David Garcia reflects on subcultures, Alt-s and the politics of transgression
Does the appropriation of transgressive cultural expressions and tactics by right-wing subcultures mean the end of the road for progressive and playful subcultures? In their conversation “Better Think Twice: Subcultures, Alt-s, and the Politics of Transgression” at transmediale 2018 face value, Florian Cramer and Angela Nagle discussed how this question is related to an excessive faith in the inherently progressive and left-wing character of subcultures as well as to a longer history of ambiguous youth, pop and experimental art practices. However, given today’s interaction between alternative and mainstream public spheres and political life, David Garcia’s response to the Cramer and Nagle discussion demonstrates that a “folk politics” of the Left can still matter.
Kain Karawahn has been setting things on fire for at least 30 years. From his first photographic experiments in which he captured how fire transformed organic material, to performances such as igniting a section of the Berlin Wall with a splash of gasoline, to his work today teaching children how to manage flame, his medium has been consistent: combustion. In May 1997, he set fire to 7,000 books in a collaborative, controversial performance called 7000 Bücherfeuer with Blixa Bargeld for that year’s transmediale festival. He explains the transformational work in this exclusive interview, presented along with original video from the event.
On the occasion of transmediale’s thirtieth anniversary, Florian Wüst selected Jeanne Finley's work Involuntary Conversion (1991) to be explored in the Technology Languages of the Past, Present, and Future event, a curatorial endeavor by him, Daphne Dragona and Kristoffer Gansing that aimed at activating and commenting on artifacts found in the festival's archive. Via linguistic analysis and a look at the history of political gobbledygook, in this essay the artist, filmmaker, and curator Caspar Stracke dissects the “Doublespeak” employed in Finley’s work.
What is a media lab? For that matter—what is a library? What is an archive? What is an experiment? These questions spurred Jussi Parikka to begin an ongoing research project in collaboration with Lori Emerson and Darren Wershler, and have led them and their collaborators into wide-ranging territories. In this essay from the recently published book across & beyond, Parikka reports back from the lab and library—from MIT to Agbogbloshie, from the art exhibition to the startup incubator, to imagine the past and the future of the media lab.
Like all historical time stamps, 1995 as a year is a “vanishing point” we can only see from the perspective of today, as Kristoffer Gansing writes in this essay. The present writes the past. With this in mind, Gansing approaches that particular year, which is not only a central one in the cultural imagination but specifically to the history of transmediale, in an essay originally conceived for the book across & beyond. As the artistic director of the festival since 2012, in this essay he journeys alongside the festival’s transformation over time, in the context of worldwide media evolutions in media art and theory—picking up surprising stories along the way.
The classic Nintendo quit-screen anticipated the future of the digital archive with the warning message: “everything not saved will be lost.” Indeed, even the digital artifacts we think we’ve saved often get lost or buried—or become impossible to access after a system update. Maintaining a trail on the information super-super-highway is a game of endless catch-up. Berlin-based artist duo Alessandro Massobrio and Valentina Besegher, working under the name Atelier Labor Neunzehn, created the sprawling digital archival project All Sources Are Broken in playful response to the disjointed and dysfunctional web of sources and citations criss-crossing digital and print realms.