Unfinished Business in Berlin


The city of Berlin has been experiencing a major cultural revival for the last few years. An influx of international artists in search of affordable housing has only enhanced the climate of creative frenzy boiling in the city. But while Berlin has a long artistic legacy, this revival has only caught fire in the last few years. So when one considers that Transmediale, the new media festival based here, is currently celebrating their twentieth anniversary, they must realize that the festival's organizers have long been at the forefront of supporting and cultivating the contemporary arts in eastern Germany. From January 31 through February 4, the twentieth annual Transmediale Festival once again presents a gigantic program of exhibitions, screenings, panel discussions, performances, and other events that 'explores how art and society are changing under the influence of media and technologies which become more and more dominant in our everyday lives.' This year, they also change their subtitle from 'international media art festival' to 'festival for art and digital culture,' arguing that 'in contemporary art, digital media like video and electronic networks are now so wide-spread that a strict definition of what constitutes media art seems no longer possible.' This seems like a positive development for the community that Transmediale serves and generates a perfect platform for the theme of this year's events: 'Unfinish!' The curatorial decisions behind the selections presented here cast an eye toward work that is open to change, perpetuity, and even reversal. From Stelarc's arguably gratuitous bodily implants to the status of the Iraq War, the possibilities of change and reversal are questions that have haunted artists for some time (and will be raised in this year's panels). As the conference lineup proves, 'new' media is not immune to this inquiry. - Antje Wetzel