Report from Transmediale 2002

Feb 5-24, 2002
Haus De Kulturen de Welt
Berlin, Germany

On Tuesday, February 5th, Berlin's Haus De Kulturen de Welt
(International House of Cultures) was transformed from a bland, concrete
convention center to a scene from Kubrick's 2001. Day-Glo orange
beanbags filled the "Media Lounge" along with multiple computers and
screening stations for projects showing at the Transmediale 2002. Neon
lights lit up the stretched nylon wrapper surrounding the lounge while
cloth banners filled the entrance hall hanging like rubber flaps of a
space-age car wash.

The opening night began with introductions from the festival's two
organizers and curators Susanne Jaschko and Andreas Broeckmann. Despite
there being a simultaneous English translation available, I found out
too late and missed most of their comments. Nevertheless, the evening
led to a trailer of the featured digital animations and video pieces
along with an introduction by Randall Packer, Secretary of the United
States Department of Art and Technology.

Mr. Packer, who started the USDAT to give international artists a voice
in an increasingly defense-focused US government, gave his first
European address modeled after Harry Truman's famous address to
congress. His cornerstone idea rests on the value of Global
Virtualization as a unifying force for arts working with technology and
their integration into the betterment of society and technological
understanding among the world population. After the proceedings, I (USA)
along with the other Ambassadors of their respective countries ratified
the Berlin Virtualization Charter by signing our names on a Palm Pilot
and beaming them to Mr. Packer's master copy.

Meanwhile downstairs, the Congress Hall of the building led into the
exhibition floor where a wide variety of international media artists
displayed their work. I was lucky enough to be included in the show with
my personal bandwidth generating project, "Crank The Web" along with
artists like Ohio State University's Ken Rinaldo with his organic
reactive sculpture, Autopoeisis, Montreal's Luc Courchesne with his 360
degree immersive interactive panorama project, Masaki Fujihata's 3D GPS
narrative, Seiko Mikami's eye tracking viewer, RobotLab's mechanized DJ
and scratching "Juke Bots," and video/webcam installations such as
Wolfgang Staehle's "Empire 24/7" and Dagmar Keller and Martin Wittwer's
eerie video pan, "Say Hello to Pease and Tranquility." Included in the
exhibition but outside the museum-like walls and on the sidewalk outside
the Haus, was Alexei Shulgin's computer installation "Busking 386 DX."
It's very uplifting to hear a 386 PC begging for money and singing
"Should I Stay or Should I Go?" followed by a medley of Beatles songs.

Although the festival award nominees were chosen before it opened,
Transmediale commissioned artist Stuart Rosenberg to create a project
for the audience to participate in the final tally. His work, "Public
Bet/Public Vote" allowed audience members to bet Euros and vote on the
projects they thought would win the awards. As the votes were tallied,
the people closest to the correct winners would split the riches. As
well as exhibition projects, there were plenty of online works in the
show including the Carnivore project and a curious work called
Tracenoizer where you input your name and it scours the web for your
information eventually building a mock-website about you.

Alongside the projects were numerous panels, discussions, workshops, and
performances, and a nightly gathering called "Club Transmediale"
consisting of DJs and live video mixing which took place in a local
abandoned factory-turned-nightclub called E-Work. Courchesne, Fujihata,
Rinaldo, Peter Frucht, RobotLab, and I began the panel proceedings with
"Concepts of Interaction" moderated by Susanne Jaschko. Each of us got a
chance to present our exhibited works along with past projects. Other
workshops included an all day long seminar on "Hacker Techniques" as
well as one on creating "Flash Comics." Thursdays panel included one on
SMS (Short Message Service) as a medium for artistic expression.

Overall it was a really good festival with a lot of work to see and many
conferences/talks to attend. This year's fest benefitted from being in
the Haus De Kulturen de Welt since it's a bigger venue and allowed for
more people and more attention spent on individual works. Hopefully,
next year it will be even a bigger success!