Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cecilia Stenbom: "13th Media Art BIennale" Wroclaw, Poland

13th Media Art BIennale
WRO 09 Expanded City, Wroclaw, Poland
5 - 10 May 2009
Exhibitions open till 7th July 2009


The thirteenth WRO Biennale, held on the twentieth anniversary of the first Sound Basis visual Art festival issue, is the event’s first edition to be held at the WRO Art center – our new permanent exhibition space.

The projects’ development functioning within WRO structure enables invited artists to create new works during artists-in-residence program. The biennale shows effects of cooperation be-tween the regions of Alsace and the Lower Silesia, in the framework of which artists’ and curators’ residencies take place. We show also an innovative extension of Wartopia, the project by Alek- sandra polisiewicz, being an installation to which we have added up a potentiality of interactive dimension.

Making innovative projects one of the leading subjects of actions taken by the center, we have
preserved what through the existing practice proved to be a useful tool for setting phenomena in an order and enabling an afterthought thereon. Such a tool is offered by lead issues that appeared in previous editions of the WRO Biennale. complexity of relations against information society was the subject-matter of a symposium and exhibition geo/Info Territory in 1997, subsequently resumed in 2003 by the theme called globalica. Durability and transformations of cultural values was the subject of Mediation/Medialization conference in 2000. The liaisons between artistic out- put/creative work and its media vehicles were comprised by the topics: The power of Tape, 1999 – a peculiar farewell to the tape as an avant-garde art carrier in 20th century; and, Screens, 2001 and Another Book, 2005.

WRO 09 undertakes the theme of Expanded city, referring to the avant-garde tradition and
dwelling on issues of the city as a variable medium capable of coding and recoding, determining
the observation point for contemporary mediality. The symposium as much as the competition
and special presentations made by invited authors and curators attempt at determining the dynamism of this expanding space.

Contrary to most of large media art events, the WRO International Biennale of Media Art con-
sists in only one competition section with one main prize, in other words: the entries are not categorised after their presentation formats (of course at the stage of the Biennale programme’s composition individual types of work are aggregated into projections, exhibitions, and presentations). This approach, while breaking the line of art audiences’ habits, follows however from the very acknowledgement of the fact that many submitted works simply do not fit in any identifiable category, or – even more often – may be easily transferred between categories.

This somewhat traditional breakdown by screen works, installations (and objects), and perfor-
mances however – if nevertheless applied – would have worked out exceptionally well this time. A great majority of the contest entries belong first and foremost, or exclusively, to one of the aforementioned groups (this concerns also Internet-enabled works that typically assume the installation format). To a lesser than usual extent the competition works are open environments that might be explored in many various ways. Regardless of their subtlety and their content and formal wealth, the presentation formats are as defined as they are justified. The only exceptions from this rule consist, basically, in works that are very strongly technologically related to the electronic media dimension (generally the media art’s relations with its technology base have become so complex that presence – or absence – of reference to advanced technologies doesn’t anymore rule the work’s positioning within the media art domain) – which documents some particular features of such type of creation.

The 2009 WRO Biennale’s motto, Expanded city¸ has prominently imprinted on the competi-
tion programme content – the main themes of the Biennale’s each subsequent issues have so far prompted various measures of artists’ response- this time however the theme seems to resonate with genuine creative interest. It does not mean however that the submitted works feature a particularly strong programmatic approach, quite to the contrary – and this is indeed a noteworthy phenomenon – the contest entries seem to have resulted from a strong need for something opposite, i.e. re-programming and de-compilation – reduction of low energy threads and rhetorics. The contest programme is to a large extent deprived of such “fixtures” as components relative to creative processing of the technosphere, and the attitude that media artists have assumed upon entering the contemporary art mainstream and resigning of the role of cultural outsiders, in some aspects quite convenient.

In lieu of such understanding of a programmatic approach, an effort appears here to materialise and to specify spaces so far undefined. It is particularly evident in network and interactive
projects that try to compensate the abstract quality of technologically generated worlds with the physical merit of medialised objects, or with an expressive communication strategy. Since communication technologies have obviously rooted in the physical reality, capability of interfacing the both spheres seems particularly relevant.

Cecilia Stenbom
The Protocol
HD Video
Film Duration 27 Minutes (looped)
Courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery, UK

The protocol is a re-staging of an American infomercial, which in turn is an imitation of a US talk show. An interviewee is selling a book about a weight loss cure; a set of guidelines explaining how to lose weight witho ut any deprivation or exercise, only occasionally interrupted in her relentless flow by an interviewer seemingly in on the act. Stenbom performs both characters in a mirror image that shifts the film away from straightforward re-enactment reflecting back the neurotic inner chitchat of the consumer, and the perpetual sales pitch cloaked beneath the guise of junk science and daytime Tv.