The German Film and Television Academy (dffb) was a lively center of artistic and intellectual discourse in the 1980s. Inspired by punk, students and professors experimented with new electronic media, which allowed them to slice up traditional narrative form to create works that entered the international art scene to great acclaim. The dffb’s director, Heinz Rathsack, was eager to keep up with the times, and in a seminar in February 1985 invited the eminent Hungarian filmmaker Gábor Bódy to present his ideas on non-narrative work the future of the digital image. Inspired by Bódy’s often esoteric ideas, students created a series of projects called Zeittransgraphien—loosely “time transfigurations”—and later a series of three works (together titled Videolabyrinth) on interactive videodisc, a medium that had fascinated Bódy. In the middle of the production of the first works, Bódy died in mysterious circumstances, and the experiments with time sequencing gained an uncanny symbolism. Friederike Anders, a student at the dffb at the time, recalls the development of these artworks against the backdrop of the development of the academy as well as global events, providing a vital record of the time and a call for further archival efforts.
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.