MEDIA ART IN PERM. A VIEW FROM THE INSIDE.
How it's understood in the Urals:
Media art lives through the provision of all contemporary communication technologies such as the Internet, telephone, or any other means of communication which transfer signals through wires or by broadcasting. Media artists use common devices (such as a TV set or pager) in untraditional ways -- they play an important role in the process of realising a performance or creating an artwork. The notion of "media art" includes several directions: video art (work with video and television images resulting in a video film); video installation art (artistic constructions are publicly displayed on TV sets and video devices that are subjected to one artistic idea); and net.art -- artists create web sites as independent artworks that can exist only on the Internet.
In Western Europe and the USA "new media art" is going through a major boom. The history of its development covers at least 30 years. For example, in Germany, which today is considered one of the most important "media art countries", big telecommunication or television industry companies support a media art festival. Large media art centres function there, such as ZKM in Karslruhe. Altogether in Austria and Germany at least ten media art festivals take place. The most well-known are the "European Media Art Festival" in Osnabrueck, Germany and "Ars Electronica" in Linz, Austria.
During the Soviet regime, these art directions weren't possible because of ideology restrictions. The first "media art lab" appeared in Moscow in the early nineties as a result of the George Soros cultural policy in Russia. (Already in 1993 - 1994 G. Soros dedicated special attention to the program "Media Sweet Media" while organising a contemporary art centre network in Eastern Europe, and the main goal of this program was to support media art development in the region.) During that time, the first Internet artists appeared in Moscow and St. Petersburg - Olga Lialina, Alexey Shulgin, Andrey Velikanov, and Namnyiyaza Ashuratova. Now, media art festivals take place regularly in all larger Russian cities, such as "Da-Da-Net" in Moscow and "MediaArtFest" in St. Petersburg; symposiums and conferences are held with the participation of the world's well-known media artists.
Media art in Perm:
Historically predisposed cultural isolation of a province leaves footprints in the development of contemporary art in Perm, and especially in the field of media art. Participants invited to the international media culture and art symposium "Pro & Contra" (May 2000, Moscow) were well-known media artists from all around the world, and Russian participants mostly from Moscow and St. Petersburg (in other cities, "non-capitals", this field is totally undeveloped). From the Urals region and the other regions of Russia, I was the only invited active media artist. That was not so much to honour me as it was proof that media art as a noticeable part of culture in "non-capitals" of Russia doesn't exist at all.
At the same time, art of new technologies in Perm as a "perspective project" has great creative potential to become an important part of Russian and European contemporary art. Our city has a great telecommunication potential. Mass media culture in Perm is highly developed -- radio, TV and Internet are more developed than in other regions of the country. We have a rather well prepared potential audience of media artists and qualified experts -- artists that have been studying at the Perm Electronics Institute.
Why the idea about media art support in Perm is current:
Right now it's one of the most current, important and growing global trends in contemporary art; it's tightly connected with the information technology revolution. All the necessary technologies and resources to create media art projects at the level the world demands are available in Perm. In Perm, media art has the same possibilities as in Moscow or St. Petersburg, since the main action takes place on the Internet. There is no centre and no provinces, and the problem of "regional isolation" doesn't exist because all artists have equal rights to the audience. That's why media art is different from the other fields of art and culture that can silently die in the "non-capital" situation. But I have to admit that all my efforts during the last year in search of real support from the regional telecommunication companies, cultural institutions, and administrative structures have totally failed. And naturally, I had to move to Moscow to continue my work in art. That's not a very dramatic situation but my previous experience doesn't let me get too hopeful about media art development in provinces of Russia.
My works are socially oriented -- every successful media project hopefully becomes an event of a city's cultural life involving a large amount of people. Social significance and urgency are necessary for success. Another characteristic feature is the relatively complicated execution and maintenance. For a project to be successful, hardware, communication possibilities (Internet, phone line etc.), a fee for the people involved, and other expenses connected with the project are needed. All my projects use contemporary communication devices as untraditional art instruments -- a pager, the Internet, an answering machine. In all cases, my projects consist of an informative web site and video art (approximately 6 min) as a background illustration and can be shown on TV or in film competitions as an independent work. All projects are in Russian and English; that's natural for cultural projects on the Internet. A new creative group has already developed to continue work with media art projects -- art director Miu Mau (Berlin), video director Anton Nyikonov (Perm) and sound operator Alexey Milanyichev (Perm), photo artist Viktor Ivanovskiy (Siktivkar) as well as translators and web developers.
I hope we will continue working together.