From 2000 to 2015, the MediaArtLab team organized the Media Forum as part of the Moscow International Film Festival, a parallel program, which brings together contemporary artists and film directors working between the intersections of film, video and media art.
For sixteen years the Media Forum had been drawing the audience’s attention to a synthesis of film and art, to new ways of creating visual works, proving continuously that cinema, in fact, is a much wider notion than what we see in auditoriums. It may be interactive and multi-screen, it may develop a special space environment, which naturally includes a spectator, and movies themselves may last for days resembling classical painting... The question if video art and traditional cinematograph have now become competitors seems logical. The boundary is so vague it is practically indistinguishable film directors present their works at biennales while video artists participate in film festivals. How are they to divide the territory? The Media Forum became one of the first festival projects (along with parallel programs of the festivals in Berlin and Venice) devoted to a systematic research of this crossroad...
The Media Forum held its video works competition, had its lecture program, with master-classes for Moscow audience, round tables and club events. Artists from five continents and more than twenty countries took part in its activities.
The Media Forum emerged as a footnote to the big text of the festival — a note about experimental cinema. Video art, in its opposition to television, was looking for friendly support from the side of festival cinema. But the footnotes have been growing bigger, commentaries have turned into a separate text, and in 2012 it took a step “Towards the Tactile Cinema” at the same time moving out of a cinema auditorium into an exhibition space. In particular, these were galleries’ spaces and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Ekaterina Cultural Foundation, and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art.
Thanks to the Media Forum, the audiences could see daring experiments in the field of interactive cinema, sound performance and video art. Venues of the Media Forum hosted works by such famous artists and directors as Eija-Liisa Ahtila Peter Greenaway, Isaac Julien, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Eve Sussman, Fiona Tan, Omer Fast, Yang Fudong, Gary Hill, Jesper Just…
The I Media Forum of the Moscow International Film Festival under the topic “New Screen Culture” was a project that expanded the program of the festival, presenting the whole variety of contemporary media art to a broad audience. It featured video programs from the collections of the Centre Pompidou and The Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo/Time Based Arts that were presented by curators from both institutions: Etienne Sandrin and Jan Schuijren. Media Forum introduced a new relationship between the object of contemporary culture and the viewer. The latest trends of contemporary culture associated with new technologies made it possible to say that this part of culture has its own viewer, who is attracted by the model of communicative art, which allows him to interactively participate in the dramatic composition of an artistic work (A. Isaev).
The topic of the II Media Forum was “Multivideo”. The scale of the event has grown significantly. International competition program was divided into three parts: video, TV and the Internet. They featured works dated 2000–2001 by artists from America, Western and Eastern Europe, Russia, Japan, Australia, the CIS countries, Hong Kong, India, etc.
The II Media Forum featured video programs from the collections of the Centre Pompidou, The Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo/Time Based Arts, The European Media Art Festival (EMAF), Transmediale Festival and others. Also, the first international conference on storage and distribution of media art in Russia “Access to Excess” was held.
When the II Media Forum closed, the winning works were sent to the regions. In particular, the “New Media in the Planetarium” project in Novokuznetsk, included works by Andy Cox and Gabriel Guzman (USA), Olga Stolpovskaya and Victor Alimpiev (Russia), Andrei and Julia Velikanov (Russia), Bjǿrn Wangen (Norway), Michael Brynntrup (Germany), Julie-Christine Fortier, (Canada/France).
The central theme of the III Media Forum was Russian video art. It featured video programs from the series “Anthology of Russian Video Art. Limits of Definition” on the following topics: “Video and Text”, “Video and Performance”, “Video and TV”, “Video and Cinema”, “Video and Mass Media”, “Video and Sound” (totalling to 64 works).
The III Media Forum hosted screenings of the latest British video art “Urban Visionaries”, a retrospective screening of masterpieces from the collection of The Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo/Time Based Arts, works from the “MuVi-Reel” nomination (prize for the best music video) of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.
The IV Media Forum focused on the topic of «trash & trashart». It was looking for the criteria of positive radicalism in art, technology and forms of communication.
We were interested in projects that revolt against the technology itself. What do we need technologies for if they cannot express new ideas? These are old technologies. New technologies come first of all new objectives. (A. Isaev)
The V Media Forum worked with the theme “Art Reality Show” under different angles: real unreal, rational irrational, infernal other, etc. The program demonstrated technologies of interactive art, as well as aesthetical and ethical positions towards “hostages” of contemporary culture and technologies of mass media that people nowadays are.
