Ostranenie 1993

Review of Ostranenie, Catalogue of the 1. international video festival at the Bauhaus, Dessau. Gropiusallee 38, 06846 Dessau BRD, ISBN 3 910115 53 5. German and English-text, 497 pp.

Viktor Sklovski writes in his essay Art as Process (1916): The aim of art is to convey a sense of the object, to make us see it, not to re-cognize it. The process of art is the process of `estrangement’ (ostranenie). In art the process of perception is an end in itself and must be lengthened. The organizers of the first East European video festival Shattered Myths — New Realities, held in the original Bauhaus in Dessau and now on tour, chose a title that goes straight to the heart of the matter. Video productions from central and eastern Europe, the Balkans and Russia don’t need to be `recognized’ (i.e. to be held up to Western work for comparison), but watched and discussed. While it would be premature to look for a common aesthetic or political denominator, it is a fact that many East European videos provoke estrangement, if nothing else because they lack the cool, technological transparence of Western videos.

The Ostranenie catalog offers the first survey of what has been created since 1989 in various regions. Besides descriptions of the 52 selected tapes, a special program and installations, it includes ten articles with discussions not only of progress, but of problems in Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, among others. Writing from long experience, Keiko Sei speaks of the dangerous situation of TV in eastern Europe. Independent video has always been struggling with TV, being its critic, and acting as an alternative point of view. This position must be maintained in order to remain critical in the face of the current, ominous situation. In view of censorship and manipulation of state television, firing (like the termination of the Hungarian TV program Videovilag), forboding national folklore, western trash and neo-communistic aesthetics, the creation of independent media structures has the highest priority. While media war might not be preparation for military conflict, it’s a worthy substitute. It leads to fixation on the level of politics in an impasse, and ultimately frustrates: media war sucks. Keiko Sei refers to former Yugoslavia, a video paradise not only for eastern Europeans in the 80’s, now in ruins. The video community must realize that since we all legitimized Ethnic Cleansing by not reacting against it, thus neglecting the sin, the war will spread and come back to haunt us in the future.

translation: jim boekbinder