Active Media

Digital media do not represent, they generate. They are rather software than hardware. Networked media are, unlike any other media we have ever known, ephemeral: transforming and growing systems in itself. The modular qualities of software enable emergent processes, feedback loops and (re-)generating processes to unfold and flow into all kinds of applications where they become dynamic elements.

The virtual instrument becomes a (re-)active actor in creative processes of producing visuals or making music. Working and interacting with this kind of dynamic processes given by digital means asks for different approaches from those in the era of mimicking media.

The multi-media revolution introduced a noticeable shift from audiovisual media towards real-time human interaction with the medium. Cinematic computer games with filmic atmospheres, net art installations, digital television, DVD extra’s: they all put the viewer in control. What is the heritage of ‘the cinematic’ now that the convergence between cinema, computer and television brings on user-screen relationships focused on immersive narrative space and interactive viewing?

Live cinema could be an answer, for it sits somewhere between cinema, theatre and music as maybe a truly interdisciplinary art form. The key question is: How to implement generative principles that change static objects into dynamic processes, in an art practice? Investigating the crossover of cinema with other media, the possibilities of performing live with digital media using software and hardware interfaces.


The question on how to integrate new media art forms with technologies such as genetic engineering, tissue cultures, microbiology, etc. is, apart from some outstanding exceptions, often neglected.

To arrive at a fully developed view and realistic perspective regarding a possible future for the ‘new’ media to unite art with the ‘living’ environment (bacteria, viruses, algae, …), the whole age of biotechnology in relation to the arts should be reviewed, focussing on the different types and ‘degree of realization’ of such bio-environments.

What effective strategies may be developed to connect parameters controlled by living organisms to physical characteristics of environmental spaces and artworks? What may we expect from future BioArt projects? And: what can we learn of earlier artistic concepts to integrate virtual, biological and physical space?

Fields of Sounds

1. City of Sounds

Sound is everywhere. We experience it, not always being aware of it or it’s influence. Cities are full of sound. This project is about getting to know these sounds, discover them, catalogue them. Do we find places without sound, real silent spots? Through the work of international artists we find out how they deal with this urban, sonic environment. How they integrate it in audiovisual work, how these sounds are translated into ‘musique concrète’ or how to hunt for hidden sound. The aim is to develop an urban sound project. Making a sonic reconstruction of a city or taking people on a especially designed sonic walk in which they can discover a catalogue of urban sound.

2. Fieldrecording

Through the accessibility and the evolving quality of information technology, alternative sensors and microphones, fieldrecordings have become a democratic tool and medium in several different artistic domains and practices. The terminology ‘fieldrecordings’ stands in the first place for the practice of recording environmental sound in general, was it a forest, an urban crossing or space. The artistic use of fieldrecordings can be numerous: in soundinstallations or compositions, barly recognisably in electroacoustic music, very abstract as recorded silence, wind, etc. Conceptual extremes in this field might be sonification (converting data into sound) or the framing of environmental sound without actually recording it (eg in soundwalks).

Conceptual forefathers of fieldrecordings, environmental sounds and situations are John Cage and the Fluxus movement: they have proclaimed that dependend of how we look at it, the world can be art – or vice versa: by proclaiming the world art we recognise and become aware of it. The growing consciousness of the natural fragility and importance of our natural heritage gives the practice of fieldrecordings recently a new dimension and a socio-cultural and political aspect. The workshop contains a therorectical framing of history and variety of fieldrecordings, followed by a hands on experience through a project based on sonification and sonic cartography/webdesign. Guestspeakers will be Justin Bennett (Institute for Sonology Den Haag, NL) and Florian Dombois (University of Bern, ZW).

Research fellows are Joost Fonteyne, Boris Debackere, Steven Devleminck, Frederik de Wilde and Julia Eckhardt in collaboration with the Happy New Festival vzw and q-o2.

Mediated environments

In what way virtual reality relates to physical reality? Artists working with electronic media usually hardly consider this question because of the relatively easy availability of all sorts of portable audio and video-equipment. One of the consequences of this situation is that the electronic arts are only presented in temporarily accomodated buildings during festivals or fairs.

Since it is to be expected that this may change in the near future, it is a challenge to prepare for new forms of architecture by studying the history of the ideas and concepts of buildings dedicated and specially designed for the electronic culture. In this research a number of historical and contemporary examples of architectural ideas for the presentation of the new media arts will be presented and analysed. Special attention will be given to the early years of the electronic arts in the lowlands — belgium and the netherlands.

At the same time we will explore to what extent interpretation of and experimentation with digital media can inform theory and how our understanding can contribute to our understanding of social and cultural change. Focussing upon the expanding emerging artistic prospects made possible by technology, we will explore the new directions in art that have arisen between the planes of science, technological development and cultural expression.

Research fellows are Boris Debackere and Steven Devleminck.