“Attractions Park” was the theme of the VI Media Forum. Drawing on the concept formulated by Sergei Eisenstein — “the montage of attractions” — Media Forum aimed to collect an “attractions park” consisting of state-of-the-art technologies used in experimental cinema, video art and interactive art. The objective of VI Media Forum was to re-actualize Eisenstein’s concepts according to contemporary cultural context and technologies development.
The VII Media Forum was held without the participation of its founder Alexei Isaev, who died in March that year.
The VII Media Forum bore the title “AUTHOR(WRIT)Y. Drawing borders”.
Media artist is by the way things are preordained to Author(writ)ative authorship. First, as a creative individual who generates own significant discourse and own rhetoric. The artist is automatically put into opposition to totality: confronting matter, audience, society, authority, time and space. Authorizing his concept, the artist stages a rhetoric fight with the context. Only the charismatic, autonomous, despotic rhetoric can break open the emptiness of distrust, indifference and apathy. To assert one’s authority and realize the art’s impact, the artist flashes his will, power, self-regard and ambitions. Under this aegis, he storms heaven and breaks away into the deep avant-garde. Only the ambitious will own the future. (Viktor Miziano).
Second, he grasps the tentacles of authority — the media. He manipulates its manipulators. Media are in themselves rhetoric — with no execution of the authorship authority they break away. When the artist rules them with a firm hand, he doubles the authority and creates art.
The VIII Media Forum was held under the title “Nudity /Game console/”. When choosing a topic, the organizers were driven by the idea of a new anthropological ideal, a new measure of things in the era of media.
Nudity in postmodern philosophy becomes an incarnation of such an important concept as corporeality. It fully embodies the property of the postmodern “body without an image” (G. Deleuze) to become an image of desires. Thus, the topic presents the following issues in the media context: overcoming the nudity of the screen through spatial interaction with media, through interactivity; stripping of excessive technologies — almost to the state of low-tech — and going from virtual to real, return to the physical body; performativity, which enables the body to turn into an instrument of modern critical reflection from an object of desire when interacting with the media; “Divine Comedy” — stripping mass media, creating parodies of themselves.
The VIII Media Forum featured retrospectives of Vito Acconi “Performing Myself” (curated by Nina Zaretskaya) and Erwin Wurm “The Man Who Traveled around the World to Make a Sculpture” (curated by Konstantin Bokhorov), and “The Rape of Sabine Women” (2006) by Eve Sussman that became the major hit.
A multimedia performance by Peter Greenaway, an avant-garde filmmaker famous for his works of great significance in the history of cinematography, became one of the key events of the IX Media Forum. Rejecting the cinematographic narrative, the director travels the world creating multimedia installations, mystery-like audio-visual performances while displaying his mastery as a VJ artist. It is in this role that he appeared before the festival’s audience...
And it was not all... The IX Media Forum presented new work of Ken Jacobs, as well as the premiere of his latest movie to date “Star Spangled To Death”. It also featured а video programme of Transmediale Festival and the programme “Evolution Haute Couture. Art and Science in the Post-biological Age” by the Kaliningrad Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts.
The anniversary X Media Forum includes all the best, the newest and most extravagant: the full version of Yang Fudong “Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest”, the Danish artist Jesper Just retrospective, the famous Eve Sussman’s trilogy (from Velázquez’s Las Meninas to Malevich’s White on white), a multimedia performance by a Japanese experimental artist Ryoichi Kurokawa, a Russian premiere of Provmyza, a night of the best world’s media festivals and also lectures, workshops, panels and polyscreen works screenings in gallery spaces.
XI Media Forum gave the Moscow audience a most thorough introduction to the oeuvre of Gary Hill — one of the most renowned American video artists, one of the pillars who shaped the video-art of today as we know it. His most recent works were exhibited in GMG Gallery. Classic videos of this artist were shown at Garage Center for Contemporary Culture where his workshop also took place.
Net artists JODI were responsible for XI Media Forum parties with a live performance at Solyanka club. Also, selections of the best works of PRIX Ars Electronica, Transmediale, PIKSEL and Japan Media Art Festival were shown in the club format.
One of the main events of that year was the “Transitland” retrospective of video art from Central and Eastern Europe spanning from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the current day. The programme featured an exhibition, screenings, round tables and workshops.
The XII Media Forum was built around the series of exhibitions “Expanded Cinema” held at the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art and Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture.
A research catalogue was presented at the opening of the XII Media Forum. It featured key publications on the interaction of the two spheres of screen culture and presentation of works by Media Forum participants in all the variety of their perception and analysis of the “expanded cinema” theme.
