In February 2018, St. Petersburg welcomed the eleventh edition of Cyfest, an annual international festival of media art, organised by Cyland International MediaArtLab (https://cyland.org/lab/). This year’s theme is ‘Weather Forecast: Digital Cloudiness’. The term ‘cloud’ refers to networked spaces used for storage but also collaboration. The artworks presented at the festival explore all kinds of clouds, including private, public, community and hybrid ones. Organized by Anna Frantz and Elena Gubanova with financial support from Big Data Solutions, the Russian Ministry of Culture and other donors, the festival shows work by artists from ten countries. The festival also celebrates its collaborative work with The Lumen Prize and Leonardo International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology. Its programme encompasses exhibitions, performances, workshops (art-a-hack), and a series lecture hosted by the Hermitage and Sreda creative space. The festival has been very well attended, with the opening night seeing extremely large numbers of visitors. Local media including the Saint Petersburg television network has covered the event (https://topspb.tv/news/2018/02/2/v-peterburge-startoval-festival-mediaiskusstv-kiberfest/).
Two groups occupying the main exhibition spaces are the Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design and Annenkirsche. The former is one of the most traditional schools specializing in design, monumental and decorative art, including industrial design, artistic textiles, and painting and restoration. The latter is a Lutheran church built in the eighteenth century but decommissioned by the communists during the Stalin era. During the Soviet era the church was used as a cinema and in the post-Soviet period as a night club. The Stieglitz Academy and Annenkirsche help the visitor re-consider Imperial and Soviet Russia from the perspective of official and unofficial practices. In these locations the visitor can also explore the relationship of the digital to other forms of knowledge (religion and art) and representation (the digital as a remediation of previous forms of illusion). The two exhibition spaces emphasize the fluidity of the digital whereby clouds stand for areas of concentrated knowledge and experience.
Cyfest has previously collaborated with our journal; this year Vlad Strukov, the founding and principal editor, took part in the festival as a lecturer and curator. He presented work by an Istanbul-based artist Oğuz Emre Bal called ‘İçlek’, which means ‘belonging to the inside’. It consists of 3D-printed objects and VR experiences, which visitors can enjoy onsite or download on their phones. When engaging with the objects and digitally-crated worlds, the viewer learns how to experience abstract concepts such as the alphabet, data and weather statistics as spatial categories. İçlek speaks about human ontology as a process of (re-)entering spaces and figuring information in architectural forms, both actual and virtual.
Cyfest continues to be the largest and most exciting festival of digital arts in Eastern Europe. And Cyland is an important repository of video and digital artwork from the region. We hope that our collaborative work with the festival will continue in the future.