Book (4)

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Art, culture and technology in East-Central Europe

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." (Buckminster Fuller)

MONOSKOP book project examines the social context of historical developments in media arts in East-Central Europe. Analysis of sociopoetic conditions of art and technology crossings from 1960s to 2000s draws upon the undertakings in experimental and avantgarde film, performance art, computer art, video art, experimental music, sound art, and media theory. The objective is to create an educational material for students and educators across media art and culture departments, as well as a reference network for theoreticians and critics to assist them in development of the theoretical discourse on new media art in the East-Central Europe.

Content structure idea[edit]

Short remarks
  • Geographical issue - should Russia/Soviet Union be included?
  • Not to forgot the role and influence of Soros network - active in C/E since mid-80s (C3, Jeleni, Ex Oriente Lux, Butterfly Effect, computer donations to Soros centres, etc).
  • Don't forget about collaboration and artist groups.
  • Admit "historical distance" - it's hard to write about the current decade.
  • Hook up study of media art with local (art/cultural) development.
The aim of the publication is threefold
  • Present the major events in the development and historical achievements of media art in c/e Europe.
  • Analyse pioneering experimental works via theoretical texts, interviews, artist writings, programmatic texts
  • Examine media art

The sections are as follows:

  • Introduction
  • I. Timeline of major events
  • II. Pioneers
  • III. Conclusion




We need good introduction into politics, concepts, to contextualise the field.

Idea is not to write a comprehensive history, rather to point out the works and concepts that may not be skipped in the writing of art histories.

The selection is eclectic. It's not academic textbook, but directed to general public.

Ref: Latour? (hybrids)

East-Central Europe[edit]

Visegrad + Baltic + Balkan countries

Ref: Staniszkis, Štrauss, Piotrowski

Outline: East-Central Europe


Media art[edit]

Ref: Penny, Manovich, Wilson

Outline: Media art

Media art in CEE[edit]

Outline: Media art in CEE


Ref: Appadurai, Agamben?, Grzinic?, Štrauss?

I. Timeline[edit]

Format: short descriptions of major art-related events and phenomena: exhibitions, conferences, workshops, publications, journals, video-journals, foundations of art departments, technological inventions, art servers, etc.

Ask artists, curators, organisers, theoreticians, engineers from each c/e european country to propose up to 10 major events from local media art history. Then scrutinize the answers and then mutually agree (board members) how to proceed.

Chronology may be visualised as the visual map.

II. Pioneers[edit]

Idea for this section is to present the particular pioneering experimental works, covering the spectrum of artistic forms, historical periods, and geographical regions. It is important to research the various disciplines re what to include, what are the connections, how are they linked to each other etc., how the collaborations were established and accomodated. These works and contexts may be analysed as case-studies via theoretical texts, interviews, oral histories, artist writings, programmatic texts, etc. Have local people writing about pioneers.


Eugene Murzin / Edward Artemyev [electronic music; 1960s; RU; M][edit]

The 1960s witnessed rather dramatic technological shift in the arts. Many experimental artists referred to ideas of the 1920s avant-garde. In Moscow, Eugene Murzin constructed one of the world's first synthesizers. He named his invention, ANS synthesizer, in honor of Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, as the ANS worked on the principle of the transformation of light waves into electronic soundings. The compositions created on the ANS in the Moscow Studio of Electronic Music played the major role in the development of electronic music in USSR. In the 1960s, the ANS was the only synthesizer in the Union, and became the training ground of a great number of young composers, including one of the most dedicated experimenters in the field of electronic music, Edward Artemyev. Artemyev's compositions are characterized by a constant search for new sounds and by a desire to obtain maximum timbre modification from minimal sound material. In the music for A. Tarkovsky's film Solaris (1972), Artemyev discovered an entire realm of unusual (for that time) sound effects; he founded a new trend in electronic music that musicologists have named 'space music'.

Josef Svoboda [multi-media environments; 1960s; CZ; M][edit]

Artistic use of technologies became the political motor for promotion of the cultural achievements of the communist regimes at the Expo world fairs. Brussels' Expo 58, the first after World War II, was staged as the arena of the cold-friendly East-West confrontations. And that is were Josef Svoboda won three medals for his experimental multi-media works, and later had his other works among the most popular at Expo 67 in Montreal. He began a series of experimentations in Prague's May 5 Theatre with the director Alfréd Radok, the result of which was the founding of the Laterna magika (combining ballet, theatre, film, and sound), and the creation of the Polyekran (largescale a/v installation with multiple screens for Expo 1967 Montreal). With Jaroslav Fric he made Polyvision (short film about every day life in the czech industries life film- and slide-projected onto rotating screens, 1967).

Vladimir Bonacic [dynamic objects; 1960s; CR; M][edit]

Still in the 1960s, Croatian Zagreb, at the corner of socialist modernist Yugoslavia, was the site of the world's state-of-the-art manifestations of computer art. Series of New Tendencies exhibitions and conferences hosted artists and scientists discussing the common grounds for collaborations backed up by theories of the information aesthetics. Among many, programmed sculptures and dynamic objects by cybernetic artist Vladimir Bonacic proposed richly diverse directions for art and technology investigations. This Zagreb-based cybernetician exhibited a total of 17 works during New Tendencies 4 exhibitions in Zagreb in 1968/69. He used custom-made hardware for developing the “dynamic objects”. His work can be interpreted as a pioneering use of interactivity in computer-based artworks. He was critical of using computer as a tool for simulation of what already exists.

