Biometric technology is on the rise. Its applications are wide-ranging: facial scanning to replace passwords; iris recognition to replace debit cards; fingerprints to replace passports. Value is increasingly tied to faces, and faces have increasing value. Boaz Levin and Vera Tollmann, theorists and cofounders of the Research Center For Proxy Politics, explore the “token value” of identity resulting from such software and hardware, where one’s “digital identity and physical body become closely entangled” and one’s virtual proxy enters the political realm. Can the one-to-one relationship between self and proxy be skewed through forms of obfuscation? What will happen when the face on the screen looks back?
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.