From Buffalo To Karlsruhe: Media Studies


The new Mind Frames exhibition, at Karlsruhe, Germany's ZKM, takes an historical look at the Department of Media Studies, at the State University of New York-Buffalo. The show presents work by those who taught at what ZKM calls the 'most influential school for media in the twentieth century,' between 1973-1990. Artists include department founder Gerald O'Grady and James Blue, Tony Conrad, Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, Steina, Woody Vasulka, and Peter Weibel--the last three of whom also curated the exhibition. Each of these artists have played the role of media theorist as much as practitioners, thus contributing to the shape of the program, which was noted for its engagement with both analysis and production. The framework of the curriculum positioned media art in relationship to photography, film, video, and performance, while also venturing out into graphic illustration and interactive projects. A lab-like model promoted collaboration and dialogue, and a space for consideration of the broader political implications of media art among the many students who passed through SUNY-Buffalo's halls. It's no wonder that ZKM argues that the department has been just as influential on art history as the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and similar institutions. If you can't visit the show, stay tuned, next year, for MIT Press's publication of a book on the department and the works and theories that emerged from it. - James Petrie