Interview with Kontejner, part 2: Technology and conceptualism walking along…

May 1, 2011

This is a continuation of the interview with Kontejner. Read the first part here: Body norms in art and science


DB Indos – House of Extreme Music Theater: Doors (c)
Photo taken from Kontejner

IB: There are connections, of course. The Extravagant Bodies festival places the body in the foreground, and that same body that has been increasingly dematerialized with the development of technology. So, there are artists who are using both references in their work, who are dealing with the relation between robotics and the body, for example, the body and virtuality, about mechanically generated tactility or sexual pleasure, about the relation of science and the body, the many still unresolved bioethical issues resulting from the scientific and technological revolutions.

As the development of science and technology pulls life further into immateriality, into a virtual world, we tend to forget too easily the existence of bodies that are still present and constituted of flesh; we forget the existence of bare life, of repressions and violence that is still very much executed directly on ‘the skin’.


Mat Fraser & Julie Atlas Muz: Beauty and the Beast (c)
Photo taken from Kontejner

The art that explores the field of technology merely as a playground – when revelling in technological advances and experiments becomes both the form and content of the work – is, in my opinion, the same as art that uses painting merely in order to revel in form, colour and composition.

I feel there is much ‘techno-art’ that hardly reaches beyond this self-contained circle, which might be one reason why it’s still appealing primarily to ‘specialized’ audiences. On the other hand, mainstream art constellations show an incredible resistance to art that uses and thematizes advanced science and technologies, so that, after visiting an average biennial, one could conclude that multi-channel video installation is still the most advanced and revolutionary artistic medium.


Silvio Vujicic: Private/Public Striptease (c)
Photo taken from Kontejner

In my view, both, or any, for that matter, kinds of ‘specializations’ and segregations on the part of artists and critics are unproductive in recognizing that science, technology, medical technologies, etc. are today an extremely relevant “battlefield” for engaged and critical art practices, although certainly not the only one.

However, ignoring these issues only contributes to the mechanisms by which the fields of science and technology remain ‘intact’ and protected by the myth that only specialists can have access, knowledge and the power of intervention in these discourses.


Ryan Doyle: The Regurgitator (c)
Photo taken from Kontejner

Maybe this is a good moment to say more about Device_art, the project that links art and technology. I’m interested in the whole concept and international feedbacks…

SO: Device_art is a comparative international exhibition we started in order to map and show the developments on the local scene connected to devices/gadgets as an art medium, to encourage the regional art scene to explore the field, and to compare it to high-end international scenes. In the beginning it was an exhibition that represented the Croatian and Slovenian artworks, but in the next cycle we presented one of the most developed scenes, and that was the West Coast scene – Californian robotic scene. Literally speaking, we really managed to get full container of robots in Zagreb.

Last year we decided to present the scene from the East, and that was Japan. In 2004 there was a very interesting situation, simultaneously, not knowing about each other, a concept of ‘device art’ was designed in Japan, and in Croatia too. Our concepts have many differences, but the coined term connects us.


Scene from Device_art 2009, photo taken from Kontejner (c)

That is why we decided last year to invite our colleagues from Japan, and we were in Tokyo last autumn to present our scene. It was a very successful presentation that included: an exhibition in Miraikan – National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, a performance evening in SuperDeluxe Club, a cool club, and a round table at the Waseda University’s Toyama Campus with our colleagues who founded Japanese device art.

Device_art is an exhibition that wants to show the scene that exists in the space between art, technology, design and product. It is not a strictly defined art term that wants to present just the very best works from tech-art. On the contrary, we are interested in much wider spectrum – in the creative tooling with analogue/digital, low/high technologies in art, design, geek and popular culture.

Within this you can find diverse concepts and approaches. If we take into the perspective the Japanese scene, for instance, there has always been a lot of attention to design, material quality and aesthetics. This is their heritage. And of course, the fact that they can actually make a project supported by some company is far removed from our reality.


Round Table by Borut Savski (c)
Photo taken from Kontejner

This is something that will stay for a longer period of time an actual gap between our two scenes. Our artists have emphasized concepts, which arises from our tradition of conceptual art, hacking is one of the basic elements and a lot of humor. Humor, cynicism and irony! The playfulness you can see in our project, in Japan has been strongly manifested as well, so this is a similarity.

But, we aren’t interested only in presenting artworks; we are interested in producing, too. We find it very important to make it possible for artists to work on new productions. This was really visible in this edition of the Extravagant Bodies Festival, because we produced several projects in collaboration with the artists. Within Kontejner we also have a special program entitled DIY_ARTLAB, which is actually our production platform for Croatian artists.

Click for the third part of the interview with Kontejner here: Art can be a field of risk!

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