New Media Art Education in Central and Eastern Europe in the Last Two Decades: experiments and transition

The panel will discuss how the changes in Eastern and Central Europe have influenced the art educational system there during the last twenty years, with particular reference to education in the new media field.
Wednesday, 14 September, 2011 - 09:00 - 10:30
Chair Person: 
Raivo Kelomees
Chris Hales
Agnieszka Pokrywka
Ala Pigalskaya
Piibe Piirma
“Interactive Movie Course” in Tartu Art College in February 2003
Nelli Rohtvee, „Net-Poetry 2“,

Chair: Prof. Raivo Kelomees
2nd Chair: Dr. Chris Hales

The panel will discuss how the changes in Eastern and Central Europe have influenced the art educational system there during the last twenty years, with particular reference to education in the new media field. The reason for choosing such a seemingly broad timescale is to include the 'finalisation' of the political and economical integration of some post-Soviet countries (like Estonia) into the European Union whilst contrasting this with examples like Belarus, which have become (or remained) more autocratic and closed. One particular point of interest is the change in the understanding and interpretation of 'new media art' during the last two decades, partly due to the different technologies and specialities that this field of practice encompasses.

- Twenty years of change: in the political system, art paradigms, technologies and ways of thinking.
- Travel and transition: exported artists and imported ideas
- The transition from artefact-based artistic practice to process-based and non-material art
- The similarities and differences between 'West' and 'East' mentalities
- Initiatives, centres, departments and institutions of new media and education
- Resources, funding, financial practices, governmental support, business schemes for producing and exhibiting new media
- Changes in the art education system: from traditional and manual fine arts practices to mediated and technological education
- Different networks focused on the organisation, theory, and practice of technological art

Paper Abstracts

Interacting with the moving image: experiences and outcomes of teaching ‘interactive film’ in the Baltic States

by Dr. Chris Hales

This paper presents the results obtained and experiences gained through the teaching of various short workshops in the Baltic States (as well as elsewhere) in the specific combination of interactivity and moving image. The workshops combine theoretical and practical approaches – a functional prototype of an ‘interactive film’ will be produced by students – and have been run by the author in Tallinn, Tartu, Riga, Liepaja and Vilnius from 2002 until the present day. Usually these workshops have been in official educational establishments - principally those of art and design - although more openly recruited workshops have also taken place.

An inherent characteristic of making an interactive film is that a combination of specific disciplines are required to create the final outcome, primarily filmmaking, interaction design, and narrativity. Methods of teaching this, in which a workshop participant may not have any experience or background knowledge of one or more of these disciplines, and in which collaboration would be desirable, will be discussed. Despite the somewhat specific-sounding objective of these workshops, the resulting artefacts have displayed a huge variety of final forms and formats, including installation art, live performance, interactive DVD and websites. Although the scope of the final artefact is inevitably limited given a one or two week timescale, some of the products have undergone subsequent exploitation. This has occurred through public exhibition, public performance, remediation, and expansion/remake at a later date into a more substantial product.

Workshop outcomes will be compared and contrasted to pick out whether clear differences are apparent according firstly to the varying profile of the students involved, and secondly between results from workshops in the Baltic States and those (also run by the author) in other European countries – some of which have involved a deliberately enforced mixture of students from both artistic and technical backgrounds. The paper also discusses whether the types of outcome have changed during the last seven years as a result of developments in technology and social media.

Migrating meaning. Understanding new media art in Central Eastern Europe

by Agnieszka Pokrywka

Central Eastern Europe in last two decades goes through very dynamic changes. They can be described as a chain of dependencies in which political status shapes economical situation and economical condition determines access to new technologies which after all influences technologically based art. This fact causes difficulties in defining new media art and leaves many questions about local specificity of digital works. “Migrating meaning. Understanding new media art in Central Eastern Europe” tries to state what new media art is and what disciplines does it cover in the context of subjective opinions of new media artists and theorists from Central East European countries.

Production of knowledge in e-environment in new media design area

by Ala Pigalskaya

In the Internet there are diverse institutions of knowledge production. In addition to academic projects of distance learning there are enough informal learning projects organised by virtual community (informal institutions of knowledge production), arranged according to the ideology of edutainment.

Informal e-educational projects are providing knowledge demanded by the e-community (Theory and practice in Russian, variety of educational projects realised within Livejournal etc.). The purpose of the paper to look closer into the conception and structure of informal e-educational projects and clarify the correlation and contrasts with formal distant learning in the new media design area. The goal of comparison is to see if e-education should be reorganised as it was in music and book industry within Internet development.As a case study it is planned to analyse the experience of teaching into cross cultural distant course on Visual Communication held at European Humanities University and Institute for Fashion Technologies/State University of New York as a response to the challenges to formal (academic) education provided through Internet.

