Digital PTSD Part II. The Practice of Art and Its Impact on Digital Trauma

20.05.2021 from 15:00 to 22:00

Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea presents the second part of a program of talks, conversations and artworks entitled Digital PTSD. The Practice of Art and Its Impact on Digital Trauma developed in the framework of the exhibition Espressioni. The Proposition.

Digital PTSD. Part II is presented at Castello di Rivoli Theatre (free access with Museum ticket, booking is essential) and live streamed on both e-flux and Castello di Rivoli websites (please register here).

It is counterintuitive, but Digital PTSD presents through an online platform a critique of the potential misuse of technologies by proposing an interdisciplinary enquiry into the possibility that a trauma from hyper-digitization may be emerging, at both individual and collective level. In the context of society’s growing reliance on online technologies and Artificial Intelligence, Digital PTSD questions whether these tools may be sources of psychological distress, undermining physical and mental well-being as well as facilitating the affirmation of a technocracy which ultimately poses a threat to our health and social justice. What are the traumatic consequences of the sudden increase in virtual activities during a period when spaces of aggregation, such as museums, have been in extended lockdown? Digital PTSD invites to reflect on screen-based experience, the physical erosion of living matter, the transformation of life into big data and the new digital epistemic regime.

Participants in Part II include: Ed Atkins, artist; Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, artists; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of the museum; Devra Davis, epidemiologist, activist; Irene Dionisio, author, director, visual artist; Aikaterini Fotopoulou, psychodynamic neuroscientist; Vittorio Gallese, cognitive neuroscientist; Vincent Hendricks, philosopher, logician; Catherine Malabou, philosopher; Otobong Nkanga, artist; Tabita Rezaire, artist, devotee, yogi, doula, soon to be farmer; Legacy Russell, curator, writer; Miao Ying, artist.

The event runs from 15:00 to 22:00 CEST (Central European Standard Time). Further information and program here.

Digital PTSD – Part I took place on December 12, 2020, including: Tabita Rezaire, artist; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, museum director, exhibition maker, writer; Beatriz Colomina & Mark Wigley, architectural historians, theorists, curators; Cécile B. Evans, artist; Matteo Pasquinelli, cognitive sciences, digital economy, machine intelligence theorist; Hito Steyerl, filmmaker, visual artist, writer, and innovator of the essay documentary; Grada Kilomba, artist and writer; Anne Imhof, artist musician; Bracha L. Ettinger, painter, theorist, psychoanalyst; Éric Sadin, writer and philosopher; Vittorio Gallese, cognitive neuroscientist; Ophelia Deroy, philosopher and cognitive neuroscientist; Griselda Pollock, feminist-postcolonial-queer-international art historian and cultural analyst; Agnieszka Kurant, artist; Cally Spooner, artist; Chus Martínez, curator and writer; Stuart Ringholt, artist; Marcos Lutyens, artist and hypnotistDocumentation of the full event can be watched here.

Digital PTSD. The Practice of Art and Its Impact on Digital Trauma is a research program initiated and curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev with Stella Bottai and Giulia Colletti.




Ed Atkins lives and works in Copenhagen. His upcoming solo exhibition Get Life / Love’s Work opens at the New Museum in New York in June 2021. Forthcoming exhibitions aslo include Tank, Shanghai, and Tate Britain. Recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthaus Bregenz and K21 Düsseldorf (both 2019); Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; MMK Frankfurt; DHC/ART, Montréal (all 2017); Castello di Rivoli and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; The Kitchen, New York (all 2016). An anthology of his texts, A Primer for Cadavers, was published by Fitzcarraldo in 2016. An epic nothing, Old Food, was published by Fitzcarraldo in 2019. A new book of his drawings for children is published by Koenig Books this Spring.

