Under the title ever elusive transmediale celebrates its 30 year anniversary with an entire month of activities from 2 February to 5 March 2017. In the context of an always changing media culture, the anniversary looks at ongoing shifts in dialogue with the past: it uses the critical knowledge gained over past festival editions to discuss the elusive role of media in fostering or obscuring new forms of agency. Who or what is acting in a culture of constant mediation?
The title ever elusive refers to the elusiveness of perpetually transitioning media cultures, and to the transmediale itself as an elusive and dynamic project, constantly shifting ground. The representation and mediation of geopolitics are in a state of crisis. Bearing these turbulent times in mind, the festival invites participants to consider the value of rejecting stable identities and explore speculative positions beyond current dichotomies: human/nonhuman and nature/technology.
On 2 February 2017 the three-day festival program opens at Haus der Kulturen der Welt within the scope of ever elusive. Encompassing around 50 events, including a conference and screening program, workshops and performances, transmediale 2017 explores how information systems and hybrid techno-ecologies have worked to destabilize the centrality of the “human.” The program presents new notions of subjectivity as well as of accounting for the increasing role of the “nonhuman.” The ever elusive program is curated by artistic director Kristoffer Gansing, Daphne Dragona (conference), and Florian Wüst (film and video).
The conference of ever elusive – thirty years of transmediale explores what the challenge of “decentering the human” might mean, taking into consideration optimistic scenarios as well as critical engagements and possible alternatives that might embrace new ways of perceiving the nonhuman.
As explained in the presentation text that accompanies the conference program, “In today’s accelerated condition, it is often difficult to tell where the role of the human ends and that of the machine begins. With machine learning systems, artificial intelligent agents, smart infrastructures, and engineered organisms playing an increasingly important role, new complex techno-ecologies and hybridities continuously evolve. These new entanglements, where technology is felt as natural and mediation becomes immediate, influence the shaping of the economic and socio-political condition, while putting the primacy of human agency into question. How familiar—and how strange—is this becoming autonomous and becoming environmental of technology to its users? How can these emerging machinic ecologies be used and whom can they favor? Which new forms of digital hegemony are being embraced when some actors are filtered or left out of the picture?
Taking these questions as its starting points, the conference of the anniversary edition of transmediale 2017 ever elusive aims to highlight and discuss the different forms of agency that are being involved in today’s fast evolving techno-medial environments and constellations. It delves into various in-between spaces and zones of mediation, consisting of devices, programs, artificial entities, and human involvement, and discusses our role within them. It explores what the challenge of “decentering the human” might mean, taking into consideration optimistic scenarios as well as critical engagements and possible alternatives that might embrace new ways of perceiving the nonhuman.
Of primary importance for this exploration is the notion of the “middle,” used in a way that is twofold. The “middle,” on one hand, describes the complex and multifaceted “in-between” spaces of mediation and agency that result when media expand everywhere, and, on the other, it refers to the repositioning of our role within them. It is used to discuss how by being part of today’s algorithmic filterings and strange ecologies, we inescapably find ourselves in ongoing processes of mediation, and it also underlines the necessity of acknowledging the multiplicity and heterogeneity of such a spaces. With its non-centrality, it holds the potential for transversal practices across sciences, politics, and aesthetics to be initiated.
Following this approach, the speakers of this year’s conference are invited to discuss the changing roles of human and nonhuman agency, addressing this constant middleness and in-betweenness. Theoretical contextualizations, methodologies, practices, and ethics are introduced following three particular directions, three different “middles” as the main conference thematic contexts: The Elemental Middle explores the infrastructural and environmental character of today’s media technologies, revisiting the fundamental relationship of culture to nature; The Alien Middle focuses on the strange and obscure character of today’s mediated environments and re-examines the connection of the human with the machinic; and The Middle to Come emphasizes the subtle and sovereign character of today’s mediation, focusing on the emergence of digital colonialism and digital populism, but also underlines the possibilities of other temporalities and spatialities that can formulate what is yet to come.
Film & video program
The film & video program reflects on the history of the festival through the re-release of video works from transmediale’s archive and highlights central aspects of ever elusive: the material and animist conditions of reality as well as the increasing role of generative computer processes and machine autonomy.
“The first multi-day video program was organized by MedienOperative, founded in West Berlin in 1977 as a center for independent video work and video culture, as part of the 17th International Forum of New Cinema in 1987” lays written in a program presentation text titled New Materialisms. “On the initiative of Micky Kwella, the VideoFilmFest followed a year later and also took place in connection with the Berlinale. It wasn’t until 1990 that the VideoFest presented itself as an independent festival for video art and documentary video. Dates were kept close to those of the Berlinale.
ever elusive reflects on the history of the festival through the re-release of video works from transmediale’s archive: Max Almy & Teri Yarbrow’s Utopia, Kain Karawahn’s Wundbrand, Doug Porter’s Losing Sleep, and Sarah Vanagt’s Little Figures. The presentation of four early (1970–72) experimental films by American computer art pioneer Lillian Schwartz for the opening makes reference to the recurring presence of computer animation during the first decade of the festival and highlights a central aspect of ever elusive: the increasing role of machines in the creative process. By the same token, audio-visual abstraction runs through the selection of international historical and contemporary films as much as the documentary view of the material and animistic conditions of a reality that stands in opposition to the alleged dematerialization of the digital world.
The reasoning behind the concept of post-humanism goes beyond the human subject as the sole reference value and aims at an equivalence of all life. Non-human entities, such as animals and plants, are included in a system of mutual dependence and become objects of a longing for communication. Such a relational approach is also due to the realization that fundamentally, nature is technologically mediated—it carries within it the effects of modern economic and social advancement in all its contradictions. However, from precisely the perspective of human interaction, with what Rosi Braidotti describes as a “continuum of self-organizing life-systems,” (1) the posthuman turn is based on a departure from the ever-expanding commodification of living material. Against this backdrop, the films of this program address a wide range of social questions and contexts, from the history of industrialization and colonialism to healthcare, land policy, and the urban commons.
