The Transmediale Festival focuses on the role of digital technologies in our society, while Club Transmediale is devoted to the “adventurous” music and related visual arts. This year, the Schering Foundation and the [DAM] Gallery were associated with these two events in Berlin.

Bacteriological Orchestra

Every year, the Transmediale Festival gives out a prize. This year, the members of the jury nominated seven works out of more than a thousand proposals and it was the artistic research project Intelligent Bacteria initiated by The House Of Natural Fiber at the University of Gajah Mada that won. The members of the HONF Collective had been alerted to the growing number of deaths related to adulterated alcohol in Indonesia following a recent price hike resulting from the implementation of new regulations. They worked together with researchers to produce alcohol in complete security based on open source procedures. The fermentation resulting from their installation, which is relatively effective from a visual standpoint, produces carbon dioxide that the artists amplify in real time to obtain sounds that participate in a random, electronic sounding acoustic music. In performance, they are dressed in light and their installation praises the DIY (Do It Yourself) culture.

Soft Torture
Transmediale was born of an event dedicated to video art that was initially called Videofest. It is therefore quite natural in such a context that young artists like Ei Wada should carry on the research of pioneers like Nam June Paik, because Ei Wada also plays with the magnetic fields of cathode tubes. But it is with his hands that he works when playing the television screens like a percussionist during his improvised performance called Braun Tube Jazz Band. And in the evening, he accompanies Daito Manabe in another performance entitled Face Visualizer. The two Japanese artists face the public, their faces magnified by projected video images behind them. They are equipped with electrodes that convert the sounds of the minimalist electronic music into electrical charges. Stimulated in this way, their face muscles lose all control and are synchronised with the music. What follows is a series of grins and contortions that do not fail to elicit audience response. The small pains they inflict upon themselves produce strange grimaces that provoke laughter in the room.

A Return to Oil Painting

Who would forget the explosion of an oilrig belonging to British Petroleum in April 2010? What followed, day after day, was the indecent spread of an oil slick of crude oil floating on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico brought to us by aerial images similar to those that the members of the Austrian duo Ubermorgen have adapted. But they have treated them digitally so that they evoke oil painting, the disciplinary summit of all artistic disciplines, before exhibiting them at the [DAM] Gallery in Berlin, the partner of this 2011 edition of the Transmediale. The title, DeepHorizon of this series of “oil painted digital photographs”, heralds the return of painting as much through its subject as its style. It refers to the rig that sank two days after its explosion releasing the tragic flow that has initiated a new type of “pictorial subject”. Robert Smithon, in another era, (1969), poured out several tonnes of orange glue, to, in his own way, ironically evoke the colorfield painting of the artists that had preceded him. The irony of the act was more important than the possible environmental impact.

In the Bethanien Arts Quarter

The main exhibition of the Transmediale Club was held in a former hospital converted into a contemporary art centre, the Kunstquartier Bethanien.
Fifteen or so installations, including Spin created by Bram Vreven, were grouped there. The particularity of Spin resides in the fact that it is presented in two distinct pieces because it is composed of two parts that are resolutely indissociable. There are nine spheres at the entrance that are comparable to Ping-Pong balls that are spinning very fast, hence the name of the installation. We see that black dots have been drawn on them, though concentric circles appear on our retinas. Further away in the exhibition an alignment of nine flat screens present what we perceive as nine animation films. There is something hypnotising in this endless kinetic video installation that represents nothing other than itself. Ones regard is obliged to wander over the surface of a fragmented image, in search of a centre, while the beauty of the circular movements blurs the memory we have of their origins.
Dominique Moulon

Published in the Digitalarti Mag #6.

Digitalarti Mag, the international digital art and innovation magazine.

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