Ed Atkins and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev tackle some of the complexities of contemporary digital technologies, including the challenges posed by the dramatic increase in digitization during lockdown affecting interpersonal relationships and screen-based social experiences. Over the past decade, Atkins has created a complex body of work that considers the relationship between the corporeal and the digital through high-definition computer-generated (CG) animations, theatrical environments, elliptical writings, and syncopated sound montages. Atkins and Christov-Bakargiev touch upon his upcoming commission Get Life/Love’s Work at the New Museum, New York, that focuses on the ways bodies and technologies are intertwined, particularly in the field of digital communication and telepresence.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller live and work in British Columbia. The artists are internationally recognized for their immersive multimedia sound installations and their audio/video walks. They have created recent video walks at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (2019), and for the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh (2019). Cardiff and Miller have shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2019) Museum of Contemporary Art in Monterrey, Mexico (2019); Oude Kerk, Amsterdam (2018); 21st Century Museum, Kanazawa, Japan (2017) and Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2017). In 2020 they were awarded the Wilhelm Lehmbruck prize for sculpture. In 2001, Cardiff and Miller represented Canada at the 49th Venice Biennale, for which they received the Premio Speciale and the Benesse Prize.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller speak with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev about their series of video and audio walks in relation to media alienation. Cardiff and Bures Miller’s work has since a long time acknowledged and deployed digital screens as tools affecting one’s perception of their surroundings, transporting them to alternate realities and ultimately diverting the attention (and the senses) back to our material relationship with the world. Contrary to the visual flatness of smart devices, their work establishes a three-dimensional, layered physical space in which transformative scenarios unfold. In this conversation, they discuss their approach to screen-based experience in their past work, reflecting on the use of technology in the present day and the evolving relationship between online and offline experience.

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev is a writer, art historian and curator. Currently, she is the Director of Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea and Fondazione Francesco Federico Cerruti in Turin. She is the recipient of the 2019 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence. She was Edith Kreeger Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor in Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University (2013-2019). Christov-Bakargiev was Artistic Director of dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012 in Kassel, Banff, Alessandria-Cairo and Bamiyan-Kabul. In 2008, she directed the Sydney Biennale and the Istanbul Biennale in 2015.

Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Director, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev introduces some of the concerns which prompted this program. In the context of society’s growing reliance on online technologies and Artificial Intelligence, Digital PTSD questions whether these tools may be sources of psychological distress, undermining physical and mental well-being as well as facilitating the affirmation of a technocracy which ultimately poses a threat to public freedom and social justice. What are the traumatic consequences of the sudden increase in virtual activities during a period when spaces of aggregation, such as museums, have been in extended lockdown? Digital PTSD invites to reflect on screen-based experience, the physical erosion of living matter, the trans-formation of life into big data and the new digital epistemic regime.

Devra Davis, Ph.D. MPH, is Founder and President of Environmental Health Trust (EHT), a US-based not-for-profit organization providing research and education on avoidable environmental health hazards, including radio-frequency radiation, pesticides and toxic chemicals. A former senior official in the Clinton administration and an executive director at the US national Academy of Sciences, Davis served as a Lead Author of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1998-2002), and was part of the team awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 along former US vice-president Al Gore. Author of over 200 scientific publications and three popular books, Davis holds visiting professor appointments at several universities. 

Devra Davis presents scientific research on wireless microwave radiation. She shares why she has joined hundreds of scientists around the world who are calling to reduce children’s exposure to wireless microwave radiation through the introduction of updated regulations on the use of wireless devices, and to halt 5G until further research and assessment on its potential health effects are carried out.

Irene Dionisio is a filmmaker and artist. Her productions span video-installations, documentaries, films including Le ultime cose (2016), Sponde (2015), and La fabbrica è piena (2011) which were featured at many international festivals (Festival di Venezia, Torino Film Festival, Visions du Réel, Taiwan Film Festival, among others) and were awarded Premio Filmmaker, Premio Solinas, Premio Scam and and Jury Prize at Cinema-Verité in Iran. Dionisio’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at Magazzino Italian Art, New York; PAC, Milan; OCAT, Shanghai; Palazzo Grassi, Venice; amongst others.

Following A Germ Theory – A Teaser, this new lecture-performance titled A Germ Theory_Earth by Irene Dionisio investigates, visualises and performs Benjamin H. Bratton’s mega-structure on a double plane – physical and digital. A possibility emerges for both the artist and the audience to question the role of art in enabling a comprehension of reality and our increasing alienation from it. The interstice between digital and physical worlds becomes a free zone to allow new doubts and possible solutions to emerge, and to contemplate the environmental topic with different parameters.

