Four headshots of Winter Institute Faculty: Cécile Malaspina, Tom Kohut, Dave Biddle, and Harinder Aujla.
Winter Institute Faculty from top to bottom: Cécile Malaspina, Tom Kohut, Dave Biddle, and Harinder Aujla.

Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art is pleased to present:

Winter Institute 2024: Will It Work, How Does it Work, Is it Working Guest Faculty Lectures

As part of our inaugural Winter Institute 2024: Will it Work, How Does it Work, Is it Working led by Judy Radul. Between February 20 and February 23, 2024, we will be presenting unique lectures presented by the guest faculty members of the Winter Institute each day.

All lectures will take place at Plug In ICA

See below for the full lecture schedule.

Cécile Malaspina, The 21st Century Material Intellect: Reflections on Social Dissonance | February 20, 2024, 10:30 am

‘You can only be free in an authoritarian country,’ a Turkish philosopher recently said, in private. ‘Freedom–to the extent that it exists in an authoritarian state–stems from its inability to control all aspects of society and is therefore real.’ This is the freedom of flying under the radar of censorship and intimidation, or of opposing it outright, knowingly, and braving the consequences. Things are not so clear in a liberal democracy, where the Instagram-filtered freedom of the individual is an illusion hard to renounce. In this talk we will think about the paradoxes of the liberal individual in terms of what the philosopher and noise artist Mattin calls ‘social dissonance’ and we will do so through the lens of the long lost philosophical notion of the ‘material intellect’.

Tom Kohut ‘Todestrieb’ and Recursivity: Collapsing the Organic and the Inorganic | February 21, 2024, 10:30 am

In 1920, Sigmund Freud published Beyond the Pleasure Principle, notable in particular for his postulation of two connected psychoanalytic concepts: the repetition compulsion and the Todestrieb (strangely translated by James Strachey into English as “death instinct,’ when “drive” would have been more appropriate). As a drive, the “death drive” necessarily finds its satisfaction in its repetition, which connects it with the repetition compulsion that Freud located in shellshocked World War I veterans and small children. What Todestrieb names is a process by which the organic and the inorganic undergo a perpetual de-differentiation, explicitly explored in his related essay “The ‘Uncanny,’ in which repetition compulsion and its psychically disquieting effect are connected to situations in which the living (organic) and the mechanical (inorganic) become indistinguishable. In this paper, I will argue that, at a different level, a similar de-differentiation via repetition occurs technologically through a study of cybernetics and its own blurring of the distinction between the natural and the technical. Philosopher of technology, Yuk Hui, specifically notes the importance of recursivity in cybernetics and contemporary algorithmic technologies. What I will be suggesting is that there is at the very least a productive homology between these recursive algorithms and the psychoanalytic concept of Todestrieb in order to expand the field of consideration from the usual nature-technical/cultural to the larger issue of “life-death,” the eroding the organic and the inorganic. As Donna Haraway writes in “The Cyborg Manifesto,” “Our machines are disturbingly lively, while we ourselves are frighteningly inert.”

Dave Biddle, Facing the Dis-integration of the Human Face| February 22, 2024, 10:30 am

With reference to thinkers like Jose Ortega y Gasset, Michael Polanyi, Octavia Butler, Bernard Stiegler, and Alicia Juarrero, this lecture will examine the ontological status of faces in general, and of the human face in particular. Within the context of a technosphere which incessantly generates and circulates images of the human face, this lecture will pursue the following questions:

1) Are we at risk of losing our ability to attend to faces as coherent integrations which bring into focus the inward experience of others?

2) Have discreet facial features become more visible in contemporary life as a result of our degrading ability to recognize the tacit meaning of faces?

3) What is the connection between recognizing faces and recognizing conspiracies?

4) In what ways might the secondary functioning of eyelids shape our epistemology?

5) Do plants see (faces)?

