Transmission in Motion


16 November 2022
15:00 - 17:00
Muntstraat 2A, 3512EV Utrecht (Grote Zaal)

“Collaboration and Dissensus in the Experimental Arts and Innovation Policy” – Michael Century (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)



Michael Century’s recently published book, Northern Sparks, offers an account of the intersecting histories of technological innovation, new media arts, and government/institutional policies in Canada from the 1960s to the early 1990s. This was a period when modernizing social and political energies mobilised both artistic invention and critical intervention in the emerging imaginaries of digital culture. For Transmission in Motion, Century presents an analysis of distinctive Canadian techno-aesthetic infrastructures in three parts: 1) agencies of the federal government; 2) interdisciplinary university departments: 3) arts and cultural institutions. The National Film Board’s experimental film tradition sparked a “protocomputational” ethos complementing pioneering research efforts at the National Research Council investigating software applications for music and animation. In contrast, another national laboratory for communication research achieved mixed results in its attempt to establish an advanced videotext network and content-standard (Telidon). University departments in Toronto and Vancouver fostered creative research led by artists that were instrumental in establishing new interdisciplinary formations: human-computer interaction and acoustic ecology. At the Banff Centre, the Art and Virtual Environments Project was the first sustained effort to integrate critical-theoretical concerns from the humanities and social sciences with an intensive experimental development and exhibition-driven production cycle employing immersive VR technologies. This case and others from the Canadian artist-centre community are illustrative of the claim by Jean-Francois Lyotard that “invention is always born of dissensus.”


Michael Century is Professor of Music and New Media in the Arts Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Century has worked as a university teacher, new media researcher, inter-arts producer, and arts policy maker (Banff Centre for the Arts (1979-93), McGill University (1998-2002), Government of Canada (1993-98)). His book  Northern Sparks:  Innovation, Technology Policy and the Arts in Canada from Expo 67 to the Internet Age appeared in 2022 with The MIT Press. Century’s works for live and electronically processed instruments have been performed and broadcast in concerts and festivals internationally, including ISEA, IRCAM Forum, The Music Gallery (Toronto), Diapason Gallery and Le Poisson Rouge (New York City), Vancouver Jazz Festival, Banff Festival of the Arts, CBC’s Two New Hours. 


Suggested Reading:


You can register by sending an email to, or online via Eventbrite.

This seminar is part of the Transmission in Motion seminar (2022-2023): “Imaginary-Imagination.”