From the conference hall to the galleries to the clubs, the Transmediale and CTM festivals present a genre-blurring, format-spanning reflection on our troubled times. Does anyone remember what Transmediale is anymore? What started in 1987 as an experimental video programme within the Berlinale has turned into an ever-expanding confluence of art, culture and technology encompassing exhibitions, conferences, screenings, performances and publications. Invitees are not just artists and filmmakers but thinkers and hacktivists the world over, drawn to HKW under the banner of characteristically vague themes like 2011’s “Response: Ability” and last year’s 30th anniversary edition, “ever elusive”.
Amidst a Trump presidency and endless sexual harassment scandals, Transmediale’s Swedish curator Kristoffer Gansing describes this year’s theme, “face value”, as “more ‘current affairs’ related than usual”, with a particular focus on race, class and gender identity issues and quite a few guests from across the pond. After a Vorspiel programme of exhibitions at project spaces across Berlin (opening Jan 19 at ACUD), American artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg kicks off the Transmediale exhibition proper by literally putting the “face” in the title. She created 30 wildly different-looking 3D-printed portraits from whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s DNA, as mailed out from her Fort Leavenworth prison cell in the form of cheek swabs and hair clippings. The result, Probably Chelsea, forms the centrepiece of Dewey-Hagborg and Manning’s much-anticipated show A Becoming Resemblance. It opens January 31 at HKW alongside the experimental exhibition programme Territories of Complicity. The latter features Vilém Flusser resident artists Demystification Committee (Oliver Smith and Francesco Tacchini) with Offshore Investigation Vehicle, an ongoing research project examining offshore banking; and UK author and artist Nick Thurston’s Hate Library of language used by far-right political groups in online forums presented in physical texts and artworks.
The conference (Feb 1-4, HKW), organised by Berlin-based Greek curator Daphne Dragona, uses “face value” as a point of departure to focus on the racial dimensions of capitalism. Keynote speaker Jonathan Beller (American media theorist and author of The Cinematic Mode of Production) will pit capitalism against communism and praise the promise of encryption, while French feminist author, political analyst and activist Françoise Vergès will add some environmental and colonial considerations to the discussion. Other hot topics to be touched upon: sexism and racism in the tech world (courtesy of gaming culture scholar Lisa Nakamura); countercultures in polarised times (a discussion between Irish Kill All Normies author Angela Nagle and German media theorist Florian Cramer); and “blaccelerationism”, or the intersection of accelerationist philosophy and black radical thought, as explored by Los Angeles-based writer and artist Aria Dean.
Or maybe you’d rather just kick back with a movie? The film programme is no less heady, with highlights including the German premiere of Disseminate and Hold, a short by Rosa Barbra about Sao Paolo’s Minhocão highway; and Eric Baudelaire’s documentary Also Known as Jihadi, the story of a young French man’s incarceration for allegedly joining ISIS.
Transmediale, Jan 31-Feb 4 | HKW, Tiergarten, see website for full programme