The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda), the 2016 feature film debut of Dutch design studio Metahaven, reflects on, for example, the geopolitical implications of the digital network and the role of propaganda in the age of social media. The internet has become a sovereign power without standards, a mega-weapon for the manipulation of information. In our post-truth present it is precisely the openness of the global network that seems to support the emergence of new nationalism and anti-liberal narratives.
The film and video program of ever elusive presents decidedly artistic approaches in the handling of analog and digital aesthetics. The conscious overloading of human perception in cinema, as well as references to processes that are far beyond perceptibility and control, identifies the autonomy of the machine as an essential aspect of past and future technological development. The films are split between utopian and dystopian scenarios in order to not least affirm resistance to the prevailing power relationships of global capitalism.
Thursday, February 2
18:30-23:30: Theatersaal, Installation: RI JIRI I O WA NU RU DAINICHI T-1000.
19:30-21:00: Auditorium, Special event: Opening Ceremony: ever elusive – thirty years of transmediale With Amnesia Scanner, Rasheedah Phillips & Moor Mother (Black Quantum Futurism Collective), Harm van den Dorpel, Kristoffer Gansing, Bill Kouligas, Olia Lialina, Bernd Scherer, Hortensia Völckers.
20:00-23:00: Studio, Installation: Hybrid Pleasures: Early Films of Lillian Schwartz.
22:00-23:45: Café Global, Performance: Live-Set by James Ferraro With James Ferraro.
Friday, February 3
11:30-13:00: Studio-Gallery, Talk: Middle Session: The Elemental Middle With Ryan Bishop, Richard Grusin, Grada Kilomba, Jesse McLean, Susan Schuppli, Elvia Wilk. Moderated by Elvia Wilk.
12:00-15:00: K1, Workshop: Xenopolitics #1: Petro-bodies and Geopolitics of Hormones (Part 1) With Aliens in Green.
13:00-15:00: Theatersaal, Panel: New Paradigms With Gabriele Gramelsberger, Gerald Nestler, Felix Stalder, Jutta Weber. Moderated by Felix Stalder.
13:30-14:30: Cafe Stage, Talk: across and beyond: Launch of the transmediale Reader With Ryan Bishop, Michael Dieter, Kristoffer Gansing, Olia Lialina, Rosa Menkman, Jussi Parikka, Elvia Wilk. Moderated by Michael Dieter.
14:00-15:30: Studio, Talk: Machine Research – Infrastructures With Geoff Cox, Maya Indira Ganesh, Abelardo Gil-Fournier, John Hill, Rosa Menkman, Martino Morandi, Michael Murtaugh, Renée Ridgway. Moderated by Geoff Cox.
15:00-16:30: Auditorium, Panel: Elemental Machines With Andreas Broeckmann , Esther Leslie, Sascha Pohflepp, Yvonne Volkart. Moderated by Yvonne Volkart.
16:00-18:00: Theatersaal, Screening: Mined Future With Andreas Bunte, Maximilian Schmoetzer, Armin Thalhammer. Moderated by Florian Wüst.
16:30-18:00: Studio, Panel: Becoming Earth: Engineering Symbiotic Futures With Theun Karelse, Valentina Karga, Paul Kolling, Paul Seidler. Moderated by Valentina Karga.
17:00-18:00: Cafe Stage, Performance: The Instrumental Subconscious With Instrument Inventors Initiative.
18:00-20:00: Auditorium, Keynote Conversation: Becoming Infrastructural – Becoming Environmental With Erich Hörl, Jussi Parikka, Lisa Parks. Moderated by Jussi Parikka.
18:00-20:00: K1, Talk: Xenopolitics #1: Petro-bodies and Geopolitics of Hormones (Part 2) With Aliens in Green.
20:00-23:45: Cafe Stage, Performance: Algorave With Alexandra Cárdenas, coï¿¥ï¾¡pt, Camilla Vatne Barratt-Due, Belisha Beacon, Alex McLean, La verbena electronica, Fredrik Olofsson, Miri Kat.
20:00-22:00: Theatersaal, Screening: Feeling Algorithms With Rainer Kohlberger, Jesse McLean, Doug Porter.
20:00-21:30: Studio, Talk: Material Flows: Rafts and Bodies at Sea With Marie-Luise Angerer, Ryan Bishop, YoHa. Moderated by Ryan Bishop.
21:00-22:00: Auditorium, Performance: Amnesia Scanner, Bill Kouligas and Harm Van Den Dorpel present “Lexachast” With Amnesia Scanner, Bill Kouligas, Harm van den Dorpel.
Saturday, February 4
11:00-15:00: K1, Workshop: Wilderness Machines With Matthew Creasey, Theun Karelse.
11:30-13:00: Studio, Talk: Middle Session: The Alien Middle With Marie-Luise Angerer, Josh Berson, Orit Halpern, Chris Salter, Nora N. Khan, Matteo Pasquinelli, Sascha Pohflepp. Moderated by Orit Halpern and Chris Salter.
12:00-13:30: Auditorium, Panel: Friendly Fire: What Is It to Re-think Radical Politics, Today? With Natalie Fenton, Robert Latham, Jutta Weber, Krystian Woznicki.
13:00-14:30: Theatersaal, Panel: Politics of the Machine With Patricia Reed, Brett Scott, Sarah Sharma, Florian Sprenger. Moderated by Sarah Sharma.
