Transmediale :: Lynne Sanderson

February 2006, Berlin Germany Transmediale is a festival for art and digital culture, taking place once a year, first week of February, in Berlin. It is a forum of communication for artists, media workers and a broad public interested in arts Transmediale 2006 includes a large media art exhibition, which can be seen for an extended period of six weeks. Transmediale 2006 is devoted to the Reality Addicts and their artistic strategies, with which they subvert the technological paradigm of reality.

Club Transmediale realises a several day festival held simultaneously with the Transmediale festival. Its aim is to present the most outstanding international productions in electronic music and audiovisual performance, as well as to reflect recent artistic and technical developments in panels, screenings and artist presentations and presents the idea of the “club” as a physical space whose uniqueness lies in its relative non-definition, giving a wide scope for the interplay of divergent media, formats and artistic approaches.

Experience …
After a fairly eventful flight (a “race around the world experience” in Frankfurt Airport – I literally ran to find my connecting flight to Berlin) and arriving in Berlin without my luggage, “I am sorry Miss Sanderson you will have to go to lost and found .” I ended up waiting at my accommodation for 12 hours for Lufthansa to deliver my bag. Unfortunately, this caused me to miss  the opening of the exhibition “Smile Machines”.

Finally, braving the beautiful cold and black ice, I traveled to the Akademie der Kunste and stood in line with the rest of the punters waiting to get a pass to Transmediale and Club Transmediale. By this time I was sick of waiting, but to my horror discovered that even with a pass to everything, I still needed to wait in line for individual events! I even needed to line up to get a ticket to get into the exhibition. This was extremely frustrating for everybody, and hopefully next year they can rectify this problem.

Primarily, my interest in attending Transmediale was to check out some interactive works and try and hear some artists talk about their works. I was also extremely eager to experience Club Transmediale.

The opening night of the club, no line – amazing. The venue was Maria am Ostbahnhof (an old industrial building on the banks of the frozen Spree in the club mecca of Freidrichshain). There were three rooms, all with an incredible visual setup, all different musical styles. The main room was a large rectangular room with multiple projections on two of the walls. One of my favourite veejays, Mumbleboy from NYC, was playing his particular style of cutesy tech visuals along with some great live tech/house. I was looking forward to trying to attend the whole week in clubland!

After a few brews and negotiating the night trains back to my accommodation (-5°C at 4am!) I slept like a baby dreaming of more audiovisual acts the next night. A bright white awoke me – snow! I had to force myself to stop running around like a crazed child laughing at the snow. I just kept telling people I was from the desert. Everything was soft and bright.

The conference side of Transmediale fortunately did not start until after midday. This was great because it allowed delegates to go out to Club Transmediale the night before and not miss any talks.

There were a few panels dealing with physical interactivity. Speakers of note …

Simon Penny [USA/AUS] talked about a non traditional new mode of aestheticism that is created by the process of interaction. Another relevant point made by Penny was that, as an artist creating an interactive, you are reinforcing action and sensation and opening up a platform for the user to “learn”. This could produce either a positive or a negative outcome. Penny’s robot, Petit Mal, was also included in the “Smile Machines” exhibition.

Norman White [CA] spoke on the panel entitled “Mistakeology” looking at the imperfections and unexpected mistakes that can occur with technology and how this can inform the artwork. The panel talked about “the moment of the glitch”, rendering visible the accident of the machine. White talked about his artworks of the past 30 years, his experiments in robotics, and trying to use mistakes in programming to his advantage. His paper discussed “Utility / Futility”, mistakes of the moment, mistakes of tentative action (knowing that you will make mistakes), mistakes of an era (generational mistakes) and how these have affected our everyday lives. He sees the discrepancy between people and machines as being the cause of useability conflicts.

The exhibition “Smile Machines”, conceptually looking at humour, had a historical focus and featured quite a few robotics orientated pieces and way too many long video pieces. This was a large exhibition with quite a few works of note:

Norman White’s [CA] – Helpless Robot is a large non painted wooden box with handles. An annoying female voice barks at you to spin it. When you do, it says “not that way” or ”faster” or a myriad of other commands. Very playful…

In Dara Birnbaum’s [USA)- Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman 1978-79, scenes of the 70’s tv series Wonder Woman are re-edited and repetition used to enhance the moment she turns into a superhero. This took me back to my childhood and is a very early example of video art. After watching the lyrics spelled out on the screen, à la karaoke style, I couldn’t get the track “Wonder Woman Disco” by the Wonderland Disco Band out of my head … oh yeah!

