Sedition was invited to present at this year’s Media Art and The Art Market Symposium II as part of Ars Electronica Festival 2017 held from 7-11 September in Linz, Austria, and organised by the University of Art and Design Linz, Department of Interface Cultures. The programme was presented as part of the new Gallery Spaces section of the festival, which is the first time Ars Electronica has explored intersections of media art with the art market. With a 36 year history Ars Electronica has grown to be one of the most respected international festivals for art, technology and society, along with the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica awards and the Ars Electronica Centre, museum and art centre for electronic art. It is exciting to see a real engagement by galleries and institutions across art and technology to address the challenges of selling, collecting and preserving media art works.
The Gallery Spaces programme took place at the festival's primary venue in PostCity Linz, a large cavernous former post sorting depot situated next to the city’s central train station. The programme featured a symposium, roundtable discussions, the Gluon Session, a new initiative support art and science collaborations, and an exhibition showcasing works curated by various gallery partners. This was the second edition of the Media Art and The Art Market Symposium – the first edition took place in October 2016 at the LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz. This edition held in collaboration with Ars Electronica is a new initiative bringing together key discussions around media art and the art market.
The symposium took place on the first day of the festival and featured presentations by myself, Ashley Wong from Sedition, Steve Fletcher from Carroll / Fletcher Gallery and The Artists’ Development Agency, Oren Moshe from Niio the online platform for digital asset management for artists, and Elizabeth Markevitch from Ikono TV. Roundtable discussions took place in the Gallery Spaces over the next two days exploring the needs of artists to sell work to help support their living, but also the technical challenges of selling these works to collectors and its long-term maintenance. From the discussions, it becomes evident that there requires new models to support artists in instances of Steve Fletcher’s newly formed artist agency to develop artists from an early stage in their career with professional mentorship; and the need to provide tools to help manage and deliver digital assets effectively such as the model provided by Niio with the appropriate contracts, descriptions and instructions for the installation and maintenance of digital works of art. There is also a need to consider documentation, as discussed by Minoru Hatanaka from the NTT InterCommunication Centre (ICC) in Japan, through gathering an archive of video interviews, photographs and materials that are available online. Additionally, there is a need to collaborate to collectively come up with international standards on how to deal with digital artworks, and to encourage acquisition by private collectors and museums and to educate people about what they are buying and the intention of the work, as described by Anita Beckers from Anita Beckers Gallery in Frankfurt. There are new possibilities with digital to provide tools for galleries and institutions to easily plan out exhibitions using a 3D environment editor such as Ikono Space. The discussions were fruitful but not conclusive, yet they form the beginning of a long-term programme that will continue to develop in the coming years at Ars Electronica.
The discussions went alongside an exhibition featuring sections curated by different partners showcasing artworks by artists in the Gallery Spaces in the basement of PostCity. The exhibition included works by Refik Anadol (pictured above) on a large screen in the entrance presented by Niio, Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau’s interactive piece, People On The Fly, a curated exhibition by Belgium’s White Circle featuring works by Ryoichi Kurokawa and Frederik De Wilde, and an impressive display of lenticular works by Markos Riebe.
The Gluon Session was organised by the Gluon Foundation in Belgium, a non-profit dedicated to fostering collaboration between artists, scientists and art collectors. The initiative aims to place scientists through a scientist-in-residence programme into the ateliers of top contemporary artists. The panel discussion led by leaders in the field including, Serpentine Galleries’ Hans Ulrich Obrist who was invited to select several artists to participate, Ars Electronica’s Artistic Director, Gerfried Stocker, and Paul Dujardin from their institutional partner, BOZAR in Brussels. These heavy-hitters hope to embed creative practices that bring together art and science into the established art world of museums and collections. It seems however, there may still be some challenges in bridging the divide between the artistic vision of the art world and its high profile status, and the insular practices of scientists that can perhaps benefit from a wider audience. How these collaborations will develop and its reception from the art world have yet to be seen.
The rest of Ars Electronica spanned far and wide into realms of artificial intelligence, bioart, animation, sound and digital music, and in the form of talks, workshops, installations, performances, hackathons, which is perhaps too much to cover at once. As a brief highlight, a few Sedition artists featured in other parts of the festival include, Matthew Biederman and a collaboration with Marko Peljhan. Their work Take Nothing for Granted… features a speech by Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech the dangers of an unchecked military industrial complex, and a chatbot that will chat to you by sending texts messages to your phone as you enter the room, raising questions about surveillance. This year Memo Akten also acted on the jury for the Prix Ars Electronica Animation award. Meanwhile, media art pioneer Shu Lea Cheang curated a programme for the fourth year in a row at Ars Electronica with several artist-in-residence at the Stadtwerkstatt cultural centre, including projects with artists experimenting with mycelium and mushroom cultures (pictured), and a tribute event, dinner and party for Armin Medosch, an Austria curator and artist who passed away earlier this year.
Overall the Ars Electronica Festival was an eye-opener to the breadth of artistic practice that span across art, science and technology in today’s world. It will be interesting to watch the growing interest in media art as it gains a larger place in the art market that can potentially present major shifts in the shape of the art world as a whole.