The most important project of MediaArtLab is the Media Forum, a festival consistently exploring contradictions and interconnections of cinema and video art. Internationally renowned stars, artists, filmmakers, and theorists took part in the Forum over the years. They discussed a very particular experience of a cinema hall that leaves audiences glued to a chair in the dark, passive, unable to tear her/himself from the screen. The opposite type of experience is watching video art in a gallery with an image surrounding the viewer, affecting all the five senses. In case of video art, one usually comes in to an exhibition hall when a piece is already playing, distracts to read its description, skips the middle and has no time to stay till the end, as there is a whole exhibition ahead. This very moment one becomes a perfect viewer who is free to choose and create her/his aesthetic experience, — s/he is not a consumer but a co-author.
This edifice of the opposition of authoritarian cinema and free-flowing video art came crushing in 2020 when both film and video art festivals shut down and moved online. It was only the Venice Film Festival that kept holding on to the sacred presence in front of the screen. However, with 25% occupancy, it only amplified the feeling of the industry’s surrender. It turned out that people watch both cinema and video the same way now: on a computer sitting on a sofa — all the differences lost its power and meaning. We now have the audience from all the corners of the world that we have never been aiming for — together with a tactile hunger and general screen fatigue. It seems that now is the time to talk about the art of moving images — what it has become and what it will be in the future.
Questions for discussion: How do we re-define our cultural life in isolation in the light of restrictions? How can we return to physical and public demonstration of films and video after countless online-shows? Will there appear new online-cinemas that expand our experience of the moving image and bring us back the experience of care and touch? Great epidemics, pandemics and wars have always come together with dramatic changes in art, what changes can we expect due to COVID-19? What representations of isolated body and sickness the moving image offered? What are the formal and imagined strategies adopted by the artists of the past and present to reflect on the conditions of the pandemic? Will we succeed in slowing down the flow of images that overwhelms us?
Moderator: Olga Shishko (Russia), curator, founder of MediaArtLab
Participants: Raymond Bellour (France), Boris Debackere (Belgium/Netherlands), Alexandra Dementieva (Russia/Belgium), Kathy Rae Huffman (USA), Erkki Huhtamo (Finland/USA), Olia Lialina (Russia), Bjørn Melhus (Germany/Norway), Shelly Silver (USA), Christa Sommerer (Austria) and Laurent Mignonneau (France), Pia Tikka (Estonia), Olesya Turkina (Russia), Miloš Vojtěchovský (Czech Republic), Peter Weibel (Austria).
Raymond Bellour (France), one of the most influential theorists of cinema and the moving image. He taught at the Department of cinema and audiovisual studies at the University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle, and he has also been a visiting professor at New York University and the University of California, Berkeley. He is the Director of Research Emeritus, Centre National de Recherches Scientifiques (CNRS), Paris. In 1991, with Serge Daney, he founded the “Trafic” magazine. He has written numerous books on film and literature and organized several solo and group exhibitions, such as the landmark “Passages de l’image” in Centre Pompidou (1989–90). He lives and works in France.
Boris Debackere (Belgium/The Netherlands), an artist and researcher lecturing at the Transmedia department of LUCA School of Arts (Brussels), head of V2_Lab (Rotterdam). Debackere received the Liedts-Meesen new media nomination (2010), won the Georges Delete Prize for Best Original Music and Sound Design (2014) and received the Ensor Sound Design Award (2015). He lives and works in Belgium.
Alexandra Dementieva (Russia/Belgium), an artist working with video art and interactive installations. Her works were presented at various institutions, including The State Hermitage (St. Petersburg), Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art, Centro de la Imagen (Mexico City), Neuberger Museum of Art (Purchase, New York), FILE Festival (São Paulo) and more. She is a professor at the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels. She is one of the founders of iMAL – Center for Digital Cultures and Technology (Brussels). Since 2008, she has been an active participant of CYLAND MediaArtLab. She lives and works in Brussels.
Kathy Rae Huffman (USA), a freelance curator, writer and networker. An Associate Professor of Electronic Art at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) (Troy, New York) and curator for the Van Gogh TV Virtual Museum System. Together with Margarete Jahrmann, she created pop~TARTS for the Telepolis online journal. She co-moderates the female-only mailing list FACES. She lives and works in the USA, Canada and Europe.
Erkki Huhtamo (Finland/USA), an internationally renowned media historian and theorist, specializing in the history and aesthetics of media arts, PhD. He is one of the founders of an emerging approach to media studies known as media archaeology. He works as a professor at the Department of Design Media Arts, and the Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He curated numerous exhibitions and festivals in Europe, the United States and Australia, including Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA (Helsinki), Australian International Video Festival (Sydney), etc.