Aikaterini (Katerina) Fotopoulou, PhD, DPsych is Professor of Psychodynamic Neuroscience at University College London, leading research on the mental-physical health interface, including the European Research Council programme grants BODILY SELF and METABODY ( Fotopoulou has received several awards for her research, including the Distinguished Young Scientist Award (2014) by the World Economic Forum and the Early Career Award of the International Neuropsychology Society (2016). She is co-founder and Treasurer of the International Association for the Study of Affective Touch (IASAT), board member of the European Society for Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, and co-editor of the volume From the Couch to the Lab: Trends in Psychodynamic Neuroscience, Oxford University Press, 2012.

Proximal, interpersonal space is the space of bodily contact but also the space of social, interactive possibilities. The physical space in which others can touch our skin and the imaginary space in which others can touch our emotions. Touch acquired a new resonance in the year of social distancing measures, reminding us the well-studied role of contact comfort in development, relatedness and health. In this talk Remote but not distant: Possibilities and Tensions of Digital Contact Comfort, Fotopoulou explores data collected during the pandemic on the mental health effects of unprecedented touch deprivation in human adults, as well as survey and experimental insights on experiences and attitudes to digital remote touch technology for mediating physical remoteness and social communication.

Vittorio Gallese, MD and trained neurologist, is Professor of Psychobiology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the Dept. of Medicine & Surgery of the University of Parma, Italy. Cognitive neuroscientist, his research focuses on the relation between the sensory-motor system and cognition by investigating the neurobiological and bodily grounding of intersubjectivity, psychopathology, language and aesthetics. He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications and three books.

Neuroscience and physiology today can investigate the brain-body mechanisms enabling our interactions with man-made images, shedding light on the functional mechanisms enabling their perceptual experience. Vision is a process far more complex than the mere activation of the “visual brain”. Our visual experience of images is the outcome of multimodal integration processes, in which the motor system is one key player. In this talk Digital Visions, Vittorio Gallese briefly discusses this new model of vision, emphasizing that the multimodal integration of what we perceive is triggered by the potentiality for action that we express corporeally. He argues that the digital revolution has shifted the balance towards an ever-growing exposure to digital images and introduced a novel performative quality to our perceptual experience of them. Some implications of our digital visions are discussed.

Vincent F. Hendricks is Professor of Formal Philosophy at The University of Copenhagen. He is Founder and Director of the Center for Information and Bubble Studies (CIBS) financed by the Carlsberg Foundation and was awarded the Elite Research Prize by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and the Roskilde Festival Elite Research Prize both in 2008. He was Editor-in-Chief of Synthese: An International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science between 2005-2015.

The prime asset in the information economy is not microchips or oil – it’s attention. It is a cognitive resource to humans, but to the information market, governed by an attention economy, it is THE asset, potentially making us collateral damage. Every user of social media is not a client, but a product – an information product, taking and receiving attention as a function of the information emitted and circulated. As a user one may speculate as to what sort of information people are willing to spend their precious attention on and produce in line with the business principle: “Enough of me, what about you, what do you think of me?”. If one adds to that the way in which users influence each other, before one knows it we ourselves have become the collateral damage of the attention economy in the information market.

Catherine Malabou is a Professor of Philosophy at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, at Kingston University London, and in the departments of Comparative Literature and European Languages and Studies at University of California Irvine. Her last books include Before Tomorrow: Epigenesis and Rationality (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016, trans. Carolyn Shread); Morphing Intelligence, From IQ to IA (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018, trans. Carolyn Shread); and Le Plaisir effacé, Clitoris et pensée (Rivages, 2020).

The notion of ‘uncanny valley’ was developed by robotician Masahiro Mori to characterise the relationship between the degree of a robot’s resemblance to a human being and the emotional response to it. The concept of the uncanny valley suggests that humanoids which appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings cause uncanny feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers. “Valley” denotes a dip in the human observer’s affinity for the replica. The more resemblant the replica, the stronger the feeling of uncanniness (bottom of the valley). In this presentation, Malabou asks if digital PTSD is susceptible to be caused by artificial relationships with uncanny robotic lovers and friends, and the disappointment generated by the solitude, unfulfillment, caused by a type of alterity that remains alien to any registered definition of alterity. An otherness to other- ness. Why exactly is robotic uncanniness, what type of traumas does it generate, and are there ways to deal with it?

