In Saint Petersburg, the contemporary art festival “Cyberfest” has opened.

Instead of paints and canvases, monitors and computer programs are used at this international festival of contemporary art. Over ten days, visitors can experience media object exhibitions, installations, and vibrant performances.

Don’t look for harmony in conceptual music. Englishman Sam Conran calls himself a sound production alchemist, and that’s it. No comments, no interviews. If you want to understand, just listen!

“Cyberfest” is a festival enigma. The venue is a semi-ruined Lutheran church’s basement. And in it… Eyes!

A basement with eyes evokes emotions. And most authors insist: neither beauty nor feelings are the subject of art anymore. Now the artist is a creator of meanings. For instance, drawing a self-portrait is no longer enough. It needs to be broken down into pixels, entered into a program, and then see: does my digital image match my perception of myself?

“We offer people to realize that we are no longer just bio-beings; we have long been both bio and media beings,” says artist Olga Inozemtseva.

An art group from Yekaterinburg invites everyone to create their own media self-portrait. Their website already hosts dozens of such self-monuments. But there’s a danger: if an image can be replaced with a digit, could a computer button replace our feelings?

“If pressing a button evokes some emotions, in some way, why not? Like from a piece of art! It’s not a simplification, I think, because someone had to create the button and imbue it with content,” says Anna Frants, curator of the “Cyberfest” festival.

Festival participants reassure: as long as the artist puts a part of their soul into their work, a “cyber-occupation” is not a threat. People will remain creators, and technology will just be a tool.

Enjoying a tangle of wires and contact tracks as an art piece is also possible. But the author of this work goes further: he connected disjointed boards and says they communicate. An electromagnetic field is emitted into the air, shaping a relief. It’s impossible to see or touch it, but you can try to hear it. Apparently, we have long been eavesdropping and spying on each other. People watch technology, and it watches us.

“The head is a symbol of the human. And in it are eye-cameras. They project onto the screen all the people they see. And this machine analyzes the video, reality, and returns them in digital form. The head turns, the monkey jumps, the water in the glass swirls,” explains Italian artist Donato Piccolo about his work.

Here’s a work by American artists. A teenager’s ordinary room is transformed into a dream by a smartphone camera’s peephole. An ideal friend sits on the corner of the bed, and SMS messages that will never be sent in reality appear on the wall.

Most works are like a silent cry of loneliness: in gaining a virtual world and even digital eternity, are we losing something greater? Something that can’t be converted into a digit, that can’t be sent to “cloud storage” – an elusive movement, a glance, a memory, and a real experience.

Dmitry Vitov

February 3, 2018, 21:25

In Russian