13:30-16:30: Cafe Stage, Presentation: Elusive Life: Extinction, Biodiversity, and Datafication With Alejandro Esguerra, Deliah Hannah, Hexagram, Tahani Nadim, Michael Ohl, Åsa Sonjasdotter, Anna-Sophie Springer, Garrett Lockhart.
14:00-15:30: Studio, Talk: Machine Research – Interfaces With Brian House, Nathan Jones, Nicolas Malevé, Søren Pold, Søren Rasmussen, Jara Rocha, Sam Skinner. Moderated by Søren Pold.
15:00-16:30: Auditorium, Panel: Prove You Are Nonhuman With Finn Brunton, Geoff Cox, Suzanne Treister, Marloes de Valk. Moderated by Geoff Cox.
16:00-18:00: Theatersaal, Screening: Soul of Things With Louis Henderson, Sita Scherer. Moderated by Florian Wüst.
16:30-18:00: Studio, Panel: On the Origins of Androids With Arjon Dunnewind, Floris Kaayk, Koert van Mensvoort, Peter-Paul Verbeek. Moderated by Arjon Dunnewind.
17:00-19:00: K1, Workshop: Alternative Temporalities + Quantum Event Mapping With Rasheedah Phillips & Moor Mother (Black Quantum Futurism Collective).
18:00-19:30: Cafe Stage, Talk: Book Launch: The 3D Additivist Cookbook With Morehshin Allahyari, Dov Ganchrow, Joey Holder, Geraldine Juárez, Kuang-Yi Ku, Emma McCormick-Goodhart, Miriam Rasch, Daniel Rourke.
18:00-20:00: Auditorium, Keynote Conversation: Immediate & Habitual: The Elusiveness of Mediation With Clemens Apprich, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Richard Grusin. Moderated by Clemens Apprich.
20:00-21:00: Theatersaal, Performance: Bear with Me. A play for two webmasters starring, Kevin Bewersdorf With Kevin Bewersdorf, Olia Lialina.
20:00-21:00: Cafe Stage, Performance: DCT:SYPHONING With Rosa Menkman.
20:00-21:30: Studio, Talk: Situated Publishing: Writing with and for Machines With Sarah Garcin, An Mertens, Michael Murtaugh.
21:00-23:00: Auditorium, Screening: The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda) With Metahaven, Susan Schuppli. With a talk between Metahaven and Susan Schuppli, moderated by Florian Wüst.
Sunday, February 5
11:00-12:00: Exhibition hall: Exhibition Dialogues: Inke Arns in conversation with Suzanne Treister With Suzanne Treister.
11:30-13:00: Studio, Talk: Middle Session: The Middle to Come With Finn Brunton, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Florian Cramer, Natalie Fenton, Alessandro Ludovico, Patricia Reed. Moderated by Alessandro Ludovico.
12:00-13:30: Auditorium, Panel: Singularities With Morehshin Allahyari, Rasheedah Phillips, Daniel Rourke, Dorothy R. Santos. Moderated by Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke.
13:00-14:00: Cafe Stage, Presentation: Launching SongBlocker: Spotify and the Future of Advertising With Maria Eriksson, Rasmus Fleischer, Patrick Vonderau.
13:00-15:00: Theatersaal, Screening: Whose Land With Emanuel Almborg, Elke Marhöfer. Moderated by Florian Wüst.
14:00-15:30: Studio, Talk: Dulling Down – The Obsolescence of Intelligence With Inke Arns, Constant Dullaart, Adam Harvey, Nora N. Khan. Moderated by Inke Arns.
15:00-17:30: Cafe Stage, Talk: Book Launch: Execution Practices With Roel Roscam Abbing, Geoff Cox, Olle Essvik, Fran Gallardo, David Gauthier, Brian House, Peggy Pierrot, Helen Pritchard, Linda Hilfling Ritasdatter, Eric Snodgrass, Winnie Soon, Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard, Magda Tyzlik-Carver.
15:00-16:30: Auditorium, Panel: Hegemonic Media and Their Opponents With Geert Lovink, Maya Indira Ganesh, Geraldine Juárez, Alan Mills.
15:00-17:00: Workshop: Impossible Escapes With Critical Media Lab, Paolo Patelli, Giuditta Vendrame, Leanne Wijnsma.
16:00-18:00: Theatersaal, Screening: Material Agents With Kain Karawahn, Dorine van Meel, Lisa Tan. Moderated by Florian Wüst.
16:30-18:00: Studio, Panel: Mediterranean Tomorrows With Heba Y. Amin, Aristide Antonas, Daphne Dragona, Adrian Lahoud. Moderated by Daphne Dragona.
18:00-20:00: Auditorium, Keynote Conversation: Strange Ecologies: From Necropolitics to Reproductive Revolutions With Diana McCarty, Steve Kurtz, Johannes Paul Raether. Moderated by Diana McCarty.
alien matter: exhibition: February 2 - March 5, 2017
The special exhibition alien matter curated by Inke Arns opens alongside the festival on 2 February 2017 at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. ‘Alien matter’ refers to man-made, and at the same time, radically different, potentially intelligent matter. It is the outcome of a naturalization of technological artifacts. Environments shaped by technology result in new relationships between man and machine. Technical objects, previously defined merely as objects of utility, have become autonomous agents. Their capacity to learn and network throws into question the previously clear and dominant division between active subject and passive object.
Exhibiting artists: Aliens in Green, Morehshin Allahyari & Daniel Rourke (with Ami Drach & Dov Ganchrow, Joey Holder, Kuang-Yi Ku), Nicolas Maigret & Maria Roszkowska (with Jonathan Beilin & Magnus Pind Bjerre), Constant Dullaart, Ignas Krunglevičius, Mark Leckey, Joep van Liefland, Jeroen van Loon, Katja Novitskova, Sascha Pohflepp, Johannes Paul Raether, Evan Roth, Suzanne Treister, Addie Wagenknecht, YoHa, Pinar Yoldas.
