Monoskop:Erste report

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MONOSKOP - Collaborative research on media art in Central and Eastern Europe

Project by Col-me (Collaborative media expedition), Slovakia
Project Coordinator: Dušan Barok

Project report

To: Erste Stiftung


1 	Background
2 	Goals and Objectives
3 	Results and Accomplishments
3-1 	Free Online Publication of Historical Overview of Media Art and Culture in CEE
3-2 	Free Online Publication of Bibliography of Media and Culture in CEE
3-3 	Establishment of the Network of Researchers and Art Historians
3-4 	Follow-up Initatives Building Upon the Project Results
3-4-1 	EU-funded Project for the Remakes of CEE Media Art Works
3-4-2 	Publication of a Trilingual Magazine on New Media Art in CEE
3-4-3 	Research of History of Computer Art in Central and Eastern Europe
4 	Evaluation and Continuing the Project

1 Background

MONOSKOP project began as an attempt to provide deeper historical framework for
developments in media art and culture of the 2000s. Initial motivation was to
respond to criticism addressed to “new media” scenes in Slovak and Czech
republics mainly for their given status of incomprehensible avant-garde. Various
new media groups and collectives organising free software workshops, working
with audiovisual processing, operating online pirate radios, discussing
filesharing, recycling old hardware, and treating the Internet as their
home-brew communication medium were immersed in exploring new technologies of a
networked era and did not struggle very much with constituting its own discourse
within art history. On the contrary, many regarded the independence from art
market and institutional mechanisms of a field of contemporary art as their
constituent trait.

The myth of an avant-garde status was further reinforced by nearly an absence of
theoretical reflection and a lack of historical references within self-awareness
of a loose network of new media and “net culture” initiatives. MONOSKOP grew
inside this environment and besides adopting a task of self-historising the
net-cultural movement of the 2000s it set itself a goal of articulating
relevance of new media initiatives to a wider audience. Open web-based tools
provided a collaborative research framework, in a setting familiar to media
culture practitioners. Similarly to Wikipedia, thus founded MONOSKOP “wiki”
website invited people to contribute and edit entries about media culture
and publish their work in the public domain.

MONOSKOP quickly led to serve as an independent platform for research of media
culture in whole Europe. Besides thousands of biographies and profiles it grew
to include numerous overviews, from academy programs, to media labs,
conferences, cultural servers and mailing lists. Already for seven years the
platform documents media cultures which emerged from local and international
grassroots networks (Tactical Media, Open Spectrum, Free software), corporations
(Web 2.0), academies (Digital Humanities), or were “born” online (Code
poetry, surf clubs). MONOSKOP is also unique in particular focus on local media
cultural scenes, being mapped in city entries covering the recent two decades in
more than a hundred cities across Europe.

The research process shown that development of historical and theoretical
framework for media art and culture studies in CEE region has to include
analysis of at least three interwoven dichotomies: repulsive relations between
“new media art” and “contemporary art”, a problem of autonomy of (media)
art being deeply embedded within (media) culture, and a question of geopolitical
legacy of “the East” and “the West”.

Since MONOSKOP wiki entries were authored by cultural practitioners not active
before 1990s and internet sources offered only information from the recent two
decades, there was much more field work  needed to provide in-depth historical
connections and insights.

2 Goals and Objectives

As stated in the original grant application to Erste Stiftung, the MONOSKOP
research aimed to examine the social context of historical developments in media
art and culture in Central and Eastern Europe. The analysis of the socio-poetic
conditions of exchange between art and technology from the 1960s to the 2000s
was about to bring together the wide range of endeavours from experimental and
avant-garde film, through performance art, computer art, video art, experimental
music, sound art, to media theory. The main aim of the project was to create a
professional and solid basis for theorists and critics in order to assist them
in development of a theoretical discourse on new media art in Central and
Eastern Europe.

3 Results and Accomplishments

3-1 Free Online Publication of Historical Overview of Media Art and Culture in CEE

A major achievement of the project is publication of contextual history of media
art in Central and Eastern Europe. The objective was to track the emergence of
what the researchers considered “new media”, or new technology of the time,
all the way to the first examples of rejection of easel painting in the 1910s.
We followed history of technology and partially also history of science. This
included signal processing and mobile computing in the 2000s, web and streaming
media in the 1990s, and earlier robotics, software, computers, video, film, and
so on. We were particularly looking at how technology intersected with art, how
artists approached emerging technology, what ends they put them to, and at the
culture which emerged around such intersections. The resulting publication is
structured in the following sections on a timeline:

  Constructivists, Futurists
  Literature, literary theory, aesthetics
  Audiovisual compositions, Synaesthesia
  Experimental film
  Computing and Cybernetics
  Electroacoustic music
  Multimedia environments
  Computer art, Dynamic objects, Cybernetic sculpture
  New media art, Media culture
  Media theory

Inclusion of sound medium is one of the core contributions of media art to
perception of art. Many media art works treat sound as their constitutive
element enriching the sensory perception and aesthetic experience. Therefor it
was crucial to include sound works (see “Audiovisual compositions” and
“Electroacoustic music”) within history of media art.

