Eduardo Navas on Mon, 13 Mar 2006 12:21:34 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> NMF: Review of 7th Biennale of Video and New Media of Santiago

REVIEW (Focus on Santiago, Chile): The Hacker Aesthetic infiltrates the 7th
Biennale of video and New Media of Santiago by Eduardo Navas

"The 7th Video and New Media Biennale of Santiago" in Chile took place at the
Museum of Contemporary Art, in conjunction with ongoing events at Centro
Cultural Espa=F1a, from the 18-27 of November, 2005. The exhibition's curatorial
statement, by N=E9stor Olgaharay, reconsiders Roland Barthes' essay "The
Death of the Author" as it relates to concepts of interactivity, and how these
ideas have been elaborated on by burgeoning developments in computer interface
design. The statement proposes the idea of "interface" as a metaphor that
can be used to reevaluate cultural production in the rise of the network
society. In his essay, Barthes questions the passivity of the reader and the
privileged position of the author, explaining that the text can only be activated,
or brought to life by the reader--a critical reader, to be precise. Olhagaray
asserts that Duchamp previously proposed this type of reader when he presented his
urinal for contemplation as a work of art at the beginning of the 20th Century.
And, it is with this approach to the work of art, "to abolish or at least
diminish the distance between the reading and writing," that the "7th Video
and New Media Biennale of Santiago" was organized. The curator endorsed this
reevaluation by arguing that developments in emerging technologies allow for new
types of dynamic relationships to occur between the author and reader by
supporting more open-ended discourses. This proposition was the central tenant for
exploring the relationship between and crossover of video and new media.

 (Biennale curator, N=E9stor Olgaharay)

The Biennale was an attractive event that exhibited Chilean artists along with
international artists from Europe as well as the United States. However, neither
the idea of the interface as a discursive metaphor endorsing a critical position,
nor its correlation to authorship, was immediately evident. This lapse may be due
in large part to the pervasiveness of traditional video installations. This would
not have seemed incongruous with the exhibition thesis if the installations had
been pushed beyond traditional museum presentation, consisting of large
projections in dark rooms furnished with seats. The theme might have been better
served by strategically juxtaposing video works with more interactive
installations to imply some sort of dynamic relationship. Unfortunately, only a
couple of the ten or so galleries offered works with which the viewer could
actually interact, compared to the anticipated challenges offered by contemporary

Considering the potential of new media as a platform inspired by collaborative
activities, such as open source, it was ponderous why there were no works that
explored the notions cited in the catalog's curatorial statement more
explicitly, allowing users to become actual creative collaborators by modifying
the work. At the most, the user could play, interacting in the most general way
with some of the works, but no permanent modifications were ever possible. The
role of the author and reader remained very well defined. However, to be fair,
we could consider the questioning of authorship/readership as a rhetorical
measure, where the exhibition exposes the ideological displacement of the work of
art from its pivotal position, a unique object created to be looked at, to one
where the viewer is expected to deconstruct and reflect upon his/her own role as
an "active" participant. Yet, this position would still not be enough to
sustain the exhibition statement, which claims that elements of new media, such as
open source or hacking, necessarily imply joining a collective to develop works;
and, that these works do not depend on the labor and/or concepts of a single
person, but rather on the contributions of many whom are readers and producers

 ( ASCII =AD Gioconda acci=F3n de arte digital by , AKA Isabel Aranda. one
of the welcomed performances throughout the Biennale. Here Da Vinci is digitized

The Biennale successfully presented emerging contemporary practices in
juxtaposition with video projects that may not necessarily be connected to the
concept of interactivity by default. A shortcoming, however, was that a certain
division happened between disciplines. That is, video was presented emphasizing a
strong tradition while new media was presented as an up and coming discipline in
the arts, which not always complemented the more established tradition. Upon
realizing this, one could only wish that the biennale had pushed for a hybridized
state. But, instead, =8Cpurity' was the implicit position taken to validate both
camps. This is evident in the official name of the biennale -- "Video and New
Media" -- which brings the two fields together, while also separating them.
But such juxtaposition points to a hybrid state in the near future, because, after
all, in the recent past, the biennale only focused on video. For now, the "7th
Biennale of Video and New Media of Santiago" has provided its visitors with a
rich, though admittedly narrow discourse; one which can only demand that the
viewer be more critical of art now as well as in the future.

And so, the exhibition required that the viewer look further, not into the actual
works within the museum, but into the organizing principle that curator N=E9stor
Olgaharay used to assemble the biennale. The notion of the author/reader was
effectively reevaluated in an indirect way, by allowing other curators and
collectives to organize parts of the exhibit. In addition, the viewer could look
beyond the museum to find interactive pieces that were situated in different
locations within Santiago. This exhibition segment was called "Obra Abierta,"
("Open Work"), after Umberto Eco's theories, consisting of installations
that required the viewer to become a para-user, manipulating, but not necessarily
changing, the works. The artists invited to create these pieces were Areil
Bustamante, F=E9lix Lazo, Sebati=E1n Skoknic, Espora, Daniel Gonz=E1les and Jorge
Sep=FAlveda. The works were presented at major cultural institutions like the
Museum of National History and the Museum of Science and Technology among other

The curatorial practice was further extended with the participation of collective
groups, including Colectivo Conmoci=F3n, Troyano, Kintun, Incas of Emergency,
Suicidio Colectivo and Radio Ruido. These collectives contributed video
installations as well as new media works ranging from online projects to sound

In particular, the curatorial collective Troyano, (consisting of Ignacio Nieto,
Alejandro Albornoz, Italo Tello and Ricardo Vega), took the position of an
intervener by following the tradition of hackers who write viruses. It is in
such works that make visible the deconstructive method at play, one that is
critical of the limitations of an art institution.

