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The festivals, a window on the world
When I launched myself in the adventure of organizing a video art festival fourteen years ago, it was at a turning point — even though I could not fully realize it at the time.
The advent of the internet, in fact, made possible to communicate quickly with much part of the planet, and also made possible to see videos produced by the most distant artists. As a consequence of this, not only the diffusion of video art (which had already received a strong impulse from digitization) was further pushed forward, but a change in the scope of the festivals dedicated to it was determined.
Where at first it was often pioneering organizations, however linked to analogue supports, which were sent by post, a new era opened up where everything would be easier and faster. On that ridge lies the birth of Magmart, an experience from the beginning exciting.
Over the course of the first decade, the international video art landscape has expanded a great deal, and new artists have appeared — and then affirmed — in the limelight. At the same time, new festivals began to appear like mushrooms almost everywhere, while museums and galleries also showed a growing interest in this form of art.
All this inevitably produced saturation; many festivals, in which the same works tended to be seen, or at least those of the best artists. Moreover, and especially in recent years, there has been a more marked convergence, or at least proximity, between cinema and video art, as a result of which many works of video art have begun to participate in film festivals, and these to open up explicitly to that.
The management of a festival, in this context, has gradually become more complex, more time-consuming; where before a few months were enough, between the launch of the call and the selection of the winners, it became necessary to invest in it for a longer time, taking care of the image of the festival throughout the whole year, and taking care to characterize it in order to make it distinguishable (and therefore appreciable) from others. A real job of branding.
On the other hand, the multiplication of festivals on the one hand, the greater opening of museums and galleries on the other, have in turn produced a decline in interest by the artists, who no longer look at festivals as an opportunity for visibility particularly interesting.
We are perhaps at a new ridge, a transition to a new phase.
In Magmart’s experience, this has meant — particularly in recent years — the transformation of the festival into a biennial, and above all the initiative to put beside few major international projects, specifically focused on a theme. Of the four so far made — and dedicated to the fifty years of video art, to the five senses, to food and to the human body — the first is still the one with the most positive balance. “100x100 = 900” was in fact a challenge never tried before: 100 artists involved, a total duration of over 7 hours and half… and yet, managed to involve collaborations everywhere, resulting in the projected screened 67 times, in 29 different countries . And yet it is requested.
In light of all this, one would wonder if it still makes sense to organize a festival. And I don’t deny that I asked myself seriously.
Well the answer is once again yes.
A festival is always an irreplaceable opportunity to get in touch with an international community of artists, which never ceases to expand and enrich itself. New artists, from new countries, bring something new every time, like a constantly changing landscape. At each new edition, a window on the world is reopened. And as in all human things, sometimes it happens that what you see is more usual, sometimes more surprising. Sometimes it fascinates you sometimes not. But always brings something that was not there before.
It is difficult to say where the future will take us, if, how much and how some cinematic hybridizations will influence video art. Or how new technologies like augmented reality will impact on it. What’s beyond this new ridge is not yet known.
But there is no other way, to know it, than to keep that window open.


[Enrico Tomaselli / 2020-06-01]

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