Volker Grasmuck on Tue, 22 Oct 1996 18:39:31 +0100

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DEAF articl

                     The Hype Is Over - Long Live the Hype
                             DEAF 96 in Rotterdam
                        for InterCommunication Magazine
                             (c) Volker Grassmuck

The global media art family has gathered again. This time in Rotterdam.
On the menu was the International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA),
the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival (DEAF), the V2_East Meeting, and all of
them stood under the umbrella of the Rotterdam Festival "R96 The New
Temptation" [...]

[extensive cut of the section about the DEAF exhibition; AB]

      At the V2_East meeting, Moscow artist, curator and founder of WWW
Art Center, Alexej Shulgin, demanded that art should move away from
representation toward communication. What we saw in works like those of
Stelarc, Knowbotics and NOX was a representation of communication in its
pure form, disregarding any content: packets, hits, sound bits.
      If their installations operate on the far side of deterritorialization,
the V2_East meeting made it clear that the territorial nation state still
determines to a large degree who we are. The meeting, organized by Inke
Arns and Andreas Broeckmann, brought together media art curators,
archivarians, and activists from almost all East European countries.
      Martin Sperka (Bratislava) recounted how the first computer
animation in Slovakia was made in 1986 on an IBM PC that had to be
smuggled into the country because of the COCOM embargo. Nowadays,
there is access to technology - there is even a Cyber Cafe in Bratislava -,
and Slovak artists want to make a name for themselves in the West,
rather than cooperate with artists in the Czech Republic, even the two
have been one country not so long ago.
      Ryszard Kluszczynski (Lodz/Warsaw), talked about the roots of
today's Polish media art in experimental film in the 1920s and 30s, how no
significant art was possible under Stalinism, how the situation opened up
again and made such internationally renowned digital video artists like
Zbigniew Rybczynski possible, and how the link to the West was severed again
during the 1980s. Janos Sugar (Budapest) said that media art is a history
of hardware, which also determined the forms of expression. Video was
used as film, because in contrast to movie equipment it was accessible.
      Another central issue in media art is money, which in most East
European countries is provided nearly exclusively from the private Soros
Centers. Poland is characterized by the absence of the Wall Street Tycoon's
money, which is the reason, according to Kluszczynski, that the category
"media art" is not used. Artists, rather then being inspired by the
meatpots, start from a concept and then decide whether painting, video
tape, installation, or performance is the best suited means of expression.
They do not define themselves via media. Therefore, Polish works are more
artistic and less technological. The proof: they regularly get rejected
at Ars Electronica.
      Above hardware and money, there is the question of national identity
and its corruption. What is "Polish" about an art work? Do Slovak artists
living in the West have to be included in a Slovak art exhibition? A
foremost task for young East European artists in this time of globalization
is reconnecting to one's own cultural roots, archiving the socialist era, and
reclaiming the past. To aid in this process by charting and transnationally
linking the various efforts was the main task of this V2_East meeting. As
Pierre Levy wrote: "A true balance between regions can only be achieved
by ... initiatives that are both 'indigenous' and open to the world."
      Where is media art going from here? After a period of pioneering
new media, overcoming technological problems, and getting a grasp on
communication, next on the agenda are the more perplexing questions of
meaning, content, and social context. Says Adriaansens: "I talked to several
companies that invested a lot in hard- and software. They all say, we are
missing something, and that's the content. We would like to cooperate with
the artists and develop worlds and see what you are doing, how you are
working, and what we can learn from it. A Development Company for the
city of Rotterdam launches a plan next week according to which they will
invest in culture and art, especially in media, because they see that as the
motor for new economic development of the city. Not only art as
entertainment, but also as content for these media developments. They
know that the companies can't deliver it. This in turn might attract other
companies to the region. That's a very typical plan. They also said, we
don't want to make profits for the next 7-10 years, but it's an investment
for the future, the next 10-20 years." After DEAF/ISEA, the wandering
media crowd moved on to Budapest for the "Metaforum" under the title
"Content. Under Construction," and also next year's ISEA will have
"Content" as its theme.
      Content is culture. [...]