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I just returned to New York from the labSurlab Conference held in Medellín, Colombia. The first of its kind, the conference was organized by the energetic and talented artist Alejandro Duque. Representatives were present from Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, USA, Spain, France, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela including organizations such as MediaLab Prado, PiNG, L'Estruch, Fundacion Telefonica (and many more), and of course Eyebeam. Alejandro set the goal of planting a "seed" in Medellin that could grow into something, something big or small, rhizomatic or self-contained, but a new growth that could take on its own life. The aim of the conference was to rethink, from the experimental perspective, social and artistic media and its relationship to technology. The whole event was hosted, generously, by the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, under the leadership of Julianna Restreppo.
Medellín is a city undergoing huge transformations and rightly taking its place on the South American stage. Harnessing that energy, and creating a context for discussions amongst various media labs and artists to work out what it even means to interface with the world as a media artist or a media lab was the framework within which we worked. We tossed definitions in the air and looked to see where they would land in the hopes of coming to some understanding of what our practice of working in the field of creative technology at this point means: is it based on an idea, a shared stance, a political understanding, physical space, resources, or a collective focus?
The discussions were lively, animated, and patient. The group that Alejandro brought together were well-matched and the structure of the conference lended itself to prolonged engagement, which yielded a real sense of comradery from all of the participants. Ultimately we found that one certain thing which we all could offer one another was friendship and without that it didn't matter what resources or space we had. We left Medellín knowing that the conversation would continue and we would all learn more, about ourselves and what it means to be doing this work at this time.