Transmediale 2006 Smile Machines exhibition report.

Transmediale 2006

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Being Reality Addicts in a society highly mediated by technology means being techno-addicts. However if transmediale.06 is devoted to the artistic strategies that subvert the technological paradigm of reality, also ‘Smile MachinesÕ, the exhibition organized for the event, must be looked at from this point of view. According to Anne Marie Duguet, it is not an exhibition about humor, but a display on the ironic use of technology as subversive strategy. Derision, irony, mockery, parody, caricature, satire have been artistic practices of many movements during the twentieth century, from Dada to Surrealism, to Fluxus Situationism. Today the actual revival of interest in humour in all sectors of social life is a manifesto in the world of arts that finds its roots in the above mentioned movements. Artworks were regrouped according to main topics: derision by technology itself (The Helpless Robot by Norman White, Videogame by Stephane Gilot), art that laughs at art (The Thinker by Nam June Paik), the rumination in the media (Wonder Woman by Dara Birnbaum, Slogans by Antoni Muntadas), simulation as critical strategy (G3-Bureaucrazy by, and black humour (Back in Black by Maja Bajevic) vs. seeing life through rose colored glasses (CÕest bien la societe di Valerie Pavia). However the general impression you might have is that the themes are loosely connected by strong thesis and that the exhibition would have required a further level of legitimation. As Armin Medosch has pointed out, Smile Machines attracts neophytes of media art, including ‘historic worksÕ of the past 30 years, but it doesnÕt satisfy the experts. There is a lot of video, but few digital works and almost no networks. Thus, compared to the aim of the event, Smile Machines eludes the subversive practices connected to contemporary technologies. There is a smile on faces, like that brought for example by Agnes Meyer-Brandis with SGM Ð Iceberg Probe, the winner artwork of transmediale.06, parody of scientific experiments aimed to the conquest of space. However we are still conscious that in order to subvert reality we need artworks able to deeply combine technology, culture and society.