#095 Jan/Feb 2004


ISSN 1488-3635 #95, Part 1, January - February 2004


* ISEA News
* Editorial by Nina Czegledy, Board Chair
* ST.PETERSBURG:  Reference information about recent media art projects by Anna Kolossova

Part 2

by Angela Plohman, ISEA Coordinating Director

Welcome to ISEA Newsletter #95. This is a special 2-part issue dedicated to
media art in Russia, guest edited by Tatiana Goryucheva. Part 2 of INL #95 will
include articles by Antonio Geusa (FROM UNDERGROUND TO FOREGROUND: THE RISE AND
PAST, THE PRESENT, AND THEN...) and Tatiana Goryucheva ("DEBATES & CREDITS /
Tatiana for her work in bringing these articles together and also Katja Sokolova
for translating a number of the pieces in this issue. We hope you enjoy it!

We would like to remind all ISEA members that we are always looking for guest
editors for the ISEA ewsletter. If you are interested in editing an upcoming
issue of the ISEA Newsletter focused on your region, please contact ISEA HQ. All
guest editors receive a complimentary one-year membership to ISEA.

-- ISEA News

We are pleased to announce that the June and August 2004 issues of Leonardo 
Journal will be devoted to the ISEA2002 symposium held in Nagoya, Japan.  The
topic of the event was "orai", a Japanese term denoting passage, "comings and
goings." Participants were invited to speculate on transience in art and
technology.  We are pleased that Leonardo will be providing such coverage. The
issues will be guest-edited by ISEA Board member Peter Anders.

Effective March 31, 2004, all ISEA memberships that have not been renewed for
the year 2004 will be deactivated. For those of you who have not yet renewed
your membership for 2004, we would like to remind you that there are several
types of membership, including ISEA Associate Membershis for those unable to
pay the full membership fee. And don't forget that ISEA also offers student and
senior discounts. Please do not hesitate to contact ISEA HQ for more details.
Thank you for your continued support!

New media meets art, science, research, and popular culture at the leading
international symposium held for the 12th time: ISEA2004 in Stockholm - Tallinn
- Helsinki. For the first time an event of this scale is being organised between
three cities in three countries. ISEA2004 will take place from August 14-22,
2004. An extensive update on ISEA2004 will be sent to ISEA members shortly.

by Nina Czegledy, ISEA Board Chair

ISEA is proud to present this latest issue of our Newsletter, charting media
culture in Russia, guest edited by Tatiana Goryucheva. The range of topics
covered by the contributors clearly show the wideextent of current media
activities in Russia, a country where -notwithstanding various political and
economical restraints- alternate ideas and movements have been thriving for
centuries. Russia is widely known for its remarkable arts scene as well as
pioneering technical innovations. For many decades however, a considerable
amount of independent/or alternative initiatives have been scarcely recognized
beyond the borders of the country. I vividly recall my amazement at seeing for
the first time the experimental films  -often suffused with irony- from the
Moscow based Cine Phantom group at the end of the eighties in Budapest, or the
startling videos in the early nineties in Leningrad. To this day, our
information of the media art landscape comes mostly through international
exchanges such as the Dutch-Russian project described by Tatiana, expanding
international festivals such as Machinista, or some sensational art event
covered by the press. For these reasons, we are pleased and prod to publish for
the first time in English some of the contributions to this issue. Special
thanks are due to Tatiana for the exceptional accomplishment of obtaining and
editing these texts for our readers.

Introduction by Tatiana Goryucheva
+ related URLs

The texts, which are brought together here, represent observations and
reflections both upon the rather short history and current development of
Russian media art scene, as well as information about recent projects and their
background. Their authors are mostly "insiders", who develop projects and run
organisations, and who are well aware about the contradictory reality which
stands behind actual state of things. Nevertheless, they try to make their own
ways through financial misery, technical starvation, conservatism of cultural-
political environment, by buildng up strategies of survival through
implementing various tactics of what is better to define as "extreme art

