'Interact or Die!' is the eighth
edition of the Dutch Electronic Art Festival - with the first
edition in 1995. DEAF07 [April 10-29] also marked 25 years of
v2 Institute for the Unstable Media -based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
- who creates the event.
I attended DEAF03 as well as DEAF04,
which I wrote about for Rhizome.org titled "Where's the Art
in Electronic Art?" [see Rhizome Digest - November 19, 2004].
Each DEAF Festival includes an exhibition, and the DEAF04 exhibition
was a bit of a high-end science fair with a large predominance
of work that fit the 'push button, step on platform to make something
vaguely pointless happen' profile. During a symposium at DEAF04,
Dutch theoretician/writer Arjen Mulder described interactivity
as two sub-systems connecting: art as a system and the audience
as a system to equal the meaning as a process of creation. If
the artist presents an Open System then the audience will form
a network to then 'create' the piece.
The corresponding DEAF07 'Interact
or Die!' exhibition did include several works that reflect Mulder's
concept of interactivity.
The viewer's movement down a long,
dark hallway affects the resolution of the image on a LCD screen
at its end. The closer you get, the blurrier the video image,
until it totally vanishes. "Lowest Resolution", 2006
by Zhang Peili [China] reinterprets the scientific process of
the video signal to poetically refer to an interactive 'approach'.
Hu Jie Ming's [China] piece "Go
Up! Go Up!", 2005-07 consists of 24 TV screens stacked as
a vertical column. The TV screens show a number of people climbing
frantically. The audience interacts with the climbing scene by
either shouting at them or making noises - which intensifies the
climbing - but they still fall down hopelessly, and start to climb
again. The work exemplifies a Chinese proverb i.e. that the more
you want something, the more unattainable it becomes.
"ObjectB" by Exonemo
||Everyday components of the physical and
virtual worlds converge in "Object B", 2006 by Exonemo
[Japan]. A large cube screens a video game on all four sides.
Placed in front are beautiful Assemblages using ordinary materials
such as hair dryers, keyboards, chainsaws, drills, cleaning
brushes – all interconnected to move and create their
sounds in response to the video games. This collision of the
everyday creates an opening for the viewer's own experience
of interactive process.
Roman Kirschner [Austria] has created
a subtle art / science experiment based on a model of a
chemical computer by Gordon Pask in the early 1950's. The
piece is titled "Roots", 2005-06 and like traditional
science experiments, it is based in glass tank, although
beautifully lit and placed in a dark room. The tank is filled
with electricity, which is the key to the transformation
of the roots-like apparatus' in the tank. They make organic
connections to one another amidst bubbles that dissolve
into clouds: dark iron crystals grow, break off and sink
to the dark ground. Interact or Die!
"Roots" by Roman
The DEAF07 symposium focused on the ways that
ideas become effective through interaction within networks.
Jeanne Van Heeswijk is a Dutch artist
who focuses on the 'social in the public realm'. Her talk during
the symposium dealt with her interest in new forms of intervention
in public space. She discussed how public space is controlled
and non-typical behaviors are not tolerated. She referred to the
"Free Hugs Campaign" video on YouTube that won an award
for 'Most Inspirational'although the campaign itself was forbidden
in several countries, including Australia and China. Van Heeswijk
is presently working on a new piece in which empathy is seen as
a radical act. She believes that living in a city is an art and
we need the language of art to negotiate our experience within
the city. Her interventions are designed to interact with public
space to create alternative connections: a technocratic approach
vs. the traffic control of space.
At other DEAF07 seminars,
the concept of social interaction was recurrent. "Transdisciplinary
Innovation" included a talk by Sally Jane Norman, the Director
of Culture Lab in Newcastle, UK. She discussed how transdisciplinary
practice "will constantly display itself" - as it reflects
contemporary society? Trans [meaning across and beyond] differentiates
itself from interdisciplinary practice by the level of interaction
between collaborators, and by the outcomes of the collaboration.
