HR – A remark on art & technology research in regard to the place of origin taken as the state, place of living, as well as only a domain

Text published on LEF (click on the image)

What could be the purpose of LEF?

Is there a need to address a national inheritance in media arts in general or that is just a very Balkanian and nationalistic way of thinking? Somehow I had a problem since ever if someone would name me “a Croatian theorist”, I was not schooled in Croatia, I never had a Croatian stipend either has Croatian Ministry of Science recognized my diplomas, but when there is a need to put some names in state purposes – I turn out to be suddenly Croatian. Yet, I am Croatian by the origin and I also live there, but what does that have to do with my profession? I could be more Dutch, in those terms.

Still, a brave attempt to fit all of events into a linear national narrative has been done by Darko Fritz in his text Media arts in Croatia commissioned by Croatian governmental cultural portal Culturenet, which probably wanted to advertise with it. Unfortunately, most of people mentioned in the text were not in Croatia at all for many years, so the overview seemed more like – what would be if they would not have left the same country for the reasons precisely connected to the same ministry? And what happened with other artists names of whom were hardly ever heard latter?

Despite Fritz’s systematic review of arts “done by artists that have been born in Croatia” was suffering a bit of non-present criticism of precisely the same state’s relation to a media art research, it has still shown some important aspects of it. It was precisely the relationship to the state that was framing the difference between three generations of artist, fitting episodes for the mere reasons – there are complete gaps of time in between generations; nothing at all. Though I, again, dislike such systematisations, no matter how clear or logical it may sound, as no art narrative can fit to such a cruel structure, there is actually a sufficient reason to mark a generational change of “arts produced by artists born in Croatia”, precisely for the reason of relationship with the state – power and ways of sponsoring an independent research.

Darko Fritz: Media Arts in Croatia

1. Socialistic generation: fooled about causes: Nove Tendencije (1961 – 1973)

The first (experimental) generation is presented by the project Nove Tendencije (New Tendencies, alternative title) having no direct succession. Their research was state sponsored. Mostly unpreserved objects and texts were researched for years, also by artist Darko Fritz who is to be praised for his dedicated work that saved these works, much before settling down the exhibition Bit International.

Politically inspired by the utopianism of its programs, striving for non-alliance and separation from the mass (but never popular) style of art, this generation has introduced a wave of newness though it has staid forgotten for decades in cellars of the Museum not knowing how to deal with it at all. Future utopia of deliberation of a worker has desegregated in parts of robots none could put working again.

Bit International at Neue Gallerie Graz
Bit International at ZKM
Darko Fritz: Amnesia International, Early computer art or the New Tendencies Movement (doc)

2. War (1991 – 1995) and post-war generation: leaving the country

Through in the early nineties artists leaving the country in war, or leaving it in post-war period, have profiled as researchers in technology for a variety of reasons. Most of them were connected to research centers in Belgium and Netherlands offering possibilities to work on independent projects. Among them the most active are Maja Kuzmanović working on different research based projects and Zvonimir Bakotin – Zone mostly working with VRML (Digital Staad Amsterdam and Merzbau with VGTV). A first curatorial project online was done by me in 1999, (Machine philosopher, Jan Van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht)

Zvonimir Bakotin: Digital Staat Amsterdam The work awarded Silicon Graphics Award 1996
Zvonimir Bakotin with VGTV: Merzbau The work is developed for for Sprengel Museum Hannover in 1999.
Maja Kuzmanovic: Foam Maja was nominated one of 100 “Young Innovators” of 1999 by MIT.
Ana Peraica: Machine_philosopher (19999) The work presented on the Enlightenment symposium (Chapter 2, 2000) reviewed in C. H. Gray: Peace, War and Computers (Routledge, 2004)

3. Generation of national disasters (from black economy, centralism, corruption)

Croatian dis-connection has produced large inconsistencies in means of production. The country itself was having a Ministry of Science and Technology which was in terms of technology totally inoperable. Since new funds, predominantly from Soros have been allowed for post-socialistic countries, some have managed successfully to equip small groups and fund their travels (as soon as possibilities for traveling without VISA were opened, a war between artists was quite often just for the reason of a single travel funding) but they have stayed completely closed to others. With Soros funds withdrawing the only left, state funds, were reasons of the battle in which power is still exercised, for which MI2 club, founded in 1999, has been named “anarchists on the state support”.

Unfortunately trying to politicize the art and technology itself to be legible for funding, media art has institutionalized as a techno-sect, neither being artists nor scientists, but advocating technological tools for mere “being different” and showing it up to the quite right orientated society.

Proliferation of translations of texts meant to provoke rather then to inform have ended up, unfortunately in non-original writing having a cultural by-product of B-production academic style of writings (depicting certain writers as ultimate authorities while mis-interpreting them, over-quotations with no sense, forcing up systematisation of genres and concepts with no explanation…). A TV show which has representing media arts “scene” (whatever that is now in this text) Transfer, has ended up in totally nonsensical and absurd reports with no real intent to make them such, dealing pretentiously with obviously non read theory and on few individuals, usually recorded by themselves or nearest events as “the largest world events and the most important ones.”

Sadly enough, arts in the “cultural” capital Zagreb has not given enough of place to lonely artists as Andreja Kuluncic employing various media techniques in her projects. It has instead staid without discourse. Though obviously the most interesting as employing research tools of social and political science instead of playing with new technique, her pools, statistics and games have given more effective way of commenting and criticizing the society itself.

Contrary of the capital city, media art scene in smaller the city of Split was the first one to set up exhibitions and the big festival. International festival of new film (founded 1996) become a recognizable international event that has promoted new media artworks as a separate selection. Unfortunately a problem that there is no curator for such art, no critic and especially – no public because of previous two personae missing but also for a vanity of the cultural elite from the capital never arriving to follow events, has made this event totally useless.

Though the city itself has founded institutions of multi-media in which sadly enough curators do not know to switch computers on for already a decade and governmental agencies are centralised and suffering of obvious corruption (as instead of professionals for some reasons jury for funds is including a pop singer, as well as representatives of largest institutions depending on the fund itself) the situation would, hopefully change.

Andreja Kulunčić: Homepage Project Distributive Justice definitely most popular, exhibited on Documenta XI (Kassel, Germany, 2003)
Split Film Festival Homepage

4. New generations: crossing the barrier of the nation

With the influence of Film Festival, the first media arts department was founded (1997) by film artist Dan Oki, still mainly dealing with video art. After Split, Zagreb has also founded the media department within art academy studies. The first theoretical courses, however, were offered on the graduate studies of Cultural studies, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Rijeka. With new generation of theorists hopefully the situation of chronic amateurism with consequent terminological pamphletism and confusion would be solved.

Finally the technology is coming more available and there are no needs for state non-governmental or governmental investments, or at least not in case of a single computer meaning – knowledge. Most of young people finally do speak English and do not need translations of works of theory in the breaking and constantly changing field, which is always coming too late translated, as a decade ago.

Working individually and not depending on translations (and by that mean – selection but as well; a censorship) new generations are researching far more seriously media arts far behind local clubs of art and technology sub-culture or a lifestyle and they are not depending on opening of “multimedia” centers being mere mere money laundry industry. Also, as traveling more, they are not framed by newspaper or TV filters on what should be seen as media arts.

But, it would be also great if they could have an online course : )

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