Kathy Rae Huffman on Wed, 22 Jan 1997 16:24:47 +0100

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Novi Sad - VideoMedeja, Dec.1996 2/4

Overall Impressions:

The work was drawn from several East European countries, and was new, and for
the most part provocative.   Tapes were projected onto a very large cinema
screen, and by most standards, would be considered quite poor.   Information
was minimal, we never saw a program until we arrived, but that proved very
adequate.  The schedule played  extremely punctual!   Most events listed were
shown, only the late night performance on opening night by Milica Mrdja
Kuzmanov (Rites of Body and Soil) had to be canceled due to illness.
Representation from some of the Eastern countries where video production is
well known, was only fair.  For example, no work from Russia or the former
Soviet Union was received.   But, as they explained, it was the first
attempt, and they had only a couple of months to prepare everything once they
learned they would receive funding.

The communication and connection to outside organizations and groups proved
to be very young, as is their knowledge of the international festival scene.
But this also provided a fresh approach, and the organizers worked closely
with three local advisors who had traveled more extensively, and who were
willing to help them with program planning.  This advisory Art Board
consisted of Biljana Tomic, Editor (curator) of the Arts Program at the
Student's Culture Centre, Belgrade;  Lidija Srebotnjak, Assistant Professor
at the Department of Multimedia Research at the Academy of Arts, Novi Sad;
and Aleksandar Davic, Director, video artist, and Teaching Assistant at the
Drama Dept., Academy Arts, Novi Sad.  They participated visibly in the
program and the discussion.

My communication with the VideoMedeja organizers was entirely done via email.
 In fact, Adele Eisenstein (Budapest), found out about the program in
Slovenia, during The City of Women festival last October, and sent a notice
to a number of video specialists she knew.  The mails were answered quite
promptly, but I didn't realize I arrived in Novi Sad that my emails were not
going directly to the festival, but rather were being passed along (probably
printed like a FAX) from a neighboring office in the same building.  It is
extremely expensive for individuals to buy modems in Yugoslavia, dial-up
accounts are costly, and the telephone lines are poor.  Internet browsing, if
it is attempted at all, is usually restricted to late night sessions at the
Universitys computer center.   The festival organizers are aware that a great
deal of creative work is being done online, but as yet they can only
anticipate a future, where the telephone system functions reliably to support
private connectivity.

Program Highlites:

A large majority of the selection was performance work, with new pieces by
Jasna Hribernik (Ljubljana), Natasa Prosenc (Ljubljana), and Olivera Milos
Todorovic (Belgrade).  Very little video using special effects or computer
graphics was seen, only the Slovenian authors had access to advanced
technology.  The body was the unifying and main instrument of expression
among the Eastern women who sent their works to VideoMedeja.  One outstanding
piece was shown by Alicja Zebrovska (Cracow, Poland), called The Original Sin
(Part 1) and The Mistery is Looking On (part II), a 5 min. video made in
1994, in which a glass eye is inserted into the vaginal opening, disguised
with eye makeup  and fake eyelashes.  It takes a minute or two before the
glass eye is pushed out....revealing the true character of the source.

A performance by Miroslava Mima Orlovic, Dodirni Me (Touch Me) united the
audience on opening night.  It utilized electrical current and Video.
Dodirni Me was first presented in 1995, but it was a fresh and exciting
experience for all. A personal work, it utilizes a devise that Miroslava was
given by her grandmother, a medical instrument that generates a current of 20
watts, 30 watts, 40 watts, 50 watts, or 80 watts (similar to what STELARC
uses to stimulate the large muscle groups in his performance Fractel Flesh).
As Miroslava explained --the following morning at the symposium-- electrical
energy was thought to have beneficial qualities, back in 1931, and it was a
common treatment her grandmother frrequently practiced against arthritis.

The performance itself used Miroslava as the conductor of electrical current,
which emanated directly from her body.  She concealed herself in a small
curtained dressing room, and extended her hands from behind the curtain.  The
outstretched hands invited members of the audience to touch them, as does a
videotape playing a loop with the words touch me repeated in various
languages.  Upon touching the artists finger, a spark (and shock) is
generated.  After numerous people took their turn to get this sensation, all
watching the others from the que, somebody had the idea to just grab onto
Miroslavas hand, whereas then, no shock could be felt.  Very quickly, the
primarily female audience self-organized into a large circle, breaking
occasionally to admit a new member.  The chain of hands held together firmly.
 A very generous feeling of camaraderie developed, and the circle stayed in
place long past the necessity to try it out.