After his recent death, it was inspirational to see a historical piece by the godfather of video art, Nam June Paik.The Thinker – TV Rodin 1976/78 is a replica of Rodin’s sculpture, the thinker, gazing at a live camera feed of itself of a monitor of that era. Also, another interesting historical aspect about this piece, was the fact that the original 1970s video technology was used to show the piece.

Some other works of note…

The winner of the Transmediale award was Agnes Meyer-Brandis [de] – SGM-Iceburg-Probe. This piece resided in a courtyard in a tent at the Akademie der Kunste. Upon entering, you noticed a monitor and a hole in the ground. Meyer-Brandis (wearing her ice gear including beanie with pom-pom and rubber boots) handed you the string to lower the probe into the hole in the ground. You were told to watch for unusual lifeforms on the monitor. The monitor showed a camera view going down an ice hole, and occasionally tiny people or imaginary creatures would appear. The rope provided a certain weight to give you the feeling that the hole was actually really deep!

The main aim of the SGM-lceberg-Probe is the investigation of subterranean icebergs located beneath ice-scating-rinks and other hidden worlds. With the SGM-Probe [Subgladalis Montometer] subterranean life-forms and ecosystems can now be studied directly in their natural environment. This is an extremely humorous piece. The thing that I found most intriguing about Meyer-Brandis’ works is the way in which actual scientific data is intermingled with fantasy. She maintains the suspension of disbelief.

GWEI – Google will eat itself – UBERMORGEN.COM [int]
The artists raise money by serving Google text advertisements on their websites. With this money they automatically buy Google shares which means that they buy Google via its own advertisement. Google eats itself – but in the end the artists own it and make a lot of money!

On a Wednesday Night in Tokyo – Jan Verbeek [de]
Verbeek recorded five minutes of a Tokyo ritual which repeats itself daily. At a subway station people get squeezed into a train like sardines… Just when you think no-one else will fit …. Amusingly, the officials who push the commuters in the train door are wearing white gloves!

Roermond-Ecke-Schönhauser -Markus Kison [de]
Webcams make it possible for us to have a real-time-look at distant places and times. Kison has created physical model replicas of the space in which the webcam exists (ie. the buildings/streetscape) and projects the corresponding webcam image onto these models. Looking at these webcams projected in this manner gives you a “godlike” view of the world. Tiny people and tiny cars are in a model city view. A distant, yet virtual reality becomes something real, tangible.

The club presented some varied ahd sometimes crazy acts, my favourite being Doddodo [JPN]. She looked bizarre, jumped around on top of a table triggering various samples – occasionally saying “fuc u” (in a thick Japanese accent) to the po-going lads in the crowd. They lapped it up!

Jean Jacques Perry [FR/USA] at 80 years young, the godfather of electronic music, gave us a slideshow about his life and works. He then did a performance at the club with collaborator Dana Countyman; Wearing a gold lamé jacket and smoking a cigarette, he looked like he was having as much fun performing as he did at the age of 30. Amazing!

Shu Lea Cheang [USA] (creator of the seminal webwork Brandon talked refreshingly about her works and her dealings with particular governments censoring her exhibitions/happenings. Particularly the unexpected censorship laws of Norway. Cheang had written a script for a movie called Fluid. This movie never got made, but she was invited to Norway and developed the movie into a conceptual sex project and installation. This performance piece/happening was a porn casting session in a tent at a rock and roll festival. Due to Norway’s anti-porn laws this happening got cancelled. If Cheang had let it continue, she was risking everyone involved (curators etc.) getting a fine. This incident caused a lot of debate on cultural funding and censorship issues in Norway, and gained a lot of publicity in international press.

While I was in Berlin, l also checked out some other galleries and exhibitions. The most notable was NGBK ( in Kreuzberg. The exhibition “Resolution/Dissolution” consisted of still images created with blinking lcd Lights and documentation of the famous Blinkin’ Lights project.

I went further into the trendier area of Freidrichshain, which presented itself with cool clothes shops (including the biggest op-shop I have ever seen in an old socialist building with the most amazing spiral staircase) and a myriad of restaurants and bars. Here I went to hear some Australian artists talking about their residencies at Transit Lounge ( and their experience of being an Australian and making art in Berlin. Interestingly, being located in Berlin let them look at Australia from an outsider’s point of view. It always amazes me how you can leave Australia and meet and learn about other Australian artists! Check out Cat Hope’s website (http://www.metaphonica/com) for her piece Phonebook, created at Transit lounge.

Overall, attending Transmediale provided me with networking opportunities, the chance to experience some inspirational pieces of media based art and the ability to document artworks and performances.

Thanks ANAT!

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