EFFE Laureate - Athens Digital Arts Festival
The Athens Digital Arts Festival describes itself as celebrating 'digital culture through an annual gathering bringing together a global community of artists and audiences'. It is definitely not a roomful of twenty-something geeks sitting at long tables staring at their laptops and drinking weak American coffee. For example, this year you could have flown into Athens airport and, instead of leaping into a taxi or crossing the road to the metro station, stayed in the arrivals hall and visited the forty-one works being shown in the arts pavilion.
The festival is held in the Spring and this year (the 13th edition) it had the title '#PostFuture', which might have tied even Aristotle in philosophical knots but did at least reflect the intention to look beyond the next generation of apps and video games. The theme was explained as 'the future as seen from the past and the past as seen from the future.'
“We are always looking to use different and surprising buildings,” says ADAF's Director Ilias Chatzichristodoulou. “Yes, there are computer screens but there are also huge interactive installations and performances in big spaces.” His real interest is in using digital means to free the imagination and have a festival firmly located in one iconic place – the historic centre of Athens – that is able simultaneously to collaborate with others and connect around the world. “One installation will be in Athens, another in China, Canada or Spain – it no longer matters. Everywhere can join in.”
Increasingly he believes (in common, interestingly, with the directors of the two puppetry festivals nominated as this year's EFFE Laureates) that it is the interaction between the physical and the animated which is the key to development. Artists are encouraged to transcend digital culture, thinking beyond the confines of video in a period when people are 'born digitally native'. How close to birth it means is shown in one part of the programme where five year-olds can produce their first animation in two hours.
“My main passion,” says Ilias, “is to bring together all contemporary expressions, all media and all experimental views: art and science together without boundaries.”
By Simon Mundy for EFA