Johannes Ebert am 20. März 2015
Lunch Bytes

Rede von Johannes Ebert anlässlich des Symposiums „Lunch Bytes. Thinking about Art and Digital Culture“

Sehr geehrter Bernd Scherer,

liebe Frau Honrath,

liebe Freunde des Goethe-Instituts,

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

ich freue mich sehr, Sie heute zu dieser Konferenz zu begrüßen, die das Ende des internationalen Projekts „Lunch Bytes“ des Goethe-Instituts markiert.

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this conference which marks the conclusion of "Lunch Bytes", an international project on the increasing significance of digital technologies as regards the visual arts. The project first began in 2011 when the Goethe-Institut Washington initiated a series of panel discussions that literally took place at lunchtime at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. In 2014, a European edition of "Lunch Bytes" was developed by seven Goethe Institutes across northwestern Europe: Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, Helsinki, London and Stockholm. In each city, my colleagues closely collaborated with renowned partner organisations. Together, they set up a total of 23 discussion events featuring leading artists, academics, designers and curators who examined the influence of digital culture on contemporary art. Approaching the subject from a wide range of different angles, the speakers investigated new aesthetic theories, curatorial concepts as well as art works. The project has been accompanied by a specially designed website – – which includes information about all the events that have been organised so far.

Both the American and the European edition of Lunch Bytes have been curated by Melanie Bühler, who will soon give a more detailed introduction to the actual contents of the discussion events that took place last year in the seven cities mentioned above. Therefore, I would just like to point out that digital culture and digital practice generally constitutes a very important subject of the work of the Goethe Institutes worldwide. What changes are induced by digital technologies in art, architecture, design, music and literature as well as in everyday life? What are the social and political implications and consequences of the digital 'revolution'? How can cultural organisations meet the demands of digitization? These and other questions are frequently addressed in talks, conferences, workshops, exhibitions and online projects that are planned and carried out by different branches of the Goethe-Institut and their local partners.

Let me give you two recent examples of projects that focus on the digital, either on the level of contents or in terms of shape:

1. Example: Last year the Goethe-Institut Korea and NOLGONG launched the game “Being Faust – Enter Mephisto”. It’s a physical game enriched with online and social media elements, based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s drama “Faust”.

A group of players gathers at a specific site at a specific time. Each player assumes the role of young Faust. Equipped with a smartphone, the players enter the tempting digital world of MEPHISTO&co., where values and ideals are up for sale. Upon logging into the game, the deal between Faust and MEPHISTO&co. is sealed; the soul sold, and thus begins the game of seduction. The universal questions remain the same: What do I value in life? What are my personal values based on? Which price am I willing to pay for success?

By making use of various virtual and physical game formats, “Being Faust – Enter Mephisto” encourages the players to take a second look at themselves and their digital environment, to compare themselves with other players worldwide, and to take an interest in the literary source.

2. Example: This February, we started an innovative online training programme for cultural managers: "Managing the Arts: Marketing for Cultural Organizations". This new Moderated Massive Online Course has been developed by the Goethe-Institut in cooperation with Leuphana University Lüneburg. This interdisciplinary training programme for cultural management is available worldwide for free. More than 17.000 participants and supporters are registered! The basis of the curriculum consists of case studies from cultural institutions in Bangkok, Berlin, Budapest and Lagos specially produced for the course. Those who complete the course successfully can gain a university certificate.

So the Lunch Bytes conference at Haus der Kulturen der Welt perfectly ties in with numerous other initiatives the Goethe-Institut has. Today and tomorrow, you will have the opportunity to learn more about some of the central topics that were discussed last year in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, Helsinki, London and Stockholm. As already mentioned, the Goethe Institutes closely collaborated with a number of partner organisations, and I would like to extend a special welcome to these partners, and to express my gratitude for their active involvement in this project:

Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam;
Nikolaj Kunsthal and Kunstforeningen GL STRAND in Copenhagen;
the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin;
Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow;
Checkpoint Helsinki, Frame Visual Art Finland, Pixelache and Sinne in Helsinki;
Arcadia Missa, Goldsmiths University of London and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London;
the Royal Institute of Art and Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm.

I would also like to thank Haus der Kulturen der Welt for hosting this conference and, of course, all the artists, academics, designers, curators and other experts who participated in "Lunch Bytes" in the course of 2014.

I am delighted that so many people have come today to listen, learn and discuss the topic. I wish us all an enjoyable and inspiring time.

Thank you for coming!
Gehalten am 20. März 2015 in Berlin.