face value. Berlin transmediale, art & digital culture

Logo transmediale

transmediale, the international festival for art and digital culture celebrates its 31st iteration from January 31st to February 4th.The prominent international festival, considered at the head of contemporary experimentation and cutting-edge digital culture with strong socio-political implications, will host around 65 events with 167 invitees at Haus der Kunturen der Welt.

Under the title face value, the 2018 edition of transmediale will offer during five days conferences, films and video program, workshops, and performances depicting the values and processes of creation that have contributed to our present moment of extreme political, economic, and cultural divides.

“Take at face value” is to accept what one says without further verifying or investigating, that why its participants will seek possible new ways of resisting and deconstructing the alarming development of digital populism driven by algorithmically guided communication practices, the radicalization of net culture, and the new culture wars.

(Post)digital culture today seems to support hate, racist and neo-colonial powers rather than provide an emancipatory alternative, that is why transmediale tries to find a way for artists, cultural workers, and speculative theorists respond to the current politics of taking things at face value whilst facing their own values.

Exhibition Program

The exhibition program encompasses the experimental exhibition Territories of Complicity, the guest exhibition A Becoming Resemblance as well as the installation Hate Library.

Territories of Complicity

Territories of Complicity is an experimental space of artistic research designed in reference to the freeport —a logistics hub and high-security storage space that allows free trade outside of national regulation. In an emulation of the freeport’s logistic setup, the works will be organized and displayed in boxes, accompanied by contextualizing research and documentation to be “unpacked” by the visitors and further activated by the artists in the form of screenings, performances, workshops, and discussions.

The image of the freeport is used as a way of exploring how covert systems, technological infrastructures, as well as territories of exception within globalized networks of exchange and traffic shape our economic, socio-political realities. The featured projects investigate such structures and the various conditions that determine the circulation of goods as well as movements of people and explore how mobility creates economic value, and how it is linked to our notion of who and what is valuable.

In their collaborative series Finding Fanon, Larry Achiampong and David Blandy set out to examine how the politics of race, racism, and decolonization impact our relationships in an age of new technology, pop culture, and globalization. As movie characters and Grand Theft Auto 5 avatars, they explore the postcolonial condition, referencing the radical oeuvre of philosopher Frantz Fanon on the psychopathology of colonization as well as the social and cultural effects of decolonization.

Zach Blas piece is based on Contra-Internet, a series of artworks and texts which he has been working on since 2014. The project confronts the transformation of the internet into an instrument of state oppression and accelerated capitalism, and, in its latest incarnation, takes the shape of a science fiction film installation that uses queer-feminist methods in order to speculate on alternatives to the internet and other networks.


Ongoing scenarios based on research and speculation also form the foundation of Femke Herregraven’s Sprawling Swamps. The work addresses the deconstruction of power structures and value systems, along with research on geopolitics and the global financial system, in order to explore possible alternatives.

Europium by Lisa Rave examines the depletion of resources, the extension of colonial history to the present, as well as our common entanglement in these processes. She forges links between the magical spiritualism of indigenous cultures and the banality of digital flat screens and connects the Tabu shell money of the Papua New Guinean Tolai people to European currency.

Lisa Rave, “Europium”

Lorenzo Pezzani and Charles Heller of Forensic Oceanography are investigating militarized border regimes of Europe. Their most recent work criticizes the EU’s two-pronged strategy of closing off the central Mediterranean Sea to illegalized migrants: not only are Search and Rescue NGOs criminalized, the European Union also collaborates with the Libyan coast guard to intercept and pull back migrants.

“Blaming The Rescuers”, Forensic Oceanography

Yuri Pattison’s Citizens of Nowhere (Context Collapse), explores infrastructures, borderlines, and the role of the traveler in order to juxtapose them with the illusion of a globalized world as a place without borders.

A Becoming Resemblance

A Becoming Resemblance by Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Chelsea Manning investigates emerging technologies of genomic identity construction and our societal moment. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Probably Chelsea, which consists of thirty different possible portraits of whistleblower Manning, whose sentence was commuted by former US president Barack Obama in early 2017.

Dewey-Hagborg produced the algorithmically generated 3D printed portraits from DNA extracted from cheek swabs and hair clippings that Manning mailed out of prison. Probably Chelsea shows in just how many ways our DNA can be interpreted as data, and how subjective the act of reading DNA really is.

Hate Library

The installation Hate Library by Nick Thurston explores the language of far-right political groups and parties across contemporary Europe, especially their use of online forums as recruiting and collaboration tools.

The library’s interrelated components mix allegory and literalism by presenting texts as documentary artworks within a symbolic and social stage for reading, understanding, and dialogue. The source material reproduced in Hate Library is offensive, mundane, and remains publicly available to internet users anywhere in the world and is traceable via the metadata.

Hate Library

Performance Program

The performance program highlight is the premiere of Plague by composer and conceptual artist James Ferraro, a co-organized transmediale/CTM concert. Featuring scenographic elements and live visuals by Nate Boyce, his performance is a workaround speculations on a future society in which an artificial intelligence (AI) is simulating reality by using humans. As the AI struggles to emulate what it means to be human, tensions arise between the clinical gaze of the machine and the imperfection of its emulation.

James Ferraro

Conference program

The conference program comprises keynotes and panels, it examines the links between capitalism and racism, neoliberalism and fascism; it considers how prejudices and discrimination are enhanced within today’s algorithmic culture and looks into the ways in which processes of value creation are involved in the circulation, filtering, and categorization of information.

