Dancing Pixels
Video Edition Austria/Release 01
six programs curated and presented by
Gerda Lampalzer in cooperation with Medienwerkstatt Wien
will be shown at ACF from May 29-31, 2003.

Medienwerkstatt Wien

"Our name is already a program. As media artists it is very important to us to have and be able to create new creative freedom. We want to continue to be a workshop, a lab, a refuge, and an idea center for projects in the field of independent media art and provide the right conditions to that end." This is how in an interview with the magazine EIKON in 1993 Gerda Lampalzer and Manfred Neuwirth responded to the question "What do you see as the future task of Medienwerkstatt Wien?"

In 2003, this response is still as relevant as ever. Medienwerkstatt Wien, which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is now in its third decade of working on "an intellectual and artistic examination of media culture that allows for depth and speed and promotes strategies for (self-)assertion in cultural policy" (from the editorial of the program folder for "Five dates or more", a Medienwerkstatt event series in November 2000).

The origins of the Medienwerkstatt Wien project have to do with media policy: In 1978, several groups got together in order to work with the then "new" medium video. Terms like "counter-public," "alternative to government television," and so on, described an emancipatory concept that sought to break away from the restrictiveness of commercial filmmaking and the government-run Austrian broadcasting station ORF.

Initial projects were developed, space was rented, an association was founded, and activities were initiated that for some of the Werkstatt pioneers (Gerda Lampalzer, Gustav Deutsch, Manfred Neuwirth, and Ferdinand Stahl) signaled the beginning of a longer term concept. The initiation of this undertaking was facilitated by seed money from the cultural budget, and the first productions received financial support. The organization soon started to rent out its equipment for independent media projects in order to help the Medienwerkstatt become more independent financially. For non-subsidized projects, it still considered itself an "open studio" that supported interesting works. It also produced its own videos. The community of interests and the communally usable equipment evolved into a company that was partly self-sufficient and - above all - an artist collective, an autonomous little image factory. In their variety, Medienwerkstatt's productions confirm the extensive qualities of its staff. The spectrum ranges from documentary videos to art videos, installations, media objects, and Internet projects. The
list of festival and exhibition appearances and publications is long.

In addition, Medienwerkstatt supplies film and video history and cultivates contacts with festivals, media centers, museums, and television companies. The most important fields of cultural policy handled by its staff include the conception and organization of events (video cinema, exhibitions, lectures, seminars, etc.), presentations (curated programs in Austria and other countries), maintenance of a video archive (tapes for lending and viewing, catalogues, magazines),
artist-in-residence programs (guest artists work at and with Medienwerkstatt), and training and consulting services for media productions that can be completed from start to finish at Medienwerkstatt Wien.

Video Edition Austria

An important emphasis of Medienwerkstatt Wien's work is on making video or media history available. The publication of curated editions is meant to facilitate access and provide an overview. In 1993, for instance, the 10-volume Video Edition Austria was produced with a representative program spanning 25 years of video art and artistic video documentation in Austria. Special editions of individual artists and the Lower Austrian video edition complete this video publishing program.

In 2001/02, Video Edition Austria will be expanded by Release 01 (4 art programs, 2 documentary programs; curators: Eva Brunner-Szabo, Gerda Lampalzer and Judith Wieser-Huber). Since 1993, not only has a wealth of new work been produced by established video artists and documentarians, but a new generation of media artists has also emerged and gained a foothold in the international exhibition and festival scene. The presence of media art in the cultural sector is now accepted as a matter of course. This means it is becoming increasingly necessary to maintain a specialized and carefully curated collection that is at once a historic survey, a presentation of current works, a compilation of audiovisual information, and an encyclopedia of Austrian video art
and documentation.

