The ninth “Cyberfest” at the Hermitage bids farewell to analog culture. At the festival, pianos are chopped with axes, shattered cathode-ray tubes are displayed, and there is a longing for a non-digital era. However, since last year, only a fraction of “Cyberfest,” conceived by Saint Petersburg natives Anna Frants and Marina Koldobskaya, can be seen at the Hermitage. In 2014, the main venue moved to Berlin, and this year to Bogota. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty to impress in Saint Petersburg.
The “Cyberfest” media art festival is not much different from a typical exhibition. Instead of framed canvases, there are video screens. Visitors linger a little longer – putting on headphones, watching videos for half a minute, and then moving on.
By the time Ent Dickinson arrives, most of the visitors have already adapted to the presented media art. Dozens of people crowded in the corridor, demonstrating the pull of the table with wine and cookies.
The Englishman approached the piano. He played, while the projector behind him showed the same piano being shredded by an axe and a circular saw. It was a parallel concert of virtuoso piano playing and a screwdriver. The irritating sounds of construction tools interwoven with familiar music.
Dickinson has a unique taste in music. There are two more videos at the exhibition where he methodically breaks pianos, meticulously recording the sound of the dying instrument.
– How many pianos have you broken? – I ask the author.
– And what’s the point?
– I don’t know.
– Just because?
– Maybe it’s about the transition from life to death… Although yes, I just enjoy the process.
But death is precisely the point. The death of the past, analog life, is a theme that runs through the entire “Cyberfest.” Chinese artist Lei Lei created an animation from films found on the outskirts of Beijing. Thousands of shots were meant to be processed to extract silver nitrate.
Even the curator of the exhibition, Anna Frants, succumbed to the aesthetics of the dying analog. She showcased a video on a digital screen inserted into a broken cathode-ray tube. This work even made it to the exhibition poster.
Even the mysterious video by Norwegian Sven Pahlsson, featuring a man running in the dark, can be interpreted as our current hurried life, most of which we spend in virtual reality. From visual experiences, only parking lots, construction fences, and the eternal backyards of an unclearly defined mainstream life remain.
Only the English artist Nicola Rae seemed detached from earth. She gave viewers freedom. In her cosmic installation, one could play the triangle and generate their own abstract visual sequence.
However, the exhibition is not the entirety of “Cyberfest.” Those interested are invited to workshops with unpredictable titles like “Future Sacrifices of Minor Gods” or “Subjectivation of Sound.”
Antonina Asanova, “Fontanka.ru”
November 26, 2015