FutureEverything launches FUTURE SESSIONS: Trust in invisible agents – a rich and diverse programme of ideas, art, talks and workshops exposing the unseen currents of the Internet of Things

Manchester, Wednesday 21 (Whitworth Gallery) to Thursday 22 (The Bright Building) March 2018


As computing dissolves into the everyday, we find ourselves surrounded by millions of connected, intelligent objects. Scattered throughout the city, a bin, lamppost or coffee cup can be a computing device, a sensor or actuator. Invisible agents monitor and influence our lives, largely unexamined and unchecked. Future Sessions: Trust in invisible agents is a unique programme of thinking and art created by FutureEverything that wants to understand who and what influence these invisible agents have on our daily lives.

Future Sessions is a new type of event for FutureEverything. An alternative to the prestigious city-wide ‘festival as laboratory’, Future Sessions has been designed as a one-day, affordable event, with carefully curated activities to engage the audience in a deeper experience in the subject matter. With art, ideas and invention casting an eye to the future asking us to think about four key themes connected to the invisibility of the Internet of Things (IoT); visibility, transparency, responsibility and trust. Future Sessions features some of the most eminent practitioners and thinkers from the arenas of design, urbanism, art and academia, as well as a packed programme of workshops and fireside chats. Our thinkers, creatives and artists include;

Usman Haque / Ling Tan / Ben Cervany / Mara Balestrini / Matthew Edgson / Lucas Gutierrez Alexandra Deschamps Sonsino / Seth Scott and Guillaume Dujat / Kasia Molga / Naho Matsuda / Joe Beedles / Drew Hemment / Tobias Revell

With the emergence of AI and embedded intelligence digital urban infrastructures are becoming increasingly intelligent but also invisible, and this world of invisible systems is far from a harmonic utopia; rather the Internet of Things and the Smart City is a complex landscape of actors, riddled with crisis in visibility, responsibility and agency.

It is not easy to know what devices are gathering what, where is it coming from, and how and by whom can be put to use, and when systems fail, it is not clear who is accountable. Opaque algorithms take decisions affecting users without always revealing the basis for those decisions. And multiple incidents have also been produced by “the secret lives of systems”, where intelligent objects develop activities that go beyond their declared functions and goals. The drive for digitally infused urban environments has too often focused on top-down systems design, leaving communities disconnected from the ownership of the technologies they use, and the data they create.

Drew Hemment, founder FutureEverything comments: “Complex systems pose profound questions on the way we want to live and be governed. New technologies implemented in the city change and shape the interactions and lives of residents and people who work and play there. With “Trust in Invisible Agents” we want to explore how to make invisibility compatible with transparency, accountability and responsibility, essential values that will need to be foregrounded in the years to come.”

Future Sessions will also be showcasing art commissions and in-conversations with FAULT LINES artists Ling Tan, Naho Matsuda and Kasia Molga, which each respond to the development of smart cities and the Internet Of Things. Ling, is one of seven artists selected as part of FutureEverything’s talent development and commissioning scheme FAULT LINES, and she has been collaborating with the young people of Manchester, to enable them to express their relationship with the city via big body gestures expressed wearing technology worn on the body. Ling’s art commission, SUPERGESTURES, will premiere at the Future Sessions launch party.

Naho Matsuda, whose piece, every thing every time, was the first FAULT LINES commission to launch last year, is going to have her ‘in-conversation’ whilst performing reflexology. Naho makes the connection between reflexology and IoT, she says; “reflexology is part of traditional Chinese medicine in which areas of the hands, feet and head are understood to be connected to specific areas of the body. Organs, bones and muscles can be relieved of pain, tensions and can be energised through massaging the sensory points. I want to explore the holistic approach of Chinese medicine and the tradition of reflexology massage salons in Taipei and create a comparison, connection and analogy to the evolution of the Internet of Things. My aim is to engage and challenge the audience with concepts of the IoT through locating it in the context of holistic Chinese medicine. This will be an embodied experience where you get your feet massaged whilst listening to a lecture on the IoT.”

Taking place at the Bright Building, Manchester Science Park’s brand new state-of-the-art workplace, Future Sessions is the culmination of Every Thing is Connected, a three-day ‘conference-as-lab’, which FutureEverything is delivering on behalf of Manchester City Council.

The day will be preceded by a launch party in the recently opened Great Hall at the Whitworth Art Gallery - an evening of audiovisual performances featuring local and international artists curated by Sean Clarke of Test Card – the main in-house project at Texture, a creative event space in the Northern Quarter.

Sean says; “Working with custom made technological interfaces and found objects as instruments, Seth Scott and Guillaume Dujat will open up the evening with a special performance that embodies a physicality with electronic music, so impressive you won’t be able to take your eyes off them.

From a table full of instruments to the depths of computer software, for the next act we have invited along one of the cites most exciting audiovisual performers Joe Beedles. Recently returning from his China residency, Joe has regularly taken part in Test Cards over the last few years, as well as performing at the likes of Algorave and Splice. Exploring ideas surrounding club music abstraction and the threshold between the real and the simulated. Joe’s current focus is in generative systems which explore human/computer improvisation through custom-built Max MSP patches.

Joining these two fantastic local acts, we are extremely excited to be welcoming Argentinean digital artist and industrial designer Lucas Gutierrez. Recently performing at festivals such a MUTEK and Sonar+D, Lucas performance focuses on blending his own audio compositions with 3D content that he manipulates live through real time software.

The Test Card project has always put an emphasis on supporting our artists with the best lighting and sound production available, throughout the night the sound will be provided by a special Nova system and a state of the art projection system, there might even be a few extra guests.’

Future Sessions is supported by Arts Council England, Innovate UK, Manchester City Council and Manchester Science Partnerships

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