Ars Electronica 2006
Festival-Website 2006
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Festival 1979-2007


Productive Interventions from the Fringes of Media Art

'Karin Ohlenschläger Karin Ohlenschläger / 'Luis Rico Luis Rico

The model of hegemonic exhibition venues and dominant axes of artistic and cultural production that still prevailed in the late 20th century has undergone a significant change in recent years. These centers and the alignments among them are increasingly being displaced by new structures of nodes and networks that are constantly growing deeper into the very substance of society itself and are thus making totally new linkages, structures and movements possible.

In this context, the question of the production and representation of process-related artistic projects—regardless of whether they entail old or new media—has long since become an issue occupying the attention of a growing number of institutions. For over four years now, MediaLabMadrid has also been facing these challenges. Our response has not only involved new artistic formats but also innovative, dynamic ways of producing, participating in and partaking of art. The source of the conceptual and formal impetus driving this creative process has been primarily the fringes of media art in connection with other social and cultural practices. With today’s system-related production principles of contemporary software-and-hardware-art, it has become more and more difficult to differentiate between products and processes. They are increasingly subject to communicative and socially dependent dynamics, whereby the sum total of these singular forces can trigger the emergence of totally new processes. In order to make this development not only visible but also comprehensible, MediaLabMadrid has established a polyvalent, transdisciplinary sphere of action in which research, production, education and exhibition formats can simultaneously articulate themselves as an open system and reciprocally interact with each other. One of the most recent such projects (www.interactivos.org) scrutinized the concept of interactivity not only in connection with its project-based forms and contents, but also in a much broader, system-encompassing sense applied to the interrelationships among, and co-evolution of, institutions, mediators, artists, programmers and members of the public. Meanwhile, directors Laura Fernández and Marcos García have been coordinating the transformation of Conde Duque, the City of Madrid’s traditional exhibition center, into a venue for communication, production, seminars and exhibits in which selected projects of both an individual and a collective nature can be developed, discussed and produced. What all these works have had in common is the use of open hardware and open software tools by David Cuartielles, Zachary Lieberman, Casey Reaves and Hans Christoph Steiner, who conducted interrelated workshops at MediaLabMadrid at various times over a period of five weeks. The selected projects and their authors were also open to spontaneous input from, and interaction with workshop participants.

Here, the collaboration of artists, architects, programmers, musicians, mathematicians, designers, students, teachers and representatives of the regional Ministry of Education produced a wide range of surprising results: for instance, writing instructions for an Arduino tools application designed for the educational field, or developing a “Multidimensional Particle Projector for Emergent Processes” for architects and urban planners (Alvaro Castro and Carlos Cabañero: www.alvarocastro.es). In Madrid, diverse sound sculptures and virtual musical instruments were enhanced and upgraded by K3, (http://webzone.k3.mah.se/projects/implement), a group of Swedish students from the University of Malmö’s School of Arts and Communication, as well as conceived and produced by artists, composers and engineers such as Enrique Tomás (www.mlab.uiah.fi/-korayt/emipro.html) and Daniel Palacios (www.waves.stopandplay.com). Moreover, these workshop, seminar and exhibit activities were not limited to the premises of the Conde Duque exhibition center; they were also supplemented by spontaneous presentations at the Autonomous University of Madrid, and included a presence by night in the Dorkbot Presentation at the nearby LaDinamo independent cultural center and at the Radar Electronic Sounds Bar.

In this context, these dynamic, productive interventions also call into question traditional structures and divisions. Simultaneously, they generate channels for feedback effects from artistic, scientific, technological and social processes that are interlinked in ever-denser networks reciprocally nurturing one another in this very fruitful setting engendered by contemporary media culture.