Friday, May 3, 2013

European Media Art Festival - Part 1 of 2

I spent four days at the European Media Art Festival in Osnabrück, Germany (purely as a visitor, not an exhibitor).  The festival takes place here every year, and this was the 26th Festival, so it has been going for quite a while.  There were a lot of Germans here, naturally, but there was a strong international contingent, with people who are working in the U.S.A., Canada, and numerous European countries stretching from Russia to Great Britain.  I'm not sure that there was anyone exhibiting who is currently working in Australia or New Zealand, but I talked with a New Zealander who had a film in the Festival and currently works in Norway - this sort of mobility seems pretty common.

Osnabrück itself is a medium-sized city of about 150,000 people in north-western Germany.  I was able to stay in the middle of the old part of the city, which was obviously badly damaged in World War II, but there are still quite a few old buildings, including some of the towers that were part of the city's defences.  The festival venues were conveniently located close to where I was staying, and some of them made use of the old buildings.

Short films formed the greater part of the Festival, but there was also an extensive exhibition of installations, artist talks, workshops, and some live performances.  Within this there was an extensive stream involving University students from the German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland).  Generally there were about four things going on at once.

I was most interested in the exhibition of installations and in a series of showings of short films under the heading "Konstrukt Film oder filmischer Konstructivismus / Film as a construct or filmic constructivism" (most things were in both German and English).  There were nearly 40 short films in this series. It started off with early experiments in abstract film from the 1920s-1930s, including pieces by Oskar Fischinger, Lázló  Moholy-Nagy and Marcel Duchamp (Anémic Cinéma).  Then it went on to post-WWII pieces, mostly from the U.S.A., including pieces by Harry Smith, Len Lye (Free Radicals), Jordan Belson and more.  Included were a couple of "flicker films" that were really quite hard to watch.  The last session included works from about the last 30 years, including pieces from Larry Cuba and Takashi Ito (Spacy).  Apart from the Len Lye and Moholy-Nagy pieces, I hadn't seen any of these before, though I had heard of some of them.  Since my own videos arguably fit into a constructivist tradition I really needed to see these.

A film I didn't see, but now wish I had, was the longer film (over an hour)  Transcalar Investment Vehicles by Hilary Koob-Sassen (U.S.A./Great Britain).  This was awarded the main prize of the Festival, and an extract was shown at the award ceremony.  I suspect this film will go down as the outstanding event of the Festival.

The robots Vincent und Emily, by Nikolas Schmid-Pfähler and Carolin Liebl

 Performance  Special Effect by Peter Burr

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