ESTONIAN EXPERIENCE: non-institutional media art production

by Piibe Piirma

Speaking of non-institutional media art production in Estonia I rely on my personal experience of organising annual media art festival in Tallinn.

We are a small and quite poor country in a situation where most of “culture makers” must be able to be successful by themselves. On the other hand this poorness situates us to be more creative and look after new extraordinary forms of cooperation, sharing ideas and continious self-learning.

I think that living and creating art in small society gives us many benefits – fact that everybody knows each other makes relationships and groupworks much easier. On the other hand we have in situaton where we have less audience.   

What characterizes non-institutional media art in Estonia?

First and best phenomenon is DIY – projects are born with hands-on method by using low-tech tools. Artists are often working in cellars or garages, old factories or rooftop flats. So I should say that artistic work and creativity do not depend on location.

Secondly I would say that media art does not depend of small budget.  Vice versa, I am happy to say
that media art is evolving and constantly finds new outcomes. 

Third and more broad phenomenon is that media art is dissolved with other cultural forms and can be found everywhere. And this is continuing and ever-rising trend.

Fourth is artists peculiar attitude of "big" problems. For example problems of surveillance society that have become popular abroad didn’t provoke fears or negatively minded works at all, instead our artists joyfully expressed condescension about it. Through artworks it was concluded that the surrounding cameras and carefully inspected personal data are an inevitable part of today’s society, which must be accepted and which should be used in art in the best way.

New media education in a changing environment of psychological, professional and social conditions

by Dr. Raivo Kelomees

I would like to look at new media education from the point of view of psychological, professional and social problems.

It has been possible to see them during last 20 years in the education environment of Estonia and I am afraid that many of them have almost been forgotten.

When speaking about psychological problems, is artistic imagination influenced by the medium of expression? Is imagination renewed with new media? I mean new media in general, not only so called “new media”. New technology, new tools, new equipment? Can we say that there is a specific talent, which is connected to a specific medium and if he or she does something else, then it is not good, not as talented as this? Is talent specific to a medium or is it universal? If we call anybody talented, then his talent will appear anyway, despite technological or social conditions, or not?

Professional problems. Endless questions about how qualified an artist could be using a technical medium. How skilled should he/she be in using software and computers to work as an artist and author of new media?

Social problems. Interconnected parameters of social interaction are the distribution of information, recourses and reputation. There is competition in the field of production of social notion and reputation which influences perception of quality of artistic production.

Bios of the Participants

Chris Hales

Dr. Chris Hales is a specialist in the 'interactive moving image', as practitioner, educator and researcher. His interactive films have been presented internationally since 1995 both as installations and as live cinematic performances and in 2008 he exhibited most of his films in a 9-room exhibition as part of the Prague Triennale of Contemporary Art. Since completing his PhD “Rethinking the Interactive Movie” at SMARTlab (University of East London) in 2006 he has remained at SMARTlab as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow. He writes frequently about ‘interactive moving image’ and has taught over 100 short workshop courses on this subject in numerous institutions in Europe. A recent research project was to rediscover details of the Czechoslovakian 'Kinoautomat' of 1967 and to help it to be performed again in public and to be published on DVD.

Agnieszka Pokrywka

Agnieszka Pokrywka (*1984, lives and works in Trondheim, Norway) graduated Poznan Academy of Fine Arts (Criticism of Art / Animated Film and Poznan University of Technology (Computer Simulations). Nowadays she is PhD candidate on Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in the field of digital arts.

She is mainly interested in interdisciplinary fields of knowledge especially these between art and technology. In her artistic creativity she rather uses digital ways of expression (vj'ing, video art, animation, film etc.).

Piibe Piirma

Piibe Piirma is media artist, organizer and teacher based in Tallinn, Estonia.  She has worked as designer and visual artist since 2002, also as teacher at new media department of Estonian Academy of Arts, in University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy and Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences (EUAS). 

Since 2006 Piibe Piirma was one  of organizing team of Plektrum, an annual visual culture festival in Tallinn. She also worked as assistant on new media events like RAM3 (2003) and ISEA2004 in Tallinn. Piibe Piirma has organized several digital art workshops at Polymer Factory (alternative culture center in Tallinn) and Old Town Educational College. Since 2009  Piibe Piirma is doctoral student at Estonian Academy of Arts.

Raivo Kelomees

Raivo Kelomees, PhD (art history), artist, critic and new media professor. Studied psychology, art history, and design in Tartu University and the Academy of Arts in Tallinn. Presently working as the professor of the New Media Department at the Estonian Academy of Arts. Has published more than 300 articles in main cultural and art magazines and newspapers of Estonia since 1985. Book author, “Surrealism” (Kunst Publishers, 1993) and an article collection  “Screen as a Membrane” (Tartu Art College proceedings, 2007). Doctoral thesis „Postmateriality in Art. Indeterministic Art Practices and Non-Material Art“ (Dissertationes Academiae Artium Estoniae 3, 2009).