Transmediale is just finished. The 2k+12 edition of the media art, design and culture Berliner festival took place rom 31 January until 5 February at the wonderful Haus der Kulturen der Welt, one of the most important European leading centre for the contemporary arts in Tiergarten.
As usual, it was a rich program of symposia, workshops, special events, exhibitions and performances, Digicult as media partner of the event, took the chance to interview the new artistic director Kristoffer Gansing. I met him at transmediale head office, at Podewil / Kulturprojekte Berlin last December. It was the chance for a long chat about the new directions and targets of the festival and himself, his background, ideas and critical thoughts
The theme of this edition was “in/compatible“. With the theme “in/compatible“, the festival probes the productive and destructive sides of incompatibility as a fundamental condition of cultural production. To be in/compatible means to refuse a quick return to business as usual. It means to instead dare an investment in the unusual: aesthetic, ambiguous and nervous expressions of politics and technology that are contingent with the dark sides of network culture.
As everyone attended the festival noticed, The theme has been developed through an exhibition (curated by Jacob Lillemose with the title “Dark Drives. Uneasy Energies in Technological Times”) a video program (curated by Marcel Schwierin with the title “Satellite Stories”) a performances calendar (curated by Sandra Naumann with the title “The Ghost in the Machine”) a symposium (with the title “in/compatible: systems | publics | aesthetics”) and a series of special events under the “reSource for transmedial culture” new initiative, curated by Tatiana Bazzichelli and developed in collaboration with CTM/DISK and the Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, as an interface between the cultural production of art festivals and collaborative networks in the fields of art and technology, hacktivism and politics.
We have discussed with Kristoffer Gansing about all these subjects, and much more.
Marco Mancuso: I would like to start to know more about you and to introduce you to Digicult’s readers. What is your background and how have you become the new director of transmediale? What are your feelings towards this new position?.
Kristoffer Gansing: It is of course a great challenge and opportunity at the same time. I do not want to go into detailed speculations about the selection but can say that basically it was the transmediale advisory board who took care of this process. The idea behind was to give a new life to the festival, a re-start which respected the heritage of the transmediale as an event inbetween video, computer-based arts and critical media culture while at the same time introducing some new impulses.I can tell you that I was a bit surprised when I was chosen: I applied for this job as a kind of wildcard, as I’m not very established in out the political cultural dynamics of Berlin.
Marco Mancuso: You have a background experience also connected to performances…
Kristoffer Gansing: Yes, while teaching new media art and aesthetics at K3 School of Arts and Communication. I worked between Sweden and Cophenagen as a curator and researcher, expecially connected to performances and audiovisual projects. Together with the artist Linda Hilfling, I organized a festival called “The Art of the Overhead” that challenged the idea of new media artists working only with digital technologies, invting performative artists working with old technoolgies and expecially overhead projectors. It was a festival that built on the field ofmedia archaeology. Not the least through this festival I came into contact with many artists coming from Germany and Berlin, and so was involved in starting exchanges between them and artists from Denmark and Sweden.
Marco Mancuso: In which part of the program and structure will the the festival be different from the previous editions? How have you worked on the program, which has been your approach and how have you tried to give a different direction to the festival itself?
Kristoffer Gansing: The next edition of the festival will still be somewhat classical as a transmediale festival, in terms of format. There is the video programme, the conference, workshops etc. Of course it will be different because I am a new person on the job and will bring my personal taste into it, often involving a dose of humour while still tackling issues seriously of course. Apart from that, we are launching a new platform called the reSource which is supposed to also run festival related projects throughout the whole year. What has been most important is to have a curatorial coherence from early on in the process and to focus on this process.
Therefore we dropped the idea of an award, concentrating on the thematic approach to the exhibition, the different programme strands and the new reSource project. I wanted to have a sort of routine also in the organisational structure and on this side I am mostly working with people that know the festival already. That was the only way I had to go in and to understand better how to organize such a big festival like transmediale. Besides, it is a great team!
Marco Mancuso: Speaking about conferences, meetings and the theoretical side of the festival, and witnessing also the first re:source event organized by Tatiana Bazzichelli in Berlin, I sense that the approach is to break the rules between what is more academic and what is more connected to the undergrond of media studies and media art. It sounds like a very interesting and challenging approach, in a way…
Kristoffer Gansing: Yes, the transmediale conference programme was traditionally never a properly academic one even when it was involving highly qualified researchers. For example there is no peer-review process and call for papers but amore curated, event-like conference. I wanted to challenge this format a bit, creating a greater interplay between the more academic type of research conference and the event conference. So in the reSource project, we organised together with the DARC- Digital Aesthetics Research Centre of Aarhus University and the Vilém Flusser Archive of the Berlin University fot the Arts, a pre-festival PhD conference which was a more traditionally formatted research event but which will also have a less traditional output at the actual festival – http://www.transmediale.de/festival/resource
Marco Mancuso: Also speaking about the panels, let’s speak more about the concept of the festival. This year, transmediale speaks about “in/compatible” in terms of systems (social, economic), publics (political) and aesthetics (the artists response). Of course, it seems as if the three areas will be very interconnected….
