Some Words about History and Perspectives of Development of Media Art in Russia


Any attempt to “draw,” as critics say, an artistic circle, representing this or that stream in art has a sense in historical investigations either when temporal remoteness influences the quality of the analyses or gives a very superficial result.

To the historical geography of Moscow underground—Kabakov’s studio, studios in Furmanny, Chistoprudny, Trekhprudny, Contemporary Art Centre—one can add one more point—Moscow Art New Media Laboratory (from 1998, Moscow MediaArtLab). Mostly an educational project, created by the Soros Center for Contemporary Art (SCCA), it unexpectedly led to the change of Moscow art situation. Mostly, that happened because the pupils and projects’ authors chosen for that laboratory were not students but professional artists, who had a particular aesthetic experience and developed ideology. Nowadays we can tell that a new kind of art exists and it has new possibilities, its own aesthetics, ideology, fashion, style, and production time. Although that couldn’t happen in an empty space and in a second.

The first project of the newly established Department of Film and Media Arts in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is dedicated to the collision of the past and the present, the innovative processes which occurred in the 20th century and were related to the “liberation” of artistic tools and media. With the demonstration of not only Russian works, but also western artists, we will try to answer the following question: Tradition and Contemporary Media Art: Is Classical Art Still Relevant?

Media art, with its history and original non-commercial orientation, its wish to leave the ordinary space of conventional art and make an invasion into mass media and social practices, has not always been on the same plane with the history of the development of the contemporary art. The key feature of media art is its interdisciplinary character. The media artist, who sometimes becomes a pseudo-scientist, then a pseudo-politician, then pseudo-showman, is the first to become aware of how to allow this or that media to use the power of another one and liberate it. The criterion of quality in media art has always been its innovative character from the point of view of an artistic idea and technologies, applied in this context of art. What is important in the media art is not so much the existence of a product, but the very stories of regeneration, of synthesis of different creative aspects inside the media space, guessing about the future. Conceptual and attractive elements are combined in the media art. However, there is a danger: as soon as we start to perceive a work of media art on the attractive level, it turns into entertainment and often loses its inner meaning. What is important is the “virus” which media art received from contemporary art—the virus of reaction, utopia, poetry.

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