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Social media before the Internet

12-16 May

Left-wing media theorists dreamed for decades of transforming media consumers into media producers. The hope was for a media future in which the power of publishers and broadcasters would be supplanted by democratic and participatory media. The programme Social media before the Internet exhibits the various and in some cases little-known forms of alternative media work prior to the advent of the worldwide digital web. At the same time, it offers an opportunity to critically review the emancipatory hopes invariably associated with the latest media, and to re-evaluate our present-day circumstances in this light.

 

Starting in the mid-1960s, the emergence of video provided fresh impetus for such hopes. The first video collectives, such as the Videofreex and the Raindance Corporation, were formed in the USA in the late 1960s with the aim of building an alternative public media sphere. Similar concepts did not approach realisation in Europe until the 1970s and 80s, through the work of alternative video groups as well as a number of public television projects. From the mid-1980s onward, online networking via mailboxes provided new fuel for the hope for more democratic forms of media. This led to alternative online networks such as the CL-Netz, the first infrastructure for digital networking by alternative groupings in the German-speaking countries, but also to hybrid media formats combining online media and television, for example the documenta project Piazza Virtuale by the artist collective Van Gogh TV. The programme will feature numerous examples from television and art history, including works by Nam June Paik, Paper Tiger Television oder Harun Farocki.

 

In recent years, the downsides of media communication between anyone and everyone are becoming increasingly evident. Political smear campaigns, racism, conspiracy theories and an unforgiving social media discussion culture that disdains any diversity of opinion are shedding new light on the utopian hopes of the past and raising the question of whether this development was perhaps already presaged by the early media experiments.

 

The curator:

Dr. Tilman Baumgärtel is a professor of media theory at the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz. He has taught at the University of Paderborn, the University of the Philippines in Manila and the Royal University of Phnom Penh, among others. His work focuses on areas including net art and culture, media art, alternative forms of cinema, and computer games. He lives in Berlin. Publications (selected): "Vom Guerilla-Kino zum Essayfilm: Harun Farocki. Monographie eines deutschen Autorenfilmers", Berlin 1998; "net.art. Materialien zur Netzkunst", Nuremberg 1999; "Pirate Essays. A Reader in International Media Piracy", Amsterdam 2016.


Just as important as the competitions at Oberhausen is the extensive Theme programme. 

Today, the short film branches into a host of cross-genre forms that are not shown in cinemas, be they avant-garde, advertising or scientific films or a wealth of artists’ experiments. Oberhausen presents this differentiated form of the short film in thematic contexts, thus creating a forum for social discussions which, although originating from the topic of short film, actually go far beyond filmrelated issues and lead to an all-encompassing dialogue on the ways and workings of film production in the arts, new technologies and science.

 

ContactKristina Henschel