Arizona. You may track his process at


Laura Forlano is an Assistant Professor of Design at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. From 2012-2013, she was a Visiting Scholar in the Comparative Media Studies program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research is focused on the intersection between emerging technologies, material practices and the future of cities. She is co-editor with Marcus Foth, Christine Satchell and Martin Gibbs of From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen: Urban Informatics, Social Media, Ubiquitous Computing, and Mobile Technology to Support Citizen Engagement, which was published by MIT Press in 2011. Forlano’s research and writing has been published in peer-reviewed journals including First Monday, The Information Society, Journal of Community Informatics, IEEE Pervasive Computing, Design Issues and Science and Public Policy. She has published chapters for books including editor Mark Shepard’s Sentient City: Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space (MIT Press 2011) and The Architecture League of New York’s Situated Technologies pamphlet series and is a regular contributor to their Urban Omnibus blog. She received her Ph.D. in communications from Columbia University. Site: Email: Twitter: @laura4lano


Mél Hogan is a media scholar and graphic designer working as an Assistant Professor of Communication at IIT. Her recent publications and conference presentations look at internet materialities, archives, and surveillance — how infrastructures are made material, visible, and are embodied. As a practitioner, other issues of digital culture are addressed through media arts interventions and research design projects. She is also the art director of online and p.o.d. journal of arts and politics,; a research design consultant for mat3rial; and a founding co-member of the Critical Futures Lab. Site: Email: Twitter: @mel_hogan