FUTURE CINEMA
The Cinematic Imaginary after Film

Curated by Jeffrey Shaw and Peter Weibel

16 November 2002 - 30 March 2003
ZKM Karlsruhe | atria 8 & 9, Media Theater

The conditions of cinematographic art have changed radically over the past years. On the verge of a material revolution new possibilities of camera and production techniques have emerged that also allow new modes of narration and image languages. FUTURE CINEMA is the first major international exhibition of current art practice in the domain of video, film, computer and web based installations that embody and anticipate new cinematic techniques and modes of expression.

The exhibition offers the context for bringing together for the first time a large number of highly significant cinematic installation, multimedia and net based works that have been produced by both young and established international artists working in this field. At the same time the exhibition will premier numerous new works, some specially commissioned for this exhibition, and a few actually produced at the ZKM | Institute for Visual Media. A strong curatorial emphasis will be on installations that diverge from the conventional on the wall mounted and projected screen format and which explore more immersive and technologically innovative environments such as multi-screen, panoramic, dome projection, shared multi-user, and on-line configurations. Another central focus will be on works that explore creative approaches to the design of interactive non-linear narrative content.

Besides the installation works, the ZKM will use its Media Theater to present a number of performances and changing installations. While the exhibition itself will focus on current artistic practice in the field of digitally expanded cinema, a major catalogue will be published that documents the historical trajectory of those many and variegated cinematic experiments that prefigure, inform and contextualize our current cinematic condition.

The history of cinema is a history of technological experiment, of spectator-spectacle relations, and of production, distribution and presentation mechanisms that yoke the cinema o economic, political and ideological conditions. Above all it is a history of creative exploration of the uniquely variegated expressive capabilities of this remarkable medium.
Despite cinemaÎs heritage of technological and creative diversity, it is Hollywood that has come to define its dominant forms of production and distribution, its technological apparatus and its narrative forms. But the current hegemony of the Hollywood model of movie making is about to be questioned by the more radically new potentialities of the digital media technologies, which is why the rise of the video, computer game and location based entertainment industries is such a significant phenomena. These new digital contexts are setting an appropriate platform for the further evolution of the traditions of independent, experimental and expanded avantgarde cinema.

Though it is still early in the process, one can identify some of the focal features of this emer-gent domain of the digitally expanded cinema. The technologies of virtual environments point to a cinema that is an immersive narrative space wherein the interactive viewer assumes the role of both cameraperson and editor. And the technologies of computer games and the Internet point to a cinema of distributed virtual environments that are also social spaces, so that the persons present become protagonists in a set of narrative dis-locations.

The digital domain is above all distinguished by it variegated range of new interaction modalities. Needless to say all traditional forms of expression are also interactive to the extent that they must be interpreted and reconstructed in the process of apprehension, but digital interactivity offers a new direct dimension of user control and involvement in the creative proceedings. The traditional cinemaÎs compulsive spectacle-spectacle relationship will be transformed as the growing spectrum of input-output technologies and algorithmic production techniques are applied to the digitally expanded cinema.

Cinema builds hyper realities, space time constructs that are conjoined to the presence of the spectator in the darkened magical space of the movie-theater. From Cinerama to 3D to Omnimax, the cinema has yearned to construe its fictions in a space of equivalence with the real. The objective, as in many forms of art, is to bind the experience of being to such a place that induces a totality of engagement in the aesthetic and conceptual construct of the work. At the same time the digitally expanded online-cinema offers the convergence between PC, TV, www and the experience to be dis-located from a place and to make emotional and cognitive experience in various locations.

The intention is not a totalitarian spectacle that overwhelms and belittles the viewer, rather it is an inspiring manifestation that affirms each viewerÎs unique position and critical relationship to the representation. Furthermore the new networking technologies allow these cultural experiences to extend themselves into virtual social spaces that can constitute a further level of immersion.

The accomplished Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz has criticized the compulsive attributes of the central conflict theory in the Hollywood cinema (Poetics of Cinema, 1995), and calls for strategies whereby the autocracy of the director and his subjugating optical apparatus can be shifted towards the notion of a cinema that is located in the personally discoverable periphery. How exactly to achieve this is a very pertinent challenge, and solutions are being offered by new methods of visualization and utilization. The biggest challenge for the digitally extended cinema is the conception and design of new narrative techniques that allow the interactive and emergent features of that medium to be fulfillingly embodied. Going beyond the triteness of branching plot options and video game mazes, one approach is to develop modular structures of narrative content which permit an indeterminate yet meaningful numbers of permutations. Another approach involves the algorithmic design of content characterizations that would permit the automatic generation of narrative sequences that could be modulated by the user. And perhaps the consummate venture is the notion of a digitally extended cinema that is actually inhabited by its audience who then becomes agents of and protagonists in its narrative development.

The Future of Cinema can be delineated from two sources. One way is the expansion of e-xisting cinematographic methods and codes into new areas. The other way is the convergence of cinema, TV and net. The classical cinema can be defined as collective experience of one fixed stable projector projecting a moving image on one screen in one room. Therefore each change of one of these factors, for example multiple screens, panorama screens, moving projections, different rooms, is already an expansion of the contemporary practises of cinema.

On the level of the material display of the image many new techniques are also in development. Smart materials are developed which can be new sources of light and colour. New lenses are developed which contain information as a temporal code. In general there is a change from refractive optics to diffractive optics.

Especially new results are to be expected from multilocal and multiuser virtual environments, from massive parallel virtual worlds, which can be developed on the basis of the global net. These new communication channels of the net in combination with GPS-Systems, satellite transmission and WAP mobile phones are allowing new forms of interactive personal and collective cinema on a digital basis.

The exhibition will give an overview about future possibilities in this three areas of cinema-tographic research through selected prototypes. The show will be a laboratorium, where scientists and artists meet, a window into the future.