Festivals, Awards, Schools

Festivals, Awards, Schools

Germany has a wide range of festivals, awards and schools in the field of media art.



Since the mid-eighties, the number of festivals in Germany has rapidly expanded. Alongside established film festivals interested in media art, such as the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen, the first video and experimental film festivals were founded, such as the Videonale in Bonn and the European Media Art Festival in Osnabrück, which developed out of a workshop and is today one of the major media art festivals.

Germany is the land of media festivals, with probably over one hundred of every kind held at venues throughout the country. In the capital city of Berlin there is the Transmediale, now the largest media art festival in Germany, which has shifted its original focus on video art towards software and net art, particularly by culturally and politically committed players. In southern Germany there is, among others, the Stuttgart Film Winter, and in the north the Hamburger Short Film Festival, which puts on the very popular Trash Nite, now a cult event.

One of my personal favourites among German festivals is Kassel’s Dokumentarfilm und Videofest, a standout each year with a top-class selection from both sectors. And of course, eastern Germany has one or the other festival to be discovered, as well: the Werkleitz Festival presents media art in combination with other art forms in a variety of contexts. In Dresden, the Transmedia Akademie Hellerau has created the CyNet Art Festival for computer-supported art, and Jena offers the Full Dome Festival, which makes use of the Zeiss Planetarium’s 360-degree projection dome for art “films”. Sadly, particularly in the new German states, important and successful events such as the ostranenie International Forum for Electronic Media at the Bauhaus Foundation in Dessau and the Medienbiennal Leipzig have had to be discontinued due to lack of funding, whereas since 2002 the KunstFilmBiennale in Cologne has succeeded in establishing itself with the most highly endowed award in this category.

Distribution, awards and scholarships

The only video art distribution companies of note are still 235 Media in Cologne, whose archives and distribution merged with the Düsseldorf public foundation Inter Media Art Institute in 2006, and the Friends of the German Cinematheque (especially experimental film) with their programme Arsenal Experimental. A few festivals distribute their own programme of selections, such as the European Media Art Festival in Osnabrück und the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen. The more extensive selection offered by the Short Film Agency Hamburg and Wand 5 Inc. / Stuttgarter Film Winter is an exception to the rule. Berlin’s booming emergence as a cultural metropolis is perhaps the reason why the ImageMovement Store has been in existence for a few years now: a shop in the Oranienburger Strasse specialising exclusively in art films and vinyl, video art and experimental film.

In addition to the awards given at the previously named festivals, which confer prizes in nearly all categories, the Marl Video Art Award is one of the most important in Germany. In 1992 it attracted competition from the International Media Art Award of the SWR and ZKM in Karlsruhe. Marl, however, won the race, for the Media Art Prize was discontinued by the SWR in 2005 with the implausible excuse that the decision against raising radio license fees made further cultural sponsorship impossible – another example of the failure of public service broadcasting to make a contemporary art form accessible to the public. The Werkleitz Award, given at varying German festivals from 2001 until 2006, also had to be discontinued due to lack of support. On the other hand, the Bremen Video Art Award and the Nam June Paik Award of the NRW Art Foundation have recently joined the roll of the more prestigious awards.

Alongside awards, scholarships provide a major means of support for media artists. Many German universities that have media art departments offer postgraduate scholarships and sometimes also independent scholarships. The scholarship programme of the Schloss Solitude Academy near Stuttgart awards half-year and full-year scholarships to media artists. The European Media Artists in Residence Exchange, initiated by the Werkleitz Centre for Art and Visual Media at Halle (Saale), offers two-month scholarships for projects at various European media art institutions. The Edith Ruß House in Oldenburg awards a well endowed six-month scholarship, concluding with an exhibition, mainly to well-known artists, but sometimes also to members of the younger generation, and the Hartware Medienkunstverein in Dortmund supervises media art grants exclusively for artists from the state of North Rhine / Westphalia. The PACT Zollverein in Essen, also a high-profile cultural operator, offers grants of up to six months for media artists working at the interface of the performing arts.

Art academies

The number of artists working with media has also grown rapidly. The pioneers continued tirelessly in their work and have, since the end of the 1980s, started teaching at numerous art academies and universities – among them:
  • Nam June Paik at the Düsseldorf Academy of the Arts;
  • Birgit Hein at the Brunswick University of Art;
  • The Austrian experimental film-maker Peter Kubelka at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main;
  • Maria Vedder and Heinz Emigholz at the Institute for Time-Based Media at the University of the Arts in Berlin;
  • Marcel Odenbach and Klaus vom Bruch at the Communication Design Department at the State University of Art, Karlsruhe;
  • Rotraut Pape at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (i.e. University of Arts and Design) in Offenbach am Main
  • Matthias Müller at the Academy for Media Arts in Cologne (Kunsthochschule für Medien /KHM);
  • and Peter Weibel at the Institute for New Media in Frankfurt am Main before becoming the director of the Centre for Art and Technology (ZKM) Karlsruhe.

The founding of the three big institutions – the ZKM in Karlsruhe, the KHM in Cologne and the Institute for New Media in Frankfurt am Main – has reinforced the major position Germany has enjoyed in the development of new media since the 1990s. The short film production Die Führung (i.e. The Guided Tour) provides an amusing insight into the institutional structures. The HFG student René Frölke observes a tour by the former president of the Federal Republic Horst Köhler through the premises of the HFG and the ZKM in Karlsruhe. Köhler’s guides are the intellectual elite: the prominent philosopher and HFG rector Peter Sloterdijk and the ZDM director Peter Weibel. The art to be seen along the way becomes a stub for a discussion about the financial crisis.

In the new German states, too, courses of study in media art and new media were created after 1990. These include the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (i.e. University for Visual Arts) in Dresden, the Leipzig School for Graphic and Book Art, the Burg Giebichenstein Academy of Art and Design in Halle/Saale, and the Bauhaus University in Weimar, whose departments of media and design are training a successful new generation of media artists.

The traditional film academies in Berlin, Munich, Ludwigsburg and Cologne have also widened their range of study options, and in addition to conventional narrative film forms offer more often the option of experimenting with new media – or crossmedia, as they are called in industry jargon – with increasing frequency.

And last but not least, an in-house tip for the Goethe Institut’s Wegweiser Medienkunst in Deutschland (i. e. Media Art Guide for Germany), which lists additional organisations.

Stephen Kovats: Ost-West Internet / Media Revolution (Edition Bauhaus, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1999), ISBN: 3593363658
Peter Zorn
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, Internet-Redaktion
February 2008, updated in February 2012

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