OCTOBER 13-18, 2020

The academic chairs’ statements regarding the ISEA2020 online turn:

Since last August when we established the ISEA2020 theme of “Why Sentience?”, life on Earth has been dramatically transformed. Our belief in concepts like proximity, justice, equality, indeed, the very concept of the future itself, has been radically uprooted. As cultural organizations worldwide scramble to adapt, the ISEA2020 team has decided to reimagine the event for the anytime/anyplace zone of digital space and to transform it into an online experience. But we have also realized that there is no need to adjust the theme to make it more “responsive” to our current conditions. Despite their almost cataclysmic impact on the political-economic-social-cultural-ecological fabric of the world, the triumvirate forces of the coronavirus pandemic, its disastrous economic consequences, as well as systemic racial injustice have now acutely amplified ISEA2020s question: “Why Sentience?” These conditions sharpen the need to stop, pause and re-examine what it means to be sentient, “the ability to feel or perceive.” They help us reformulate our notions of what the world is with us and beyond us. They give us a front seat perspective on the corporeal and ecological entanglements between power and knowledge, animals and humans, machines and environment, oppression and liberation. They pointedly demonstrate that difference—social-economic-cultural—resonates through the sentient world. The virus—a 120-160 nm in diameter entity that is invisible to our human senses and considered neither living nor dead but ontologically somewhere in between—is thus perversely a great teacher and provides us lessons on how the modern splitting up of the sentient and inanimate worlds increasingly makes no sense.

ISEA’s mission aims to foster interdisciplinary academic discourse and exchange among culturally diverse organizations and individuals working with art, science and technology. As we write, ISEA2020 should have already passed into history. The new digital space of ISEA2020 will link the local community in Montreal with the international one beyond so that we can collectively rethink the form of such an event. The new platform will also allow us to examine close up these new and, at the same time, ongoing historical set of conditions; conditions that demand a response if we are to live in the coming (post)-pandemic world. 


Christine Ross – McGill University (Montreal, Canada)
Christopher Salter – Concordia University/Hexagram (Montreal, Canada)

ISEA 2020 turns towards the theme of “Why Sentience? Sentience describes the ability to feel or perceive. ISEA2020 will be fully dedicated to examining the resurgence of sentience—feeling-sensing-making sense—in recent art and design, media studies, science and technology studies, philosophy, anthropology, history of science and the natural scientific realm—notably biology, neuroscience and computing. We ask: why sentience? Why and how does sentience matter? Why have artists and scholars become interested in sensing and feeling beyond, with and around our strictly human bodies and selves? Why has this notion been brought to the fore in an array of disciplines in the 21st century?


Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps numérique) is proud to present the first-ever digital edition of ISEA2020. Discover the program here.


ISEA2020 will be the Creativity Pavilion of MTL connect; a yearly international event that addresses central questions about the economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts of digital innovation.


ISEA returns to Montreal! Montreal was chosen to host ISEA2020 at the closing ceremony of ISEA2019, held in Gwangju, South Korea. Soh Yeong Roh, Director of Art Center Nabi in Seoul, handed over the eternal light to Mehdi Benboubakeur, Executive Director of Montreal Digital Spring. As Benboubakeur stated: “ISEA returns to Montreal after 25 years. Back in 1995, ISEA positioned Montreal as a digital art center and brought emerging local artists under international spotlight. In 2020, Montreal will once more welcome the international community of ISEA and will use this opportunity to build a strong momentum for the future.”


General Director: Mehdi Benboubakeur
Programming Directors: Erandy Vergara-Vargas (Artistic Programme) and Manuelle Freire (Academic Programme)
Communication: Pauline Barthe and Margaux Davoine
Workshop Coordinator: Sylvaine Chassay
Technical Director: Pascal Dufaux
Webmaster: Maximilien Briat Martin
Production Coordinator: Iriana Rakotobe
Development: Marine Villedieu




Erandy Vergara – Printemps numérique (Montreal, Canada)
Alice Jim – Concordia University (Montreal, Canada)
Caroline Andrieux – Darling Foundry (Montreal, Canada)





Sofian Audry – Clarkson University (N.Y., U.S.A.)
Skawennati Fragnito – Concordia University (Montreal, Canada)
Bertrand Gervais – UQAM (Montreal, Canada)
Christiane Paul – The New School (N.Y., U.S.A.)
Cheryl Sim – Phi Foundation (Montreal, Canada)
Tamar Tembeck – OBORO (Montreal, Canada)
Irma Vila – Open University of Catalunya UOC (Barcelona, Spain)
Soh Yeong Roh – The Art Center Nabi, Seoul, South Kore



Christine Ross – McGill University (Montreal, Canada)
Chris Salter – Concordia University/Hexagram (Montreal, Canada)






Pau Alsina – Open University of Catalunya UOC (Barcelona, Spain)
Joel Ong – York University (Toronto, Canada)
Philippe Pasquier – Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada)
Louise Poissant – UQAM & Fonds de recherche du Québec Société et culture (Montreal, Canada)
Bart Simon – Concordia University (Montreal, Canada)
Christa Sommerer – University of Art and Design (Linz, Austria)
Jonathan Sterne – McGill University (Montreal, Canada)
Marcelo Wanderley – McGill University (Montreal, Canada)