As a result of  this equilibrist techniques some remarkable achievements and
positive developments happen. First of all, finally the centrifugal cultural
dynamic, when all roads in art career led to Moscow (and sometimes 
St.Petersburg), was broken. New centres and interesting initiatives in the field
of contemporary art recently emerged in distant Russian cities: Ekaterinburg,
Novosibirsk, Kaliningrad, Nizhniy Novgorod, Izhevsk, - to name the biggest ones.
Of course, today active interest to media is very much in focus of their
activities. Inter-regional network collaboration and exchange  projects have
started to play an increasingly important role in reshaping the local cultural
landscape. An important and active position in this process belongs to the
network of the National Centres of Contemporary Art with the head organisation
in Moscow, founded and sponored by the Ministry of Culture of RF. A series of
recent network events in the field of media art, including presentations and
lectures, were organised in collaboration between the NCCA network, other
regional art centres, and Moscow MediaArtLab which provided content and
expertise. The latter one seems to be the only institution in Russia at the
moment persistently and consistently concentrated on media art in its activities
in terms of organisational and promotional work.

The Moscow Centre for Media Art and Culture "MediaArtLab" grew up from a program
of the Soros Centre for Contemporary Art. Unfortunately MediaArtLab has never
functioned as a  real laboratory that would provide media artists with the
access  to production facilities, which nevertheless always has been the aim to
achieve. During six years of its activities, often "homeless", MediaArtLab has
established itself as the information resource centre (project Mediatheque - the
biggest in Russia collection of Russian ad international video art and related
materials) and an organiser of international media art events (annual festival
and conference Media Forum, symposia Pro&Contra, and in the past the net art
festival Da-Da-Net). A serious  breakthrough in revealing and making public the
history of Russian media art became the release of the publication and video
catalogue "Anthology of Russian Video Art" (MediaArtLab, Russian Institute for
Cultural Research, Moscow, 2002). It is supposed to be the first volume of the
series "Anthology of Russian Media Art". The Anthology includes selection of the
best and most important video works of Russian artists with the descriptions and
biographies, as well as essays of several authors about different trajectories
in the development of local video art. The first edition was published only in
Russian, the English version and video collection on DVD are coming soon.

A laboratory-type organisation which is conducting experimental and research
oriented activites mostly related to electronic music, is the Theremin Centre
of electro-acoustic music and multimedia in Moscow. The centre, which was named
after the famous inventor of the first electronic music instrument known as
Theremin-Vox Russian physicist Lev Theremin, was created in 1992 and located at
the Moscow Conservatory. In 1995 the centre got in its disposal equipment of the
former Art Laboratory of New Media founded by the Soros Centre for Contemporary
Art. Since that time young artists started to work there on visual 
experimentation with media as well.

The weakest point in current development of Russian media art scene, besides a
lack of local funding bodies and a discouraging political environment, is the
lack of professional media art education. An attempt to come up with the 
alternative solution in the absence of any academic interest to the field,
became the media art course for artists developed by St. Petersburg Institute
for Contemporary Art "Pro Arte" founded in 1999. Po Arte is concentrated
primarily on educational programs in the field of contemporary arts, being
probably the most financially successful independent contemporary art 
organisation at the moment in Russia. The 1,5-year media art course was designed
to teach young artists to use creatively new technologies by providing students
with basic knowledge about media, both practical and theoretical, history of
contemporary art, and methods of media art production.

Since the problem of getting sufficient structural funding remains irresolvable
for many organisers, most of them rely on project money and inter-institutional-
individual collaboration in order to sustain their activities. As a result, some
organisations and events tend to become nomadic, to transform in their form and
concept, or just quickly disappear from the horizon. Some even "emmigrate" from
Russia, like the festival of software art "Read_Me", which moved from Moscow to
Helsinki and now on its way to Aarhus in Denmark, andmedia art festival
"Machinista", which moved this year from Perm to Glasgow.

The major sponsors of media art projects in Russia are mostly foreign
organisations, first of all, Soros Foundation until recently, Ford Foundation,
the Netherlands Embassy and other Dutch foundations, Goethe Institute, other
national cultural centres and foreign foundations. The prevalence of foreign
funds over local ones along with the technical advantage of Western media art
often results in a disproportional over-presence of foreign media artists at
exhibitions, and especially bigger shows and festivals. The tendency to "import"
and active international cooperation becomes evident especially in St.
Petersburg, Russian "window into Europe", whose cultural life, on top of that,
is traditionally pro-European and pro-Western oriented.

