Interview by Natasha Klimenko in Berlin; Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013
It’s that time again! The annual Berlin-based festival, the transmediale, is just around the corner! Focusing on presenting new media works that question the relations between technology, art, and society, the festival returns with the theme of Back When Pluto Was a Planet (BWPWAP). This year, it presents an expanded programme and new art works which parallel and question the ever expanding developments and changes in technology and our technologically-influenced understanding of the world. In the following interview, transmediale exhibition curator, Jacob Lillemose, and creative director, Kristoffer Gansing, answered a few questions to give you a better idea of what this year will offer!
Natasha Klimenko: How do the exhibitions this year compare to those shown in earlier festivals?
Jacob Lillemose: One difference is that we have not one but three exhibitions. One retrospective, one contemporary group show, and the premiere of a new installation. Another change is that through our all-year program, the reSource for transmedial culture, we are working with artists to develop special projects in collaboration with the festival. This has resulted in three installations shown independently from the thematic exhibitions.
Technology and media have undergone (and are continuously undergoing) widespread and quickly evolving innovations. How is this reflected in the artworks being exhibited through the transmediale?
Jacob Lillemose: All three exhibitions relate to the general theme of the festival – Back When Pluto Was a Planet as a creative perspective that reactivates the past – but also form thematic entities in themselves, centred on the notions of mis-education as a method for rethinking approaches to media. The exhibitions emphasize the conceptual aspect of the work as much as the technological. While the works do originate in a “techno-art context” and deal with questions specific to social and existential changes caused by technology they, are chosen because they bridge the digital divide and relate to questions relevant to contemporary art in general.
How are artists selected for the festival program?
Kristoffer Gansing: The artists are selected through a combination of selections from an open call for works and through direct invitation. We have a curatorial team that, together with the artistic director, looks at everything that comes in through the call. The balance of selections that come from the call and those who are invited varies from programme section to programme section. For example in the film and video program, nearly 50% of the works are chosen through the call. In the performances there is a similar division. In the exhibition, only around a maximum of 20% actually comes from the call.
Is the program international? If so, are there recurring themes evident from varying countries, or do the artworks demonstrate a level of globalized identity?
Kristoffer Gansing: The program is very international, which is also supported by our online platform for submitting works to the festival. The international media art network is very well connected and shares many of the same topics and approaches — but of course there are many local differences and specific contexts as well. In general, we are trying not too get stuck in the same questions over and over again, but instead also look for topics and participants who are outside the immediate vision of media art and rather contribute to a general reflection on the relations between art, society, and technological development.
Are there specific exhibitions, works, or artists that the transmediale is particularly excited to show this year or would recommend? Why?
Jacob Lillemose: We are excited about all the artists and works we are showing! For the art historically minded we are presenting the first European solo show of pioneer artist Sonia Landy Sheridan (b. 1925). The exhibition will focus on her work with machines from the 1970s when she was running the experimental programme, Generative Systems, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a hacker, feminist, and glitch artist avant la letter — a golden rediscovery! Then, for the contemporary mind, we show an international group show that challenges current conceptions of creativity and tools. The works in this show include artistic misuses of existing tools as well as inventions of new tools of creativity altogether. They all pose the questions: how are tools working on our world and the ways we perceive and engage with it? Finally, we present Evil Media Distribution Centre, an installation by the group YoHa addressing an expanded notion of media – from Prozac to post-it notes – and how we can develop reflective and speculative responses to the ways in which these media are affecting our participatory behaviour. The installation is based on a book – Evil Media by Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey, published in 2012 – and thus also express the transmediale’s dedication to bring theory and practice together.
transmediale was founded in 1988 as a platform for electronic media falling outside of traditional categories of artistic film. Since 1988, the festival has occurred for a week every February, showcasing current and retrospective artworks, as well as questioning and discussing the interrelations between art, technology, culture, and society though conferences, talks, and workshops. In 2012, transmediale began to function as an open, year-round program for artists, activists, and hackers via reSource, which also offers and organizes workshops and projects.
More information about transmediale, as well as full programme schedule, please visit: transmediale.de/bwpwap
Natahsa Klimenko is a writer and artist currently living in Berlin. Having studied History and Contemporary Philosophy at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Canada, she is now working as an arts journalist and producing photographic, video, and text-based art.