CYBERFEST: BEGINNING AND CONTINUATION
Lizaveta Matveeva (St. Petersburg, Russia)
art critic, curator, coordinator of the festival CYFEST (CYBERFEST)
Cyberfest, founded in 2007 as an annual festival of the CYLAND MediaArtLab, initially amounted to a small program of events at the Peter and Paul Fortress. The exposition in the Ioannovsky Ravelin opened with the installation “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol that was presented by the artist’s museum in Pittsburg (USA). Additionally, the first Cyberfest is remembered for the exhibit “Story of E.A.T. 1960-2000s” dedicated to the American lab Experiments in Art and Technology that united artists, engineers and scientists. The mission of that organization, which became a prototype for CYLAND, was to expand artists’ access to new technologies and to give them an opportunity to use technological advances in their work.
CYLAND MediaArtLab was created for the same purpose of collaboration of engineers and computer programmers with contemporary artists, and Cyberfest became the platform that allowed to showcase this new art and to discuss it. With time, the festival’s geography has expanded. In recent years, its exhibitions, concerts, lectures and master classes have been held not just in St. Petersburg, but also in other cities of the world: in London (Village Underground, Bear Gallery), New York (Made in NY Media Center by IFP), Berlin (Platoon Kunsthalle, Museum of Computer Games, Kьnstlerhaus Bethanien, Urban Spree, Kino Babylon, English Theatre Berlin), Vilnius, Tokyo (Sky Gallery 2) and Bogota (Centro Internacional de Negocios y Exposiciones de Bogota).
Cyberfest is an international festival that invites media artists from all over the world. Over the years, its participants have included: Ken Butler (USA), Carla Gannis (USA), Ent Dickinson (Great Britain), Philippe Lamy (France), Lei Lei (China), Sven Pahlsson (Norway), Nicola Rae (Great Britain), Jean-Michel Rolland (France), Mariateresa Sartori (Italy), Pink Twins (Finland) and others. In addition to artists, the festival also annually engages theoreticians of media art, such as Al Doyle (USA), Paul Malone (USA), Erandy Vergara (Canada-Mexico), Dan and Ellen Pearlman (USA), Taras Mashtalir (USA-Russia) and Dmitry Bulatov (Russia).
Along with artists and theoreticians, curators from the most diverse countries have also been invited to participate. The following curators have come to Cyberfest: Anna Frants, Marina Koldobskaya, Silvia Burini, Natalia Kamenetskaya, Giuseppe Barbieri, Natasha Kurchanova, Leah Stuhltrager, Elena Gubanova, Peter Patchen, Carla Gannis, Vladislav Dobrovolsky, Boshko Boskovic, Katya Bochavar, Natalia Prikhodko, Yulia Garbuzova and others.
The responsibility for Cyberfest’s format and entry list is held by the festival board that over the years has included Phill Niblock, Silvia Burini, Natasha Kurchanova, Susan Katz, Irina Karasik, Gediminas Urbonas, Dmitry Ozerkov, Tatiana Bazzichelli, Manuela Benetton, Dmitry Bulatov, Erandy Vergara, Anna Yermolayeva, Olesya Turkina, Fred Forest, Julia Martin and Lev Manovich.
At the festival planning stage, a great deal of attention is paid to educational activities. The program of each Cyberfest includes lectures, workshops and master classes that help the unprepared public to understand the language of media art and allows the artists to share their expertise – after all, many of them come not just to showcase their works, but also to talk about new technologies and to share the possibilities that media art has today.
Each year Cyberfest acquires new partners and venues. Since 2008, the festival has collaborated with the Youth Center at the Hermitage, in whose halls many notable events have been held, both exhibitory and educational. Other partners include the Russian State University for Humanities (Moscow), Pratt Institute (New York), the Center for the Study of Russian Culture (СSAR) at Ca’ Foscari University (Venice) and the WYE Arts Center(Berlin).
Since 2008, CYLAND Media Lab has been accumulating a video archive whose curator is Victoria Ilyushkina. Video programs of Cyberfest are composed from works stored in this archive. Also, there is an annual open call for proposals. “Modus Operandi”, “Changing Landscapes”, “Way Up”, “Universe in Your Pocket”, “Action Planning: Reaction” – these and other video programs of Cyberfest have been screened at the festivals in St. Petersburg, Moscow, New York, Sao Paulo, Barcelona, Venice, Berlin, Vilnius, Helsinki and Bogota.
In parallel with the video programs, CYLAND creates programs of sound art, and since 2012 it has been forming an appropriate archive that contains works both by such pioneers of electronic music as Laurie Spiegel and by young authors. The idea to create the archive started up back at the first Cyberfest when the question arose about showcasing and storing audio art. In contemplating an optimum format, curator Sergey Komarov and his colleagues came to the conclusion that one should use the plates “as a borderline state of the immaterial sound that gained the opportunity to materialize physically in the exhibition space”.
The program of Cyberfest has been constantly expanding, and the number of its participants has significantly increased since 2007. The milestone tenth festival will gather over 70 artists and theoreticians of media art. Among them are Andrey Bartenev, Peter Belyi, Katya Bochavar, Elena Gubanova, Ivan Govorkov, Irina Nakhova, Lev Manovich, Susan Kleiner, Phil Niblock and Francesca Montinaro.
The theme of tenth Cyberfest is “Frame of Reference”. The curators Anna Frants and Elena Gubanova suggest that artists contemplate the phenomenon of coexistence and intersection of the unique and ordinary, personal and social, romantic and trivial – everything that fills the world around us with life.
The festival’s principle – the organization of exhibitions, master classes and lectures in various venues – will also be maintained during the tenth Cyberfest. In the tenth anniversary year, the tradition of creating an international art network will be continued: the festival will once again be held in several cities on both sides of the Atlantic, namely, in St. Petersburg, Moscow (galley Ground Khodynka), Bogota (SOFA, Corferias Convention Center), New York (Made in NY Media Center by IFP, Pratt Institute, The Rubelle and Norman Schafler Gallery) and London (Village Underground, Bear Gallery).
Ten years for an international festival is a little and a lot at the same time. Contemporary conditions of the wealth of information form a sophisticated consumer and influence the art that is impossible to isolate from the impact of technologies and new media. Artists experiment with technologies and look for new tools in order to convey their message and idea to their viewer as completely and coherently as possible. With time, it becomes increasingly obvious that cyber art is inseparable from traditional art. Artists mix genres and erase boundaries, proving that technologies are just material at hand. Media art is certainly transforming following technologies, but what remains paramount is the message that is inherent in any given work of art: “After all, progress only answers the questions posed to it by culture. If the old paradigm perfected the art of handling an object, then the organic paradigm fixes its attention on the art of a subject – on the art that will be created in us, by us and out of us”1. What kind of thoughts and emotions the works of media artists evoke in us and what processes they initiate – these are the only important questions. Media art develops as quickly as its tools, and the result of this development has yet to be thought through, but we may already say with certainty that the ideas have triumphed over the means.
1Genis, A. Tower of Babel. Art of the Present // Inostrannaya Literatura. — 1996. — No. 9 [Electronic source]. URL: http://magazines.russ.ru/inostran/1996/9/genis.html (Accessed date: 11.10.2016)