// Festival theme
With the festival theme #LIVE!?, CTM.11 reflects the aesthetic, societal and economic implications of the growing importance of real-time media, the live experience and of so-called "liveness". Discussing these issues on the basis of audio-visual media performance, experimental music practice and pop culture, the festival aims to spark dialogue and exchange between theory and practice, bringing together scientists and artists and collaborating with a variety of guest curators and partners.
The everyday, throwaway use of the term "live" in connection with the reception of music, culture and media products suggest that its meaning is fully transparent and without conflict. Yet, on closer inspection, and in the attempt to set a definition, a whole array of questions comes up: Is the "live" quality defined by the synchronicity of creation and reception? By real-time processes? Is it the spontaneity of subjective decisions? And does that subsequently assign errors to the function of apparent markers for "liveness"? Or is a more common understanding needed, of open-ended, non-determined processes, which leave room for the unforeseen, but which are not necessarily the results of spontaneity or failure? Do generative systems then have the potential to produce "liveness"? Or could the transparency of production processes serve as a better criterion, since live performance and replay of recorded media are otherwise indistinguishable? Which role do we assign communication with an audience? How important is collective experience? Is non-reproducibility a sufficient criterion? Are bodily presence, authenticity or aura the crucial terms? What significance has the affect as the immediate and unconscious physiological reaction towards external stimuli?
Furthermore "live" describes not only the current boom of the live concert with its authentically sweating bodies. The signal streams of television and radio broadcasts are "live", and so is the more recent plethora of new online and mobile media formats as well as data generated by media apparatuses in real-time in, for example, computer music, audiovisual performance or the social web, where "liveness" manifests itself in the form of interaction within responsive environments. The term "liveness" tries to embrace these new qualities. In computer science it is used to describe procedural data, which only exists in the very moment it is being generated and processed. With the ubiquity of digital technology, of the internet and mobile media, real-time technologies in multifarious form define the daily routines of today’s digital media culture. And in doing so change not only our patterns of consumption and reception, but also artistic practices, the stage performance and the value chains of cultural industries to the extent that a new paradigm of "live" or "liveness" can be spoken of.
"Liveness" is not only about real-time technologies. In a much broader sense it describes a living presence and attention to the specific moment. While the invention of recording media provided an alternative to (the hitherto only option of) art as a live experience – eventually bringing the term into existence as a differentiator that had previously never been needed – they are now being replaced by hybrid media formats that increasingly integrate characteristics of "liveness". Since the very earliest days of audiovisual recording and reproduction, media artists have experimented with their use in live situations, be it film, records, video, audio tape or the computer. The more performance practice and the stage concert integrate electronic and digital media for the real-time synthesis of data or makes use of online possibilities, the more ambiguous the notion of "live" becomes, and what artists and audience might consider, accept and desire as "live" and what they will not.
Where subjective intentions, the body and its perceptive apparatus intersect with media technology, the definition of "live" gets progressively lost in the haziness of multiple possibilities. Different surroundings and differing levels of medialization lead to distinct occurrences of "liveness". At the centre we find the question whether the live experience is exclusively bound to the presence of flesh and blood performers – or if machine performance also holds the potential to produce live experience, for example through creating an outstanding perceptional intensity. Can machines be performers? Should we, in addition to media performance, also be speaking of performance media?