Olia Lialina (Russia), a media artist, new media theorist, one of the pioneers of net art. She has been actively working with net art since the 1990s and used herself as a model for a GIF-image. Her works were exhibited at the New Museum (New York), Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Whitechapel Gallery (London), HeK (Basel) and other institutions. She founded one of the first web-galleries, Art Teleportacia. She is a co-founder and curator of the “One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age.” She is a professor at Merz Academy (Stuttgart). She lives and works in Germany.
Bjørn Melhus (Germany/Norway), an artist producing experimental short films, videos and installations. His works were screened at Tate Modern and the LUX (London), the Museum of Modern Art (MediaScope) (New York), Centre Pompidou (Paris), among others. His works were presented at solo and group shows at the Whitney Museum (New York), FACT Liverpool, Serpentine Gallery (London), Museum Ludwig (Cologne), ZKM Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe) among others. He participated in the International Istanbul Biennial (2003). Since 2003, Bjørn Melhus has been a professor of Fine Arts and Virtual Realities at the Kunsthochschule Kassel. He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.
Shelly Silver (USA), an artist working with film, video, and photography. Her films have been broadcasted by BBC (UK), PBS (USA), Arte (Germany), Planète+ (France) and others. Her works have been exhibited at festivals and institutions including Kunsthalle Wien, Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Kitchen (New York), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Tate Modern (London), The Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), The London ICA, Berlin Film Festival and others. She is Associate Professor of Visual Arts, School of the Arts, Columbia University. She lives and works in New York, USA.
Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau (Austria/France), internationally renowned media artists, researchers and pioneers of interactive art. Their interactive computer installations were demonstrated worldwide, including ZKM Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe), NTT InterCommunication Center (Tokyo), Cartier Foundation (Paris), Ars Electronica Center (Linz). Among their awards are the World Technology Award (UK, 2001), the Ovation Award of the Interactive Media Festival (USA, 1995), the Golden Nica of the Ars Electronica Award (Austria, 1994). They are professors and head the Interface Cultures program at the University of Art and Design in Linz. They live and work in Linz, Austria.
Pia Tikka (Estonia), an artist, PhD, Research Professor at the Center of Excellence in Media Innovation and Digital Culture (MEDIT) at Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School of Tallinn University, key researcher of the NeuroCine project. As a filmmaker, Dr Tikka has directed the feature films “Daughters of Yemanjá” (1996) and “Sand Bride” (1998), her works are exhibited internationally. She has also been involved in various interactive media projects, such as the Academy of Finland-sponsored Enactive Cinema, winning such awards as the Möbius Prix Nordic prize for interactive storytelling (2005).
Olesya Turkina (Russia), a curator, PhD in Art History, Senior Research Fellow at the State Russian Museum, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of the St. Petersburg State University, art critic, member of the Federation of Cosmonautics of Russia (since 1999). She curated numerous exhibitions dedicated to cosmos at various venues around the world, including The Pulkovo Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg), Calvert 22 Foundation (London). She curated the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1999). Since the 1990s she has been curating video art exhibitions at the State Russian Museum and co-organizing international video festivals. She is the author of a number of publications dedicated to cosmos, including the book Soviet Space Dogs (London, 2014). She has worked with the Museum of Jurassic Technology (Los Angeles) on a series of films dedicated to cosmos and observatories.
Miloš Vojtěchovský (Czech Republic), an artist, curator and journalist. He explores the relationship between art and technology, ecology, audio art with an emphasis on community collaborative projects. In 1995, he took up the post of curator of the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art of the National Gallery Prague. Along with Roman Berka and Pavel Bednář he founded the Intermedia Institute (2007), whose activities are overseen by the Czech Technical University in Prague (ČVUT) and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (AMU). Since 2019 he is a member of the Civic Association Vasulka Kitchen Brno. He lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic.
Peter Weibel (Austria), an artist, art and media theorist, and curator. Weibel was Austrian commissioner at the Venice Biennale (1993–99), artistic director of the International Biennial Seville/Biacs3 (2008) and the Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art (2011). Since 1999, Weibel has been Chairman and CEO of ZKM Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe), and, since 2017, director of the Peter Weibel Research Institute for Digital Cultures at the University of Applied Arts (Vienna). His recent awards include Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art 1st Class (2010), Oskar Kokoschka Prize (2014) and Austrian Art Prize for Media Art (2017).