Today a new generation of artists, curators and art managers enters the Russian
cultural scene. They are trying to come up with innovative ideas and explore new
territoris in their projects. An opportunity to get new experience,
information, knowledge, through active communication, access  to online
resources, travels, collaboration with foreign colleagues, participation in
international events helps the new disillusioned generation to look for wider
spectre of means and models of activities. No interest in power games and
competitive struggle for limited resources "from the top". The attention is
gradually shifting from macro-ambitions to micro-realities. Examples of
integrative strategies regarding local contexts with their geopolitical
specificities can be seen in Ekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Izhevsk and other

Related URLs:

MediaArtLab, Moscow: www.mediaartlab.ru (RUS)
Theremin Center of electro-acoustic music and multimedia art, Moscow:
www.theremin.ru (RUS)
The National Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow: http://www.ncca.ru/ (RUS)
NCCA, St.Petersburg: http://www.ncca-spb.ru/engncca/index.html (EN)
NCCA, Ekaterinburg:http://www.uralncca.ru/ (RUS)
NCCA, Nizhniy Novgorod: http://www.art.nnov.ru/index.php?lang=en (EN)
NCCA, Kaliningrad: http://www.ncca.koenig.ru (RUS/EN)
*Art magazine pH: http://www.ncca.koenig.ru/ph (RUS)
** EN:
"Pro Arte" Institute for Contemporary Art, St. Petersburg: www.proarte.ru
History of activities of Art Media Center "TV Gallery" (does not function
anymore as exhibition & presentation space): http://www.tvgallery.ru(RUS/EN)

Media Forum, International festival and conference in the frame of Moscow
International Film Festival:
http://mediaforum.mediaartlab.ru/index_e.html (EN)
Out Video, International Festival of Public Video Art, Ekaterinburg,
Deadline for OV 2004 - April 5, 2004: http://uralncca.ru/outvideo (EN)
Festival of Extra Short Film, Novosibirsk,
Deadline for ESF 2004 - April 1, 2004 http://www.esf.nsk.ru/rus/index.shtml(RUS)
Read_Me, Software Art Fesival, Moscow, Helsinki:
ttp://www.macros-center.ru/read_me/, http://www.m-cult.org/read_me/
Machinista, Media Art Festival, Perm-Glasgow: http://:www.machinista.org

INFORMATION RESOURCES on Russian contemporary & media art:
http://uchcom.botik.ru/ARTS/contemporary/362vde.htm (RUS/EN/FR) - Russian media art collection
http://www.gif.ru (RUS) - information portal contains diverse data about regional art scenes
http://www.newsletter.net.ru (EN) - news letter about contemporary art events in Russia
http://www.artinfo.ru (RUS/EN) - art news in general
http://www.arteria.ru (RUS/EN/DE) - art news from St.Petersburg
http://i-art.udmlink.ru (RUS) - contemporary art and culture in Izhevsk
http://www.nsc.ru/ru/ris/gallery (EN) - Novosibirsk galleries and artists
http://www.guelman.ru/xz (RUS) - Art Magazine / "Khudozhestvenniy Zhurnal"
http://www.ncca.koenig.ru/ph (RUS/EN) - pH art magazine

SOME MOSCOW GALLERIES & CLUBS, which present contemporary & media art:
NCCA exhibition space:  http://www.ncca.ru (RUS)
Guelma Gallery http://www.guelman.ru (RUS)
XL Gallery www.xlgallery.ru (EN)
DOM: http://dom.com.ru/ (RUS/EN)
"Club na Brestskoy": 2nd Brestskaya St., 6, t. 2000936

Tatiana Goryucheva is an independent historian and curator of media art. She
worked as a coordinator of MediaArtLab and curator at Media Art Centre "TV
Gallery", Moscow, and is co-author and co-editor of the Anthology of Russian Video
Art (project of MediaArtLab).

