In January-February 2017 the artistic community in St. Petersburg held its 10th International Media Art Festival CYFEST. It was curated by Anna Frants and Elena Gubanova (CYLAND: http://cyland.org). For its 10th anniversary, CYFEST significantly expanded its international reach to present projects from Colombia, Mexico and the USA, as well as from Russian regions (Krasnoiarsk, Moscow and St. Petersburg). In St. Petersburg, CYFEST has had a partnership with traditional and experimental art institutions including the Science Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts, the Museum of Applied Arts (St. Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design), The Youth Educational Centre of the State Hermitage Museum, the Taiga Creative Space, Luda Gallery, Golitsyn Hall, and St. Petersburg Sound Museum.
The festival featured video, VR, sound, media and digital art works by over a hundred artists from different countries. For example, the festival showed the work of the American artist Ryan Wolfe: it was a biometric installation when several umbrellas fixed on the ceiling would open and close in synch with the artist’s breathe. Ryan would wear a special device that read his breath rhythm and transmitted it to the umbrellas through Bluetooth. Sergei Katran from Russia used biological material sound in the work entitled ‘Kombucha’s oratario “Fairy rings”’. Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai (Russia) presented a kinetic installation consisting of two bathtubs filled with black paint, and a pair of giant ‘wings’ slowly flipping as they immersed from the vessels. William Latham (UK) VR to help the visitor navigate through a vast multi-dimensional space of possible forms in real time. Vitalii Pushnitskii (Russia) used augmented reality to create a moving object ‘Studio. Waiting’: the visitor could use a tablet to look at a painting which would reveal an old man in a wheelchair, sitting in an empty shabby room and looking out of the window.
These are other works highlight the experimental and technologically-rich programme of the festival. Many artworks provided a critical reflection on the nature of media and media history. For example, ‘I save them…’ by Victoria Ilyushkina tells the story of a person who has dedicated his life to collecting old electronic devices. He was a citizen of St. Petersburg who for forty years lived in a communal apartment. He would search for discarded electronic devices in the city’s dumpsters, and would repair and collect them. These included television sets, short wave radios and other outdated electronic devices. In an interview, he talked about trying to ‘save’ these objects because he believed that these technologies needed to be saved.
Victoria Ilyushkina turned this story into an installation consisting of ‘saved’ devices and technologies. Her installation reminded me of my own experience when I came across the so-called Society of Inventors in St. Petersburg. Its members were concerned with inventing new technologies, many of which looked like robots made from scrap metal. For them these objects were new inventions; they treasured them like objects of art. I came across the society by accident; my knowledge of their work helped me see a technological history connecting contemporary Russia to the Soviet era which for many is a symbol of outdated, ‘old’ technologies.
Visitors to the 10th CYFEST could discuss their personal impressions at various lectures and talks which were part of the educational programme. In this sense CYFEST 2017 was radically different from CYFEST 2007 because it appealed to a wide audience, not just the professional community.
The catalogue of the festival is available here http://cyland.org/files/CYBERFEST-10-catalog.pdf
Written by Daria Cherkashina
Images by Anton Khlabov