Kristoffer Gansing: Yes, all the three sections of the panels will be very interrelated, with different issues developed during the day. We didn’t want to separate the items for different days and moments. We wanted to have a more narrative approach: this will be experimental, because we will have 3 different chairmans responsible for the moderating of the 3 different sections, present the whole day, who will try to provide a coherent commentary speaking with the invited theorists, researchers and artists – http://www.transmediale.de/festival/conference
Marco Mancuso: As you said before, this year you have worked with a curatorial staff. A group of guest curators that worked with you as artistic director. Why, have you decided to work with these specific curators?
Kristoffer Gansing: It was natural for me to work with people that I knew before. The exhibition Dark Drives – Uneasy Energies in Technological Times, I wanted a sort of bridge between the media art and the contemporary art scene and Jacob Lillemose was the first choice for me. The exhibitgion is conceptualised differently from the classic media art exhibition, not being an overview of the latest art-pieces. This was the first idea, that through Jacob’s efforts now has also changed into a more cultural-show, reflecting on the possible interconnections among culture, media, history and art of course.
For example there is a listening station where you can listen to popular songs related to the exhibition, as cultural phenomena related to the topic. Pictures from photographers collected on Flickr are also not properly media art pieces, but are works that give a cultural approach to art itself. Apart from the works in the exhibition, the whole festival also features many projects more or less commissioned by the festival, shown for the very first time – http://www.transmediale.de/festival/exhibition
Marco Mancuso: And, what about the video program? Can you tell me more about it?
Kristoffer Gansing: The video programme Satellite Stories, is curated by Marcel Schwierin. He has put together several contemporary video programs, connected to the “in/compatible” concept of the festival but he also worked on a strong historical presence, celebrating the fact that the festival started out as a video festival. Every contemporary video programme will be introduced by a video coming from the festival archive. Overall, there will be a strong “video” presence in the festival this year: on the one hand, reflecting the return of analogue video aesthetics, on the other hand the concrete screening of late 1980s and early ’90s video art.
It’s interesting to see how, in many of these videos, TV is the main media to criticize: from the very first video programme (Re-enactment Videospiegel, 1988), TV is seen by artists as something they love and hate, in the same way the artists do today with social networking technologies. It’s important to have a continuum perspective, to understand the social impact of techologies, how they’re influencing artists’ imagination, how they’re experimenting with new and old technologies. Also for this reason, in the video programmes, some of the videos are shown in their original formats, on Umatic even – http://www.transmediale.de/festival/video
Marco Mancuso: What also about Tatiana Bazzichelli and the reSource programme?
Kristoffer Gansing: The intention is to put transmediale as a presence in town, in the city of Berlin. To create a network with the artistic and cultural branches in town. transmediale should also be a resource project, not only something that sucks energies and money once a year, but that tries to create networked strategies with artists and studios in the city. We have commissioned work, residencies, we want to be a platform to disseminate and co-produce works. reSource will not only be academic but it has both a research branch and an artistic branch, as an interdisciplinary hub. It has to work with academic and hacktivist institutions, and artists groups and project spaces in Berlin. It should also serve as a basis for collaborations with ctm festival – http://www.flickr.com/photos/transmediale/sets/72157628110643935/
Marco Mancuso: The theme of the festival “in/compatible”, reflects on what is happening today in terms of political, economical, social aspects. Things seems to be positive and negative at the same time, cultural and social objects seem to be in a constant challenge. What is surprising, and what I consider interesting as a curatorship operation, is that all the program of the festival reflects this pure tension among elements….
Kristoffer Gansing: First of all, thank you. Yes, at the beginning I thought about the incompatible theme (without the slash) to reflect on those things that dont’ work together. Technologies deeply incompatible with social, economical, political aspects of our lifes on one side, and technologies that pushes to make things compatible on another side. At the end, I decided to put the slash in the title (in/compatible), to make clear how the artists always tries to work with these tensions between things and approaches, as they are attracted by incompatible elements as opportunities to go further and to redefine this tension, or also to stay freezed around it, to pause and reflect on how later to modify systems and situations. –