An Internet by Jeroen van Loon: Installation, 2015
What would the Internet look like if all the data were ephemeral? Bearing this question in mind, Jeroen van Loon’s work, An Internet, develops a vision of a future Internet with a radically new type of data: smoke. An Internet consists of a system of glass tubes arranged according to the distribution of undersea Internet cables. The artist translates the names of all 280 cables—such as “TAT-14” running between Great Britain and North America (since 2001), or “WACS” running between South Africa, West Africa, Portugal and London (since 2012)—into binary smoke signals. These smoke signals are then directed into the network of glass tubes as temporary data. The tubes are filled with smoke until they start leaking—and the data disappears again from the Internet. An Internet represents the Internet at a particular historical stage, and also, paradoxically, shows a vision of a future Internet: a network in which data is no longer produced to be stored for future use, but to be instantly accessible and then lost forever.
Artificial Intelligence for Governance, the Kitty AI by Pinar Yoldas: installation, 2016
In her work Artificial Intelligence for Governance, the Kitty AI, Pinar Yoldas imagines an artificial intelligence (AI) that has taken over the world. In the video, a 3D-animated cat talks about itself and its work as ruler of a megalopolis in the year 2039. The AI takes on the appearance of an adorable kitten to avoid frightening people. It speaks from the future about the unsolvability of past crises such as the refugee crisis, climate change, and an ominous “p-crisis,” as well as the inability of humankind to manage gigantic infrastructure. AIs like Kitty AI have, as a result, taken over the positions of politicians and other professional groups in this imagined future. According to the AI’s logic, governmental form is a question of quantity: “Democracy was born in a polis—no surprise that it dies in a megalopolis.”
Burial Ceremony by Evan Roth: installation, 2015/17
Evan Roth’s work Burial Ceremony is a monumental sculpture consisting of two kilometers of fiber-optic cable. The quartz-glass-plastic mix cable is usually delivered on large-scale wooden spools and must be unrolled before being laid in the ground. To avoid torsion and pressure on the fibers, the cable is usually laid out in a figure eight—a form reminiscent of the infinity symbol. In the installation, a pyramid shape is created at the intersection of the cables, referenced in the title of the sculpture. The starting point of the work was Evan Roth’s trip to the British county of Cornwall, the landing point of the first (functional) transatlantic telegraph cable between Europe and the US, in the fall of 2014. Today, it is also the location of undersea fiber-optic cables that transport 25% of the world’s data traffic.
DullDream by Constant Dullaart: installation, 2017
In his work DullDream, Constant Dullaart deals with Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN)—artificial neural networks that enable machine learning and pattern recognition through artificial intelligence. They are used for facial and speech recognition, and they can also determine objects in images based on their shape. Google’s Deep Dream exploits this capability: the program identifies specific elements based on form and then intensifies those elements in the image. Pattern recognition becomes pattern hallucination—the algorithm incorporates eyes or animals where there are none. Constant Dullart’s software does the opposite: while Deep Dream highlights and intensifies patterns, DullDream reduces the specific characteristics of forms. Deep Dream becomes a DullDream. The program enables users to upload images of themselves and have them returned devoid of individual characteristics—an impressive statement against increasing regulation through pattern recognition.
GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction by Mark Leckey: installation, 2010
In Mark Leckey’s GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, a monolithic black refrigerator stands in front of a green screen, musing upon its own existence. Its monologue, spoken by the artist with a digitally distorted voice, offers observers insights into its thoughts. The fridge describes its daily tasks, gives explanations of itself and its control panels, its outstanding (freezing) properties, and also its cosmological connectedness with things, with the sun, the moon, and the stars. The monologue is based on passages from the holy Mayan book, Popol Vuh, a treatise on Marcel Duchamp written by Calvin Tomkins, and fragments from the technical description of the refrigerator. Through an image search, the household appliance attempts to find “friends”—objects that look similar to it. Its search leads to images of black limousines, smartphones, game consoles, and computer cases, as well as the Kaaba of Mecca. The more or less intelligent fridge offers an inkling of what awaits us in the Internet of Things.
Hard Body Trade by Ignas Krunglevičius: installation, 2015
Ignas Krunglevičius’s work portrays a flight through snowy mountain panoramas. The images appear like elaborately animated digital worlds in a computer game—except they are real. The artist created Hard Body Trade from a montage of mountain landscape stock video footage. The Rhythm & Blues soundtrack accompanies a computer-generated voice stating, “We wear masks just like you. We are replacing things with math, while your ideas are building up in your body like fat. […] Sorting algo plugs in, for your specific age group. […] We are performing your last cognitive upgrade.” These statements counteract the sublime beauty of the images. Suddenly, human viewers realize that they are observing a computer in its “idle time”: the time it has nothing to do. Perhaps the computer fills time with images processed during the day—pictures reminiscent of television footage, previously shown when stations were off-air.
HFT The Gardener by Suzanne Treister: installation, 2014–15
In HFT The Gardener Suzanne Treister examines the world of high-frequency traders, who today operate in the Stock Exchange primarily with help from special algorithms, so-called trading bots. In her work, she explores the complex inner universe of a fictional British high-frequency trader named Hillel Fischer Traumberg (b. 1982). While watching share prices flash across a screen at a rapid rate, HFT has hallucinatory experiences of pure pattern recognition. From that moment on, he follows his calling investigating psychoactive substances that are supposed to help him merge his consciousness with algorithmic intelligence and see the world from the other side—from the perspective of an algorithm. In an unusual narrative consisting of a seven-work series and a video, Treister connects scientific, artistic, and shamanic practices with the politics of global financial constructs, botany, algorithms, and Outsider Art.