Otobong Nkanga lives and works in Antwerp. Her solo exhibitions include Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Torino (upcoming); Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Middlesbrough (2020-21); Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin and Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden (both 2020); Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; Tate St Ives (both 2019-20); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2018). Additionally, her work has been included in institutional group exhibitions such as 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Sharjah Biennial 14 (2019); documenta 14, Athens–Kassel (2017); Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Centre Pompidou, Paris (both 2016); 13th Biennale de Lyon (2015). In 2019, Nkanga received a Special Mention Award at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia and was also awarded the Sharjah Biennial Prize (with Emeka Ogboh); the Peter-Weiss-Preis; and the Flemish Cultural Award for Visual Arts – Ultima.

Otobong Nkanga’s practice reads the world on material terms, mapping out how the body fits into a shared, earthly narrative. In this conversation, the artist speaks with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev about digital PTSD in connection to alienated labour, material extraction as well as digital addiction triggered by the loss of embodied relations accentuated by the pandemic. During the talk, they also address the importance of Nkanga’s poly-sensorial approach to exhibition making, and her research into capitalist production cycles which extract and shift energy from organic materials to inorganic, invisible and intangible spaces making up the apparently seamless infrastructure of the digital world.

Tabita Rezaire currently lives and works in Cayenne, French Guiana, where she is birthing AMAKABA. She is an artist-healer-seeker working with screens and energy streams. Her cross-dimensional practice envisions network sciences – organic, electronic and spiritual – as healing technologies to serve the shift towards heart consciousness. Navigating digital, corporeal and ancestral memory as sites of struggles, she digs into scientific imaginaries to tackle the pervasive matrix of coloniality that affect the songs of our body-mind-spirits. She has shown her work internationally at Centre Pompidou, Paris; MoMa, New York; MASP São Paulo; Gropius Bau, Berlin; ICA and Tate Modern, London.

To mark the conclusion of the event, Tabita Rezaire invites us on a journey into the ancestral realms, to call upon those who have walked the path we are walking, to inform and guide us. Join Rezaire to sit with the ancestors, to travel through the lineages who have birthed us, to honour, receive, release, and embody the gift of life. The meditation was recorded by Rezaire at her home, in a cabane in the Amazonian Forest near Cayenne, in French Guiana.

Legacy Russell is a curator and writer. Born and raised in New York City, she is the Associate Curator of Exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Her academic, curatorial, and creative work focuses on gender, performance, digital selfdom, internet idolatry, and new media ritual. She is the recipient of the Thoma Foundation 2019 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art, a 2020 Rauschenberg Residency Fellow, and a recipient of the 2021 Creative Capital Award. Her first book Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto (2020) is published by Verso Books. Her second book, BLACK MEME, is forthcoming via Verso Books.

#GLITCHFEMINISM (2018) is a video essay and performative lecture based on Legacy Russell’s research toward her recent publication Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto (2020), a vital new chapter in cyberfeminism. Glitch Feminism explores the relationship between gender, technology and identity. In this urgent mani- festo, Russell reveals the many ways that the glitch performs and transforms: how it refuses, throws shade, ghosts, encrypts, mobilises and survives. Russell argues that we need to embrace the glitch in order to break down the binaries and limitations that define gender, race, sexuality.

[Photo credits Mina Alyeshmerni]

Miao Ying is an artist based in New York and Shanghai. She is among the first generation of Chinese contemporary artists who grew up with the internet, Chinese economic reform and one-child policy, and were educated in both China and the West. She is known for her projects and writings addressing Chinese internet culture and dealing with her Stockholm Syndrome in relation to censorship. Her solo exhibitions include M+ Museum, Hong Kong (2018); New Museum, New York (2016); Chinese Pavilion, Venice Biennale (2015). Her work has been featured in international groups shows at Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2020); 12th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2018); MoMA PS1, New York (2017); UCCA, Beijing (2017), amongst others. She is recipient of the Porsche Young Chinese Artist of the year (2018- 2019).

In this new video by Miao Ying, her former online project Hardcore Digital Detox (2018) is captured as a website performing itself to the camera, introducing the audience to the core elements of Miao’s innovative digital detox philosophy. Digital detox is commonly known as a period during which a person refrains from using electronic connecting devices, such as smartphones and computers. What makes Miao’s digital detox hardcore is that one can stay connected the whole time. A companion to Miao’s project Chinternet Plus (2016), Hardcore Digital Detox similarly occupies the negative space left by the restricted Chinese internet. Far from seeing this as a deficiency, Miao celebrates the ingenuity, humour, and intelligence of Chinese internet users, and the rich visual culture shared behind the firewall.


15:00 - 22:00