Institutions, events, data bases
The sorry state of media illiteracy of all cultural institutions in the 1990s is illustrated by the following example. In 2001, the SCCA Zagreb and the Museum of Contemporary Art sent to their mailing lists one of the probably most notorious hoaxes - "Solidaridad con Brian" , and the Croatian version thereof "Solidaridad con Mirko" (See description of the hoax). At that moment, both mailing lists were unilateral and did not explore the possibility of the media for multilateral communication so the messages contained open headers and clearly indicated addresses of all recipients for months, as well as Microsoft Word 2000 documents, thereby forcing the recipients to buy the product and its updates.
Except for video art, there are no data bases on media art. Data can be compiled piecemeal, in the institutions that have treated certain subjects that we will mention here. Data is often erratic, and so far all data bases have been archived in analogue formats. For now, there is only one on-line data base, and even that one is incomplete: a part of the collection of the early computer art from the MSU collection, but only the one showed at the I am Still Alive 2000 exhibition.
The culture of networking and the existence of such structures in media art, that recognize and give support to similar actions have yielded greater results than the activities of a large centralized institution. The history of institutions will show us a remarkable presence and topicality of the tendencies within media art in their redefining forms during the 1960s and 70s, and the stagnation and almost complete isolation from the international scene during the 1990s. Only since 2000 have media art production and the social environment necessary for its existence, established new, positive parameters and received certain recognition by cultural institutions that provide funds for the realization of programs.
An example of the network model from the 1960s is New Tendencies, begun in 1961 as part of annual exhibitions. The movement acted as the umbrella network encompassing many artistic groups, theorists, and individual artists. The network is amazingly modern with regards to the global spread (especially taking into account the cold war era) and the decentralized organization as well as the establishment of a productive cooperation between progressive political and artistic ideas and local cultural institutions. The artists from both cold war blocs have been represented in the art groups, among whom are many groups such as GRAV Groupe de Recherche d Art Visuel (France), Equipo 57 (Spain), Gruppo N, Gruppo T, MID, Gruppo 63, Operativo R, Azimuth (Italy), Zero (Germany), Anonima (USA), Dviznije (USSR). This international event brought to Zagreb the most important theorists of neo-constructivist and kinetic art and the theory of information (Guilio Carlo Argan, Umbro Apollonio, Laszlo Beke, Palma Bucarelli, Umberto Eco, Herbert W. Franke, Udo Kultermann, Enzo Mari, Manfredo Massironi, Abraham A. Moles, Frieder Nake, Frank Popper), and the majority of artists who participated at the event published also their theoretical essays (Karl Gerstner, Julio Le Parc, Heinz Mack, Alberto Biasi, Almir Mavignier, Francois Morellett, Otto Pienne, Gunther Uecker, (For more on Tendencies see under Brief Overview).
In 1973, the Zagreb Municipal Galleries (today MoCA) opened CEFT – Center for photography and film, an early form of the media department within the museum and galleries infrastructure. In 1973, the Nova gallery in Zagreb staged the Kompjuterski film exhibition. Since 1968, the Music Biennial Zagreb has continuously showcased experimental and electronic music, often in multimedia performances and sound installations.
The Nek se čuje i naš glas documentary (15 minutes, 1970) directed by Krsto Papić tackles the issue of pirate radio stations that popped up in rural areas in the late 1960s. Despite the prohibitions, people continued to produce their own programs and to communicate.
In the 1970s, the intention to analyze the phenomenon of culture, society, political and economic living conditions inaugurated new media as a form of expression and exploration – photography, video, performance, action, space interventions, installations, environment, and the like. The Zagreb Municipal Galleries (today MoCA) and the SC Gallery in Zagreb exhibited art of new artistic practice. In 1979, a Mixed Media department (department of new artistic practice, section of new media) was set up within the HDLU. In 1981, out of it came Prostor PM (later PM Gallery). The SC Center for Multimedia Research was founded in 1976. Today, that institution led by Ivan Paic has kept the weekly pace and free entrance but the emphasis is now on single screen film and video program.
During the 1990s, years of war and transition, the Croatian artistic production stagnated, with the exception of the continual tradition of video art. Given the right-wing (retrograde and traditionally bound) official cultural policy, the presentations of foreign media art became rare and the scarce work of Croatian media art was the product of individual enthusiasm without the support of institutions; it was mostly done abroad. The only people who continually exhibited media art were Media in Motion (Heiko Daxl and Ingeborg Fulepp), who have since 1991 been organizing Mediascape – the annual exhibition and symposium on media art. Since 1999, Mediascape has asked 137 artists and theorists of media art to appear as guests. Mediascape presents CD-ROM projects, internet projects, video art, sound and video/computer installations, computer-generated graphics and music notation.
In 1999, the MI2 Multimedia Institute was founded as a spin-off of the Otvoreno društvo Hrvatska project. After having moved to new premises, this network became Mama 2000 net.culture center and gained critical mass of interested people that started to produce a continual series of programs related to media art. The Multimedia Institute organizes annual exhibitions. 2000. I am Still Alive showcases works of the pioneer computer art of the 1960s and the new net.art. The awards of the call for entries of 1999 were given in three categories: net.art, initiative.idea.akction and new.technologies. The category of net.art also invited mail art, news art, icq art, third voice art, tcp/ip art, dns art, and fax art, but the first place for net.art was not awarded. The exhibition of the Re:com (2001.) art software followed together with Critical upgrade – The media culture week that included also the conference and exhibition of generative art (2002.). Mi2 has continually developed local and international networks and organized the ASU 2 (Art Server Unlimited) meeting carried out in cooperation with Labinary (Labin) and Ljudmila (Ljubljana) in Labin 2001. Mama Net.cultural center (part of Mi2) produces a multitude of regular programs and presentations by media activists, artists and theorists (Becoming digital, last tuesday, past:forward). The Mama home page is updated on a daily basis. In Zagreb, the activist and alternative civil scene gathers at Autonomna tvornica kulture - ATTACK.