Introduction to the Development of Media Art in Germany
What is media art?Contrary to other authors, I would prefer not to restrict the term “media art” to electronic and digital media, but rather to emphasise its roots in the field of experimental film and the avant-garde of the 1920s. As a basic technical parameter, it could perhaps be agreed that media art is an art that requires electricity for either its production or reception. In this way, we need not extend the word ‘medium’, which in the original Latin meant a means or mediating element, to all other (older) genres of art, although media scholars like Siegfried Zielinski have pointed out that films could also be shown using gas lamps or candles and that cameras and projectors could be cranked. Eadweard Muybridge’s “chronophotography”, which was developed in 1872, could also be counted among the precursors of media art.
At the Berlin media festival transmediale in 2007, experts discussed the idea of replacing the problematic term “media art” by “digital culture”. This, however, would not only neglect the non-digital roots of media art but also extend the term to cover other tendencies.
An interesting aspect here is that much of the technology used was originally developed for military purposes. Thus video was developed for air traffic control, computers to decipher enemy codes and evaluate radar data more speedily, and the Internet to improve military communications. Many artists are aware of the power inherent in media and reflect on it, subversively undermine it or counter media manipulation with their own images.
Germany as the starting-point for new processes
Unfortunately, due to limits of space, this survey can make no claims to completeness, and will instead have to name a few individual styles and artists as representatives of many others. And, of course, such a survey is inevitably subjective. For further study, I recommend the book and CD-ROM Media Art Action and Media Art Interaction and the web site Media art net, based on these publications. I also recommend the DVD and book 40YEARSVIDEOART.DE and the international online database for experimental film and video art cinovid, where the reader will find further information on the classics of experimental film and video art.
Siegfried Zielinski: Backwards to the Future, in Future Cinema (ZKM Karlsruhe / MIT Press, Cambridge MA, USA, 2003), p. 566; ISBN: 0-262-69286-4, out of print.
Hans Ulrich Reck: Mythos Medienkunst, Kunstwissenschaftliche Bibliothek, vol. 20, (Walter König Verlag, Köln 2002), ISBN: 3-88375-558-3
Karin Fritzsche / Claus Löser: Gegenbilder - Filmische Subversion in der DDR 1976 – 1989; (Gerhard Wolf Verlag, Berlin, 1996), ISBN: 3-928942-38-7
Dieter Daniels / Rudolf Frieling (eds.): Media Art Action and Media Art Interaction (Goethe-Institut / ZKM Karlsruhe, Springer Verlag, Wien, 1997). Books and CD-ROMs in English, French and Spanish), ISBN 978-3211829967 and 978-3211834220
Dieter Daniels / Rudolf Frieling (eds.): Media Art Net 1: Survey of Media Art (Springer Verlag, Wien, 2004), German/English, ISBN 3-211-00570-6
Dieter Daniels / Rudolf Frieling (eds.): Media Art Net 2. Key Topics (Springer Verlag, Wien, 2005), German/English, ISBN 3-211-23871-9
Rudolf Frieling / Wulf Herzogenrath (eds.): 40YEARSVIDEOART.DE (Hatje Cantz Publishers, Ostfildern, 2006), ISBN: 978-3775717182.
The author is a film-maker and media art curator, co-founder and chairman of the Werkleitz Society at the Centre for Art and Visual Media in Saxony-Anhalt, and a member of the executive committee of the Werkleitz Biennale.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
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