Dr. Harinder Aujla, Computational approaches to understanding language | February 23, 2024, 10:30 am

Discourse analysis involves understanding how language use reflects and shapes human experience. The advent of computational techniques, including vector-space models and neural network-based large language models (LLMs), alongside the explosion of information available on the internet, have provided new opportunities to examine language on a large scale. I present approaches to extract both meaning and sentiment from online text sources and provide some examples of how this information can be used to help us understand communication.

No RSVP required for these events

The 2024 Winter Institute is made possible through generous support from Heritage Canada’s Canada Arts Training Fund.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the BC Arts Council.

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Judy Radul’s video installations often feature technical systems, including an original computer-controlled motion choreography and playback system for live and pre-recorded video. Recent exhibitions include: Dazibao, Montreal, 2023; Gwangju Biennale, 2021; Albertinum Museum, Dresden, 2021; Kunstinstitute Melly, Rotterdam, 2017. Her large-scale media installation World Rehearsal Court (2009) has been shown in Vancouver, Vienna, Seoul, Oslo and Moscow. She has published two books with Sternberg Press Berlin: A Thousand Eyes: Media Technology, Law and Aesthetics, 2011 co-edited with Marit Paasche, and This Is Television, 2018. Radul received a B.A in Fine and Performing Arts, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, 1991 and Master of Visual and Media Arts, Bard College, New York, 2000. She is Professor of Visual Art at SFU School for Contemporary Arts. She lives in Berlin and Vancouver (unceded Tsleil-Waututh, Skwxwú7mesh and Musqueam lands) and is represented by Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver. Learn more about Judy Radul at her website here


Dr. Harinder Aujla is a professor in the department of Psychology at the University of Winnipeg. He uses computational models of semantics to understand how different groups of people come to have different understandings of the same words.

Dave Biddle (being me) is an interdisciplinary artist and scholar (being a PhD candidate at SFU’s School for Contemporary Arts in Vancouver) who lives in the traditional unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. His (being my) current research project is emboldened by two (being 2) quotes from Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star (1977):

 1) “I do not know why, but I do know that the universe never began.”

2) “So long as I have questions to which there are no answers, I shall go on writing.” 

The first quote informs the content of my (being Dave’s) research project while the second contends with its form. Dave Biddle (still being me) is interested in how the many different forms of life on earth (being metaphorically different) are all oriented toward the production of new expressions of meaning (being what Erwin Schrödinger calls negentropic), and in this process some of those negentropic expressions of meaning emerge as something called an Artist Bio (being a reflexive expression). Working with text, sound, moving image, and performance, Dave’s scholarship (being indistinguishable from his art practice) synthesizes research in theoretical biology, philosophy of mind, and biosemiotics to produce pedagogical artefacts that evoke a new metaphysics of life (being the difference between lucid dreaming and losing sleep). At the time of writing this particular Artist Bio, Dave Biddle is (being was) sitting where he usually sits when studying the silverfish in his books (being being).

Tom Kohut is a writer and theorist presently living in Winnipeg. Among his other work, he is the co-editor of Marshall McLuhan and Vilém Flusser’s Communication and Aesthetic Theories Revisited, and is currently working on psychoanalysis and contemporary Canadian media art.

Cécile Malaspina is Visiting Fellow at King’s College London and the University of the West of England. She runs programmes for the Collège International de Philosophie and the New Centre for Research & Practice. An Epistemology of Noise (2018). Trans. Simondon, On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects (2017).


We are on Treaty 1 Territory. Plug In ICA is located on the territories of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the National homeland of the Red River Métis.

Our water is sourced from Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.

Plug In ICA extends our heartfelt gratitude to our generous donors, valued members, and dedicated volunteers. We acknowledge the sustaining support of our Director’s Circle. You all make a difference.

We would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Johnston Group for sponsoring this program.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Canada Council, the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council. We could not operate without their continued financial investment and lobbying efforts.

Plug In ICA relies on community support to remain free and accessible to all, and enable us to continue to present excellent programs. Please consider becoming a member of Plug In ICA and a donor at or by contacting Caitlin at

For more information on public programming and exhibitions contact Luther Konadu

For general information, please contact: or call 1.204.942.1043