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Global mapping of video art festivals

To draw this picture of festivals that deal with video art in the world, I used two selection/cataloging criteria, and as a database the vast news archive available on the Magmart festival website.
Obviously, even though this archive is very conspicuous (almost 10,000 records, starting from 2010), it cannot in any way be considered as fully exhaustive; but it is certainly a solid basis for extrapolating significant data. A further, necessary premise, as will be highlighted in the following exposition, is that - for a series of easily understandable reasons, but none of which are intentional - the result is probably an overestimation of the Italian events, as well as, always for the same type of reasons, some geographic areas may be underestimated.
In any case, I believe that the information on which I will report, and the data on which they are based, are broadly valid as a substantial representation of the world picture of festivals. Moreover, it is the first and only report ever drawn up on the subject.

As regards the criteria used, both are inspired by an inclusive principle, which therefore favors the ability to outline as broad a picture as possible of the festival network.
The first criterion, which we could define as depth, was to define a time range within which to consider the data; the choice was to examine the festivals that have taken place in the last five years (2017-2021). This is because, on the one hand, it allows us to examine a sufficient amount of data, and on the other it avoids including a large number of episodic manifestations; in fact, it should be noted that, in a not insignificant percentage, these are festivals that have had only one edition, or that in any case - after a more or less short cycle - have ceased to exist. Since it has not always been possible and easy to retrieve information on the matter, I thought it preferable to avoid quantifying this data, as it would certainly have been very inaccurate.

The second criterion concerns the classification method. Always according to the aforementioned inclusive logic, in the festival census I considered as valid all those events that accept works of video art.
I have therefore defined the following taxonomy:
video art - festival explicitly and / or mainly dedicated to the same
video dance - festival explicitly and / or mainly dedicated to this particular form of expression
experimental - festivals dedicated to experimental films and videos
mixed - festival in which there is a section of video art, or in which video art works are included (digital arts, animation, new media, film, etc)
Based on the premise and the aforementioned criteria, the census resulted in the cataloging of 324 festivals.
Of these, 48 refer to the video art category, 22 to the video dance category, 25 to the experimental category, and 229 to the mixed category.
As is evident from these first numbers, apart from the obvious predominance of the mixed category, we can see that the amount of festivals essentially dedicated to video art is very significant (almost 15% of the total, over 21% including video dance). If we consider both the breadth of the inclusive criterion and the absolute number, we understand that video art - although not yet completely out of its niche - receives very significant widespread attention.
Before delving into this aspect, however, it is worth doing a geo-localized survey.

To this end, I have divided the events with reference to six different macro-areas: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia.
The highest concentration of events related to moving image is found in Europe: 173 out of 324, over half. Even net of an involuntary overestimation (see what has been said above), it is evident that this testifies - on the one hand - to a considerable cultural vivacity of the old continent, even in a sector that could be thought closer to the North American or Asian sensibility. , and - for another - a specific attention to this contemporary art form.
In second place, we find North America, with 73 festivals, followed by South America with 37, Asia with 29, Australia with 8 and Africa with 4.
Here too, an underestimation of the Asian area is possible, especially if - in the period under consideration - the competitive events favored the reference countries, reducing their international visibility; after all, as can be deduced from the data on exhibition events, interest is growing there too. Also noteworthy is the third place in South America, with a not insignificant number of events.
Still referring, at the moment, to the overall data (thus including all four taxonomic sections), it is interesting to observe the European top-five: Italy leads the ranking, with 29 events, followed by Germany and Spain with 19, therefore the Great Britain with 18 and France with 11.

These numbers tell us how the incidence of interest in the moving image is quite strong, in almost all continents. What they don't tell us, or at least not explicitly, is how much and how this interest is changing over time. For example, that - compared to an explosive phase, which coincided with the spread and expansion of the Internet - today we are witnessing a broadening of horizons, with the emergence of new forms of visual art linked to digital technologies, but also with a look of video artists increasingly tempted by experimental cinema, and all this is also reflected in the world of festivals. While on the one hand festivals born in other areas (experimental and animated films) have increasingly opened up to video art, on the other hand festivals born in the video art field have gradually expanded their interest in other forms of visual art.
Obviously, the fact that including other forms of art also means expanding one's audience has also contributed to this, and this in turn implies increasing (or even just maintaining) the possibility of accessing sponsorships and public contributions.

It should also be borne in mind that, for artists, the economic aspect is also important, i.e. the possibility of selling their works to collectors or museum institutions, but this goal is not always achievable through festivals, which perhaps attract an audience of enthusiasts, but not necessarily of operators in the sector. A role that, on the other hand, is often covered by exhibition activities, implemented by galleries and museums.
This is to say that the presence and density of festivals is not in itself exhaustive in representing the actual artistic ferment of a country. To give a macroscopic example, if we look at Africa we see that it has two video art festivals and two mixed ones. One of the two video art festivals is the AVAF - Addis Video Art Festival, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is a young festival, held for a few years, but rather than witnessing a particular effervescence of the territory, it represents the commitment of a good curator, and of a local artist who lives in the United States. While, for example, there has never been any festival in Nigeria, but until a few years ago the Video Art Network was active in Lagos. Or, to go to Asia, both in mainland China and in Taiwan there is a strong presence of video artists, but only four festivals are registered, and all of them can be categorized as mixed.

Among the video art festivals, some of the historical and most important ones deserve to be mentioned, such as Les Instants Vidéo and Videoformes, in France, Fonlad and FUSO - Festival Anual de Videoarte Internacional de Lisboa, in Portugal, Now & After in Russia, the International Video Art Festival of Camagüey in Cuba, Busan International Video Art Festival in Korea, Proyector / Video Art Festival in Spain, FIVA Festival Internacional de Videoarte in Argentina, Video Art Festival Turku in Turkey, Cairo Video Festival in Egypt . Important, even if they have extended their range of action, they are. also Sesc_Videobrasil, and Loop in Spain. Loop is also important because, alongside the festival, indeed now even more important than this, annually holds a fair of the same name dedicated to moving image. The Moving Image Salon, which moves between New York, London and Istanbul, is also interesting from this point of view, as well as the rencontres internationales paris/berlin, an important review of new cinema and contemporary art, which also includes video art, and the BIM - Biennal of the Moving Image in Geneva.
Finally, as regards the Italian situation, apart from episodic and/or local situations, we must remember Over The Real, in Lucca, Ibrida Festival, in Forlì, which has however extended its range of action a little, and Magmart, in Naples, which is heading towards its twenties.

In conclusion, it can be said that, albeit in an uneven way, the presence of festival events dedicated to video art, or which include it internally, is decidedly important and extensive, even if - despite exchange relationships are now a consolidated practice - there is no yet an effective ability to network, to systematize the enormous wealth of materials and experience that they represent. Which, on the other hand, would be extremely necessary, to deal in a coordinated way with both the structural aspects (think of the problems, logistic and not only, related to the creation and conservation of archives), and those of critical/theoretical study and deepening, both - last but not least - those relating to the promotion of artists and their works.
But I hope we can work on this in the future.



[Enrico Tomaselli / 2021-11-22]

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