Media Art and Globalisation
Frequently Nomadic

Hartware MedienKunstVerein „World of Matter”, 2014, Woman electric engineer operator of big machines, at garage of iron mine of multinational company in Minas Gerais, Brasil,
Hartware MedienKunstVerein „World of Matter”, 2014, Woman electric engineer operator of big machines, at garage of iron mine of multinational company in Minas Gerais, Brasil, | © Mabe Bethonico

Media art experiments readily with modern communications technologies. The latter not only make world-wide linkage possible for the economy, but also for those who take a critical approach to the effects of neo-liberalism and globalisation.

A scene in motion

Media artists frequently live nomadically; their mobility is not merely limited to the virtual world. They leave their native lands to study at universities concentrating on media, art and technology. At present, these universities for the most part are still to be found in Europe and the USA, whether MIT in Massachusetts, CALARTS in California, Goldsmith in the United Kingdom, the “Rijkskademie van beeldende kunsten” in The Netherlands, or the Academy of Media Arts (Kunsthochschule für Medien /KHM) in Cologne, the Bauhaus University Weimar, the Berlin University of the Arts (Universität der Künste Berlin /UDK), the State Academy of Design Karlsruhe (Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe), or the Offenbach Academy of Art and Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main).

Often, initial international contacts and networks already arise in the course of these artists’ university studies. Surely the most important motivation for media artists’ willingness to travel is project opportunities and jobs. In Germany, international academic grants such as those of the Deutsch-Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) offer temporary work opportunities. Prizes such as the Nam June Paik Award, the Edith Russ Haus grants for next-generation media art (Nachwuchsförderpreis für Medienkunst des Edith-Russ-Hauses), or residency grants of the Akademie Schloss Solitude and the European Media Artists in Residence Exchange (EMARE) also provide the motivation behind the high mobility of the international media art scene. One can find a good overview of international grant opportunities and travel subsidies on the Internet platforms “Trans Artists“ and “On The Move“.

The European Union’s funding structures also facilitate the mobility of artists and transnational co-operations of cultural institutions, or even necessitate them. As a rule, a cooperation of at least three European cultural institutions is required for the cultural and media programme “Creative Europe.” There are even special funding programmes for platforms and networks. Intercultural dialogue, the integration of digital social networks and the actors’ mobility are important criteria here.

Scarce cultural divergences

On the one hand, grants in particular often create opportunities for intercultural exchange, enable access to expensive technological production means and concentrated work on a single project, but they also have their drawbacks. Today, mobility is one of the fundamental conditions for an artistic career, without taking the artists’ family and friends into account who must often be left behind. In addition, western education and the world-wide use of identical technologies lead to an assimilation of aesthetics and strategies. While the visual arts exhibit regional or national characteristics through age-old crafts traditions, and literature, theatre and film differentiate themselves through different narrative patterns and cultural codes, media art, as the most recent art form, lacks precisely these cultural divergences – whereby exceptions confirm the rule.

Boundary crossings by media art

Artists readily pick up on explosive regional issues, as in the case of Indonesia’s HONF (House of Natural Fiber Foundation), which deals with nationwide protests against the reduction of energy subsidies in their project “Mikronation/Macronation,” which addresses alternative energy and food production. However, the boundary crossing and mixing of science, technology and art are not regional strategies, but have been features of media art from the beginning. Geographical characteristics are essentially shaped by access to production means such as technology and budgets. Emerging countries are currently in the catching-up phase. Here, too, no national styles or schools are in evidence, one might speak instead of individual styles and particular techniques of individual media artists and groups.


In recent years, numerous cultural institutions in Germany have addressed the phenomenon of globalised culture and art. At festivals such as the Transmediale in Berlin or the “European Media Ars Festival” in Osnabrück, globalisation is itself an omnipresent theme. As early as 2003, in her introductory text on the Transmediale, curator and art expert Susanne Jaschko asked critically: “How global is media art?” in order to then verify that artists are indeed aware of globalisation and its numerous economic, social and cultural consequences and take positions on these issues through their artistic works.

The Edith-Russ-Haus in Oldenburg accordingly based the exhibition “Generation i.2 –Aesthetics of the Digital in the 21st Century” (“Generation i.2 - Ästhetik des Digitalen im 21. Jahrhundert”) on the premiss that world-wide connectivity is creating new global aesthetic tendencies, and the “Hartware MedienKunstVerein” in Dortmund subjects the treatment of global resources to critical scrutiny in its 2014 exhibition “World of Matter.”

In 2009, the internationalisation of forms of resistance in Europe and South America was the object of the Württembergischer Kunstverein’s exhibition “Subversive Practices – Art under Conditions of Political Repression” (“Subversive Praktiken – Kunst unter Bedingungen politischer Repression”). The exhibition included the video “Marca Registrada,” in which Brazilian video art pioneer Letícia Parente sticks a “Brazil” trademark on the sole of her foot as a protest against the military junta ruling Brazil at that time.

The Karlsruhe Technology Centre for Art and Media (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie / ZKM) is also taking up the theme of global creative resistance. “global aCtIVISm” is the first part of a 300-day exhibition marathon on global art practice. Media artists are going out into the world and connecting with each other. Their art is therefore necessarily not only a reflection of globalisation, but also always part and parcel of it.


„Generation i.2 - Ästhetik des Digitalen im 21. Jahrhundert“, Edith-Russ-Haus Oldenburg, 15. November 2013 bis 16. Februar 2014

„World of Matter“, Hartware MedienKunstVerein Dortmund, 1 March – 22 June 2014

„global aCtIVISm“, ZKM Karlsruhe, 14 December 2013 – 30 March 2014