Interviews

A New Media Festival Thrives in Belgrade

by Kyle Chayka on November 8, 2012

Casey Reas, “Process 16 (Software 3)” (Image courtesy the artist)

Sometimes art events bloom in the places you least expect it. Resonate, a new media and technology art festival in Belgrade, Serbia, hits its second outing in 2013, and along with a new website and fresh ventures, it’s looking to be a consistently powerful presence. I interviewed creative director Filip Visnjic about what he hopes to do with Resonate 2013.

Resonate 1.0 brought together artists like James George, Josh Nimoy, and Golan Levin for collaborative sessions of workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions, and lectures that illuminated a particularly unique art-world discourse. These artists not only use computer systems to make work, but also develop original tools and platforms to allow others to make their own work. In 2013, the festival will feature artists like Zimoun, Zach Gage, and Casey Reas, alongside lecturers like James Bridle (who coined the term New Aesthetic). Tickets are already half sold out, so those looking to attend should think fast.

Visnjic, who is also the editor of the new media-oriented art blog Creative Applications, explained the past, present, and future of Resonate, as well as why it takes place in a destination relatively remote from the established art world.

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Filip Visnjic

Kyle Chayka: How did the idea of Resonate first come up?

Filip Visnjic: Resonate is a collaborative project between people who share the same vision: creating a new platform for exchange of knowledge and ideas. Technology is changing so much around us; art, design and culture are in the turmoil. There is absolutely no better way to find out what is happening than to bring people together and create an atmosphere where debate can arise.

It’s January 2011, very cold outside, a few people, who have never met in person before, are sitting in a Belgrade cafe sharing their visions. Within a couple of hours, decision has been made — to create an event that brings together cutting-edge artists, designers, and thinkers to Belgrade for three days of talks, workshops, and performances. Resonate #1 was supposed to happen in September 2011 but due to lack in funding we had to postpone it to Spring of 2012. Having learned our lesson, what it takes to put on an event like this, we came out much smarter and in force. Resonate #1 was an amazing success. There has never been an event of this kind (art and technology) in Belgrade or elsewhere in Europe that has attracted such diversity of nationalities. From India to Argentina, over 1,000 people met in Belgrade to join the debate on the position of technology in art and culture.

Artist James George‘s workshop video from Resonate #1

KC: Can you describe what exactly Resonate is? American audiences aren’t totally familiar with the idea of a new media festival, but I think we’re getting more used to it.

FV: Resonate is a mix between a trade conference, workshop, hackday, and a fair. It is there to give the public an overview of current situation in the fields of music, visual arts, and digital culture. Guest artists, lecturers, and other participants are chosen to represent the cutting edge of the contemporary creative industry. They’re all brought together in one place.

KC: What is your vision for the 2013 the festival?

FV: Education has always been an important element of Resonate. There is so much that happens at art and design schools and universities that never reaches the broader public. There are some incredibly smart people there, and they do not blog, tweet, or post updates. We want to hear their stories and want to see their work. To make this happen we are partnering with a number of educational institutions to curate parts of the program, run workshops, and present their students’ work. In this context, it’s highly unusual, but for us it fits in perfectly.

We are also expanding our music program. We are devoted to the liberation of creative potential by exploring the outer boundaries of music. The idea is not giving the music to the people, but rather enabling people to hear it, its essence. Music plays a really important part in Resonate, it brings people together even closer and we are thinking amazing lineup for 2013 — even more mesmerizing than Resonate #1 in 2012.

Resonate #2 contributor Liam Young (Image courtesy Resonate)

KC: How did you go about choosing the artists and participants you wanted to feature?

FV: There are two teams at play here that talk on a daily basis. The team in London, including myself, is in charge of curating the day program. The team in Belgrade is in charge of music. It’s a constant play between the two, building ephemeral bridges that connect the two. These may not be obvious at first, but at Resonate, they fit perfectly. The day program is about diversity in both thinking and work. Put simply, you know amazing when you see it. Now we want to hear it as well.

KC: What’s particularly special about Belgrade and Eastern Europe for the new media community? Why is Resonate presented there? 

FV: When a debate about red-hot contemporary issue such as media and technology travels to areas that are facing intense social challenges, good things happen. Resonate alone brings Belgrade and Serbia into this new, decentralized network of information sharing and direct collaboration. Whenever people ask, “Why Belgrade?” I always give them the same answer: If you can get people to come to your event and turn on email
auto-responders, you have succeeded. Doing the festival in London, NYC, or Berlin would just not be the same. We want people to come with open minds and absorb this wonderful 21st-century art-technology symbiosis.

KC: Where do you see Resonate going in the future?

FV: Besides all of us getting paid for once and the festival becoming financially viable, I think its absolutely perfect where it is!

Resonate #2 will take place in Belgrade, Serbia from March 21 to 23, 2013. 

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