Sharing Media Offline At transmediale’s 36th Edition

by Aoife Donnellan // Feb. 14, 2023

The 36th edition of transmediale was the first full version of the festival to be held since 2020. Titled ‘a model, a map, a fiction,’ the five-day programme aimed to investigate the effect of scale on socio-political conditions through artistic intervention, academic discourse and conversation. Using scale as both a method and topic, the festival prioritised alternative discussion formats, including lecture performances, the exhibition of demos and film screenings.

Artistic director Nora O Murchú cites the 2022 tour of a hologram of Queen Elizabeth II as one of the inspirations for this year’s theme. The hologram was physically transported around the UK in an effort to reignite enthusiasm for national identity. This event contributed to O Murchú’s consideration of the effects of image-making technologies on the understanding and processing of information. The scalar relationship between images and information changes objects, both physically and ideologically. This year’s transmediale posited that this rearrangement of information, alongside the instrumentalisation of scale, affects how reality is perceived.

The exhibition element of the festival was divided into two parts: ‘Out of Scale’ and artistic interventions at the main festival site, Akademie der Künst (AdK). At AdK, installed works negotiated with the dim, brutalist space. Green neon lights covered by chrome silver streamers bordered the staircase and silver strips of material were wedged between the stonework. Following the pale blue carpet, audiences could find works installed around corners, along windows and under staircases. Downstairs, six works were exhibited, each considering the possible uses of the collection and reconfiguration of data. Among them was Evan Roth’s ‘Skyscapes’ (2023), a video work on counter-cartography that wrestles with representing curved surfaces on flat planes. Employing mapping algorithms from 150 AD to create a representation of the sky near his home, Roth highlights the implicit reliance of perception on scale.

One of the larger works featured at AdK was a video installation, ‘Or So It Seems’ (2023), created through a collaborative exchange between Alan Butler and Simone C Niquille. In the centre of a large room, a 10-meter, curved screen showed two video works, ‘’ (2023) and ‘Unnecessary Journeys’ (2023), which interrupt one another at varied intervals. Dotted around the room were silver chrome helium balloons in the shape of duckrabbit, as well as fans that blew air during ‘Unnecessary Journeys.’

‘’ follows a cartoonish protagonist, duckrabbit, whose shape is both the head of a duck and the body of a rabbit, depending on an individual’s perception of shape. Inspired by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theory that shapes appear with meaning in one’s mind, Niquille uses duckrabbit to examine how computational photography and data rendering act as stand-ins for real objects. ‘Unnecessary Journeys,’ created in Unreal Engine, features a weather forecaster in the midst of a raging storm in Yosemite Park. The forecaster is reading the entirety of the novel ‘My First Summer in Sierra’ by John Muir, which takes a total of eight hours. Butler’s work considers the role of Unreal Engine in the rendering of climate disasters, as well as the effects of understanding reality through data. ‘Or So It Seems’ recognises scale materially through its installation, as well as thematically through its investigation of the conflicting narratives of disaster and entertainment, and their potentially related politics. While some elements of the installations at AdK risk confusing the theme of scale with AI technologies, the remit set by the creative team is generous enough to accommodate a multiplicity of meaning.

The second exhibition element, ‘Out of Scale,’ unravelled the theme more directly. Described as a “citywide exhibition,” it utilised the preexisting networks of Berlin, including eBay Kleinanzeigen, U-Bahn stations, Tempelhofer Feld and a selection of Spätis. In 2018, transmediale chose to close their social media accounts because of how it conflicted with their support for distributed communication methods. Five years later, the festival’s commitment to fostering alternative networks of communication continues through the local economy of Berlin. Four works appear for sale on eBay Kleinanzeigen, although they cannot be purchased with money: they are “zu verschenken”.

One such work, entitled ‘EKWE BILÉ – CHAINZ’ (2022), was created by Anna Ehrenstein and Jeanne-Ange Wagne in commemoration of the resistance efforts of political activist Joseph Ekwe Bilé. The work consisted of a portrait of Ekwe Bilé engraved on the tag of a military-style metal necklace, with a quote from the activist on the reverse. In order to arrange to receive these necklaces from Kleinanzeigen, the buyer had to answer the question “what was Bilé’s address in 1929?” and also provide a quote from Ekwe Bilé. This distributed method of exhibition and ownership was also exemplified by Nora Al-Badri’s work, ‘Take Me Home’ (2022). After a successful three-year legal battle for the public use of a 3D scan of the head of Nefertiti, Al-Badri’s work consisted of a golden, 3D-printed replica of the work currently on display in the Neues Museum in Berlin. The Kleinanzeigen works were housed at the transmediale warehouse at silent green Kulturquartier in Wedding, where they were available to collect after being reserved.

Alternative formats can be found at other locations: at Tempelhofer Feld, Joana Moll created the “sound experience” entitled ‘A Silent Opera for Anthropogenic Mass’ (2023), and in U-Bahn stations Lauren Lee McCarthy installed ‘Testing’ (2023), a series of posters considering the potential of biological data. At a number of spätis around the city, transmediale have provided a USB stick encased in a chrome pouch entitled ‘Data Dump Wundertüte’ (2023) containing a number of artworks by artists, including a dowsing chart, ‘The Museum of Ethics and Interplanetary Technologies – A Dowsing Poster’ (2023) by Patricia Domínguez and Suzanne Treister. In this tribute to the offline sharing of media, as well as the joyful childhood experience of purchasing a lucky dip, audiences could obtain works from the festival designed to be viewed digitally, or printed out at home. Some of these works are also exhibited in physical formats at the transmediale warehouse. While transmediale set the price at €4.99, some Spätis began increasing the price, much to the enjoyment of the creative team. This increase reinforced the inevitable variability that accompanies scale as a method.

Exhibition Info


‘a model, a map, a fiction’
Festival: Feb. 1–5, 2023
‘Or So It Seems’
Exhibition: Feb. 1–26, 2023
Akademie der Künst, Hanseatenweg 10, 10557 Berlin, click here for map

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