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<nettime> review: Media Revolution (ed. Stephen Kovats)
Andreas Broeckmann on Mon, 27 Mar 2000 17:30:29 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> review: Media Revolution (ed. Stephen Kovats)


Media Revolution. Electronic Media in the Transformation Process of
Eastern and Central Europe. (German title: Ost-West Internet.)  Edited by
Stephen Kovats. Edition Bauhaus 6, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/M.  and New
York, 1999. 381 pp., illus. (All texts Engl. and German.) Trade, paper
55DM / US$30 (order from <biblio {AT} bauhaus-dessau.de>). ISBN: 
3-593-36365-8.  With CD-Rom: Ostranenie 93 - 95 - 97. Bauhaus Dessau
Foundation, Dessau, 1999. Mac & PC. ISBN: 3-910022-30-8. 

[Reviewed by Andreas Broeckmann for Leonardo Digital Review
http://mitpress.mit.edu/e-journals/Leonardo/ldr.html ]


Ten years after the social and political revolutions in the countries of
Central and East Europe, this region is increasingly coming into focus as
a rich and diverse cultural landscape. Artistic traditions that reach back
to the modernist avantgardes and before, are being re-connected to the
modernist and post-modernist historiographies of Western Europe and
Northern America, and join the contemporary art practices characterised by
cross-cultural discourses and global connectivity. 

More than anything else, the East-European socio-cultural revolutions of
the 1990s have been _media_ revolutions. The first episode started with
the often clandestine, minor media practices of the 1980s [1], exploded
into the televised demise of the GDR and Romanian television revolution in
December 1989, and concluded with Yeltsin's execution of the Soviet Union
at the end of 1991. Then followed the influx of video and computer
technology into Eastern Europe, along with the benefits and the pains of
the culture of capitalism. The second half of the decade saw the rapid
expansion of commercial television and the Internet, influencing the
perception of a region fragmenting into superficial normality, Nouveau
Richesse, Turbo Folk and Robber Capitalism. The 90s ended with the
high-tech images and networked communication of what has been termed the
'first Internet war', as bloody and as destructive as the earlier Yugoslav
wars, but monitored by a global audience glued to their E-mail in-boxes. 

Throughout the decade and across the post-Soviet continent, artists were
following what happened, with their own eyes and ears, with their photo
and video cameras, documenting, contextualising and transforming speedy
events and slow changes into aesthetic experiences. 

This is where the book and CD-Rom publication Media Revolution takes its
departure. It collects essays and documents artworks that span the entire
decade and that together form what is probably the richest compendium and
the broadest overview over art using electronic media and produced in
Central and Eastern Europe during the 1990s. The basis for the project is
a series of festivals and forums which took place under the title
Ostranenie in the Bauhaus in Dessau, in the former GDR, in 1993, 1995 and
1997. [2]

The three Ostranenie forums were a showcase for East-European artists
working with new media, and a meeting place for artists, curators, writers
and philosophers interested in the way in which the societal
transformations of the former Eastern Blok was being articulated in
creative media, art, and communication practices. The three VHS tape-sized
catalogues of Ostranenie -- now fully documented on the CD-Rom that comes
along with the Media Revolution book -- read like a Who is Who? of
innovative cultural practitioners and artists from a region that was, for
a decade, poised between exoticism and self-conscious attempts at
normality, and that has become one of the precarious testbeds of a
globalised world order. Texts, stills and excerpts from videos and
installations, websites and CD-Rom productions of over 500 individuals
from 32 countries are presented through an interface that is easy to use
and to search -- as soon as one realises that the main graphical elements
are sliders which are moved up and down to select categories, names and
countries. 

The book itself collects texts by 23 leading media theorists and
historians and ranges from Derrick de Kerckhove's essay about the role of
television in the changes of 1989/90 (the only text in the collection that
is reprinted here, all others are original contributions) to Geert
Lovink's real-time comments on the Kosovo War of 1999. Ryszard
Kluszczynski, Nina Czegledy and Keiko Sei recapitulate the development of
media art in Eastern Europe, while Miklos Peternak, Gary S. Schaal, Ivo
Skoric and Kostadina Iordanova deal with aspects of the Internet in the
region, and Calin Dan, Siegfried Zielinski, Inke Arns and Marina Grzinic
elucidate some of the cultural and aesthetic strategies that emerged from
the techno-social dispositive of the 1990s. Lev Manovich, whose new book
is coming out in the autumn 2000, has a text about Avantgarde and Software
in which he compares the aesthetic strategies of the Russian film
avantgarde with those offered by digital imaging software, and Dejan
Sretenovic writes about Video Art in Serbia [3]

It is hardly a coincidence that, ten years after the fall of the wall,
this publication project is providing such a broad overview over the East
European media art production of the 90s, exactly at the same time when
the catalogue of Bojana Pejic's exhibition After the Wall, which opened at
the Moderna Museet Stockholm in October 1999, is doing the same for the
artistic production of the region in general. [4] In his own contribution
to the book, the initiator of Ostranenie and editor of this timely
publication, the Canadian architect and cultural theorist Stephen Kovats,
explains the artistic strategie of 'ostranenie', or estrangement, that was
introduced by Victor Shklovski in 1916 and that has been at the centre of
the entire project which, in this book and CD-Rom, has now found a
convincing conclusion. 


[1] Inke Arns, Andreas Broeckmann: Small Media Normality for the East. In: 
ZKP4. Ed. by Nettime. Ljubljana, 1997. (URL: 
http://www.v2.nl/~arns/Texts/Media/kl-ost-e.html) 

[2] URL: http://www.ostranenie.org

[3] Cf. Dejan Sretenovic (ed.): Video Art in Serbia. Belgrade: Centre for
Contemporary Arts, 1999

[4] URL: http://www.modernamuseet.se


(Berlin, 27.03.2000)

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