DEAF_00 Media Academy Day Report

Report by Nadia Palliser about the DEAF_00 Media Academy Day.

The Media Academy Day highlights the educational aspects of art academies, focusing specifically on questions of multi-media, collaboration and interdisciplinarity. Looking to the future of art academies, wrapped in high bandwidth and wide curricula, teachers and students are developing innovative venues and new spaces for working and playing with new media. Yet, the academy's ambivalence towards the technical determinism of new media and the romantic drive for content and artistic production seems to remain a matter of debate: does the art student only learn how to handle the media or must the art academy also promote an artistic spirit, consistent to the myth of the gifted artist? It seems the 'status' of the artist may be changing but in which way? Does the artist become increasingly and schizophrenically interdisciplinary due to the variety of media? And if so, how might depth be found in a flexible curriculum, moving between different sources of technology and information?

Frans Evers from the Interfaculty of Sound and Image in The Hague started off the presentation, giving an auto-biographical account of his adventures in sound and image. After working as a developmental psychologist in the field of synaesthaesia and experimenting in fringe electronica at the same time, Evers started working at the conservatory of the Hague in the mid eighties, also housing the Institute of Sonology, founded by Dick Raaymakers in 1966 (The institute initially started off in collaboration with the University of Utrecht and moved to the conservatory of The Hague in 1986). Working together with Raaymakers, leaning more towards education than research, Evers set up a Centre of Audio-Visual media. He organized unconventional events of sound and image - reliving the sixties and the atmosphere of performance - as in the eventful visit of John Cage (November 1988) provoking random happenings all over the school. In 1993, the Interfaculty of Sound and Image was formed in a merger between the art academy and the conservatory of the Hague. A curriculum of recording and composing techniques was devised, while events were organized simultaneously. Recreating Schönberg's project "Die Glückliche Hand" (1912), for example, a media-version of light crescendo and music was produced. Also playing with Mondriaan's utopic ideas on music and with the aeolian piano, students were motivated to look and hear deeper into their material. Evers showed a few works of the students at the Interfaculty: kaleidoscopic images, jumping into data matrixes, video material and a recording of the Sonic Acts festival in the Paradiso (1999). Initiatives for interdisciplinary crossovers are being developed at present, perhaps as a collaboration between the University of Leiden, the Conservatory, the Art Academy and the Interfaculty - grand schemes for the near future.

MECAD, a new media centre in Sabadell-Barcelona was founded in September 1998. Coinciding with the creation of a new degree in Electronic Art and Digital Design, ESDI, Mecad lends support to these new studies, focusing primarily on digital and telecommunications enable unprecedented aesthetic experiences. The network is a structural metaphor for the school: they wish to offer a multi-directional curriculum of new media subjects, a dispersive nexus of media education. Since institutional models seem obsolete and inoperative, other forms are sought, thoroughly based on the technical possibilities of the new media at hand. Demonstrating the CD-Rom - Artevision, metaphors of 'delight', 'energy' and 'the bubble' gave access into an extensive domain of historical and contemporary information on Spanish artists (between the '60's and 90's) and their use of different (new) media. For example Jose Val del Omar (1958) who experimented in abstract cinema or tactile vision, as he called it himself. Net-work was shown - elaborating on the "click it, click it good syndrome"; these were flat images concerning the artist's mother - all too freudian, however random the digital medium might be. Somehow the drive for content and artistic production seemed to collide uncomfortably with the media-specific subjects at the school: technology itself was in fact the problem as opposed to the use of technology to make artistic products with content. Is this not one and the same thing however? To return to the familiar ambivalence between technology and the use of technique favours the creative artist of avant-garde proportions; is the latter not something the 21st century and its new media have the potential to transform?

The Kunsthochschule für Medien (founded in 1990) in Cologne, breathes Brechtian sophistication, as a laboratory of testing media and fantasies. Promoting the spirit of the free experiment and embracing all areas of audio-visual media, heterogeneity is emphasized with Siegfried Zielinski's monumental statement running through the school - "There is no master form of expression". The change in industry - provoking a switch from hard to soft media - enables a mixture of activities and events to coincide and explode in an academy of fine arts, design, film and theory. The question of interdisciplinarity lies more with the students themselves than in the curriculum: "If there is interdisciplinarity, people are very undisciplined." Andreas Walter showed a few of his works, one of which was inspired by Vilém Flusser, approaching time as a communicative code: the novel, the image and the video were taken as three different forms of encoding and decoding, finding the rhythm of its time-based form and interlocking them on plasma screens. An archive of documents and letters by Vilém Flusser is now accessible at the school and will soon be online for all to visit.

The Frank Mohr Institute, Groningen, strives to find both openness and isolation in their curriculum, playing with experimentation but trying to simultaneously give theoretical support as an academy. The all too familiar dialectics of art and design as opposed to science, art history as opposed to future, discipline as opposed to interdisciplinarity were presented, the teacher fumbling with a plastic sheet, the projector being out of order. The students, on the other hand, Julian van Alderen en Arno Coenen (now graduated and showing work at Mama - The Last Road Trip) excessively moved with the medium, inspired by old-time computer aesthetics - flat digital spaces of green matrices with of without interactive purpose. The communicative gap between theory and practice seemed immense: the school offered "polariteiten" of art and technology on the one hand while the projects seemed completely immersed in hightech on the other, presenting a video by Arno Coenen - Deus Ex Machina - and the internet project "Nine Nerds" - a collective of net-based students.

IAMAS, a Japanese media art academy, seeks a merger between Art and Science, cultivating minds as well as computing techniques. Combining the laboratory with the school, the emphasis lies especially on interactivity and developing new interfaces through the digital medium. Many works were shown at the Media Academy Day - for example a media device for a Handscroll, of which the original could no longer be handled. The interface allowed the user to move the scroll him/herself, hear the poet recite the scroll and find information on its history. The teacher, being a philosopher, seemed especially excited by these possibilities, finding richness of thought within the complexity of media and the memory of different traditions and philosophical expressions.

After the array of educational initiatives within media art academies, the qualities of interdisciplinarity remain ambiguous nonetheless. As much as new academies strive to create interdisciplinary curricula, the dilemma between depth of media-knowledge and an all-round surface-like media education seems apparent. Avoiding modernist medium specificity, traditionally found at the basis of the art academy, yet bombarded by technical know-how on new media, academies waver between ideological and practical education. While teaching the student how to handle the variety of media, the wish to infuse the student with an artistic drive of some kind continues. Is the latter not a residue of the romance of the avant garde? And will the status of the artist change once this is discarded? Weary of such questions, the academies were only sure of one thing: the interdisciplinary factor could only be found in the actual collaborative projects of the academies, where different disciplines worked and communicated together. By combining layers of fantasy, history, media and memory, immaterial richness might be found in and through new media education.

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