1 February 2015
We Love Design

As part of our annual study trip to Berlin, we attend Transmediale, Europe’s premiere festival of digital arts, culture and technology. Each year the programme features cutting-edge films, installations, performances, workshops, and other events at the impressive Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) in central Berlin.

This year the theme at Transmediale was ‘Capture All’ – focussing on how we create, use, share and interpret digital media in all of its forms and how this is affecting our lives. The festival opened on Wednesday 28th with more than 1000 students, artists, technologists, educators and designers attending from all over the globe. As well as free access to the full festive exhibition and free wine, DJ Renaissance Man put on a two hour set running till 11pm as attendees networked and soaked up the atmosphere.

In past years Transmediale has tended to feature a lot of conceptual digital art, virtual interaction and installation work, so it was great for our design students to see what felt like a much more tangible exhibition this year, containing some stunning and original visual communication via print, screen and video, including the following highlights –

Main Exhibition: Jennifer Lyn Morone

In this standout piece, the artist turned herself into a real corporation called Jennifer Lyn Morone™, Inc. As a commercial venture, she presents herself and her belongings as items in which you can buy shares. In this way, as a direct attack on the culture of data-mining, digital marketing and social media, none of her personal data can be shared, stored or accessed unless the viewer actually owns it. Morone explains this idea in a cool video, alongside documents detailing the incorporation, plus the terms and conditions of her personal data market. There’s also an iPad App where you can select and purchase Morone’s email, mood, and location data, amongst other personal information. Check out more about the project on the web at jenniferlynmorone.com

Main Exhibition: Networked Optimization

A collaboration by Silvio Lorusso and Sebastian Schmieg, this work uses digital publishing and access to reading materials to examine data interaction. The work presents a series of three crowdsourced versions of popular self-help books — The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, The 5 Love Languages, and How to Win Friends and Influence People. The books are displayed on a glass table for reading, but when you pick one up and flick through it, almost all of the pages are empty. The cover artwork for each title is also devoid of text.

The only text that remains readable is a selection of popular highlights – passages which were underlined by Kindle users – together with the tally of highlighters who have read each title. Each time a passage is underlined, it is automatically stored by Amazon. The e-books can be downloaded, and paper copies are also available in the HKM bookshop.

Guest Exhibition: Ellie Harrison

For almost five years Glasgow-based artist Ellie Harrison recorded information about every aspect of her daily routine. The result was a spectacular piece of work called ‘Timelines‘, which documents everything she did, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for four weeks.

Each day the data about every activity was transferred into an excel spreadsheet. By the end of the four weeks it contained 2,297 entries, which were then transposed into a series of 28 colour-coded timelines. This produced a dazzling infographic which allows the viewer to identify any activity from the artist’s life, including eating, showering, commuting to work, buying food, using email, driving, socialising and so on.

Foyer Programme: Datafied Research

This panel-led event discussed the findings of a year-long project exploring Transmediale’s theme of ‘Capture All’, and looked at issues surrounding the limits to how much personal information about us can or should be digitised. The panel featured participants from the Datafied Research PhD workshop between Aarhus University and the School of Creative Media, Hong Kong City University. The results were also published as a peer-reviewed newspaper, which was launched at the festival and exhibited in the foyer. All the double-page spreads were hung up in a flatplan sequence to create a huge single image as a landscape poster. On the other side of this, all of the findings, statistics and related articles, beautifully typeset, were there to read. We managed to pick up a few copies of this nice editorial product for the studio.

Foyer Programme: Hybrid Publishing Toolkit

This workshop, held on Friday, was part of the Digital Publishing Toolkit research project, and featured a presentation by Florian Cramer, Patricia de Vries, Miriam Rasch and Margreet Riphagen, who described a set of tools for digital publishing. The Toolkit, available as an e-book, is aimed at anyone working in art and design publishing, providing hands-on practical advice and focusing on working solutions for low-budget, small-edition publishing. Approaches for the use of the toolkit can include catalogues, magazines, research publications, and design or art-themed books. More can be found at the networkcultures.org, including a free download of the e-book.

Transmediale also runs in conjunction with the CTM Festival of experimental sound, with events held at world-famous clubs such as Berghain and Tresor.

Chris Hughes