Edward Ihnatowitz [robotic art; 1960s-70s; PL/UK; M][edit]

Polish cybernetic Sculptor (1940-50s lived in UK), active in the late 1960's and early 1970's. His ground-breaking sculptures explored the interaction between his robotic works and the audience, and reached their height with The Senster, a large (15 feet long), hydraulic robot commissioned by the electronics giant, Philips, for their permanent showplace, the Evolution, in Eindhoven in 1970. The sculpture used sound and movement sensors to react to the behaviour of the visitors. It was one of the first computer controlled interactive robotic works of art.

Gabor Body and Infermental magazine [video art; 1970s-80s; HU; M][edit]

Body graduated first from philosophy and later became an internationally known film and video maker. Established various experimental and avantgarde projects at BBS including the Film Language Series in 1973 and the K/3 experimental film group in 1976. Producing his first video in 1976 was the first person in Hungary to work in this medium in an artistic context. Infermental, Body's annually edited international video series was widely hailed as "the art magazine" of the eighties. Collecting and collating the work of people working in remote global locations, uniquely bridged the information gap till the new communication forms appeared. The series published featured a range of guest editors and in total included work from over 1500 artists from 36 countries and was published up to 1991.

András Monory Mész [cyberpunk film; 1980s; HU; M][edit]

Meteo, 1989. One year after Blade Runner (1988) this is the Hungarian cyberpunk classic (termed part of the 'new impressiveness' movement by film historians). A feature fiction film, a sci-fi (/cyberpunk) movie about three characters in a postapocalyptic world. The 'hacker' character is a meteorologist and he uses a computer to calculate the winning algorithm for horse races. He does this is Turbo Pascal. :) Starring famous now-nationalist actor Eperjes Károly, the visual is all there, what is missing is the existential borderline problematic that is a key element of cyberpunk works, and what was exemplified by the human vs. machine dichotomy in BR which is deconstructed by the concept of the cyborg. Similarly to BR the location is a factory sector which is about to be blown up.

Olia Lialina [internet art; 1990s; RU; F][edit]

Lialina studied film theory in Moscow. She was related to Cine-Fantom experimental film group. Her piece "My Boyfriend Came Back From the War" (1996) is the landmark in the history of Lialina tells a story with gif about a couple and what occurred when the male came back from a war. The female talks about cheating, and there is some talk about marriage. The whole piece is in black and white and the story progresses as one clicks on the different words. The work has been remixed and redone by many artists.

RT-32 [electromagnetism and sound art; 2000s; LV; MF][edit]

Xchange network held an international symposium for sound art, radio and satellite technologies in August 2001 in the forests of western Latvia in Irbene at the site of Soviet-era d=32 meter dish antenna. Formerly used to spy on satellite transmissions between Europe and North-America by the KGB, the antenna was abandoned and nearly destroyed when the Russian Army departed in 1994. The dish was successfully repaired by VIRAC (Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center) radio astronomers. Over the days of the symposium international team of about 30 sound artists, net and community radio activists and radio amateurs in co-operation with VIRAC scientists were exploring the possibilities of antenna: dish was used as a massive parabolic microphone to scan the surrounding environment; for snooping, monitoring and recording the satellites, mobile networks, and air traffic control signals; and also for scanning the celestial bodies.The recorded data were then processed by participating artists. (Publication and two DVDs were published.)

still to check for this section:

  • Kinema Ikon? (Romanian media art group, functioned 1970-2005 in Arad)
  • Bulgaria? (consult Ludazar Boyadev)
  • East Germany? (consult Stephen Kovats who did Ostranenie)
  • Walitsky? (Polish sound artist)
  • audiovisual performances?
  • media art and activism?

III. Conclusion[edit]

We discussed that maybe it is not the best idea to attempt to build up the theory of media art within this book. Book should rather serve as the ground for such endeavors to be taken later.

Final chapter may offer the conclusion of the research, and we can invite one or more theoreticians for contribution(s). So far we thought about Tomas Pospiszyl (Czech art historian living in Prague), Bojana Pejic (Serbian art theoretician living in Berlin), Armin Medosch (Austrian writer on media art living in London), and Zoran Pantelic (Serbian artist and educator living in Novi Sad).

Older versions and further research[edit]


  • February/March 2009: setup the board
  • 15 March: deadline for IVF Standard Grants
  • 22 March: editorial board meeting #1 in Prague (during COOP workshop: Eva, Lenka, Guy, Dusan)
  • early June: editorial board meeting #2 (Budapest: Nina, Guy, Dusan)
  • 5 July: editorial board meeting #3 (Prague: Lenka, Eva, Guy, Dusan)
  • August: interviews
  • 1 September: editing finished
  • 1 October: translation and proof-reading finished
  • 1 November: layout and design finished
  • 1 December: book is printed
  • December: distribution
  • 2010: presentations (Bratislava, Gdansk, Prague, Budapest)


Please feel free to contact us.


Coordination: Dusan Barok, db at societyofalgorithm dot org
Supported by Col-me, Bratislava,,
Partner: Wyspa Institute Of Art, Gdansk,
Partner: Nina Czegledy, Budapest
Partner: Mlok Association, Prague,
Supported by ERSTE Foundation,
Supported by International Visegrad Fund,
Supported by Academy of Arts, Banská Bystrica,

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