Media Art between Tradition and Modernity Interview with You Mi and Odgerel Odonchimed

    Opening of the International Media Art Festival: How does digital change affect our outlook on the world? / Photo: T. Bolor-Erdene

    For the first time, the Ulaanbaatar International Media Art Festival (UBIMAF) took place in Mongolia. The Goethe-Institut was partner of the festival. In this interview the curator You Mi and Odgerel Odonchimed, the director of the Arts Council of Mongolia, talk about media art in Mongolia, analogue and digital worlds of gaming and the invention of the stirrup 2000 years ago.

    “Tradition and Modernity” was the title of the Ulaanbaatar International Media Art Festival. What curatorial idea was behind this title?

    You Mi: At first glance the title seems to be a contradiction. But with this festival we really tried to relate tradition and modernity. By means of media art we wanted to show the transformative potential that is always already there with media, no matter if old or new.
    Take the invention of the stirrup by the nomadic people 2000 years ago: The stirrup was a medium that opened up new opportunities for the constellation humans/horses to explore the world and act in it.

    And today?

    You Mi: Today we have to ask questions about the influence of new media on our lives. What is changing? And how do we understand this change? This process of understanding is more successful if we go beyond the differentiation of old versus new, analogue versus digital and tradition versus modernity. Instead, we should look for connections. This is how we get a better perspective on the problems related to the fast transformations experienced by Mongolia as well as other countries. It was the aim of the Media Art Festival to sharpen this perspective.

    18 artists from Asia, Europe, North America and Australia participated in the UBIMAF: What was the result of this intercultural exchange beyond borders and language barriers?

    Odgerel Odonchimed: It is the aim of every festival to bring together different voices on a topic. UBIMAF was about the possibilities of bringing tradition and modernity together through media art. I think that the artists approached this topic with interesting artistic positions. Everyone benefitted from this international exchange.

    You Mi: For the international artists it was especially interesting to engage with life in Mongolia during the festival: We saw a strong dialogue with society and the local art scene. There was, for instance, an impromptu jamming session with Christian Faubel from Cologne and his analogue techno set: He played with the Mongolian flute player and throat singer Damdin as well as the music producer and singer Davaajargal from the band Mohanik. And the French artist Diane Rabreau explored lesser known districts of Ulaanbaatar with a group of locals.

    Christian Faubel from the Academy of Media Arts Cologne did a workshop on gaming at the Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture. How did this cooperation go?

    You Mi: The workshop was a success for both sides: We wanted to approach gaming through a combination of analogue and digital animation and programming. Students experimented with rotating discs, the initial point when animating a sequence. The students then simulated this process in a programming environment. This is how they built a bridge between the analogue and the digital.

    Eröffnung des Festivals: Tanz-Performance Edge / Foto: T. Bolor-Erdene

    Media art is important in Germany today. How is media art developing in Mongolia?

    Odgerel Odonchimed: As far as media art is concerned we are just getting started in Mongolia – in the art scene as well as in the universities. One example: Only in 2012 a chair for “Media Animation” was established at the University of Arts and Culture here in Ulaanbaatar. Unlike in Germany, there is no long tradition of academic engagement with media art in Mongolia. That’s exactly why we organized the 1. Ulaanbaatar International Media Art Festival: We wanted to present the international status quo in Ulaanbaatar and thus foster the abilities of our local artists.

    What surprised you the most about UBIMAF?

    You Mi: There were many nice surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise was to see all the open and curious young festival visitors, playing and engaging with the artworks. To me it’s one of the greatest achievements of the festival that it facilitated this playful engagement with media art.

    This year the UBIMAF took place for the first time. Will there be a second edition of the festival?

    Odgerel Odonchimed: Yes, the UBIMAF took place for the first time. And it shouldn’t be the last one. Continuity is important in order to develop media art in Mongolia. There are annual media art festivals in many countries. I would like that for Mongolia, too. That’s why we are already working with the Goethe-Institut Mongolia on ideas for a second edition of the festival.

    Odgerel Odonchimed studied engineering and design at the Technical University in Budapest. She has been an advocate for the development of the Mongolian cultural and artistic scene since 2003, for example through her work for the Arts Council of Mongolia (ACM). Today she is the director of ACM.

    You Mi works for the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. She curates international exhibitions and performances with a special interest in the history of the Silk Road, media and technology. She also curated a performance program at the Asia Cultural Center theatre in March 2016. She is an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow.

    Questions asked by Algirmaa Luvsan and Michael Heinst

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