To be able to link otherwise under-documented role of technology and computing
to history of media art we also included an extensive overview of history of
computing and cybernetics in CEE.

Each section is further divided into several subsections:
Terms – listing key words unique for a genre.
People – listing key artists and theorists of a particular genre.
Networks – listing the most influential assemblages of artists, theorists,
events and institutions.
Events – listing major events of an international scope.
Literature – listing primary literature for a subject, beyond regional focus.

Each artist, theorist, event, organisation and network within the overview (400
entries in total) is linked to its encyclopedia entry which includes further
biographical information and links.

The publication is linked from several Wikipedia pages, indexed by search
engines and until this day it was accessed more than 8,000 times. It is freely
available online at the address

3-2 Free Online Publication of Bibliography of Media and Culture in CEE

One of the findings of the research was that historical media art in CEE is not
only under-documented online, but there is also very scarce printed literature.
To provide the stronger support for a further research we collected an extensive
bibliography. Currently it contains 1,000 bibliographic entries ranging from
books and catalogues, through brochures and pamphlets to journal articles and
online essays. It follows the same structure as the first publication. It is
freely available at the address

3-3 Establishment of the Network of Researchers and Art Historians

Natural outcome of the research was a formation of a pioneering network of
artists and researchers involved in various fields directly or indirectly
related to history and preservation of media art and culture in CEE.

Slovak artist and writer Michal Murin uses MONOSKOP as a primary educational
resource for his students at art academies in Banská Bystrica and Košice,
Slovakia, many of whom became contributors. MONOSKOP provides a curriculum
resource also for the art historian Mária Rišková at the Fine Arts Academy
in Bratislava, art historian Miloš Vojtěchovský at the Center for Audiovisual
Studies at FAMU in Prague, and the list goes on.

Kyiv-based FCCA curator Ianina Prudenko began to use MONOSKOP platform for her
development of online archive of media art from Ukraine for which she was unable
to find infrastructural support at her home country.

Polish art critic Agnieszka Pokrywka wrote a master thesis about new media art
in CEE in the 2000s and created a visualisation of MONOSKOP database.

Other active MONOSKOP contributors include Polish art historian Joanna Walewska,
Hungarian-Canadian artist and organiser Nina Czegledy, Croatian curator and art
historian Darko Fritz, Slovak artist Jakub Pišek, Dutch-Bulgarian artist Rene
Beekman, and many others.

MONOSKOP is being referred by numerous writers, theoreticians and educators from
the fields ranging from art theory, through film studies, to history of
cybernetics, and provides a strong and participative platform for
interdisciplinary studies.

3-4 Follow-up Initatives Building Upon the Project Results

3-4-1 EU-funded Project for the Remakes of CEE Media Art Works

In a direct connection to the MONOSKOP historical overview of media art and
culture in CEE, Atrakt Art initiated the REMAKE project funded by Culture
Programme of the European Union in 2010. It is aimed at collaborative production
and international presentation of new artworks, inspired by the history of
European media art. The project is building upon a research conducted in the
recent years by the group of art theorists and historians, called MONOSKOP.

The aim of the REMAKE project (2010-2012) is to enhance the MONOSKOP research in
an appealing, playful and artistically challenging way: by producing and
presenting a set of up-to-date artworks which will be inspired by particular
well-known (but also forgotten) pieces of media art history in different
European countries. The public outputs will be supervised and the artistic
selection conducted by outstanding as well as young media art curators from
several countries invited by the project co-organisers. An important part of the
project is circulation of ideas and connection to universities, research and
education. Therefore, project will involve not only well-known artists, but also
gifted young generation including art students and their teachers.

