The curatorial aim behind the conceptualization of reSource transmedial culture berlin was to merge interdisciplinary trajectories, opening up the program to artistic, political, economic, and bodily practices. Applying a post-digital perspective to the creation of a networking path, the actual “resource” that the festival wanted to offer was the creation of contexts for sharing, exchange, and discussion involving hackers, activists, artists, cultural producers, academics, and researchers, as well as project spaces—the complex diversity of the free and independent Berlin scene. The main challenge became not only structural but also political: reSource aimed to create a change within the festival’s production, also according to the traditional vision of a festival program, generating a distributed and year-round project, able to innovate when it came to the format of the festival as well as the perception of what a festival needs to produce and create in the city landscape, a problematic that I will analyze more deeply at the end of this essay.
The Networking-Research-Curating Approach
reSource transmedial culture berlin started as an initiative able to extend into ongoing activities with decisive touchdowns at each festival. The general direction was to organize events, talks, workshops, performances, and constellations of activities, intercrossing the program of the festival. The reSource program started in September 2011, with the aim of questioning and transferring into practice the concept of “Networking-Research-Curating.” This methodology expanded the festival production, interconnecting different fields of theory and practice: reflection on experimental modalities of networking and community building, research on disruptive artistic and activist practices within the post-digital framework, and a distributed curatorial approach based on the creation of a process rather than only the production and presentations of selected artworks.
The first public introduction of the reSource project was the formulation of a statement of interest in October 2011, while planning the series of talks at transmediale 2012 . The statement introduced the reSource activity to the general public, and posed some specific objectives, according to the theoretical perspective of shifting from the digital paradigm, to post-digital practices related to the broader landscape of society, culture, politics, and everyday life . Starting from the assumption that the increasing commercialization of sharing and network practices has transformed the meaning of art and participation, the main questions in the statement were directed to artists, activists, hackers, and cultural producers working with the idea of networking through a critical lens.
Pointing out that hacker and artist practices have developed in response to deep transformations in their participation contexts, often reflecting cultural and economic precarity, the statement asked about the responsibility and the role of cultural institutions engaging with art and digital technologies. Assuming that in past decades in Berlin, hacker, activist, and artist practices have mostly been realized outside the realm of artistic institutions, the statement highlighted the fact that those practices have contributed to transforming the city’s economy and cultural assets, and have also become easy targets for market exploitation. In a context in which financial markets deeply influence the development of cultural production and, more generally, of daily life, the question became how to encourage direct participation and common engagement without replicating pervasive business logics and hierarchical forms of control.
From the outset, the questions posed by reSource transmedial culture berlin reflected the need to analyze the topology and the effects of artistic and hacktivist practices in decentralized social networks, while remaining conscious that a distributed networking phenomenon might bring along contradictions and ambiguities. This implied a reflection on power structures and business methodologies as well as on the relationship between art and network economies. The research that formed the basis of the reSource project generated an analysis of disruptive hacker and artistic practices in the field of network culture, but also a deeper investigation into networking as a research method. Following my path of research on these topics, I pointed out that it was necessary to rethink concepts such as innovation and disruption, co-optation, and opposition as mutual feedback loops where various subjects involved in the process reciprocally influence each other .
Within the framework of this research, an important aspect was to encourage mutual exchange of methodologies and knowledge, as well as project space experiences, investigating new ways of forming a cultural public and reflecting on the curatorial activity of the transmediale festival. This scope informed the first plenary meeting, with curators and cultural producers at Berlin’s General Public project space during the event reSource 001: Trial Crack in May 2012. After this event, according to a proposal by Panke e.V. and Art Laboratory Berlin, this transdisciplinary approach was further developed in monthly reSource network meetings, hosted by various project spaces and curators in Berlin—which have been taking place regularly ever since. In August 2012, the outcome of the reSource activities was the creation of a network platform (the reSource-net mailing list) with the goal of encouraging the sharing and development of experiences, questions, and issues of artistic and other communities within (and beyond) digital cultural production .
One of the results of the exchange with project spaces and local cultural producers was the publication in September 2013 of the reSource Chats, a series of interviews within the initiative “Networking Berlin’s transmedial culture”. The reSource Chats project was a creative montage of interviews with various culture producers and managers of local spaces in Berlin. After the transmediale 2012 festival, I had started investigating the perception of the newborn reSource project, and the transmediale festival in general, among various cultural producers, artists, and curators based in Berlin. The aim of the interview project that grew out of this investigation was to document the considerations and thoughts of people active within the scene of cultural production in the city, and the implications of their activity in the framework of cultural politics and networking models. The project highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the condition of being trans-genre in the cultural landscape of Berlin, focusing on the hybrid character of activities that mix media, practices, and languages, which often lack political and cultural recognition as well as sustainable funds .
The curatorial choice to develop the reSource as a networking process was also the reason behind connecting the reSource project with the Vorspiel production, the partner program of transmediale and CTM festivals. The scope was to generate an open platform for interconnection among local spaces, encouraging resource sharing and mutual visibility. Vorspiel promoted digital and post-digital culture among independent organizations, project spaces, galleries, and other venues across Berlin, strengthening the network among such actors. The strategy was, therefore, to produce the Vorspiel as the result of a process of networking, by creating a context of sharing and synergy among the reSource network, or close to it—as opposed to merely a consequence of a selection of projects and artworks operated within the festivals. This process resulted in the event reSource 003: P2P Vorspiel in February 2013, and was further developed in the following Vorspiel events—a series of distributed activities throughout the city prior to and during the transmediale and CTM festivals.