Transmediale 2005

Posted by Joni Taylor | Sat Feb 19th 2005 1:23 p.m.

Transmediale 2005
International Media Art Festival Berlin
Basics
4-8 Feb 2005
www.transmediale.de <http://www.transmediale.de/>

Joni Taylor

While enthusiastically watching Norwegien performer Single Unit manipulate
his electric guitar through a keyboard to create industrial-rock chaos and
eardrum-blasting feedback, the Italian self proclaimed "VJ" next to me
sighed that he had stopped listening to "this kind of music" 15 years ago.
Aghast, I admitted that I had grown up with technological music and found
this hybrid of the raw and the electronic simply great. And I was not the
only one of the "electro-rati" getting excited by something that was more
than just an apple laptop with a human plug-in.

This was the theme of the 2005 Transmediale : BASICS. Not a "back to
basics," but a "next level basics," a re-definition of what is essential
for media art in the future, looking at what constitutes our Basic levels of
NEED, KNOWLEDGE, SECURITY, and COMMUNICATION.

The Transmediale takes place annually at the House of World Cultures,
nicknamed the "Pregnant Oyster" by Berliners and situated in the Tiergarden
park. Concurrent to the four-day long programme of exhibitions, screenings,
performances and lectures, was a selection of partner events, as well as the
Club Transmediale, the electronic music component. The festival also takes
place a week before the Berlinale film festival, and has come along way from
being just the Berlinale video art programme.

The "Workspace" area presented projects where these basic human
needs---shelter, communication, security--seemed to overlap, but all managed
to bring up important ethical and timely discussions.

Prisoners Inventions' by Temporary Services (US) and Angelo displayed
accurate re-makes of devices designed by prisoners out of sheer necessity.
An ongoing dialogue with Angelo, a long term "incarcerated artist" has
resulted in a publication of these thoroughly inventive and hi/lo tech
objects. The 78 inventions ranged from sex aids for horny prisoners made
from plastic bags and bedding material, to a large cup made from paper-mache
so that the prisoner could indulge in a bigger dose of cordial. The
Temporary Services archive of public phenomena showed new uses for the
street, such as the hilarious local examples of roadside objects and the
not-so-hilarious roadside memorials to gang slayings and car crashes.

ParaSITE by Michael Rakowitz (US), although an older project and seen the
rounds of many an art festival, was still a refreshing look at urban
planning and shows how he was able to provide emergency housing for the
homeless, by hooking up simple plastic tents to hot air vents. His paraSITE
house seemed out of place positioned in the glossy wired-up/wireless
environment of the exhibition, however his comments about buying up
car-parking spaces for alternative uses (like camping!) showed great insight
into new forms of "legitimate participation".

Corporate Fallout Detector by James Patten (US) is a hand-held device that
"maps" the ethical values of supermarket products by their barcodes, a sort
of They Rule at your fingertips. Patten created a special database for the
European version utilising info from sites such as ethicalconsumer.org and
gepir.org, a bar code database.

Data privacy is a hot topic with German privacy advocators--and with a lot
of local hackers--and the German group Foebud "hacked" the festival itself,
setting up an ad-hoc info stand. Their expose of the RFID tagging of razors,
shampoo (and, surprisingly: Philadelphia cream cheese) by the new Metro
Future Store in Germany led to them winning the Big Brother award for 2004.
(www.foebud.org <http://www.foebud.org/> )

This consumer rights panic was also seen in Chris Oakley's (UK) video "The
Catalogue", where humans are followed around the mall flashing their
personal buying capacity.

On a larger scale, Marco Peljhan (SI) from Macrolab and Project ATOL showed
the power of self-initiated surveillance in the project "S-77CCR", a
reconnaissance plane that turns surveillance on itself by spying on and
observing public spaces. "Eye in the sky, democracy in the street" could be
available for everyone, soon.

The works in the workspace showed differing notions of basic Needs. But
while seeing how "wild" our smoked salmon really is, and licensing our tunes
out through creative commons may be a necessity for some, the work by
artists from non-western countries showed another side.

The inclusion of artists from Indonesia and the Middle East in the Xeno-Tech
presentations added a refreshing and at times eye opening look at the Needs
of Media Art coming from outside the "usual suspects" ( The Other).

The coincidentally named Tsumanii.net from Singapore spoke about the
vulnerability of the internet in Asia, and the internet being sensitive to
both physical and manmade problems. (The Asia Pacific Cable network broke
down in 1999 due to an earthquake). Nat Muller's (NL) talk about first
person shooter games developed by the Hezbolla for educational purposes, and
based on real events in Lebanon, was a stark reality compared to the
"fictionalised" enemy characterisation of other first person shooters.
(Usually Arabic). In the film "Chic points - Fashion for Israeli
Checkpoints" by Sharif Waked (Palestine), sexy male models parade the
catwalk in revealing outfits. Only afterwards in the numerous scenes of Arab
men lifting their shirts as they pass Israeli border guards is the irony
revealed. In contrast, the video "Planet of the Arabs" by Jackie Salloum
(US) was a fast-paced cut up of mass media images, "more racist than the New
York Times." Ali Baba and the 40 thieves put on the stand.

Other speakers included Sala-Manca, a grassroots art collective from
Jerusalem, and X-urban (Turkey) who work with simple methods of smuggling
fuel to Iraq. Arnaldo Caro Antich from Radio Havana (Cuba) spoke about the
technological effect of the US embargo on Cuba, and having to access the
internet and work with re-cycled technology in new and sustainable ways.

Last year the Transmediale celebrity jailbot was Negri. This year it was
Steve Kurtz (US), talking about the McCarthy-esqe times of America today and
the ensuing problems with defending the Critical Art Ensemble against
convictions of Bio-terrorism.

It was in the Exhibition that the BASICS of Media Art were not just
challenged, but redefined by the festival itself. This year the jury removed
the categories of Image, Interaction and Software, allowing the works to
speak for themselves, "for their aesthetic and conceptual value and not so
much on the basis of their technical qualities." In fact they encouraged
more "traditional" media to be submitted in the coming years. There seems to
be a need for the Transmediale to connect "new media art" and the art world
at large. But on what level?

It was in the Exhibition that the BASICS of Media Art were not just
challenged, but redefined by the festival itself. This year the jury removed
the categories of Image, Interaction and Software, allowing the works to
speak for themselves -- "for their aesthetic and conceptual value and not so
much on the basis of their technical qualities." In fact they encouraged
more "traditional" media to be submitted in the coming years. Transmediale
is aiming to connect "new media art" and the art world at large, to make the
technological more accessible to the general art going public, and this was
clear by the choice of winners.

This year, the prize was split between 3 works--"Untitled 5" by Camille
Utterback (US), "Suburbs of the Void by Thomas" Koner (de) and "Shockbot
Crejulio" by 5voltcore (Au).

"Untitled 5" was a work that directly referenced traditional art practice.
The installation allowed the user to 'draw and paint
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