The Transmediale, which starts today, deals with scaling, the power of measurement and what digital zooming in and out does to our perception, reality and our relationships. “A model, a map, a fiction” is the motto of the festival, which is now taking place for the 36th time. In technological terms, that’s an eternity.
Since the “VideoFilmFest” it started in 1988, the Transmediale has had to change again and again from a nerdy net art event with flashing gifs and rotating pixels in order to keep up with the rapid development of the digital world and the questions associated with it.
From net art to social debate
The artistic director of the Transmediale, the Irish curator, scientist, interaction designer Nora O Murchú, has extended the festival period in its first year 2021 to a whole year due to corona. She has organized exhibitions, workshops and a summer camp, set up a larger residency program to work more sustainably with artists. Turning away from the fast-moving festival business was important to O Murchú, and not just because of the pandemic.
The artists she invites, as can be seen again in this year’s contributions, take a more feminist, intersectional, postcolonial look at the digital world. For the new edition, however, O Murchú has reduced the festival period to the usual five days. “The most important thing now is to bring the community back together,” she says.
Only the exhibition lasts for several weeks and this time is a combination of just two major contributions from philosophy researcher Alan Butler and designer and researcher Simone C Niquille, both of whom have been present at previous editions of Transmediale. Transmediale, the world’s premier digital festival, scales to a human scale, it seems. And sets a new tone.
The community should finally come together again
Over the years, philosophical questions have prevailed over artistic, aesthetic, technical questions at Transmediale. In 2019, O Murchú’s predecessor, the long-standing director Kristoffer Gansing, no longer even showed an exhibition with “media art”, but concentrated entirely on contributions to debates and workshops. Contemporary art is media art, which is now taking place in a number of institutions.
What lags behind the digital development is the human being, his analogue body, his analogue mind, the psyche, which cannot be reformatted like a hard drive; Institutions, laws and policies that are not changing fast enough. Just because you can see the whole world online at any scale doesn’t mean we can process the information. Digital capitalism is still stronger than the dream of a decentralized world without institutions, banks, or nation states. and exploitation
For the last few years, the Transmediale has also been a place where media theory and media art have been brushed against the grain. Resistance, criticism, dissent and confusion, a self-determined use of technology and non-conformity are important themes at every Transmediale, or like last year: refusal as a strategy in digital life.
Nora O Murchú, although coming from an academic background and teaching at university, wants to emphasize the practical side of discourse and knowledge generation. The switch between the digital and the analogue is important to her, as well as the lasting connection to artists, to other institutions and to the city.
Everyone knows Berlin from the internet and social media – the real Berlin is another number. Newcomer to Berlin, Nora O Murchú, also experienced this. In order to make the most important digital principle, networking, tangible in a different way, she has relocated part of the Transmediale to the city.
The Tempelhofer Feld, the Berliner Spätis, the online platform ebay classifieds and the subway are places that shape the microrhythm and macrodynamics of the city – the possibilities of a huge open space, shopping and dining all night, bartering and passing things on. At the mentioned locations there will be artistic interventions by Transmediale participants like Nora al-Badri or Joana Moll. Social networks are viewed from a different perspective. That too is a question of scale.
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