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Markus Käch, Works Markus Käch, Works
During this decade ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie/Centre for Art and Media), located at Karlsruhe in Germany, has rapidly become one of the major tertiary education centres in the world concerned with the teaching, exhibition and production of contemporary media art. It is a large, innovative and productive centre and one of its main objectives is to explore how central media technology is to art as we approach the end of this century.

Anyone who has visited ZKM will testify to its multifaceted teaching, curatorial and publishing activities. Someone who has been a pivotal figure in this context, in his capacity as Head of the Institute of Visual Media, is the Australian artist Jeffrey Shaw, who has been living in Europe since the late 60s. ZKM’s artist-in-residency program has attracted a variety of German and international artists including Australians Jill Scott and Peter Callas and American Bill Seaman. Seaman won ZKM’s prestigious International Award for Video Art a few years back.

What follows is an email interview with ZKM’s curator/critic Rudolf Frieling, who is in charge of the video collection at the centre, and is travelling to Australia and New Zealand with an exhibition program of German new media works. The program, prepared by ZKM in association with the Goethe-Institut and presented in Sydney in association with dLux media arts (formerly Sydney Intermedia Network), will be exhibited at the 45th Sydney Film Festival and at Artspace in June. This will be a rare opportunity to see some recent innovative German new media art.

JC Rudolf, what are the main underlying objectives of your visit?

RF To present not only video art but also CD-ROM and internet projects. Accompanying the current artistic practices and issues we have co-produced a CD-ROM on the historic and seminal decades of media art, the 60s and 70s in Germany. I strongly welcome the invitation since there haven’t been too many occasions to establish fruitful discussions and meetings with those who work in related fields in Australia and New Zealand.

JC What significance does ZKM play in the curatorial rationale of your presentation?

RF ZKM is not only the co-producer of this whole package but also crucial in helping to produce media art works. ZKM has hosted residencies of featured artists (eg Bill Seaman) and ZKM produced the only CD-ROM that promotes artistic projects: artintact. Then there is the historic CD-ROM media art action which was curated by Dieter Daniels and myself. Finally, ‘links’ can also be found to internet projects (for example, those by Jochen Gerz or Daniela Plewe).

JC What are some of the more important conceptual, cultural and technological directions that are foregrounded in the works you have brought with you?

RF There is sometimes a disturbing lack of political and social issues that surfaces in the average artistic production—with exceptions of course. The issues at stake seem to be either highly subjective with often supremely formal treatments or the works seem to indulge in playful scenarios (especially the multimedia works). Yet the manipulation of images and the underlying notions about the imagery that surrounds us lead to an intense examination of what an image is, how it is produced, and how it might be perceived.

JC What is your position concerning the future of video art?

RF To put it bluntly: the rise of multimedia will give ‘pure’ video artists a hard time but, on the other hand, this critical moment will help to establish a more concentrated perception of what has been produced so far and of what will be produced in the future.

JC Do you think CD-ROMs as constructed by visual artists, writers and cultural producers are heading for ‘the dustbin of history’?

RF No—the support may change, but that does not mean that the artistic work becomes obsolete. The videotape is still in use and ever more popular with artists from all different kinds of fields.

JC What vital role do media/video festivals and prizes have in the broader context of Germany’s media culture?

RF In the past they had a crucial importance—there was nothing else but festivals. The founding of centers and schools like ZKM and its adjacent Academy of Design will help to broaden this basis. Personally I feel that we need both sides—the hype of the festival and the more continuous reflection of artistic practices within the context of institutions. I have been able to consolidate and enlarge one of the most important media art prizes, the International Award for Video Art, which is a mutual initiative by ZKM and the broadcaster Sudwestfunk. For the first time in history, TV and video go hand in hand—at least for 3 weeks every year. This has become one of the major activities of ZKM and has helped to broaden the public acceptance of the notoriously difficult video art.

JC As a new media author and curator, did you have a curatorial input into ZKM’s digital media museum?

RF I am responsible for the setting up and presentation of our video collection which is united with a large collection of electronic music—in itself a unique combination worldwide. The other 2 public departments of ZKM, the Museum of Contemporary Art, directed by Heinrich Klotz, and the Media Museum, directed by Hans-Peter Schwarz, have been independently curated by their respective directors. There is, however, discussion of works and artists that certainly influences also one’s own work.

JC Finally, could you please say a few words about your collaborative work Media Art Action ?

RF Media Art Action is the first of a series of 3 editions which will eventually comprise the whole history of media art to the present day, hopefully, in Germany. The accompanying book with texts by the artists and introductory chapters by the editors is a perfect way to distribute the CD-ROM and deepen its content. This is, to my knowledge, the first historic review of media art that makes use of a congenial medium. This survey is bridging the gap between purely information oriented databases and a more playful and sensual introduction to the topics and works collected. The collaboration with Dieter Daniels (and with the editor Sybille Weber and the designer/programmer Christian Ziegler) was extremely effective and productive, leading to a ‘product’ that hopefully stimulates others to engage in complementary research and editorial work. I would be more than happy to study historical works from Australia or other countries on CD-ROM. Browsing through catalogues is just not enough when dealing with media art.

Current Media Art: Video Art, CD-ROM and Internet projects from Germany presented by the Goethe-Institut in association with dLux media arts (Sydney Intermedia Network). Video art works at 45th Sydney Film Festival, June 5-19; CD-ROMs and internet projects at Artspace, June 10-27. Rudolf Frieling will introduce the video sessions and exhibition opening. For further information contact dLux media arts tel (02) 9380 4255. ZKM website

RealTime issue #25 June-July 1998 pg. 28

© John Conomos; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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