InterCommunication No.16 1996

InterCity PRAGUE

New Media in Contemporary Arts 2/4

This was the first endeavor by the Czech Republic to present to a broad public the actual connections between electronic media and Czech visual arts. The topic allowed for a rich historical perspective as well as for the interweaving of an international media context. Gerald O'GRADY, the legendary founder of the media department at the State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo traced the role of Czech artists in the history of the international media arts. He placed a spotlight on COMENIUS and other important figures such as the members of the Czech ante-bellum avant-garde movement, Andy WARHOL, the creators of the new Czech cinema, the creators of the "Laterna Magica and Kino Automat" which were multimedia stage productions at Expo 58 in Brussels and Expo 67 in Montreal, Bohuslav "Woody" VASULKA, who was the most important figure in the development of avant garde media in the United States, and another major media theorist, namely Vilem FLUSSER. The Prague-born FLUSSER's role in the revival of interest in new technology and its cultural influence in the 90's was one of the keys to this event. This year's international media symposium, was the fourth in what was originally started as a commemoration of this foremost philosopher and communication theorist, who died on his way back to France from a lecture at the Goethe Institute, in Prague in 1991.
Jiri ZEMANEK introduced the works of the sculptor Zdenek PESANEK, a Czech artist who conducted experiments with new media -- the synthesis of movement, neon light and sound -- in the early 20s. His kinetic neon objects, colored piano conceptions, lighting of public spaces and architecture, as well as his abstract animation films are a testimony to a work that is a highly original vision of the ties between art and technology. His work has been compared with that of Laszlo MOHOLY-NAGY, who later was followed by Nicholas SCHOFFER. Since W.W.II, further developments in artistic experimentation with new technologies, such as, computers, lasers and projections have been limited by the political, economic and cultural conditions in Czechoslovakia, and the fact that encounters with the international avant-garde scene have been infrequent. Since the advent of political reform, art works have been created under new conditions and there are a number of young artists who have better access to advanced equipment. One of the goals of this exhibition was to demonstrate that Czech art has regained its uniqueness.