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EMAgining the future

Kathy Cleland, Experimenta

Kathy Cleland is a Sydney-based writer and curator. She works with Street Level and is currently curating stage two of the Cyber Cultures project which will be hosted by Casula Powerhouse in March 1997

experimenta media arts festival experimenta media arts festival
As it heads into its second decade, the Melbourne-based Modern Image Makers Association (MIMA) has reinvented itself with a new name—experimenta media arts—and a new direction. Kathy Cleland talks to new staff members Shiralee Saul and Peter Handsaker about the changes to the organisation, and previews some of the highlights of the upcoming experimenta media arts festival in Melbourne.

KC Why the name change? “New Name, New Image, New Direction”…what exactly does that mean?

SS The time had come to re-invent the organisation and reposition MIMA in the public perception. Feedback from present and potential members indicated that the concept of ‘modern image makers’ had reached its use-by date and there was a widespread perception of the organisation as catering to and for a very small group of mainly Melbourne-based 16mm film practitioners working in very formalist and structuralist modes. Many other practitioners felt disenfranchised by a perceived bias in the organisation’s activities and public presentation and suggested that the organisation was not representing either new concepts or aesthetic directions in film and video practices nor innovations in practices brought about by the digital revolution.

Along with the name change to experimenta media arts, which has allowed us to redesign our organisational identity to reflect a more professional and less partisan approach, we have initiated a series of strategies to more effectively promote, publicise and distribute experimental media. These strategies include using the www to provide educational, archival and associated information about Australian media arts and artists, increasing the scope and coverage of MESH, so that it is becoming a truly national journal, using new(ish) screening possibilities such as community television and building strong alliances with similar organisations to share resources and support each other’s activities.

KC Does the change in experimenta’s focus mean a shift away from film and video based practices towards the digital domain? Will you still be representing more ‘traditionally’ based experimental film and video practices?

SS We will continue to represent ‘traditional’ experimental screen works. We are extremely concerned that the achievements and advancements of past experimental media pioneers is not forgotten or overlooked, and that contemporary discussions of production and aesthetics take them into account…that what is new today is seen to be growing from the ‘new’ of yesterday rather than simply springing up out of nothing. Of course, many practitioners are switching to or augmenting their practices with digital media—and through MESH, our exhibitions and the festival we hope to explore and support this development. Digital media and electronic networks are increasingly being used by creative artists of all kinds to generate innovative and exploratory works—it is only natural that as the amount and quality of works using digital media increases so too will our exhibition and promotion of them.

KC So, what can we look forward to in this year’s festival?

PH Short, Sharp and Very Current at the (Lonsdale Street) Power Station is the centrepiece of the festival. It’s an integrated program of installations (by over 20 artists) plus screenings (by some 50 artists), performances and a closing night rave party/event at the Power Station. It’s the first time experimenta has had the use of a single exciting, multi-purpose venue enabling us to exhibit a range of practices alongside each other (a one-stop shop) plus there’s a bar and festival club with a games arcade—which will encourage people to come along, have a drink and linger.

SS The Power Station events will, in turn, be extended by the festival’s series of satellite exhibitions at the CCP (Burning the Interface and mediaSphere), ACCA (The Body Remembers—an interactive survey by Jill Scott), NGV (Domestic Disturbances), Linden Gallery (ATOM Australian International Multimedia Awards exhibition plus mediaSphere) and the CMEC’s Reflective Space concert series at the Power House in conjunction with Short, Sharp and Very Current. We are also running eTV (experimenta Television)—a curated program of national and international work in conjunction with SKA-TV and Open Channel. eTV will screen on Channel 31 and will also be available on tape via our mediaSphere viewing rooms at various satellite exhibitions.

PH Highlights within the screening component of Short, Sharp and Very Current are the Stan Brakhage new works (1990-1995), the Guy Madden retrospectives and the Super-8 screening, talk and photo exhibition by New Yorker Richard Kern—which should open a few eyes!

SS The juxtaposition of historic programs and materials alongside new is intended not only to stimulate discussion about the current state of play in the media arts, but also to question whether multimedia is in fact a ‘radical new development’ or simply on the continuum of the history of experimentation and innovation within the experimental media arts.


experimenta publishes the quarterly media arts journal MESH, also available on-line as e-MESH from the experimenta web site http://www.peg.apc.org/~experimenta [expired] - new address http://www.experimenta.org/mesh/

Kathy Cleland is a Sydney-based writer and curator. She works with Street Level and is currently curating stage two of the Cyber Cultures project which will be hosted by Casula Powerhouse in March 1997

RealTime issue #15 Oct-Nov 1996 pg. 19

© Kathy Cleland; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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