Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Media Technology: Cloned Five Times

://selfportrait - a show for Bethlehem media art exhibition was initially organized in celebration of a 10th anniversary of the twin city partnership of business cooperation, including a student exchange program, between the municipalities of Cologne and Bethlehem. While Cologne is a thriving industrial city in the heart of Germany, Bethlehem continues to find itself surviving on contested soil, holy though it may be. Relying almost entirely on tourism for income, Bethlehem's future survival as a viable community has been placed in doubt by the presence of a huge security wall, erected and still being constructed by the Israeli government.
In the face of the town of Bethlehem's increasing isolation, independent curator
Wilfried Agricola de Cologne invited artists from the international stage to submit self-portraits. The art works would travel to Bethlehem and symbolically knock down the wall, which now separates the town from the rest of the world. About 350 artists participated in ://selfportrait - a show for Bethlehem, with digital prints, digital video projections/installations, multi-media and sonic art. By showing their faces through their self-portraits, the participating artists became messengers of peace.
While my own self-portrait illustrated here, and a few other artists' submissions directly addressed the context (social and political) of the Middle East, what made this exhibition unique -- beyond the exotic locale, was that the Bethlehem venue was the first stop on an eight month international tour in which the work was cloned. Herein lies the innovation: the only thing travelling in time and space between venues was computer code.
I think it has become common practice now for artists to use e-mail attachments as the delivery system for their work, but to use the attachments as the delivery system of choice when conducting an international tour was, to my knowledge, something brand new. For the tour the exhibition was cloned five times and printed anew at each stop. From July to February of 2006-07 ://selfportrait - a show for Bethlehem appeared at International Center
Al Kahf Art Gallery (Bethlehem, Palestine) - July 6-July 30 2006; Offizyna Art Space (Szczecin, Poland) October 20-November 20 2006; MAC - Museo Arte Contemporaneo Universidad Nacional del Litoral (Santa Fe, Argentina) December 10 2006-January 28 2007; Casoria Contemporary Art Museum (Naples, Italy) December 16, 2006-January 16, 2007, MACRO - Museo Arte Contemporaneo Rosario (Rosario, Argentina) February 2-28 2007. At the conclusion of each exhibition, the work was donated to the host venue’s permanent collection.
One is left wondering if the stops represented on this tour were orchestrated within the political contexts of oppression and occupation and if the gallery visitors would have reflected on their own country's individual history of intolerance. This show not only affirmed a message of solidarity, but reinforced the importance of a free and independent culture without borders. Perhaps the use of New Media technology represents the beginning of a new era for solving conflicts via communication.
Bruce Eves

No comments:

Post a Comment