Albert Einstein once said, “At times of crisis, imagination is more important than knowledge.” It’s the unifying principle—or the call to action, even the rallying cry—of Espacio Enter, an ambitious project run by the non-profit cultural organization ARTECHMEDIA. The group’s ongoing goal is to create, organize, and promote events that develop the arts and digital culture. The latest event, “Precision Guided Messages: Digital Demagogues and Underground Empires,” curated by Lee Wells and presented in conjunction with IFAC Arts at the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes in the Canary Islands, puts the focus firmly on video, inviting socially minded digital artists to respond to current events in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East.
With so many organizations and individual artists involved, it’s helpful to point out the political perspective they all have in common. According to IFAC, the festival’s progressive artists explore the “ever deteriorating state of democracy” across the globe. In some cases, these explorations are comparatively literal, as in Randall Packer’s Post Reality Show (2014), a creative remixing of the endless stream of mass media and pop culture. Given Packer’s background, his multimedia critiques are particularly intriguing: he was the founder and first Secretary of the US Department of Art & Technology. His work is featured alongside that of another respected figure in the realm of education: Gregory Greene, an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida who’s been trying to establish his own country on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific for almost 20 years. His project, The New Free State of Caroline, has been featured in Jody Shapiro’s documentary, How to Start Your Own Country (2010). At Espacio Enter, film clips of Greene—speaking about territory claims at the United Nations—raise compelling questions about the definition of “nation” and how individual power differs from state power.
Other works featured at the festival have a humorous edge, like Stewart Home’s Does Modern Art Give You A Headache? (2009). The London artist’s film, shot and edited in less than two hours, is a dialectical inversion of Dario Escobar’s 12 Minutes, 8 Seconds (2008). Indeed, Home’s question is a fair one: some of the pieces at this year’s festival might give the viewer a headache, only because they’re provocative, challenging social norms and engaging the viewer with bold ideas, broadcast in a large format that can’t be easily ignored.
“Precision Guided Messages: Digital Demagogues and Underground Empires” is on view at Tenerife Espacio de las Artes in the Canary Islands, Spain, Dec. 5–7, 2014.