REMAKE focuses on creating artworks, collaborative shows and academic events in
selected centers for contemporary art of Europe. The project consists of
workshops, artistic residencies, public shows (exhibitions in the House of Arts
in Brno, Cluj-Napoca, PiNG Nantes, Reykjavik, multimedia performances in A4 –
Zero Space in Bratislava, Brno and other venues), university lectures and public
discussions supporting mobility of lecturers/artists, as well as
„collaborative lectures“ and other presentation formats combining theory and

More information about the initiative:

3-4-2 Publication of a Trilingual Magazine on New Media Art in CEE

The Slovak-based art and cultural magazine 3/4 will dedicate one full-color
issue to the CEE media art. The issue to be published in Spring 2012 will
feature interviews with Diana McCarty about media culture scene in Budapest in
1990s; article about Kinema Ikon, a Romanian experimental film collective active
from early 1970s till 2000s in Arad; interview with RIXC media lab based in
Riga, Latvia; interview with the media theorist and curator Kristian Lukic about
Kuda new media center, Novi Sad, Serbia; article about Ukrainian new media art
by the FCCA curator Ianina Prudenko; and others. The magazine will be published
in Slovak, Czech and English languages.

More information about the magazine:

3-4-3 Research of History of Computer Art in Central and Eastern Europe

Croatian new media curator and writer Darko Fritz and Polish art historian and
cultural organiser Joanna Walewska are currently initiating a research into the
history of computer art in the European socialist countries, particularly
focusing on the period from 1960s to 1980s. Expected outcomes include workshops,
conference, exhibition, and publication.

4 Evaluation and Continuing the Project

The original expectation was also to make an anthology of artist writings and
theoretical texts exploring CEE media art in a wider socio-historical context.
However, when faced with existence of highly fragmented bibliography and absence
of experienced researchers, not even scholars dedicated to this field we
realised that first there is much larger work required – to map the field. A
pioneering challenge was to bring sound and technology into the context of art
history. Moreover, raised budget and set time frame was not at all
sufficient to edit printed publication about such a vast field on a
professional basis. Therefor the initiative was directed towards creating a
representative overview of artists, theorists, networks, events and literature
to provide a resource for editing the well-balanced anthologies on the subject in

The online publication was recently presented and discussed at several
conferences and seminars, including the “New Media Art & Digital Art Meeting
Point” seminar organised by Cultural Contact Point in May 2011 in Bratislava,
Slovakia, “At the Gateways: Workshop for Curators from Central and Eastern
Europe” organised by Goethe-Institut in October 2011 in Tallinn, Estonia, and
at the “G33koskop” seminar organised by Multimedia Institute in December
2011 in Zagreb, Croatia.

During the research I collected a vast digital archive of CDs, DVDs, printed
publications and various media consisting of documentation of media art works
from 1910s till 2000s, including films, videos, sound files and text. It is an
unique resource for further analysis of particular works and it is available
upon request to participants in the MONOSKOP research network.

Planned future projects include a collaborative effort to build a directory of
syllabi for learning and teaching history and theory of media art in CEE. 
Invited scholars would provide selected bibliographies and media upon their
proposed themes. These would be in turn made available on MONOSKOP wiki and
provide much needed framework for inter-academic exchange.

Since our aim was not to “orientalise” CEE media art but to rather include
it in a wider cultural context, the overview is to be expanded to include the
West, post-Soviet republics, Middle East, and other regions.

Absolutely crucial follow-up to the undergone research is development of case
studies. We do need publications that will provide in-depth analyses of
particular intersections between art and technology, culture and computing,
technology and politics, and history of media art and culture in Central and
Eastern Europe. There is an enormous lack in all these fields. Much has yet to
be researched and written. To give several examples:

  * a monograph on the Croatian artist and cybernetician Vladimir Bonačić,
  * a monograph on the Polish-British artist and cybernetician Edward Ihnatowicz,
  * a monograph on the experimental film and video art work of the Hungarian
    artist and filmmaker Gábor Bódy,
  * a paper on history of the internet in CEE,
  * a monograph on the experimental film group Kinema Ikon active for more than
    3 decades in the Romanian city of Arad,
  * a study on gradual developments from easel painting to interactive computer
    installations within the Zagreb's New Tendencies network in the 1960s – it is
    crucial for understanding of the aesthetic relation between computer art and
    painting for example,
  * a paper exploring the role of information aesthetics in CEE art of the 1960s,
  * a paper on the link between cybernetics and early electroacoustic experiments
    in CEE in the 1960s.

There are many many more.

In summary, the “MONOSKOP – Collaborative research on media art in CEE”
project was successful in creating a public resource and a primary reference for
further media art historical research in CEE. It completed the initial step in a
much larger initiative of writing a history of Central and Eastern Europe, a
history that in addition to the importance of art also acknowledges an active
role of technology in culture.

Dusan Barok, December 2011