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Art this month: Emotions and ecology

This year's Transmediale and two topical art shows will change your perspective on digital society.

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Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek

This year’s Transmediale and two topical art shows will change your perspective on digital society.

Berlin’s annual Transmediale festival has been the city’s most important event for digital media professionals and artists for nearly a decade. Every year, over 25,000 visitors see the exhibitions, conferences, performances and more. This year’s edition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt focusses on the role of emotions and empathy and how they manifest in digital culture. In the so-called “Study Circles”, artists and activists will present their research. Make sure to check out the four-day programme of performances, book launches and screenings – highlights include the central lecture “Knitting and Knotting Love” (Feb 2, 18:00) led by artists Erica Scourti and Shaka McGlotten, which looks at affective encounters online through an art performance. Equally important is the panel “How to Disrupt Yourself: Life in the Entrepreneurial Home” (Feb 3, 14:00), in which entrepreneurs and scientists from sociology and architecture discuss how the sharing economy changes our domestic and social lives.

If you want more new media art, NOME Gallery in Kreuzberg has got you covered. Here, Dutch artist Marjolijn Dijkman presents Navigating Polarities, which explores the Anthropocene, the current geological age shaped by humanity’s impact on nature. The immersive video installation projected on a dome-shaped screen mimics the concave surface of the earth. Comprised of drone footage of mines and digital animations of electrons and magnetic particles from experiments in the artist’s studio, no scale or perspective is provided. Are you looking at the universe or algae under a microscope? The voice-over quotes famous scientists and philosophers on tensions resulting from polarities in biology and society. For instance, you’ll hear American feminist Karen Barad’s insight: “That is the essence of touching: repulsion at the core of attraction.”

From the macroscopic to the microscopic, the film Reclaiming Vision (2018), a collaboration with Norwegian artist Toril Johannessen, focusses on the invisible human impact on the oceans, placing microorganisms and pollutants from Norwegian fjords under close inspection. The music, generated by microelectronic algorithms as well as a cello soloist, make them appear as beautifully choreographed sequences.

Future Gallery in Tiergarten presents Greek artist Spiros Hadjidjanos’ investigations into cultural and technological evolution. Colourful models of mountains placed on the gallery walls are actually 3D inkjet prints on high-density foam. With a background in photography, Hadjidjanos translated scanned archival photographs of Greek landscapes from the 1920s into 3D photographic prints. His installation of a plant on a marble stone called “Euphorbia Acanthothamnos” was transported by the artist from Athens to Berlin, then scanned by an electron microscope and transformed into prints showing almost unrecognisable segments of the plant on carbon-fibre. In the next room, large glass cubes expose the inner life of a computer generating images that are not visible on screens but instead rendered as concentrated light travelling along fibre wire conductors attached to the wall. The data running through the system are images of childhood memories, which are technically modified and stripped of all visible emotional attachment.

These thought-provoking events and shows will certainly leave you pondering the strange ways humans interact with nature and each other through the means of technology.

Transmediale Jan 31-Feb 3 Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Tiergarten | Navigating Polarities Through Feb 23 NOME Gallery, Kreuzberg | Spiros Hadjidjanos Through Feb 16 Future Gallery, Tiergarten