Internet of Things, No. 1-3 by Addie Wagenknecht: installation, 2015
Wagenknecht modified three Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot, Tor Browser or signal jammer. Thanks to an algorithm that initiates the Roombas’ cleaning function, an interaction arises from the original practical functionality that is dynamic but simultaneously disruptive: depending on the Roombas’ distance from one another and also from mobile phones, laptops, or other wireless routers, the technology of these devices is influenced and their signals are amplified or suppressed. Internet of Things comments on the unpredictability of objects’ interactions in the net. In their random dance, the robots release themselves from their invisible mutual embrace and continue on their way, steered in other directions only in response to obstacles. The objects placed on the robots refer to the title, which is already a reality, and not only in our office spaces: the Internet of Things acts independently and communicates internally in our technological devices today.
Predictive Art Bot by Nicolas Maigret and Maria Roszkowska: installation, 2017
Nicolas Maigret and Maria Roszkowska’s Predictive Art Bot is an algorithm that uses current discourse as a basis to create concepts for artistic projects and, at times, prophesize absurd future trajectories for art. Algorithms are now widely used in different fields to make predictions using data analysis, statistical analysis, and pattern recognition for applications including the purchasing behavior of particular groups, global market developments and even potential crimes. In contrast, the Predictive Art Bot is a specialist in making art forecasts, published daily on Twitter (twitter.com/predartbot), which are meant to expand the limited human imagination with new, nonhuman perspectives. The concept producing the most resonance on Twitter has been realized for “alien matter.” As a parody of transhumanist prophecies, the Predictive Art Bot liberates artists from the constraints of creativity and develops ideas not yet implemented or conceived of by humans. Featuring an artwork by Jonathan Beilin & Magnus Pind Bjerre.
Protekto.x.x. 184.108.40.206.pcp by Johannes Paul Raether: installation, 2017
The lifelines of the WorldWideWitches, Protektoramae, investigate people’s obsession with their smartphones. They address the relationship of the body to the screen, explore portable computer systems as body prosthetics, and address the materiality, manufacturing, and mines of information technologies. The figure central to the installation is one of the many fictional identities of artist Johannes Paul Raether, Protektorama. Protektorama became known to a wider audience in July 2016 when a performance in Berlin, in which gallium—a harmless metal—was liquefied in an Apple store, led to a police operation at Kurfürstendamm. In contrast to the shrill tabloid coverage, the performative work of the witch is based on complex research and visualizations, presented here for the first time in the form of a sculptural ensemble including original audio tracks from the performance. The figure of Protektorama stems from Raether’s cyclical performance system Systema identitekturae (Identitecture), which he has been developing since 2009.
Recursion by Sascha Pohflepp: installation, 2016
The central element of Sascha Pohflepp’s work, Recursion, is a text about humankind, generated by an artificial intelligence (AI). The AI was primed with a wide range of texts from encyclopedic articles on human biology and societal forms to works on psychology, philosophy, and pop culture—including full Wikipedia articles on concepts of humanity, consciousness, economics, emotion, science, technology, the human body, and human behavior, and more specifically, Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, Joni Mitchell’s California, The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, G.W.F. Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit, Mary Douglas’ Purity and Danger, and Brian Eno’s Spider and I. The AI was then instructed to compose a text beginning with the word “human,” which is read aloud in the video by performance artist Erika Ostrander. In this way, Sascha Pohflepp creates a feedback loop between us and the artificial other. We cannot escape the question of whether or not, to quote Benjamin Bratton, “…the real uncanny valley [is] one in which we see ourselves through the eyes of an AI ‘other.’”
Swoon Motion by Katja Novitskova: installation, 2015
Katja Novitskova’s sculpture Swoon Motion consists of the exposed frame of an electronic baby swing with additional objects attached. The swing can reproduce a mother’s heartbeat and sing children’s songs—and its movements seem uncannily human-like. Novitskova considers the role of service robots in the future that could accompany people from cradle to grave in the most literal sense. In Swoon Motion, themes of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and plastic are brought together in a way that exemplifies the focus of the exhibition “alien matter.” At the same time, this work which reflects Novitskova’s current interest in robot aesthetics, makes reference to her earlier work: a computer-generated image of a protein model covering the swing alludes to the “circulationist” work using images from the Internet, which brought her to prominence as an artist.
The 3D Additivist Cookbook by Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke: 2016–17
With The 3D Additivist Cookbook Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke created a handbook that brings together radical projects from over a hundred artists, activists, and theoreticians. Modeled on William Powell’s Anarchist Cookbook (1969) it includes speculative texts, plans, templates, (im)practical designs, and methodologies for life in highly paradoxical times. Three of these works have been realized as 3D prints for the “alien matter” exhibition. Just as Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke’s 3D Additivist Manifesto (2015), which served as a worldwide call for submissions to The 3D Additivist Cookbook, the project is intended as an exploration of 3D printing for its revolutionary potential. The intention is to transform 3D printing into a tool for emancipation and activism, beyond the hype around DIY practices and maker culture, and simultaneously help develop speculative, provocative, and strange ideas between art, technology, and science. The project will also feature the following artworks: The Evolution of the Spermalege (2016) by Joey Holder, a series of interspecific sexual organs designed using insect genitalia as prototypes; The Fellatio Modification Project (2015) by Kuang-Yi Ku, a series of physical modifications intended to increase sexual pleasure during oral sex; and Man Made (2014) by Ami Drach (1963-2012) and Doy Ganchrow, a contemporary adaptation of a prehistoric hand axe, emphasizing a particular function of the fundamentally multi-functional tool.
