Television video multimedia 15.2. Until 25.2.96

The berlinale is over – and with it, for the last time, the videofest at berlin’s podewill. Our correspondent stefan munker was on the spot and took a look for telepolis. He brought us his impressions and some links out into the net world.

The cover is decorated with a spider. This is appropriately chosen. The 9. Videofest 96, which was held on the fringes of the berlinale in the center of berlin from 15 to 15 september. Until 25. February will be the last. Not because it was unsuccessful (it wasn’t: it was mediocre) – it just changes its name. The spider, the web, one suspects its symbolic meaning: the festival is tuning in to the change of media cultures. In 1997 it will open its doors under the new title ‘transmedia’ in podewill.

In the short text that the organizers have put in front of their catalog as a preface, there is no lack of melancholic tone. The victory of digital media is also one over video as an art form in its own right, an art form that for decades has animated the most avant-garde minds of an extremely vibrant scene to ever new experiments with a still quite clearly delineated formal language. At least this: the independence and autonomy of video art obviously dissolves in the convergence of old analog and new digital image technologies.

After the last videofest was dedicated to the internet, this year’s subtitle "television video multimedia" points to the future direction. The contents are accordingly.

Of course the videos were not missing. Their highlight for me was last saturday, when john sanborn, who also presented his interactive film "psychic detective" (available as cd-rom) presented some favorite videos. It lacked just as much the video objects and stagings. Their trend was the theme of perception, aisthesis and its (expandable) limits. Not infrequently – as in nicolas anatol baginsky’s video sculpture ‘elisabeth gardner’, an approach to advanced theories on the functioning of human sensory organs – the border between art and science emerged in the works.

Compared to earlier years ca. 50 fewer videotapes submitted – as many videographers switch to burning cd-roms. The greater part of the festival and exhibition was taken up by multimedia projects. In addition to the small silver discs of quite different (not only technical, but above all artistic) quality – my personal tip: the book of shadows by simon biggs – internet projects made their appearance here.

In addition to the wonderfully slanted website of ellipsis and the pleasantly constructed pages of the art exhibition dialect, i particularly liked the playful kaapland by gerald van der kaap, whose site is one of the few successful transfers of a cd-rom to the net (compare laurie anderson’s commercially designed puppet motel, for example, which developed its anarchistic wit by breaking almost all the rules of publication on the net).

Blam!, whose upgrade ‘blam2’ was presented as a cd-rom, in turn demonstrated the surfer’s vulnerability to the waves on his homepage during the festival. Bevor man der kunst im netz hinterherreist – und das gilt fur nahezu alle projekte – , sollte man sich allerdings klarmachen, dab kunstler anspruchsvolle menschen sind – und ihre web sites oft so komplex gebaut, dab es doch recht lange braucht, sie auf den bildschirm zu laden.

The increasing orientation towards online formats has clearly shaken the previous art fixation of the video festival, which for years has made it a gathering place during the berlinale for those who do not want to feel at home on the ku’damm. Consistent with the focus on ‘the future of television/television of the future’, which brought the festival to a close. Here, too, the presentation and discussion of art-related endeavors for the medium with the coarse mass clearly prevailed.

This is exemplified by the central role that the organizers have given to the person and projects of the british television producer john wyver, who, with his production company illuminations tv, has been trying for years to bring art on television to a wider audience – as in the project the net, realized for bbc2, which at the same time demonstrates a successful combination of television production and internet use.

If you think of future developments in tv, you think of interactive tv. But anyone who talks about interactive television today is not talking about television – but at best about interaction. At least that was the majority opinion of one of the last panels, which debated the future of television in relation to online services. Talking about interactive television, says aaron koenig – who at the time at the media lab of the television production company mme in hamburg was heavily involved in the development of the web site for the station vh1, the vh1derland – is like talking about the car as a horseless carriage: in fact, the path from television to interaction leads into another medium, for koenig: the digital networks, in which, of course, more and more tv-relevant offers will find their place, but which at present are more reminiscent of print formats. The improvement in bandwidths and the increase in data compression will certainly make a difference here – and encourage developments such as webtv, which is currently being installed as a pilot project and is roughly equivalent to inforadio in the radio sector. Here, too, the trend of media convergence is evident – as when magazines like hotwired increasingly work with video, audio and even real audio implementations, thus calling into question traditional demarcations of the various formats.

The conclusion of the tv debate is currently: while it would be a possible perspective for the television of the future to develop the technical infrastructure for content-demanding and actually interactive formats as a partner in association with other media, the future of television for the foreseeable future threatens to be that of an ever more perfect instrument for ever new forms of mass commercial (ab)use. The next ‘video festivals’ will have to address this even more strongly. It will be interesting to see what happens when the convergence of the media progresses even further and dogmatic fronts increasingly soften in the course of it.

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