Video Edition Austria's Release 01 encompasses the art programs Confrontation, Moving, Narration, and Space (242 min. total), and the documentary programs Reflections and Travelogue (350 min. total). Participating artists are Uli Aigner, Eva Brunner-Szabo, Linda Christanell, Se-Lien Chuang, Ricarda Denzer, Carola Dertnig, Barbara Doser, Elisabeth Fiege, Gertrud Fischbacher, Halt+Boring, Amina Handke, Oliver Hangl, Hofstetter Kurt, Barbara Holub, Bernadette Huber, Anita
Kaya, Karl-Heinz Klopf, Sigrid Kurz, Gerda Lampalzer, Holger Lang, Maia, Markus Marte, Sabine Marte, Maschek, Elizabeth McGlynn, Gertrude Moser-Wagner, [N:ja], Christoph Nebel, Manfred Neuwirth, Manfred Oppermann, Norbert Pfaffenbichler, Michael Pilz, Michaela Pöschl, Oliver Ressler, Constanze Ruhm, Fiona Rukschcio, Lotte Schreiber, Terese Schulmeister, Heidemarie Seblatnig, Skot, Franz Wassermann, Constantin Wulff, Erwin Wurm.

With the expansion of Video Edition Austria by Release 01, the collection is gaining growing significance as a document of the times. Aside from cinema and festival activities, which tend to be seasonal, the range of artistic positions from 1969 to 2001 makes it possible to pursue continuities in sociopolitical issues as well as highly varied aesthetic elements. The change in production conditions, the virtual elimination of genre-dependent categories, and the selection of
diversified public groups characterize the complex developments that become clearly recognizable in an edition as comprehensive as this. The works selected for Release 01 repeatedly exhibit surprising overlaps with earlier video works that communicate the political, technological, and aesthetic history of Austrian media art.

Dancing Pixels

Since its founding, Medienwerkstatt Wien has focused special attention on its interest in formal openness - both where its own productions are concerned and in the selection of its projects and lending programs. Many productions are hybrid forms between essays, experiment, and documentation and represent an attempt to enable and promote productive discussion between the various media arts. Video Edition Austria and Release 01 consistently pursue this concept by giving artistic and documentary videos equal consideration from the outset. The recent Documenta 11, where documentary film and video works were presented as an integral part of the current international art scene, demonstrates just how much this approach anticipated current developments.

The Dancing Pixels program takes this permeability of forms into account and therefore includes works from all disciplines among its individual thematic focuses (from classic video art to pure documentation). The compilation is exclusively justified by the logical consistency of the issues raised by the individual works.

For instance, the program called the body 2 juxtaposes the video "what to do?," a work about a husband's physical neglect of his wife and her subsequent death, with "The Rote Zora," a work about a militant women's group that was active in Germany in the 1980s: a possible logical consequence and an open question.

By contrast, the body 1, which is more like a purely artistic program, examines potential conceptual expressions of bodies as sculpture ("one minute sculptures"), as moving form ("tried," "lovers' walk"), as a carrier of history ("backspace," "actual reality"), and as actors in space ("byketrouble," "welldone").

In the space 1, the selection ranges from constructive access to space ("studio," "ID.remix," and "catch in the cage") to the development of a narrative concept of space ("door 14 - reading in absence") and art documentation ("indicatore - project") where formal concepts and narration related to a specific location intermingle.

In the space 2, two different directions and two styles of storytelling meet. "Driven" is a car ride including an audio play on open and suppressed desire in personal and public life, while "#1:<common.places>" is a statistical listing of places where women were subject to "entirely normal" harassment by men and report on it from those places.

Two other programs, the medium 1 and the medium 2, relate exclusively to the hidden or ambiguously interpretable messages within a narrative universe. Stories within stories ("japanese letters"), symbolic and metaphoric levels ("caroussel deux," "now I am one of you," "crossover"), satire ("the alternative Tokyo trilogy part 2: Sir Elton"), and precise observation ("war games") are the methods used in the medium 1.

In the medium 2, the medium is examined even more closely with respect to its function. Memory as a medial construction is explored in two different ways: as a found audio recording from childhood ("trying to remember to forget") and as a reinterpretation of "found footage" to rewrite history ("the grey star 2 the wehrmacht"). In "paranormal," finally, the medium's ambiguity is exploited. It becomes an apparatus for taking up contact with supernatural powers and at the same time a means to prove their existence. It is a vicious circle that can only be approached with irony.

Of course, this compilation of works is just one of many possibilities. Video Edition Austria is conceived as a collection that can be recombined again and again. One criterion for the selection of the works in the edition was their complexity. This allows for consideration from all sides, which is an important prerequisite for artistic and human dialogue.

By Gerda Lampalzer