CYFEST, one of the biggest international media art festivals in Eastern Europe, was founded by a group of independent artists and curators in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 2007. Since its inception, CYFEST’s main concerns have been to examine the dialogue between new and traditional visual languages and to show technological achievements via artistic transformation. CYFEST unites art professionals, artists, curators, educators and thinkers, programmers, engineers, and media activists all over the world, and expands contemporary art, intertwining it with various disciplines of science and technology.
Throughout the year, festival projects are presented at leading cultural institutions around the world. In 2019, CYFEST was showcased in New York, Moscow, Rome and Venice. Traditionally, Saint Petersburg has held the festival’s main event in partnership with local classical and experimental cultural institutions. Each year, the festival program includes several exhibition projects, sound art, video and educational programs.
The organizer of CYFEST is CYLAND MediaArtLab.
CYFEST: BEGINNING AND CONTINUATION
by Lizaveta Matveeva (St. Petersburg, Russia)
art critic, curator
CYFEST (formerly, Cyberfest), founded in 2007 as an annual festival of the CYLAND MediaArtLab, initially amounted to a small program of events at the Peter and Paul Fortress. The exposition in the Ioannovsky Ravelin opened with the installation “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol that was presented by the artist’s museum in Pittsburg (USA). Additionally, the first CYFEST is remembered for the exhibit “Story of E.A.T. 1960-2000s” dedicated to the American lab Experiments in Art and Technology that united artists, engineers and scientists. The mission of that organization, which became a prototype for CYLAND, was to expand artists’ access to new technologies and to give them an opportunity to use technological advances in their work.
Andy Warhol (USA) with the contribution of Billy Klüver (USA), Silver Clouds, installation, 1966, reprint 2007, exhibition view (CYBERFEST 2007, Ioannovsky ravelin, photo: CYLAND)
CYLAND MediaArtLab was created for the same purpose of collaboration of engineers and computer programmers with contemporary artists, and CYFEST became the platform that allowed to showcase this new art and to discuss it. With time, the festival’s geography has expanded. In recent years, its exhibitions, concerts, lectures and master classes have been held not just in St. Petersburg, but also in other cities of the world: in London (Village Underground, Bear Gallery), New York (Made in NY Media Center by IFP), Berlin (Platoon Kunsthalle, Museum of Computer Games, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Urban Spree, Kino Babylon, English Theatre Berlin), Vilnius, Tokyo (Sky Gallery 2) and Bogota (Centro Internacional de Negocios y Exposiciones de Bogota).
CYBERFEST 7 Sound Art Program (Platoon Kunsthalle, Berlin, Germany, 2013, photo: CYLAND)
CYFEST is an international festival that invites media artists from all over the world. Over the years, its participants have included: Ken Butler (USA), Carla Gannis (USA), Ent Dickinson (Great Britain), Philippe Lamy (France), Lei Lei (China), Sven Pahlsson (Norway), Nicola Rae (Great Britain), Jean-Michel Rolland (France), Mariateresa Sartori (Italy), Pink Twins (Finland) and others. In addition to artists, the festival also annually engages theoreticians of media art, such as Al Doyle (USA), Paul Malone (USA), Erandy Vergara (Canada-Mexico), Dan and Ellen Pearlman (USA), William Latham (UK), David Rosenboom (USA), and Dmitry Bulatov (Russia).
Along with artists and theoreticians, curators from the most diverse countries have also been invited to participate. The following curators have come to CYFEST: Anna Frants, Marina Koldobskaya, Silvia Burini, Natalia Kamenetskaya, Giuseppe Barbieri, Natasha Kurchanova, Leah Stuhltrager, Elena Gubanova, Peter Patchen, Carla Gannis, Vladislav Dobrovolsky, Boshko Boskovic, Katya Bochavar, Natalia Prikhodko, Yulia Garbuzova and others.
Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai (Russia), Movie For Young Serpent, video (СYFEST-11)
Félicien Goguey (Switzerland–France), GSM Landscape v.0.1.5, Installation, 2016 (CYFEST-12)
The responsibility for CYFEST's format and entry list is held by the festival board that over the years has included Phil Niblock, Silvia Burini, Natasha Kurchanova, Susan Katz, Irina Karasik, Gediminas Urbonas, Dmitry Ozerkov, Tatiana Bazzichelli, Manuela Benetton, Dmitry Bulatov, Erandy Vergara, Anna Yermolayeva, Olesya Turkina, Fred Forest, Julia Martin and Lev Manovich.
At the festival planning stage, a great deal of attention is paid to educational activities. The program of each CYFEST includes lectures, workshops and master classes that help the unprepared public to understand the language of media art and allows the artists to share their expertise—after all, many of them come not just to showcase their works, but also to talk about new technologies and to share the possibilities that media art has today.
Creating Formscape VR, the history of Mutator VR. Lecture by William Latham and Lance Putnam (Goldsmiths, University of London). CYFEST-12, Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design, Russia, 2019. Video: Anton Khlabov.
Each year CYFEST acquires new partners and venues. Since 2008, the festival has collaborated with the Youth Center at the Hermitage, in whose halls many notable events have been held, both exhibitory and educational. Other partners include the Russian State University for Humanities (Moscow), Pratt Institute (New York), the Center for the Study of Russian Culture (СSAR) at Ca’ Foscari University (Venice) and the WYE Arts Center (Berlin).
Andrey Bartenev and Kinetic Installation The Enlightened One by Elena Gubanova & Ivan Govorkov, ID ART:TECH EXHIBITION Opening, Ca’ Foscari Zattere Cultural Flow Zone, Venice, 2019. As a Part of CYFEST-12 the International Media Art Festival. Photo: Marco Sabadin
Since 2008, CYLAND Media Lab has been accumulating a video archive whose curator is Victoria Ilyushkina. Video programs of CYFEST are composed from works stored in this archive. Also, there is an annual open call for proposals. “Modus Operandi”, “Changing Landscapes”, “Way Up”, “Universe in Your Pocket”, “Action Planning: Reaction” – these and other video programs of CYFEST have been screened at the festivals in St. Petersburg, Moscow, New York, Sao Paulo, Barcelona, Venice, Berlin, Vilnius, Helsinki and Bogota.
Almagul Menlibayeva (Germany-Kazakhstan) — Buttreflies of Aisha bibi, 2010
Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai (Russia) — New Versailles, 2016
Egor Kraft, Pekka Tynkkynen, Alina Kvirkveliya & Karina Golubenko (Finland-Russia) — Air Kiss, 2017
Almagul Menlibayeva (Germany-Kazakhstan) — Buttreflies of Aisha bibi, 2010
CYFEST Video Program Participants (Video Stills)
In parallel with the video programs, CYLAND creates programs of sound art, and since 2012 it has been forming an appropriate archive that contains works both by such pioneers of electronic music as Laurie Spiegel and by young authors. The idea to create the archive started up back at the first CYFEST when the question arose about showcasing and storing audio art. In contemplating an optimum format, curator Sergey Komarov and his colleagues came to the conclusion that one should use the plates “as a borderline state of the immaterial sound that gained the opportunity to materialize physically in the exhibition space”.
The CYLAND Audio Archive (CAA). Photo: Yuri Goryanoy