Rudolf Frieling and Dieter Daniels (Eds.) Medien Kunst Netz. 1, Medienkunst im Überblick / Media Art Net. 1, Survey of media art. 2004. Springer: Vienna and New York. 399 pp. ISBN: 978-3-211-00570-5.

Rudolf Frieling and Dieter Daniels (Eds.) Medien Kunst Netz. 2, Thematische Schwerpunkte / Media Art Net. 2, Key Topics. 2005. Springer: Vienna and New York. 320 pp. ISBN: 978-3-211-23871-4.

Book Review by Dr. Pablo B. Markin, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Philosophy Department of East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.

Medien Kunst Netz / Media Art Net is a series of two dense volumes dedicated to media art. Despite the relative brevity of each publication, the essays collected in this series cover the topics concerning media art across its historical forerunners, technological supports and multiple contexts. As bilingual German and English volumes, these two books address a wide international audience. A companion website adds images, video clips and artist information to the original articles in their full length. This makes the project behind these books and the website into an attention-worthy resource for scholars, artists and curators.

The structure of this two-book project comprises nine sections presenting different aspects of media art. Each section of these books emerges from collaborative projects between European universities, media art centres, and research institutes, such as those in Zurich, Barcelona, Karlsruhe, and Leipzig. This accounts for different approaches and topical highlights each thematic section represents. In the Overview of Media Art section that the first volume comprises, two major contributors are Dieter Daniels and Rudolf Frieling. Alongside presenting the work of John Cage and Nam June Paik, two seminal figures for the history of media art, they also shed light on its roots in European avant-garde movements, such as Italian Futurism and Soviet Constructivism. Attempting to rethink the relations between painting and new media in the interwar years, Walter Ruttmann’s works presaged later media theories, as Dieter Daniels highlights.

In the second volume, the Aesthetics of the Digital section presents informational aesthetic theories, such as those by Max Bense, formulated in the 1950s and 1960s. Claudia Gianetti covers these theories advancing autopoietic and systems-theoretical models of feedback loops between complex artworks and their environments. The Sound and Image section draws attention to the notable crossovers between experimental music and art experiments beginning in the 1950s, such as John Cage’s works drawing on found sound footage and random radio streams. Barbara John highlights continued relevance of Richard Wagner’s music ideas for contemporary art. Dieter Daniels explores the close relations between avant-garde and modernist art and music for this section. In the Cyborg Bodies section, Verena Kuni shows the impact of Donna Haraway’s A Cyberg Manifesto on contemporary art in the context of feminist critique of genetic technology, aesthetic surgery and mass media. Yvonne Volkart further explores the interconnections between biotechnology, body modifications and feminist theory as reflected in digitally modified photography, such as by Dieter Huber, Olaf Breuning, and Inez van Lamsweerde.

In the Photo/Byte section, the themes of photographic medium, digital photography and post-photography are connected to the changing status of photographic works within art practice. Susanne Holschbach explores the implications of William Mitchell’s theorization of post-photographic practices, Marshall McLuhan’s works on media and perception, and Vilém Flusser’s works on photography, technology and philosophy. In Art and Cinematography section, Diedrich Diederichsen explores the parallels between the art-house notion of auteur-filmmaker and the iconic short-film and video art figures of Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith and Andy Warhol. Other sections of the second volume cover internet art, cartographic representations and public art as vehicles for artistic interventions, visions and utopias.

These books’ efforts to bring artist presentations, curatorial contributions and comparative scholarship to bear on their contents make them into a compelling two-volume series for an in-depth study of relations between technical media, contemporary art and digital domain. This collection draws attention to less well known German modernists, scholars and theoreticians, such as Ruttmann, Bense and Diederichsen. Nevertheless, these volumes demonstrate a broad treatment of their subject matter by both involving international scholarly teams and approaching modernist, avant-garde and contemporary art comparatively.

Author Biography:

Dr. Pablo B. Markin conducts postdoctoral research on aesthetics, postmodernity and cultural globalization at the Philosophy Department of East China Normal University, Shanghai, China. During 2008-2010, he did postdoctoral research on Berlin as a city of culture at the DAAD Center for German Studies at the European Forum of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. In 2008, he defended a doctoral dissertation on Richard Münch, a German contemporary sociologist, at the Modern Languages and Cultural Studies Department of the University of Alberta, Canada. In 2007, he was invited as a Visiting Scholar to the German Language and Literature Department of Columbia University, New York. His graduate degree was earned in Sociology and European Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2003.