Something for the teacher’s pet
Most TV stations these days are expected to have a high-quality online presence. ARTE, a German-French station that focuses primarily on cultural content, operates ARTE Creative, one of the industry’s most ambitious online projects that effectively combines the Internet with television.
“I find these artists horrible” – as part of a questionnaire, this category would likely possess a certain curiosity factor. The people who are being asked to answer? Well, there is a bit of humor in that too: top students from around the world who pay a so-called “Teacher’s pet premium” (€300). Equipped with “Excellent” letters of recommendation from their professors, these pupils can apply to editorial teams to have their works presented on a website which, with these types of promotions and projects, makes other comparable arts-oriented sites look rather bland. ARTE Creative, the trilingual (German, French, English) website responsible for this entertaining content, is from the Strasbourg-based broadcaster ARTE, a German-French station founded in 1992 that deals almost exclusively in high-end cultural programming.
Network, laboratory, resourceSince the start of 2011, ARTE Creative has been in a constant state of development, an effort that has made it “an international, content-rich and interactive network, laboratory and resource for artists, cultural producers and anyone who enjoys a bit of surprise and inspiration.” The self-stated goal of the site is to “build a creative community with which we can then develop new content formats that bridge the gap between the Internet and television.” That is at least the way participation in the project is described to the target group. In the print brochures, ARTE’s president and vice president sound a bit more official and competitive: “In the coming years the station wants to prove that creativity is not limited to the TV screen. We will be participating in the innovative and proactive convergence of linear TV and the Internet.” Combined with ARTE+7, a web TV portal founded in 2007, and ARTE Live Stream, launched this year, ARTE Creative represents yet another element of the station’s increased online presence.
A lively visual presenceThe content is not simply taken from the TV lineup at ARTE. Photo: Yelena Kovalenko © iStockphotoAt ARTE Creative, content is not simply taken from the TV lineup at ARTE and adapted for online use. The editorial and artistic content at ARTE Creative is frequently taken from the worlds of photography, Internet art, video art, graphic design, street art or even architecture, and they come from three sources: In addition to formats jointly developed by project managers and users, or by partner institutions who produce their own works, content at ARTE Creative is predominantly created be users, so-called user-generated content or UGC. Indeed, it is the community of users that provides the artistic work that defines the content at ARTE Creative.
Berlin artist Delia Keller, for instance, was tasked by ARTE Creative to provide humorous, purely photographic answers to questions from the editorial staff such as “If there is a god, what would you like to hear from him/her/it when you knock on heaven’s door?” or “What would you normally never take a picture of?” The website also recently launched a monthly series called Art Geeks, which features individuals who use new technologies for artistic purposes, and a video series called Josef Gyrls, which showcases former TV wild man Niels Ruf. Another part of the website shows archived works or student projects from ARTE Creative partner organizations like the Video Forum of the NBK (Neuer Berliner Kunstverein), the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratif (EnsAD) in Paris, or the National Film School in Łódź, Poland. Projects such as a call from the editorial staff to create temporary background images (MyWallpaper) for the ARTE Creative website, in return for cash, and the ARTE Creative Music Award also contribute to the lively visual dynamic of the occasionally chaotic website.
Slowly becoming Europe’s premium cultural channelContrary to what one might think, however, all of this effort is not just a ploy to use the community aspect as a way to keep people on the site. “Become a member”, “Get involved!” and “My ARTE Creative” are all buzzwords that call users on the site to participate in “your network for contemporary culture”. The personalized uploads (videos, photographs, animation, audio files and texts) from the platform’s young, creative target group are not simply meant to serve as a “multimedia portfolio” that draws, according to the channel’s own marketing, “art directors, festival organizers, journalists, top creatives, curators, collectors and hundreds of thousands of other people.” Rather, the concept is that artists get to know one another through ARTE Creative, exchange ideas and possibly even collaborate on projects.
Alain Bieber, former editorial staff member at ART magazine and now project director at ARTE Creative (since 2010), says that share of content contributions from French and German users is about even, with just 10% coming from other countries. The staff is expecting that this split will remain constant for the relaunch of the site, which is planned for summer 2012 and, ideally, will include selected content that will also be broadcast on the ARTE TV station. Ultimately, ARTE Creative’s efforts to promote collaboration among creative people from all over Europe is in fact ARTE’s overall objective as a company: Not just to be a German-French broadcaster, but, as Bieber explains, “a European cultural channel.”