InterCommunication No.16 1996

InterCity PRAGUE

New Media in Contemporary Arts 1/4

It was probably not just coincidence that the recent exhibition in Prague of contemporary Czech electronic art was entitled Orbis Fictus and that the chosen location was the Valdstein Riding Hall - one of the largest and most prestigious show spaces in this old central European town. The title of the show, which was organized by The Soros Center for Contemporary Art in Prague, is an allusion to the famous illustrated textbook for children entitled Orbis Sensualium Pictus / The World in Pictures. This book was conceived and edited by the Protestant Czech philosopher and teacher Jan Amos COMENIUS in 1658. The exhibition space is a part of the baroque palace of Generalisssimo Waldstein, who was one of the mighty rulers of the forced recatholization of Bohemia back in the 17th century. The Baroque era was a turbulent time when the basic shapes of the constellation of European philosophy, science and art were created.
Here, the inevitable comparison between present and past, in other words, the issue of a gradual transition from the old media to the new media, and the attendant aesthetic, social and moral influences emerges. What is the pre-history of the so-called new media? How we can stop the scattering of falsity and truth through the use of technological development? It seems that this discourse was generated by the local spirit of Prague, a city that has been the source for the mythologies of robots and the golem and where these issues of the distinction between real and unreal, truth and fiction, have been raised over and over again.
This discourse was reflected in the theme of the Orbis Fictus exhibition and in the four-day international symposium "Artificial Environments as Artifacts" organized as a part of the project by the SCCA and the Goethe Institute Prague. Participating were important media theorists and artists, such as, Margaret MORSE, Siegfried ZIELINSKI, Sergius GOLOWIN and Paul DE MARINIS.