Norman focused on participatory knowledge structures in response
to how larger organizations create niches. The Culture Lab positions
experts in situations outside of their area of expertise. This
creates an awareness of points of non-communication, which is
seen as an aspect of a path leading to new areas of discovery.
The Culture lab is interested in accessing the non-generic user,
towards creating social software that can affect social change.
||DEAF04 had an extremely positive seminar
series that was also continued in DEAF07. Nat Muller is the
curator for the 'Snack and Surge Brunch' series, which is
subtitled "Biting at the Poetics of Power". Each
of the four seminars included lunch as art, with the themes
of each discussion topic reflected in the food; eating becomes
an art experience, and a tasty! form of interactivity.
"Out in the Open" on April
11 dealt with the myth of openness, specific to collaborative
process. Lauren Wright from Furtherfield.org discussed DIWO: Do
it With Others and considered how to emphasize the 'with'. One
thing she felt was relative was collaboration vs. remote connection.
Tim Jones, production coordinator for NODE London, discussed NODE
as a model for other cities to connect all their media-based organizations
to form one network. He also focused on social software that can
extend the collaborative process. To find the right tools, the
fundamental collaborative elements should be understood: "Look
at how people interact and then develop software the develops
out from that. Start with behavior, and then technology is used
as an extension of this." During this discussion, artist
Saul Albert used MindMap software to visualize what was being
said. He also presented the project 'The People Speak' in which
artists create strategies for engaging public debate.
"Rules of Engagement"
on April 12 asked, 'With 72 million blogs, how do they impact
on culture? Can they be a form of activism?' Mazen Kerbaj [Lebanon]
puts drawings of war on his blog that communicate his experience
globally. Xu Wenkai [China] maintained that blogs have little
impact on local culture as the Gov't controls the blogs. In China,
there are firewalls in place that can filter and edit the blogs
based on list of objectionable words, but the Gov't has very little
understanding of the content, so the filter system can be sidestepped.
The list of objectionable words gets smaller all the time, but
he is looking forward to a day when the list is obsolete. Ellen
Pau [Hong Kong] is an artist/activist who thinks that the online
tool is powerful in preserving memories of urban experience, in
relation to a rapidly changing Hong Kong.
"Media Insurgency" on April
13 looked at insurgency as legitimate from the inside. Andrea
Natella [Italy] created where
next in which you can bet on where the next attack will
be globally. It looks at fear vs. reality, it's a live map
of perception, to see if perception corresponds to reality.
Panelist Naeem Mohaieman works on documentaries about Bangladesh
politics that deal with audience perception, and is concerned
with how his work continues or dissuades stereotypes. He
also discussed the inside vs. outside / local vs. global
media lens. Contemporary political actions are hyper-aware
of media influence, and work in tandem with the media in
some cases. His presentation was followed by a live web
cast from Extremadura in Spain where they had set-up a temporary
media lab near a disused power plant in a "struggle
to free the building".
Food Art and design for Media
Insurgency seminar by anderseten.com
"Marked-Up City" on April
14 was monumental in that it brought together Mushon Zer-Aviv
[Israel] and Leila El-Haddad [Palestine] who are working on a
project as part of you
are not here. The festival was the first time these two collaborators
have met face-to-face. They are using place as a foundation for
each culture to share commonalities. The project is groundbreaking
and of great value, both politically and artistically. It deals
with urban tourism and a reflection ofthe human scale of a city
as it demonstrates how two cities can live the same realities.
Leila also has her own blog: a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com.
Also discussed was city branding by Merijn Oudenampsen [Holland]
who saw city identity - as presented through tourism - as a simplistic
representation of a city.
Another seminar titled 'Create'
[a.k.a. CREative and Technology Exchange], focused on online media
archives. Researcher Keith Baker discussed the importance of these
archives and the lack of memory in net.culture. The seminar advertised
its focus thus: 'As technology-inspired art is gaining more widespread
acceptance, documentation of the rich and diverse media art histories
is becoming increasingly important." Rhizome was mentioned
as an important node in the constellation of media art archives.