Anxiety and liquidity seem to be fairly overused words so far in 2016. They represent perhaps the general state of mind and things, in which stability is a privilege from the past and realities only come true at a speculative level. Those two terms, among others, are leading subjects of transmediale, a yearly festival on post digital cultures, hosted at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) and running February 3 to 7.
The vast programme of transmediale 2016, subtitled ‘conversationpiece’ is structured under four main streams: anxious to act, anxious to share, anxious to make and anxious to secure. These enable the visitor to identify the nature of the happening, thematically or formally. A wide range of formats are running and overlapping each other throughout the four days, aiming to raise questions and generate propositions for change and adaptation to a future that might already be here.
Referencing 17th and 18th century portraits of tea parties, picnics and salons, this edition of transmediale is meant to become a conversation. As formerly privileged conversations have been decentralised and democratized over time, and in a world where “everybody’s talking”, there is an urgency to create not only new vocabularies, but a common ground in order to acknowledge the value of talking in itself.
The more static elements are installations and interventions, and are spread out all over the massive shell-like concrete building. Included are the projects Atlas of MediaThinking and MediaActing in Berlin, a durational research intervention by Diakron called Hybrid Organizations and Market for Immaterial Value, among others.
In the Theatersaal some video works from Norman Cowie, Beatrice Gibson or Eleni Kamma are screened. Kamma’s work, ‘Yar bana bir eğlence. Notes on Pharresia’ reflects on censorship and the unequal distribution of wealth. “Yar bana bir eğlence” claims the urgency of the creation of a political voice, such as Karagöz’s one, to be a symbolic character from the ottoman empire.
Issues common to the transmediale streams are picked up and discussed at The Panic Room Session. These sessions serve as an informal space to discuss urgent topics and its participants are selected from other transmediale events or as external actors from all backgrounds. Market uncertainty is the topic of the third Panic Room Session, and it aims to revisit the role of the artist in a world in perpetual crisis. TTIP, TPP and TISA are branches for a ramification of terms currently used to refer to markets, such as “liquidity” or “hybridity”. Those floaty descriptors are scrutinized and redefined throughout a four hour panel moderated by curator Helen Kaplinsky and writer Elvia Wilk.
Denmark-based research collective DIAKRON open the discussion, analysing hybrid corporations which pursue shifts and improvements rather than just profit. Designer Femke Herregraven presents her online platform-game called Liquid Citizenship –sponsored by V&A– where anybody can check if they are eligible to get a specific citizenship. A more techie approach is offered by entrepreneurs Trent McConaghy and Jip de Rideer, who respectively present a decentralised model for the internet and a digital platform to trade with solidarity. Finally, artists Valentina Karga and Pieterjan Grandry, MoneyLab and Shu Lea Cheang – whose practices are devoted to exchanging and challenging value using materials such as garlic, gold coins or collective gestures – concluded the panel by discussing the value of money new forms, such as cryptocurrencies.
In the Anxious to Share stream, the hybrid event Making Planetary Scale Gestures, which is moderated by Ben Vickers, gathers artist James Bridle, designer Sarah T Gold, curator Troy Conrad Therrien and Femke Herregraven. Bridle presents extracts of his body of work inspired by the Superstudio collective and their idea of using grids as systems of networks. Herregraven speaks of her research around cables used by data centers in remote geographic locations, and Therrien claims that computation is architectured.
In the Auditorium, the Keynote Conversations are running every day. Under the stream Anxious to Act, Hito Steyerl and Nicholas Mirzoeff present their papers around the industrialization of vision, surveillance and sovereignty. The former points out the necessity of mediation in order to understand images and visual material nowadays whereas the latter talks of how collective gestures such as “hands up, don’t shoot“ can become a visual common or a icon for solidarity.
All this is just a small insight of what transmediale really is: it is necessary and enough to awaken some kind of actively critical approach in order to select and process the conversations in which to take part. Most of the panel discussions and lectures are uploaded to transmediale’s YouTube channel, for access for those who missed them. This might be the democratic counterpart of the festival, whose pricing makes it accessible to only a few; active participation and a physical presence in conversation is otherwise not as democratically open, the way it might have been with the former picnics and salons. However, the digital display of material produced here responds to the ideals and issues central to transmediale, serving as an important reference archive for anyone with the means to access it. **