In the Moscow Museum of Modern Art exhibition the participants were: Fiona Tan (The Netherlands), Johanna Billing (Sweden), Harun Faroсki (Germany), Gary Hill (USA), Anri Sala (Albania), Ranbir Kaleka (India), Juri Kalendarev (Italy/Russia), Doug Aitken (USA), Taus Makhacheva (Russia), Keren Cytter (Israel/Germany), Ithe Tot-Art group (Russia), Elena Kovylina (Russia), Almagul Menlibaeva (Kazakhstan), Provmyza group (Russia), Blue Soup group (Russia), Juri Albert (Russia) and Victor Alimpiev (Russia) and others.
At the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture three multi-screen video installations were shown: the European premiere of Yang Fudong’s (China) “Fifth Night” (2010), the most recent work by Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Finland) “Annunciation” (2010) and “Derek” (2008) — the central part of Isaak Julien’s famous project.
The XII Media Forum was opened with a live multimedia performance “Test Pattern” by Ryoji Ikeda (Japan) at the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture.2012
The main event of the XIII Media Forum — the exhibition “The Immersion: Towards Haptic Cinema” at the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation — continued the “Expanded Cinema” project started in 2011.
The exhibition “The Immersion: Towards Haptic Cinema” consisted of several sections each belonging to a certain type of director’s approach to working with screen and viewer: “Pure Cinema”, “The Montage of Attractions”, “Tactile Cinema”, “Machine Vision” and “Interactive Cinema”. It featured the works by Nam June Paik (USA), Ken Jacobs (USA), Paul Clipson (Great Britain), Pia Tikka (Finland), Alexei Isaev (Russia), Woody and Steina Vasulkas (USA), VALIE EXPORT (Austria), Zbigniew Rybczyński (Poland), Perry Bard (USA) and more.
Besides the exhibition, the XIII Media Forum featured workshops, artist talks and seminars from the participants of the project.
The exhibition “Expanded Cinema — 3. Mockumentary: Reality Is Not Enough” was presented at the XIV Media Forum. It consisted of the selection of cutting-edge contemporary artworks in the genre formed in-between cinema, video and media art. The exposition was compiled of the masterpieces of the modern artists from Russia and abroad, utilizing pseudo-documentary and mockumentary strategies. It posed the question of blurred borders between fiction and reality in the era of media addiction, information pollution and uncritical consumption of data and images.
Among the participants of the exhibition were Harun Farocki (Germany), Omer Fast (Israel), Milica Tomić (Serbia), Monica Studer and Christoph van den Berg (Switzerland), Dmitry Venkov (Russia), Roman Mokrov (Russia) and others.
In 2014, the Media Forum continued to explore new territories. The topics of XV Media Forum were experiments at the junction of visual art, multimedia theatre and enactive cinema.
A term of enactive cinema entered academic discourse in 2008. Since then it gained many fans, as well as some sceptics. The fans, who develop scientific research on brain reactions towards visual images and events in the movie, shared breathtaking prospects of, for example, collective screenings of personal dreams within a close circle or on YouTube. What helps to create a collective movie out of dreams is chairs with bio-sensors designed to provide a connection between the viewer and the projection. It is supposed to be modified in accordance with her / his emotional and psycho-physic state. Unlike interactive cinema where a person chooses an episode change consciously, within enactive cinema, the viewer modifies the movie without even noticing it. The sceptics were concerned about a viewer becoming a sort of guinea pig and insisted that one likes to re-watch good movies without sensors.
The main event of the XV Media Forum was a research conference “From Montage of Attractions to Neurocinema”, the premiere of media performance “The Death of Tarelkin” created by the Open School Manege / MediaArtLab in collaboration with Centre for Dance and Performance TsEKh and Balet Moskva Theatre, the exhibition “Mist. Halt” by Nikolay Onishchenko (with Triumph Gallery), interactive show “Kino-harakiri” by the Studio of Individual Directing.2015
The XVI Media Forum shifted its focus to the sound. By ‘sound and hearing’ we mean a kind of structure that reveals the relationship between people in the society, referring to the sound as one of the main tools in video art and cinema.
Video program “Walk with a Troubadour” was the first part of a long-running project (there were screenings, master classes and an exhibition ahead). It assembled pieces created by the artists working on the borders of cinema, video art and music revealing hidden performativity of contemporary social and artistic processes.
Among the participants of the exhibition were Guido van der Werve (The Netherlands), Anri Sala (Albania), Gary Hill (USA), Johanna Billing (Sweden) and others.
Also, XVI Media Forum presented a screening of the works by young Russian video artists as a part of the “Great Expectations” cycle.