transmediale is an annual festival for art and digital culture in Berlin, usually held over five days at the end of January and the beginning of February. The 2017 edition marked its 30-year anniversary.
A conference, varying exhibition formats, a film and video program, performances, and workshops build its programmatic core. Simultaneously and in cooperation with transmediale, CTM Festival (formerly club transmediale, renamed in 2011) offers an annual platform for experimental and electronic music. Once a side event of transmediale, it is now organized and curated independently. Throughout the year, transmediale is also involved in a number of long- and short-term cooperative projects via transmediale/resource.
transmediale was founded in 1988 under the name of VideoFilmFest (VideoFest as of 1989) within the framework of Berlinale, as a side event of the Internationales Forum des Jungen Films section. Its founders, Hartmut Horst and video artist and activist Micky Kwella, sought to create a platform for electronic media productions, which were excluded from classic film festivals such as Berlinale. Over the course of the following 30 years, the festival evolved steadily and independently of Berlinale: from its initial focus on video culture it turned to cultivating an artistic and critical dialogue with television and multimedia, eventually emerging as a leading international platform for media art. In 1997, its name was changed to transmedia, and finally to transmediale in 1998. The change reflected the programmatic extension of the festival, which by then encompassed a broad spectrum of multimedia art forms such as Internet and Software Art.
In 2001, transmediale underwent far-reaching structural changes; further additions to the program and a new venue, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, led to a continuous increase in attendance. transmediale.02 was the first edition to feature an extensive exhibition in which media art could be experienced in a sensuous and physical way. In 2006, the festival’s subheading changed from “international media art festival” to “festival for art and digital culture”—a decision reflective of a shift towards a more open approach that would include art, technology, and everyday life in an increasingly digitalized world instead of the previous, narrower focus on media art alone.
The transmediale Award was introduced in 2001 to honour visionary works and projects centering around technology-led societies. In order to do justice to the rising number of submissions of theoretical works, the competition was complemented by the Vilém Flusser Theory Award at transmediale.08. Named after philosopher and media theorist Vilém Flusser, it promoted “outstanding, media-theoretical and research-based artworks” until 2011. In 2012, it was converted into a residency program for artistic research; the transmediale Award and Open Web Award were discontinued.
In addition, club transmediale was founded as a side event of transmediale in 1999. Since then, CTM has developed into an independent festival that presents electronic and experimental music in various Berlin venues once a year.
As of 2001, transmediale has followed annually changing thematic headlines:
transmediale was founded by Hartmut Horst and Micky Kwella in 1988. From 2001 to 2007, art historian and curator Andreas Broeckmann took over the artistic direction of the festival. He was superseded by media and arts researcher Stephen Kovats, who led transmediale until 2011. As of April 2011, curator and media researcher Kristoffer Gansing has been the artistic director of the festival.
Since 2004, Kulturstiftung des Bundes has been funding transmediale (alongside documenta, Berlin Biennale and others) as a Beacon of Contemporary Culture. The host organization of the festival is Kulturprojekte Berlin GmbH, which was operated under the name of Kulturveranstaltungs-GmbH until 2005.
In 2011, transmediale/resource was established as a framework for transmediale’s year-round activities. Its aim is to provide a sustainable structure for feedback, research, and reflection beyond the timeframe of the festival. In addition to varying cooperative projects and network activities, transmediale/resource includes the Vilém Flusser Residency Program for Artistic Research, online publication format transmediale/journal and pre-festival program Vorspiel, presented in collaboration with CTM and a network of organizations, galleries, independent project spaces, and venues all over Berlin.
Until 1992, VideoFilmFest took place at MedienOperative as well as Deutsche Akademie der Künste in East Berlin. In 1993, it moved to Podewil, which is also where the transmediale offices have been located since 1997. From 2002 to 2005, Haus der Kulturen der Welt became the festival’s main location. In 2006, transmediale relocated to Akademie der Künste, only to return to Haus der Kulturen der Welt in 2008, where it has remained since.