Video Palace #44 – The Hidden Universe by Joep van Liefland: installation, 2017
The outer wall of the massive sculpture Video Palace #44 – The Hidden Universe is made up of shelves filled with VHS tapes—dead media in black plastic with handwritten, stick-on labels. The sculpture is a media-archaeological monument highlighting the rapid obsolescence of storage media, which evokes the theme of ever elusive – thirty years of transmediale. Joep van Liefland began his ongoing Video Palace series in 2002. The sculptures were originally conceived as cheap-looking, fully operational video rental stores, a function that has been lost over the years. They now serve as resonance rooms for obsolete media. Behind a glass door covered with stickers advertising technical equipment, lays the hidden universe of Video Palace #44. The diffusely lit room creates the atmosphere of a dark bachelor machine and a memorial to VHS video culture of the 1980s.
Xenopolitics #1: Petro-bodies and Geopolitics of Hormones by Aliens in Green: installation, 2017
Exposure to synthetic chemicals interferes with human and nonhuman hormonal systems. Despite all the warnings about the toxic impacts of these endocrine disruptors, the lobbying of the petro-chemical, agricultural, and pharmaceutical industries continue to influence regulatory institutions. These actors can be viewed as xeno-powers that both regulate and pollute our bodies and environment. At the same time, terms like “abnormal” or “disruptor” are at the center of most environmental and critical discourses, focusing the main arguments on sex-panic, gender ambiguity, and threats to reproductive futurism. These arguments reinforce a politics of purity that reflects our prescribed eco-hetero-normative value system. What is “normal” and “natural”? Do queers and our alien kin have no future in our increasingly toxic landscape? The Aliens in Green want to generate “a crisis of the body” that leads to non-prescriptive subjectivities, offering a kind of alien resilience called xeno-solidarity.
XXXX.XXX by Addie Wagenknecht: installation, 2014
XXXX.XXX is a wall sculpture consisting of five circuit boards and hundreds of flashing green lights connected by a tangle of Ethernet cables. Addie Wagenknecht‘s work is a „packet sniffing sculpture“: the circuit boards tap into data streams on nearby Wi-Fi spots and analyze them. Every blink indicates this process at work. The data is processed but the sculpture does not share its findings. While post-Internet discourse primarily focuses on commercial web interfaces and endless image circulation, Wagenknecht is interested in the underlying and omnipresent, yet, invisible machine architecture. XXXX.XXX is a “passively interactive” sculpture, which emulates a server room. It is a bleak, severe homage to the “post-Snowden era” where surveillance, intrusion into systems, and data collection is ubiquitous.
Imaginaries - Interventions - Ecologies: February 8/18/24, 2017
The ever elusive program continues in the form of three thematic excursions at different locations in Berlin which are conceptually linked to topics explored that day. The excursions, entitled Imaginaries, Interventions, and Ecologies, are an extension of the festival throughout the month of February. These concentrated events target specific aspects of the ever elusive theme while also being representative of topics that have been important in the history of the festival.
Imaginaries: 8 February 2017 | Langenbeck-Virchow-Haus
The Imaginaries excursion challenges standardized histories and future trajectories of media practice and thinking. It features performances and discussions of speculative design projects, science fiction, imaginary media, and archaeological investigations that intercut past, present, and future. The excursion takes us to a historical building which has been the site of shifting political imaginaries and which served as a venue for transmediale in the early 1990s when it was still called VideoFest. With: Bager Akbay, Morehshin Allahyari, Ayhan Ayteş, Sophia Gräfe, Darsha Hewitt, Jussi Parikka, Rasheedah Phillips & Moor Mother (Black Quantum Futurism Collective), Ebru Yetişkin.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
15:00–15:30, Virchow / Hörsaal, Talk: Always More, Always Less: An introduction to Imaginaries of Media With Kristoffer Gansing, Sophia Gräfe, Darsha Hewitt.
15:30–17:30, Virchow / Hörsaal, Panel: Alternative Futurism: Middle-East Imaginaries With Bager Akbay, Morehshin Allahyari, Ayhan Ayteş, Ebru Yetişkin. Moderated by Jussi Parikka.
19:00–20:30, Virchow / Hörsaal, Performance: Ritual Causality 003 With Rasheedah Phillips & Moor Mother (Black Quantum Futurism Collective).
Interventions: 18 February 2017 | ver.di
The Interventions excursion focuses on new approaches to collective organization, automation, and playful subversion in relation to the crisis of datafied politics, labor, and cultural production in the debt economy. The Interventions discuss new approaches to immanent critique, opposition and collective organization, in relation to the crisis of datafied politics and digital populism. Through workshops and panels, the participants will elaborate on alternative ways to understand creativity and critique outside of the persistent current reference to creative industries and innovation. With, among others: Tatiana Bazzichelli, Željko Blaće, Diann Bauer & Patricia Reed (Laboria Cuboniks), Baruch Gottlieb & Dmytri Kleiner (Telekommunisten), Seda Gürses, Jonas Lund, Ewa Majewska, Gavin Mendel-Gleason, Diana McCarty, Sebastian Olma, Sebastian Schmieg, Daniel Tirado, UBERMORGEN.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
11:00–15:00, ver.di, Workshops: Telekommunist International: Workshops With Baruch Gottlieb, Dmytri Kleiner, Ewa Majewska, Željko Blaće, Daniel Tirado, Gavin Mendel-Gleason, Diana McCarty, Seda Gürses.
12:00–15:00, ver.di, Workshop: Alien Subjects With Laboria Cuboniks.
12:00-15:00, ver.di, Workshop: Workshop with UBERMORGEN.
16:00–17:00, ver.di, Talk: Binary Primitivism With UBERMORGEN.
17:30–19:00, ver.di, Panel: On subversion and beyond: Reconsidering the politics of resistance and interference With Diann Bauer, Tatiana Bazzichelli, Sebastian Olma, Jonas Lund, Sebastian Schmieg. Moderated by Daphne Dragona.
