Andreas Broeckmann on Sat, 13 Sep 1997 12:04:34 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> German language media theory and history

German media theory and history: Konfigurationen & Lab 3

On the way back from two short days in Kassel, reading on the train

Kassel is this summer not only host to the documenta X and the Hybrid
WorkSpace where a large number of people from the nettime archipelago pass
through (of whom some will meet next week for the 'making of the nettime
bible', which is more likely going to be its further preparation ...).

This weekend (4.-7.9.), the University there holds the 'Konfigurationen.
Zwischen Medien und Kunst' congress, in cooperation with several partner
organisations. has more than 50 speakers, historians,
media theoreticians, artists, activists, and many hybrids of these. It is
one of those medium-size congresses which have panel sessions in the
mornings and four parallel seminars in the afternoons, with varied subjects
ranging from photo theory and hypertext to Shannon's machines and
electronic music. The seminars are generally put together with philological
accuracy, while some panels are thematically very diverse. There is clearly
enough to shop around here and find a few interesting things, though there
is a sometimes painful lack of focus in these kinds of gatherings.


More importantly, this is maybe one of the biggest public meetings ever of
the German academic media theory 'mafia' that has evolved around a project
financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, "Theorie und Geschichte
der Medien." They have brought together people like photo historian Abigail
Solomon-Godeau, theoretician and artist Victor Burgin, media theoretician
Georg Christoph Tholen (the main organiser), media historian Siegfried
Zielinski, feminist art and media historians Marie Luise Angerer and Sigrid
Schade, pop critic Diedrich Diedrichsen and electronic musician Achim
Wollscheid, media artists Valie Export and Knowbotic Research,
net-sociologist Herbert A. Meyer, a whole gang of young men who are working
with Friedrich Kittler on the history of hardware and early cybernetic
games, and a host of other people working on or within media/theory/art.

The fact that there is a small number of mainly French, British and North
American speakers does not make this an international conference.
Presentations and discussions are generally in German, translation is
provided only for the presentations of the foreign speakers, which means
that they cannot follow most of the conference, nor can the other
foreigners who try to participate - I talked to Russians, Brits, Americans,

This is a pity, because some of this is genuinely interesting theory
production which hardly gets outside of the German and Austrian circles.
The work, for instance, that is being done by the Kittler-group about
"Shannon's Toys" is really interesting, but some of these researchers might
have to wait until their professorships and the transatlantic invitations
before their ideas are going to find their way 'out their'. The same is
probably also true of other countries - how much do we hear about the media
theoretical discourses amongst Brazilians, Japanese, Hungarians, Fins? -, I
just currently experienced this problem of internationalisation with regard
to the German discourse.

'Lab 3 - Jahrbuch 1996/97 fuer Kunst und Apparate'

The important work that is being done in and around the Kunsthochschule
fuer Medien in Cologne/Germany has a similar fate. The art school dedicated
to teaching the history, theory and practice of media publishes this
yearbook which this year brings together texts by, amongst others, Jaroslav
Andel (about Zdenek Pesanek), Nils Roeller (about mathematics and
philosophy), Hans Ulrich Reck (about media art theory), Hinderik Emrich
(about logocentrism and psychosis), Otto Roessler (about chaos and ethics),
the school's director Siegfried Zielinski (about metaphors and machines),
by Friedrich Kittler (about hardware) and Miklos Peternak (about the
history of the telephone). Only three texts are printed in English (Timothy
Druckrey, Myron W. Krueger, Yaroslav A. Khetagurov), which is both
understandable - after all, this is a German publication - and a pity,
because there are a number of substantial contributions to the history and
the theory of media which will not easily be noticed by the international

(By the way, this is a well-made, well-designed book with 400 pages and
many b/w illustrations. The designers, Uta Kopp and Alexandra Ohlenforst,
just recently won a big design prize in New York.)

Lab: Jahrbuch fuer Kuenste und Apparate.
Edited by the Kunsthochschule fuer Medien Koeln.
Cologne: Walther Koenig, 1997

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