transmediale 2014 afterglow: First Impressions

It is that time of the year: snow is on the ground, a biting dryness is in the air, and transmediale 2014 is on the brink of opening. This year, the festival centers around the idea of residual afterglow - "The [digital] revolution is over. Welcome to the afterglow," artistic director Kristoffer Gansing states in the press packet. A reference to the lingering light refracting off atmospheric particles in the haze just past sunset, transmediale 2014's offerings investigate the current post-breakthrough/pre-breakdown digitization of our era.

We gathered in Haus der Kulturen der Welt a bit before noon and arranged ourselves on long benches facing a stage. Gansing and Tatiana Bazzichelli took to the front of the crowd and introduced transmediale 2014, explaining the idea behind this year's selection of work, the festival in general, and fielding questions as needed. Knowledgeable and eloquent, the only question left unanswered was why there were no microphones - with cutting-edge experts and experimenters in the field of technology and new media at hand. It was surprising that Gansing and Bazzichelli had to shout over the sound of the hall being assembled in order to be heard.

The team let us loose to explore the main installation by resident artists Jamie Allen and David Gauthier after a short talk about their art-based surveillance system that will be watching your every move in HKW. Apparently, the talk was not short enough - an impatient attendee announced that "[she] didn't have all day". Journalists these days!

We were then introduced to the Hack-a-thon taking place in the next room over. Featuring more than 70 participants, the transmediale hackers were taking a break from hacking away at their laptops, motherboards, and other gadgets as we walked in. Instead, they were helping themselves to the impressive spread of a mediterranean buffet (The journalist previously mentioned was last seen here, skipping out on the film screening. Priorities!)

The room was fully unfinished. A mess of cords, pipes, and curtains, the projects were still in-process, and the room reflected the not-there-yet nature of the hacks. Instead, the space reminded me of a Berlin club, with neon lights of various colors glowing across the ceiling, exposed piping forming the guiderails and boxes made into staircases.

+19 for the name - where do we sign up?

Rounding out the press preview was a screening of a handful of the fifty-three films, videos, and slide shows selected by Marcel Schweirin to be featured in the Afterglow Cinema. The films varied from a few minutes to nearly an hour, representing topics from Google search suggestions to the (fictional) email scammers of Ghana. A mix of tones, the hour I spent in the Afterglow Cinema was not nearly enough - I am ready for round 2.

There you have it: the press preview in a nutshell. In addition to the installations and art pieces, afterglow features a program of lectures and panels. To see more: Be sure to check out the related CTM Festival and vorspiel for the incredible line-up of events these coming weeks.

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