19:30–21:00, ver.di, Assembly: Telekommunist International: Delegate’s Assembly With Baruch Gottlieb, Dmytri Kleiner, and others.
Ecologies: 24 February 2017 | silent green Kulturquartier
The Ecologies excursion features new artistic research into the messy, disperse ecologies that now characterize life on the planet as it is re-constructed in flows of data, capital, and natural resources. One part will focus on the resource heavy reality of technology and its impact on the earth and another on the earth’s own media including the launch of a speculative mushroom network. With, among others: Jamie Allen, Art bureau OPEN, Shu Lea Cheang, Martin Howse, Jonathan Kemp, Kartina Neiburga, Sandra Sajovic, Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj, Taro, Franz Xaver.
Friday, February 24, 2017
11:00–15:00, silent green Kulturquartier, Workshops: Workshop by Shift Register and Mycelium Network Society With, among others, Martin Howse, Jamie Allen, Jonathan Kemp, Shu Lea Cheang. Registration needed.
16:00–22:00, silent green Kulturquartier, Events throughout the day: Talks, installations, performances by Shift Register and Mycelium Network Society With, among others, Martin Howse, Jamie Allen, Jonathan Kemp, Shu Lea Cheang, Taro, Saša Spačal, Mirjan Švagelj, Kartina Neiburga, Art bureau OPEN, Franz Xaver, Sandra Sajovic.
Closing weekend: March 4-5, 2017
The closing weekend on 4 and 5 March 2017 ties together the various parts of ever elusive: the special exhibition, panel presentations, live performances, screenings, and excursions will be linked together in a conclusion, reflecting upon past and future media language. With, among others, Laurie Anderson, Emilien Awada, Constanze Ruhm, Caspar Stracke, Joep van Liefland.
A Closing Argument. Inke Arns: alien matter - An Introduction
The only truly alien planet is Earth. 
— J. G. Ballard
In Hollywood’s Terminator 2, a mercurial liquid left behind by a T-1000 after combat quickly reforms itself into a whole battle droid.  This made life difficult for the T-800, an older model Terminator played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 1991, it all still seemed like pure science fiction, but today, the use of liquid metals in technological applications is an everyday reality—just not (yet) for intelligent machines like the T-1000.
Immaterials, the Outdatedness of Machines and the Up-to-dateness of objects
This superficially unspectacular change was heralded in a most spectacular way by the T-1000. Looking back: it was Jean-François Lyotard who in 1985—more than thirty years ago—coined the term “immaterials” with the “Les Immatériaux” exhibition at the Pompidou Center in Paris. “Immaterial” is in this context not to be equated with “immaterial” (= the opposite of material), but instead denotes a new kind of extension of the material that is not directly accessible to humans. “Good old materiality itself reaches us in the end as something that has been dissolved and recomposed in complicated formulas. Reality consists of elements that are organized by structural laws (matrices) beyond human measures of space and time.”  These immaterials do not, at first glance, differ from materials we are familiar with, but they are organized according to very different laws. One example is genetically engineered organisms.
Parallel to this development, another was beginning that German philosopher Günther Anders had already described in the late 1960s in his book, The Outdatedness of Human Beings, as the outdatedness of machines.  While machines were getting ever smaller, they went simultaneously “incognito” becoming parts in large-scale machines—and finally, since the end of the 1980s, computers have “conspicuously left their housing and begun colonizing the whole environment.”  Machines have almost dissipated and become an environmental agency made up of objects that communicate and operate automatically. In this infrastructural revolution—manifest in the Internet of Things, for example—“machineness” is lost in favor of “thingness.”  The most “profound technologies” are then, states Mark Weiser, “those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”  It is estimated that today, fifty billion devices are now connected to each other—for just six billion people. 
The “alien matter” exhibition deals with the neo-cybernetic couplings of humans, living entities, and technology, and of human and non-human abilities—and addresses the shifts in this power structure. Technologies have become an obvious element of the new object cultures surrounding us. Alien matter is thus not something still in the distant future but rather an integral part of our present. The artists in the exhibition reveal the extent to which our supposedly familiar environment has already become alien material.
The artists in the “alien matter” exhibition address just such systemic, active, (more or less) intelligent, and communicative objects. They are interested in such diverse things as algorithms, plastic, pattern recognition, exascale computing, non-human agents, and the fact that technology is becoming, through miniaturization, an increasing part of our everyday, material environment. As such, they succumb less to the fascination of a Singularity in whatever form (the moment computers take control of everything), but instead appropriate the term crapularity, coined by Justin Pickard in Alternatives to the Singularity (2011): “3D printing + spam + micropayments = tribbles that you get billed for, as it replicates wildly out of control. 90% of everything is rubbish, and it’s all in your spare room – or someone else’s spare room, which you’re forced to rent through AirBnB”. Florian Cramer writes in “Crapularity Hermeneutics”  (2016) that the popularity of this dystopia is reflected in the growing number of subscribers to the Twitter feed Internet of Shit (currently 125,000). Under the motto, “The Internet of Shitty Things is here. Have all of your best home appliances ruined by putting the internet in them!” the microblog posts, for example, images of blue (crashed) screen in a Windows elevator, faulty train station displays, and alerts about a car updating its operating system while driving.
All of this already exists. But what happens if computers are at some point no longer connected to devices? If AI gets literally inside things? Then the world becomes truly alien—with intelligent liquids, smart dust, thinking mucus, and feeling fog that can assume different physical states just as the T-1000 can. According to Günther Anders, machines of the future will become one single machine which no longer requires differentiation. Completely in line with the theme ever elusive, all distinctions will become obsolete. “Whether crapularity or singularity, the differentiation of systems into such subcategories as ‘internet,’ ‘artificial intelligence,’ ‘machine vision’ and ‘pattern recognition,’ ‘big data,’ ‘smart cities’ and ‘internet of things’ will likely soon become a thing of the past.”  But it hasn’t gotten that far yet. The artistic points of view in “alien matter” already recognize the beginnings of this development now and content-wise, cluster around four thematic focal points: Artificial intelligence (AI), plastics, infrastructure, and the Internet of Things (IoT)—subcategories of the nascent great machine, which here, as in the Andersian sense, are to be designated future outdated.
