Leonardo Education Forum
Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne
Wednesday, 26th November, 2009
The LEF workshop was conducted as part of the Re:live Media Art History 09 conference held in Melbourne, Australia, from the 26th to the 29th November 2009. The 2009 Forum was focused around three strategic themes:
1) The role of research in media art, science and technology
2) The role of curricula: Mapping the terrain.
3) The role of institutions: Institutional/Organisational capacities and benchmarks.
Three working groups discussed these items separately after focused, introductory presentations by Oliver Grau, Ross Harley and Ian Clothier respectively. Summaries of the outcomes of these working groups, as well as the presentations, have been tabled separately. The following summary was complied by Darren Tofts and constitutes a series of concentrations of key themes, priorities and ideas developed during the day, rather than a summary of resolutions and outcomes. These will be addressed in the specific group summaries.
A common theme of the “need for a network” emerged in preliminary remarks by both Nina Czegledy and Oliver Grau. This theme emerged in response to the shared feeling of a loss of momentum and consolidated international engagement with respect to media art and media art histories. The idea of a network presumed the development of key goals with respect to an educational forum, a research platform for discussion as well as vision and leadership. In this respect Paul Thomas’ and Jeremy Blank’s reports on the status of the Australian-focussed NOMAD (National Organisation of Media Arts) and MASS (Media Arts Scoping Study) projects represented important, exemplary initiatives to be benchmarked internationally.
Oliver Grau asserted that it is not self-evident that media art “needs histories and archives”. This cautionary point was made with respect to his concern that despite that fact that media art is the “art of our time”, it still struggles to be viagra no prescription
exhibited in mainstream art institutions. The concern shared by all members of the Forum was that media art had not yet arrived on to the international scene as a vital and conspicuous branch of contemporary art. Oliver argued that we “still need” to integrate media arts into culture. This was reinforced by Ross Harley who characterized media art as a cultural “outsider”.
This led to the question of the space of media art; where is it to be situated/where is it best situated? Ian Clothier adopted a vectoral approach to thinking about its situatedness, describing it as “within, between and beyond the art institution”. Ian talked of the need to specialize art institutions for the presentation of art (on the model of the initial vision of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne; however as Darren Tofts had commented, ACMI had increasingly moved away from prioritizing media art work as part of its curatorial mission. When such work is exhibited, it is usually situated as a sub-branch of the moving image).
The idea of a network of media art historians, academics, practitioners, curators and dedicated funding bodies emerged as the strongest theme of the Forum. This idea hinged on the condition of networks being of necessity decentred, as well as the caution that they must not be disconnected. Darren proffered the motto of “decentred but not disconnected” as a motif for future thinking on the idea of an international network galvanized around media art.
Some of the factors and constituencies essential to such a network were identified in the three plenary papers by Oliver, Ross and Ian: the integration of research, University curricula and other forms of expert and popular knowledge, the role of dedicated publishing, criticism and review, exhibition and curatorial policy. The importance of institutional support, governance and mentoring was discussed, but the question as to which ones were appropriate and necessary was seen to be open-ended. One key question emerged from Ian’s presentation: are there as yet unfamiliar, unexpected or emerging institutions to be considered? The emphasis on galvanizing these key factors was underlined by Ross in his presentation. Darren made the point in his summation of the day that what Ross had identified as the “meshing of research, educational and institutional imperatives” is exactly what Julianne Pierce had described in a 2001 issue of Artlink devoted to the evolution of media art as an “active circuit”.  This, too, became a working motif for the Forum for the way forward.
Dr Darren Tofts
Professor of Media & Communications
Faculty of Life & Social Sciences
Swinburne University of Technology
John Street, Hawthorn, 3122