The hype of media art festivals is still
unbroken - whilst new festivals spring up internationally, the more established
festivals have to face the fast development of media art and vast changes in
media culture which lead them, as a consequence to rethinking of their structure,
their content and their goals.
Some of the older European festivals like the
transmediale in Berlin, Germany, or the Viper in Basel, formerly Zurich,
Switzerland started nearly 15 years ago as pure video festivals, and reacted on
the impact that the Net, computer graphics and interactive tools had on art by
opening up the competition, introducing new categories and extending of the
programme. This all happened because there was a need for forums that could show
and discuss the exciting artistic experiments that were in no way covered by the
traditional art institutions like museums and art galleries. And there was the
artists’ urge to present their work to a public larger than their small
communities which emerged partly as a reaction to their exclusion from the
commercial and institutional art scene, and partly as a result of the lack of
interest which the young media art scene developed towards the more conservative
Media art in the nineties was strongly related
to a variety of disciplines like society, technology, science and philosophy -
in contrast, the traditional creative art scene’s relations were much poorer
and appeared to be a sort of closed circuit construct and still is to a large
extent. These new references of media art needed to be analysed and debated, so
media art shows soon were accompanied by conferences and experts’ meetings.
Nowadays these two formerly separated and
parallel systems of artistic creation - media art and creative art are gradually
convergencing. We can observe a slight approach of both towards each other, and
video art has already found its way into collections, art biennials and white
Due to this movement the question arises whether
festivals like the transmediale have carried out their task with regard to video
and should focus on other artistic and medial activities. And if so, which
duties does a today’s media art festival have? Is it still only showing and
debating, maybe supporting current art production - or going into it from the
other side - in which state is media art and its audience today?
What we usually consider as media art is a wide
range of artistic production based on new technology, and reaches from video art
to software art, from Net-based projects to interactive local systems. Some of
it reflects essentially on media culture, some of it has a more general approach
and amongst these some only repeat belated artistic standpoints with the help of
For example: video. Artistic production of video
has split into various fields in which so called video art is just one genre.
Today, digital video is used as a basis medium for all kinds of moving image:
classic feature film, short film, Internet-movie, email-movie, non-linear DVD or
CD-ROM, documentary, documentation, video art, experimental film, etc. Video art
which developed mainly in the eighties was first and foremost a search of
artistic expression apart from still image and cinematic picture. These opposing
positions no longer exist. Consequently, what should happen in a festival that
deals with innovative media art is a change of perspective, a search for current
digital imagery, a closer look upon the distribution and reception of these
moving images and upon their aesthetic evolution.
These days, still the biggest challenge for
media art is to be produced and to go public, to be presented in an adequate way
and to find an audience. In the Western cultural system, the governments mainly
endeavour for the preservation of art, and in comparison the states’ support
of art production is rather modest. Especially in the field of media art where
it takes more than canvas and paint, but rather expensive cutting edge
technology to produce art work, there is a strong need for governmental support
and aid programmes. To a small degree only, festival awards can fill this gap.
Most festivals being endowed only with finite budgets do a good job if they
search for adequate forms of media art presentation which get more complex the
more conceptual the work of art is. This is not a new problem, but something
which is quite hairy with regard to the audience on which a festival depends.
For example: software art. For the first time,
transmediale.01 called for submissions in this category which, as a genre, is
still being debated. For next year’ s festival, again projects are invited in
which the artistic process is largely dependent on the execution of code.
Software not as a functional tool on which the “real” artwork is based, but
software code as the material of artistic creation. Naturally, software art
implicates some problems of presentation during the festival. As the creative
process and the aesthetics of software can hardly be recognised only by showing
the final result, i.e. the artwork which could assume a definite form as a
website, an installation or just a program, needs to be presented in a way that
gives more insight. Software art is self-explanatory for a bunch of software
experts, the others long for explanations and demonstration, a gap which a
festival can fill slowly, e.g. by adding illustrative information material to
the exposed work or by implementing workshops as a means of intensive exchange
of media competence.
Fortunately, a festival is a flexible structure
which is a big advantage with regard to the speed of media culture. In this
aspect, ii benefits from its status as a project, not as an institution. Every
year it is a challenge to sound the borders of feasibitlity and to find the
proper perspective under which the enormous societal and technological changes
that have a direct impact on art can be examined.