(The Outdatedness of) Artificial Intelligence
Dutch artist Constant Dullaart engages with pattern recognition that uses AI—which has applications in facial, image, and speech recognition—a tool as poetic as it is powerful: DullDream “de-specifies” images so that only general features of the shape are rendered. A picture of a specific person becomes a “dulled down” picture of a person, that could, principally, be anyone. Fantasies of nature and artificiality collide in Ignas Krunglevičius’ video Hard Body Trade: we accompany an AI on its flight through unnaturally beautiful mountain scenery and listen to her reflections on humanity. The Predictive Art Bot by Nicolas Maigret & Maria Roszkowska makes predictions about the directions art will take in the future and suggests appropriate concrete projects. The most popular suggestion was brought to realization (by a human) and can be seen in the exhibition. Sascha Pohflepp’s video Recursion shows a special kind of loop: an AI-generated text about humans is read out loud by one. In a way similar to Maigret & Roszkowska’s work, a machine is using a human actor to let us participate in its “coming-into-the-world.” In HFT The Gardener, Suzanne Treister examines the world of high-frequency trading (HFT). Treister’s protagonist develops a botanical obsession: he wants, with the help of psychoactive substances, to fuse his consciousness with algorithmic intelligence to see the world from the other side—from the algorithm’s perspective. Finally, the AI in Pinar Yoldas’ video Kitty AI, a cute 3D animated cat, looks back from the year 2039 and sums up the extent to which human inadequacy led to the elimination of politics and its replacement with artificial intelligence.
(The Outdatedness of) Plastic(s)
Several projects deal explicitly with plastic. In their 3D Additivist Cookbook, Morehshin Allahyari & Daniel Rourke describe additivism as a fatalistic basic principle of all human activity—particularly the transformation of petroleum into plastic. The 3D Additivist Cookbook brings together radical projects by over one hundred artists, activists, and theorists who examine 3D printing for its revolutionary potential. In Xenopolitics #1: Petro-bodies and Geopolitics of Hormones, Aliens in Green (Bureau d’études, Ewen Chardronnet, Mary Maggic, Julien Paris, Špela Petrič ) investigate the devastating impact of synthetically produced endocrine disruptors such as those in, for example, plastics and map the various actors and the effects in a complex data visualization. Joep van Liefland, in turn, builds a monumental sculpture (Video Palace #44 – The Hidden Universe) out of tens of thousands of old VHS tapes—today nothing but plastic waste—leading into the hidden space of esoteric 1980s video culture. Finally, as part of their Plastic Raft of Lampedusa project, YoHa (Matsuko Yokokoji + Graham Harwood) perform a forensic analysis of a rubber dinghy that was produced in China, as most are. The artists are interested in the circulation of economic, material and human flows that have a mutual influence on one another.
(The Outdatedness of) Infrastructure
Evan Roth’s sculpture Burial Ceremony consists of two kilometers of fiber-optic cable. The cable has been positioned in a figure eight, which resembles the infinity symbol. It is standard practice to unwind the cables in this way before laying them in the ground to avoid damaging the fibers. Jeroen van Loon also engages with the cabling of the world: in his work, An Internet, however, undersea cables are represented by a system of communication tubes: smoke signals carry information into transparent glass tubes that follow the contours of the continents, only to dissipate at the other end. Addie Wagenknecht’s filigree-effect wall sculpture taps into WiFi hotspots in its environment but does not share its findings with anyone. The WorldWideWitch Protektorama—one of many fictional identities and hysterical-subversive drag characters of artist Johannes Paul Raether—is interested in the symbio(n)tic relationship between humans and their smartphones, investigates wearable computer systems as body prostheses and addresses the materiality, manufacturing, metals, and mines of information technologies.
(The Outdatedness of) Internet(s) of Things
The protagonist in Mark Leckey’s GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction is an intelligent refrigerator of the sort that will soon populate the Internet of Things. The refrigerator’s process of awakening is expressed in an entertaining and at times hilariously funny machine monolog. In Internet of Things, Addie Wagenknecht lets three vacuum-cleaning robots wander through the exhibition to not just clean but also, optionally, to function as either a WiFi-Hotspot, Tor browser, or jammer. Their signals are either strengthened or suppressed depending on the distance between the devices, but also between the devices and mobile phones, laptops or other WiFi routers. The rocking motion of the electronic baby swing in Katja Novitskova’s Swoon Motion seems uncannily human.
I would like to thank all participating artists for their productive co-operation in “alien matter.” The collaboration with my co-curators at transmediale, especially Daphne Dragona and Florian Wüst, was rewarding and friendly. Thank you also to the wonderful transmediale team, especially to Inga Seidler, Isabelle Busch and Sibylle Kerlisch for their precise work on the exhibition. Natalie Schütze and Filippo Gianetta devoted themselves attentively to the catalog, and The Laboratory of Manuel Bürger to its consistent design. I would like to thank the artistic director of transmediale, Kristoffer Gansing, for the invitation to curate the exhibition. It was a great pleasure to work with raumlabor. And, not least, thank you also to HMKV and its team, whose support enabled me to work on the “alien matter” exhibition.
– alien matter – An introduction by Inke Arns is published to accompany the transmediale 2017 exhibition catalogue. This text and all contents are republished here courtesy of transmediale. All rights reserved.