Finn Brunton enters the Twilight Zone of media cultures: extraterrestrial communication
The question of how humans might communicate with extraterrestrials is at once existential, semiotic, and technological. The content of the message we’d want to impart to aliens is part and parcel of its transmission. What fundamentals of human life and civilization would need to be conveyed—and what fundamentals of media technology would allow us to convey it? For transmediale ever elusive's "Prove You are Nonhuman" panel, author and media scholar Finn Brunton presented an idiosyncratic history of wild, imaginative, and arcane concepts of media in the service of alien communication.
Terminology whizzes around at conferences, sometimes congealing around a shared set of reference points and sometimes dissipating into dust. The Commons. Assemblage. Neoliberalism. We assume we're talking about the same things—but are we? Everyone knows that if you repeat a term often enough, it starts to sound absurd. Fiona Shipwright picked up on one of these conversational hallmarks during transmediale 2017: the “ever elusive” word infrastructure.
Ryan Bishop on Laurie Anderson's language of the future
transmediale 2017 closed with a performance by Laurie Anderson, The Language of the Future. To mark the occasion, in this essay Ryan Bishop reflects on language and narratives in Anderson’s decades of work as an artist shirking all categorization—“a confluence of technological reach, ambition and failure mixed with ironic humor.”
Is there a way to address the “basics” of life and art practice that is neither regressive nor future-obsessed? This question came up both in a 2005 transmediale panel discussion involving the artist Steve Kurtz, and again in his keynote presentation at the 2017 festival. Kurtz, part of the decades-running and legendary Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), overcame great legal hurdles to speak at the 2005 “Basics” event on his current work. In 2017 he described the trajectory this work has taken in the last 12 years, given the new instantiations of biopower we face.
transmediale 2017 saw the debut of Bear With Me: A Play For Two Webmasters, written and directed by net.art pioneer Olia Lialina and starring actor and artist Kevin Bewersdorf. Set in 1997, just prior to the dot.com boom and combining live coding with live action, the play follows the efforts of characters Jake, Alan, and Lisa, as they work on their web pages. In December 2016, Lialina and Bewersdorf spoke to Fiona Shipwright, from the Merz Akademie, Stuttgart and upstate New York respectively, about the upcoming performance and how revisiting this previous era of the net can inform our understanding of elusiveness online today.
Artist Simon Biggs revisits questions about multimedia art from a mysterious 1995 interview series
Time travel back to 1995, when transmediale was still called VideoFest: a group of festival participants is invited to answer a series of questions about the budding discipline of “multimedia” art while seated in front of a blue screen. The resulting recordings have become known as the Blue Screen Interviews, and while the meaning of the Blue Screen has been lost to festival lore, the interviews themselves are unique historical documents and prescient reminders of evolutions within transmediale and within media art and theory. Here, participant Simon Biggs re-addresses the questions he first answered in 1995, the year he curated the festival exhibition.
Dieter Daniels traces the historical trajectories leading to transmediale’s contemporary configuration, which continues to resist definition
Physical encounters with digital culture “will neither be replaced by so-called social media nor by post-internet art,” argues Dieter Daniels in this essay written on the occasion of transmediale’s thirtieth anniversary. He dives all the way back to the 1960s to explain why a festival format—one which resists formalization—is still relevant.
David Blair’s 1993 Wax, or the Discovery of Televisionamong the Bees was the first independent film to be edited using a non-linear editing system, the first film to be translated into an interactive and hypertextual online experience (Waxweb, 1993), and the first film to be streamed over a computer network. In its many incarnations, Wax tells the surreal story of Jacob Maker, a programmer of weapon and flight simulators who keeps a special Mesopotamian breed of bees.
"Media art" might sound like an outdated term, but Elvia Wilk argues that its persistence is a good omen
Unearthing a decade-old panel discussion from the transmediale archive suggests that discourse about digital culture might not change as fast as we think—which, transmediale editor Elvia Wilk argues here, is a good omen. This post is the first in an ongoing series revisiting and reviving discussions, events, and media from the recently digitized, 30-year transmediale archive.
On December 7, 2016, transmediale celebrated the launch of its new publication at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London. The book is a reader on the changing (and often contentious) concept of the post-digital within arts and culture, with a focus on the term's institutional framing. Published here is the introductory essay to the book, co-written by three of its editors, which outlines the concept and the content.