The hope of new in new media art

Barbora Kundračíková

The New Media Programme is one of the new “small flagships” of the Olomouc Museum of Art – Central European Forum. Why “flagship” and why “small”? Or rather, how are these two adjectives related? For a long time, local collecting institutions have avoided new media, citing both the high costs associated with their maintenance and their not entirely stable and demonstrable artistic quality as reasons. The new media were simply too new for the tradition to grasp and safely incorporate, confusing their users and confounding their audiences. Although they are still at times a mere decoy, their importance continues to grow – making it almost impossible to imagine the art of the last thirty years without them. I consider the deficit we are forced to cope with because of the non-existent collections, paradoxically, to be one of our greatest benefits – it offers us an unprecedented opportunity to reassess and share. And it is in this sense that I understand and use the phrase “small flagship.”

It was not until Hayden White at the latest that historiography has been systematically interested in its own narratology. Today, narrative seems to be its middle name, of course also under the impression of the fundamental social and political changes we are currently witnessing first-hand – in Ukraine. Although we are indeed facing substantial changes in discourse, we can still only prepare ourselves – and the field of new media might be a good vehicle for that. Let us build new stories on the foundations of old ones!

The New Media Museums project combines several key moments – it is built on expertise that is not limited to a specific domain; it reflects a spectrum that is closely profiled, almost communal, at the same time presupposes a high degree of participation and ultimately affects not only the art world, but also the world itself; its exploration offers the possibility of an ultimate rethinking of existing categories, precisely because of how emphatically it inflects the word technology. Quite specifically, however, it is above all an inherently experimental and playful field.

I am very glad that our call for cooperation, which is at the roots of the Central European Forum itself, has been heard not only by our partners who have been involved in the creation of the online platform, but also by new ones, operating outside our established circles, in particular C3 in Budapest and PAF in Olomouc. I consider the combination of large state institutions, such as the Slovak National Gallery, with specialised centres such as the WRO in Wrocław and independent entities to be truly exceptional. The same applies to the intention to share our own experiences, including mistakes, and to motivate each other to correct them. The hope that a functional and vibrant network will emerge, helping to cushion the shocks and upheavals of history, preserving the monuments of the past while actively developing them, is growing – despite the fears that are now unexpectedly returning to a degree that perhaps few anticipated. Let us hope that we can meet the challenges ahead with honour, without losing the essential dimension of friendship.