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 Atau Tanaka

 [[ March 22 - 28, 2002, Karlsruhe ]]
WIRETAPPING THE BEAST

 Angela Plohman

A unique biennial festival that truly investigates the interdisciplinary nature of today's so-called 'new media', Intermedium 2 distinguishes itself from the current mass of media art festivals thanks to its origins: its desire to link to the broadcast and creative possibilities of radio. Initiated by Bayerischer Rundfunk, and devoted to the promotion of creative experimentation, the first event took place at Berlin's Academy of Fine Arts in 1999. Herbert Kapfer, head of the biennial, emphasizes that Intermedium "sees itself as an initiative of radio to try out artistic cooperations with other media and arts," a clear reminder that radio remains a vital vehicle for artistic expression despite the fact that it is often overshadowed by current new media hype.

The ZKM Center for Art and Media was a partner for the first event in Berlin, and this year is hosting the festival in its own spaces in Karlsruhe. The theme for 2002 is 'X or 0: Identities in the 21st century'. For Peter Weibel, ZKM chairman, Intermedium 2 deals with multiple identities, multiple media, and the consequences of this multiplicity for the individual's concept of space and time. Many of the projects will deal with this issue, while others will simply play in the spaces between all of these media.

As intimated in the title itself, Intermedium 2 will feature performances and projects that will take place online, on the radio, and in situ at ZKM. Creations are being presented by over a hundred artists from fifteen countries around the world, and the festival features new works by well-known artists, some of whom are experimenting with radio for the first time. One of these artists is Atau Tanaka.

Tanaka, composer and performer, born in Tokyo and now living in France, has a long history in experimenting with technologies. Known for his use of musical human-computer interfaces such as the BioMuse, Tanaka has received considerable recognition. In 1995, he was the artistic ambassador for interactive music technologies at Apple Computer Europe. In 1998, he won the GMD / WDR Cyberstar prize for Global String, a multi-site network-music installation he created in collaboration with Kasper Toeplitz.

Also a collaboration (Tanaka worked with Antoine Schmitt and Peter Hanappe, two French artists who designed the database and artificial network), the new piece to be presented at Intermedium 2 was commissioned by the radio drama department of Southwest German Radio. Titled 'Frankensteins Netz / Prométhée Numérique / Wiretapping the Beast', this trilingual project uses the metaphor of the internet as a living repository of information, a giant beast / database that grows and grows beyond control -- thus the reference to Frankenstein. In his wonderfully lengthy title, Tanaka also references Prometheus, the demi-God that gave humans fire but did not tell them how to use it. As Tanaka reminds us, "The internet itself is a creation of the government military complex of the '60s. I would not call them gods, but political forces that, with the power to determine the life of citizens, created a technology for themselves that then -- eventually in the late '80s or '90s -- was commercialized." Now we are dealing with a military creation that, as Tanaka remarks, "was suddenly given to common humans. And they didn't really tell us how to use it."

Individuals have been able to interact with the beast online since February 20, 2002. Visitors can feed the 'kreatur', nourish it with images, texts and sounds, and play with it, returning periodically to witness how it has grown and changed. During the current pre-performance period, it also corresponds to the brave people that have dared to give the beast their email addresses. The mass of accumulated information will then be performed at ZKM on March 23 at midnight, with Tanaka in Karlsruhe, Zack Settel in Montreal, and Reiko A. and i.d. in Ogaki-City (Japan) exchanging data via the internet. The performance will air live on three different radio stations, in Germany, Canada, and Japan, and will unfold simultaneously on the internet. Tanaka emphasizes: "It is not a radio piece that is made available as live-streaming on the internet, nor is it an internet site that uses a metaphor of radio broadcast to create a kind of streaming broadcast model. I try to create a piece that uses both media, in parallel, each for its unique capabilities."

In addition to the midnight performance by Tanaka and his networked collaborators, Intermedium 2 will host performances, radio, and networked projects (or any combination thereof) by artists such as 0100101110101101.org, Jeffrey Shaw, Stefan Kaegi, Kalle Laar, Felix Stephan Huber, and Peter Courtemanche, among many others.

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