Pointing towards recurrent and emerging forms of racial capitalism, this conference edition invites its speakers to discuss related phenomena, to revisit existing counter-strategies and to reflect upon new shared territories and forms of coalition.


Derivative Living by Jonathan Beller

Beller is Professor of Humanities & Media Studies at Pratt Institute. He will deliver a keynote on the rise of computational racial capitalism and the challenges of platform communism and will problematize the toxicity of the current correlation of media, finance, and information, while also looking into how cryptographically secure computational platforms can become models of radical finance and sociality.

Call Out, Protest, Speak Back by Lisa Nakamura

Nakamura, who is Professor of American Cultures and Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, will talk about the sexist and racist worlds of today’s mediasphere and will focus on the role of women of color as actors of resistance in today’s internet infrastructure, and discuss the importance of critical race theory as a tool of surviving the so-called post-race world.

Politics of Forgetfulness by Françoise Vergès

Vergès is currently chair of Global South(s) at Collège d’Études Mondiales in Paris and a visiting professor at Brown University. She will address the racial capitalocene and the inequalities that pervade the history of environmental politics, colonialism, and Promethean thinking.

Dicussion Panels

Highlighted panels:

The Many Faces of Fascism

Rasmus Fleischer, Alex Foti, and Ewa Majewska will discuss the contemporary facets of fascist movements and their zones of influence. They will examine possible counteroffensive forms of ideological and political organization, addressing, too, the role of “weak resistance.”

Built-in Values: On the Politicization of Media Platforms

In the light of 2017’s incidents of xenophobia, hatred, and racial violence, the discussion session —featuring, amongst others, Marta Peirano, Roee Rosen, and Vladan Joler— addresses crucial questions about the role of the media and explores how different architectures of communication can still be imagined.

Extracting (Hi)stories of Complicity

This is one of the events that result from the intersections between the conference and the exhibition program and activates Femke Herregraven’s and Lisa Rave’s artworks. Both artists are concerned with the human drive to possess, exploit, and control natural resources. In this panel, they will investigate the connections between postcolonial ideologies, unstable territories, and Western complicity, all within the context of their artistic practices.

Biased Futures

Ana Teixeira Pinto, Yuk Hui, and Lawrence Lek will discuss a new infrastructural and territorial constitution depending on deep learning algorithms. The speakers will speculate on the changes and forms of discrimination that AI can bring to territories, cultures, or groups of people, and discuss emerging political counter-fictions and imaginaries.

Film & Video Program

The film & video program addresses the role of language and media in constructing narratives of progress. The international selection of short films, feature-length films, and live theater performances connects critical analysis, political agency, and artistic vision.

Highlighted selection:

Disseminate and Hold by Rosa Barba

Rosa Barba investigates manmade geographies and landscapes, and how these are often deeply enmeshed with political agendas and utopian visions. Particularly in Disseminate and Hold, Barba deals with  Minhocão highway which leads directly through São Paulo.

“Disseminate and Hold”, Rosa Barba

Rubber Coated Steel by Lawrence Abu Hamdan

Lawrence Abu Hamdan deals with an incident from 2014, in which two Palestinian youths were shot dead by an Israeli soldier in front of a camera during a demonstration in the occupied West Bank. The soldier later claimed to have used rubber bullets instead of ammunition. Sound artist Abu Hamdan provided the decisive proof of the soldier’s guilt with an audio-ballistic analysis of the recorded shots. In Rubber Coated Steel he revisits the incident in the form of a film.

“Rubber Coated Steel”, Lawrence Abu Hamdan

The Effect of Cannonry on Thunderclouds, Stefanie Schroeder & Juliane Jaschnow

In 2016, the highest number of potential tornadoes was reported since the beginning of the weather records in Germany. In The Effect of Cannonry on Thunderclouds, Jaschnow & Schroeder study how the Internet, television, and press are being flooded by weather allegories: shitstorms, data floods, refugee waves. Language, metaphors, and images are tools of control. They dispel fears —and raise them. To what extent is an image a document, fiction, trophy, or counterattack? How similar are manipulation and prognosis?

“The Effect of Cannonry on Thunderclouds” by Juliane Jaschnow & Stefanie Schroeder

| everyday words disappear | Michael Hardt on the politics of love by Johan Grimonprez

In the film political philosopher and co-author of Empire, Multitude and Commonwealth Michael Hardt raises questions about the implications of a political system based on love rather than fear, also works further on the notion of the “commons” and re-invent democracy. Hardt’s statements are intercut with scenes from Godard’s film Alphaville (1965), set in a dystopian city-state where all words and concepts relating to love and affection are banned.

Also Known As Jihadi by Eric Baudelaire

Eric Baudelaire’s artistic documentary follows the progress of a young man’s journey from France to Syria —and back to France, where he is incarcerated for allegedly joining the so-called Islamic State. In Also Known As Jihadi, the character’s paths to radicalism are rendered through a series of landscape shots filmed at the locations he traversed: a biography determined not by what he did, but by what he saw.

Check the complete transmediale face value program here.

transmediale runs in parallel with main partner CTM Festival.

transmediale.de, January 31st to February 4th.

Text: María Muñoz from Transmediale press releases.
Images: Courtesy of Transmediale.

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