Alexei Isaev - Director of MediaArtLab

In Russia the notion of "media-art" can not be exactly defined due to the fact
that there is no clear understanding of the notion of "media-culture". The
reason for this is the lack of educational programmes in this sphere. The
programme "Meta Media Art" for artists at the PRO ARTE Institute and the course
"Media-culture" worked out by Olga Shihko and me for the Moscow School of
Social and Economic Sciences are the two exceptions. Another reason is that
RussiaĠs contemporary art of the 1960's-1990's deliberately took a distance from
politics, society and mass-media. The oppositional tendencies in Russian art
lead to the situation when the art scene is run by a narrow circle of people;
they have institutional status but refuse to work with innovations such as media
technologies. For a democratic society this is not a typical situation; it
reflects the most regressive features of the social-political identity of the
Soviet era.

However, among the intellectuals in modern Russia there is a growing tendency of
drawing a line between the notions of media culture and mass media, as can be
seen from the interest of theorists, journalists, artists and critics for new
forms of communication. The interest of regions in the cultural, political and
social life of cultural centres, such as Moscow, St.Petersburg and Western-
Eropean ones, is also growing. The classical western understanding of media
technologies enabled the Russian contemporary art community to integrate into
political, social and cultural processes of the international community. This
can be considered as a good beginning, but unfortunately this process is not
going smoothly: we can name only 3-4 regions (Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Nizhny
Novgorod and, to some extent, Kaliningrad) where innovative projects are being
executed. That is why one of the main projects of MediaArtLab, an organisation
possessing the largest media resource centre in Russia, is the educational
project "NonStopMedia" aimed at the popularization of Russian video art in the
Russian regions. Due to the current economic situation the most successful
projects are connected with mobile, tactical media and involve communities built
around non-profit organisations. These are art communities or interest groups
searching for cooperative projects, such as Kondratuk Foundation n Novosibirsk,
the "Dom" club and Getto.ru portal in Moscow.

We should not forget that initially the programmes of media-art and the art of
new technologies were initiated by western organisations, especially by the
Soros foundation. Nowadays innovations are not going through their most
favourable period, mainly because of the fact that financial support from the
west is being reduced: the Soros foundation's programme "Culture" has recently
been transformed into the new organisation "Institute of Cultural Policy" and
removed grants of any kind from its budget; the Ford Foundation with its already
very limited list of supported institutions also cut back on its investments.
The entrance to the European Union is still closed for us. The state and the
Ministry of Culture in particular are very passive with regard to the
development of innovative projects, multimedia festivals and media labs; as far
as contemporary art is concerned, all the funds go to just two organisations-
Rosizo, Moscow and NCCA, Moscow. These organisations - using innovations but not
investing in them - distribute their funds in a closed, hierarchical circle,
very different from the western system.

Before elections it always seems that all the state money goes into politics and
political debates, so there is no place for art. It is very important to
understand that the notion of media-culture in Russia is very different from
that in Western Europe also due to the language difference. Almost no
theoretical and practical texts on media-culture were ever published in Moscow
(the exceptions are the publishing activities of MediaArtLab, some texts in
"Khudozhestvenny zhurnal" ("Art magazine") and "Russky zhurnal" ("Russian
magazine") http://www.russ.ru (Net-culture), and some private initiatives. The
only edition of McLuhan's "Understanding of Media" was published in 2003. The
media-space of Russia is still in the hands of government and business
structures. In 2000 Internet-censorsip was seriously considered by the Russian
authorities. Within the frame of the Pro&Contra symposium
http://www.procontra.mediaartlab.ru a discussion with regard to this subject was
held. It was organised by MediaArtLab; Inke Arns and Folker Grassmuk made the
most remarkable speeches. However, no further dialogue between the authorities
and the liberal media-community followed.

Unfortunately, progress and regress in Russia can not be separated from each
other (it was not a coincidence that we named one of our international
symposiums Pro&Contra - progress & regress). MediaArtLab is still living through
periods of virtual and real institutional status, which influences only the
speed, but not the concept and the strategy of the organisationĠs development.
Judging from our experience, we can declare that in Russia it is possible to
develop media-culture as a democratic community culture, for example small
mobile events, flexible organisations using doing projects in different laces.
In Russia the notion of tactical media takes new forms connected with media-art
being in

Leave a Reply