 (Troyano Collective, discussing their curatorial intervention)

Troyano with a metaphoric act of resistance "hacked," that is infiltrated the
Biennale to introduce a historical thread of new media works, creating non-linear
connections to Chilean art since the 1950s to today--this is true in particular
to the tradition of sound as art, a special section curated by Alejandro
Albornoz. Like many other curators and collectives who participated in the
exhibit, Troyano connected the history of Chile to other international movements
around the world, juxtaposing works by local artists with collectives and
hackers from the United States and Europe. Troyano's intervention/hack consisted
of presenting work that had not been recognized particularly in Chile, due to
misunderstandings or lack of interest by the art institution. They use the term
"virus" with a double sense, the first to refer to the tradition in hacking
to create viruses that infiltrate a secured computer system (in this case the
museum); and, the second, to comment on the lack of support for emerging new media
work by the art institution as a kind of bureaucratic virus. The end result was a
quite refreshing approach based on thematics of international interest, carefully
questioning the continuity of history.

Historically important net art projects by members of the group, who
included Alexei Shulgin, Vuc Kosic and Olia Lialina, were presented in direct
juxtaposition with several works including two small video installations by New
York based artist Matt Kenyon, (who critiques large corporations like McDonalds
and Wal-Mart), along with the local artist collective Se=F1al tres, (a TV station
that broadcasts programming throughout Chile with the aim to expose viewers to a
critical discourse calling for self-reflexivity.)

A further complement to the reevaluation of the author/reader and their relation
to the interface were the daily conferences scheduled for ten days at both The
Museum of Contemporary Art and the Centro Cultural de Espa=F1a. Troyano, in fact,
extended their intervention/hack to organize a number of these conferences, upon
which I shall now focus.

 (Ine Poppe and Sam Nemeth presented on Hacking, above: detail from a documentary
video where a young hacker was interviewed on his creative process)

These were gatherings where people discussed familiar concepts of new media. The
public experienced documentaries on hacking by Dutch Artists Ine Poppe and Sam
Nemeth. Poppe screened the documentary Hippies from Hell that evaluated the
historical relevance of hacker culture in relationship to squatters in Amsterdam.
Poppe also screened a feature film, inspired by an actual event, about a young man
with a terminal disease who requests that a camera be placed inside his coffin and
buried with his corpse, streaming images of its deterioration to the Internet. Sam
Nemeth, (also of Creative Commons in Amsterdam), presented on behalf of the Waag
foundation, a non-profit organization based in Amsterdam, offering residencies to
artists who want to experiment with emerging technologies, especially open source
software developed by Waag.

 (Lucrezia Cippitelli presenting work by various Cuban artists.)

Italian Curator Lucrezia Cippitelli presented video work from Cuba, where she
explained that Cuban artists see the technology considered "new media" in
other parts of the world as just another critical tool for artistic expression.
Much of the work screened was developed with minimal technological intervention.
For example, video editing was done with a laptop computer, using original sound
and image with very little special effects or filters. One video presented three
men improvising with their voices inside a home. The video was strategically
edited so that the spoken word was detached slowly from its corresponding image,
allowing the aura of improvisation to be deconstructed, and making apparent the
ephemerality of the lived moment.

 (Nomade Collective discussing Linux and free software)

Artist and professor Pablo Cottet and his collaborative Netzfunk lectured on an
interactive art project where the history of Chile can be accessed by anyone who
uses a GPS device connected to a computer while walking around the historic
Alameda Boulevard. Software Libre and Proyecto Nomade lectured on open source.
Representatives Lila Pagola and Luis Britos discussed how Linux is being used in
Chile as well as in Argentina as an alternative to commercial-ware. The pros and
cons of open source were discussed at some length, to the point where the
discussion was brought to an end because of overtime in the facility. Other
presentations outside of the Troyano intervention included Chilean new media
artist Christian Oyarzun, who dealt with the aesthetics of computer graphics
created on the fly for musical performances or for installations. And, there were
a number of music events throughout the ten days, including a VJ and Sound set by
Diego Agaso and Alejandro Albornoz and his collective CES.

 (detail of VJ projection by Diego Agasso during closing night of conferences
organized by Troyano)

These conferences showed that there is great potential for a more integrated
Biennale in the future, where the terms "video" and "new media" may no
longer be necessary, as in the title of Santiago's biennale. Until then, being
aware of the restrictions of splitting these media will be necessary, and, one can
only hope, that more interventions, like Troyano's, will be made in the future
to continually remind the art institution of its bureaucratic limitations.

 (detail of performance by various ruidistas/grupos sonoros, closing evening at
the Museum of Contemporary art, Santiago)

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