Deaf 2007, Interact or Die! report


Check the DEAF photo set here

Deaf (Dutch Electronic Art Festival) has always been different from the other festivals, with a long time experience (The organizing institution V2_ celebrated 25 years of activity) investigating hot topics in a festival form. Being held in a condensed space, the 2007 edition has been characterized by a huge effort in making a bridge to China and its new digital and art phenomena at large. So the Chinese presence was impressive: twenty guests (curators, artists and professors) from all over the country potentially representing different institutions and realities. But, despite that, in the many debates focused or involving these guests, only a cloudy picture was drawn of the whole scene. All of them, in fact, seemed to be really concerned on what to say, usually making more general statements in public, beyond a shared feeling of something lost in translation. Nevertheless, scattered signals and traces were then collectable, but mostly left to personal interpretation. These contradictions were largely showed in ‘The Evening of the Long March’ a performance by Lu Jie vs. Henk Oosterling. A theatrical representation in the form of a public trial against the Long March Foundation (founded by Jie) involved other guests and the public, in an almost overwhelming monologue/debate about China and its economical/cultural current hype, including the real difficulties faced attempting to decode them from a western perspective. And the virtual sentence was emblematic: “the art market will sentence you.” A quite different performance was made by The Ludic Society, leaded by Margarete Jahrmann. Her gaming experience and theory was infused in a multilayered online/offline game officially played in front of a theatre audience. The whole experience seemed to observe a gaming process unfolding, using RFID to track objects in reality and representing them in GoogleMaps, with the spectators assisting to changes made outside, and a number of real life events (phone calls, explained theory…) interacting with the game players and rulers on the stage. The exhibition on the other hand, triggered mixed feelings, sporting some of the latest popular artworks (the psychedelic sound-based ‘Death Before Disko’ by Herwig Weiser, the physical videogame interface of ‘Object B’ by Exonemo and ‘Roots’, the metal crystals grown in a liquid illuminated by an orange light, by Roman Kirschner), side by side with some valuable not recent one (‘Harddisko’ by Valentina Vuksic or ‘World Wide Ensemble’ by Antoine Schmitt). Indeed, among the selected Chinese artworks there were the famous video ‘Chinese Portraiture’ by Zhou Hong Xiang, the volatile humans coming up a ‘monitor stair’ in ‘Go Up! Go Up!’, by Hu Jie Ming, and the scaring video ring of approaching people, ‘Surrounded’ by Yang Zhenzhong. Finally, the panel ‘Connected Archives’ confronting digital archive strategies (that constitute a current necessity) with Eric Kluitenberg (De Balie), Nadia Palliser (ISEA Online Archive), David Garcia (Next Five Minutes) Sandra Fauconnier (V2_ archive), Oliver Grau (Database of Virtual Art) and Wolfgang Strauss ( The morning sessions (entitled ‘Snack&Surge Brunch’) were curated by Nat Muller, and accompanied by delicious and choreographic thematic food served at the entrance. Among them: ‘Out in the Open’ a presentation of the seminal NODE.London experience made by Tim Jones (its Project Coordinator) and Lauren A Wright curator of plus Saul Albert, reviving the spirit of the 2006 event, and ‘Media Insurgency’ that enlivened hacktivist efforts in different conceptual platforms with Andrea Natella, creative director of, Naeem Mohaiemen, editor of and with a live streaming video intervention from Extramadura (Spain) by hackitectura and Brian Holmes. The interacting manifesto of the festival was based on making more sense exchanging signals in a network, whatever kind of network it is. And there were, as usual, plenty of interacting possibilities at DEAF, for better or for worse.