Andreas Broeckmann on Thu, 3 Sep 1998 23:11:54 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> review Lab: Yearbook 1998 for Arts and Apparatuses, Cologne

Lab: Yearbook 1998 for Arts and Apparatuses of the Academy of Media Art in

What do you expect from the yearbook of an academic institution? It should
give you an insight into the most interesting and innovative work that is
being done by the academic staff, by students and related scholars, and it
should reflect the wider fields of research and projects that are being
covered in and around the school. A best-case scenario is that the book
frustrates you, because you haven't been there to witness what happened,
while, at the same time, relieving this frustration by giving you the
feeling that at least you get an idea about what's going on there. 

The most recent edition of the annual publication of the Academy of Media
Art in Cologne (Kunsthochschule fuer Medien, KHM), Lab: Yearbook 1998 for
Arts and Apparatuses, achieves this. It represents the fortunate encounter
of interesting content with good editorial work and successful,
unobtrusive yet 'appetizing' design. The title, by the way, sounds as
sympathetically quaint and under-hyped in German as it does in English. 

Entree: The cover and the introductory pages show photographs of a weaving
project (by Valie Export and Ingrid Wiener) in progress. Then follow a
piece about cooking and culinary culture by Georges Wenger, a Brazilian
poem, stills from an experimental video project (Herwig Weiser), Jeanine
Meerapfel's report about a Tango workshop in which students of the KHM
learned a new approach to the presence and movement of bodies in space,
and an anonymous film script for an unrealised science fiction movie. This
takes us to page 33, from where the mix continuous, although the texts,
images, ideas and emotions are quickly beginning to intertwine and form a
meshwork that indicates the 'fabric' of discourses and artistic production
conducted at the school. 

The Academy of Media Art is an education and research center which has a
particular interest in combining the most recent digital and networking
technologies with practical and theoretical work that deals with older
media, including video, photography, holography, experimental film, and
language. The history of media technologies, film and television studies
are a continuing concern, and the work presented in the Yearbook shows the
fruitful way in which these different fields are being developed side by
side at the school. Contributions to the Yearbook from this research field
include Nikolaj Izvolov's study about the 'needle screen animations' of
Alexander Alexejew, a text by Renate Bauer about the poetic strategies of
Raymond Roussel, excerpts from Gabor Body's Filmschool of 1976, and a text
by Michael Erlhoff about the 'Optophon' patented by the German Dadaist
Raoul Hausmann in the 1930s. 

In October 1997, the annual 'Digitale' Symposium organised by the KHM
brought together artists and scholars from Tokyo, Sao Paulo and Moscow
under the title 'Digitale Dialekte/Digital Dialects'. A reflection of this
investigation into different mentalities and expressive strategies is also
to be found in the Lab Yearbook which, beside the texts already mentioned,
also includes several poems by the Brazilian poets Waly Salamao and
Antonio Cicero, a report by the Brazilian Carlos Nader about his
experiences and media theoretical considerations as a TV producer, and an
illustrated vignette by Marcelo Tas about the intricacies of intercultural
communication and mis/understanding. This is media theory and history not
as a dry philological discipline, but as a sort of 'dribbling', that way
of playing football (soccer) of which Brazilians are such masters. 

Two short remarks: The KHM's Music Department and the events it has
organised are briefly referenced, though a broader contextualisation of
the work that is being done between the image and the sound based
disciplines is something that could be attempted in future editions of the
Yearbook. Special mention should be made of a text by the Paris-based
social scientist Maurizio Lazzarato who deals with Dziga Vertov's concept
of the 'Camera Eye' as a 'war machine' in the sense of the strategic,
deterritorialising tool that Guattari and Deleuze describe in 'Milles

Unlike previous editions of the Lab Yearbook, this year's volume contains
no texts by either of the editors, Hans Ulrich Reck, Nils Roeller and
Siegfried Zielinski. In some way this is a pity, and it indicates that
there is, this time, less of a theoretical inclination in the contents of
the book. Yet, they console us with a fine piece of editing that gives us,
as an echo to the critical culinary theory at the beginning, three prose
miniatures by John Berger about the tasty sensuality of peaches, melons
and cherries. Thus fulfilling some of the promise given in the preface
which says that language 'is not only expression and material. But also
below and between, before and beyond signification, form and starting
point of a moving practice, a model for the poetic movement in images,
actions and thoughts. As a red thread through its texture, the Yearbook
for Arts and Apparatuses offers Kairos-poetics of word-images as a grain
against the chrono-cracy of understanding media merely as apparatuses.'

PS: An obvious limitation of the book for an international readership is
that almost all its texts are in German. Take it as proof of the fact that
there are a lot of interesting discourses all over the world in languages
other than English. 

Lab: Jahrbuch 1998 fuer Kuenste und Apparate. Ed. by Kunsthochschule fuer
Medien Koeln. Cologne: Buchhandlung Walther Koenig, 1998. ISBN

Andreas Broeckmann
(1 September 1998)

[Review for Leonardo Digital Review]

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