Guy Sherwin, Optical Sound, 2007, frame enlargement. Photo: By courtesy of Guy Sherwin.

About

Research and teaching at the Department of Media Theory engages with a diverse spectrum of media and focuses especially on their act of production, their social and societal effects as well as their capacity and potential to change perception. To this end research centers on a multitude of media theories that were proposed and formulated during the course of the twentieth century and which are still relevant today. Located at the heart of the Institute for Fine Arts and Media Art, the Department of Media Theory’s dual focus on theory and art practice places great emphasis on artistic research, and currently hosts one inspiring and outstanding project which is funded by the Austrian Science Fund’s programme for artistic research (PEEK):

– Dancing with the Nonhuman: an Aesthetics of Encounter (2019–2022)

The Department’s team of researchers and art practitioners with a distinguished record of academic teaching fully appreciate that interdisciplinary approaches are indispensable for understanding society’s ongoing changes due to the influence of media and new technologies and the value of utilizing artistic endeavors as a critical lens. The Department’s reputation for professional education within the field of art education is based on its rigorous and critical approaches towards the reciprocity and effects of constantly evolving media and the concept of art itself.

Siegfried A. Fruhauf, Structural Studies, 2003, C-Print on aluminium. Photo: By courtesy of Siegfried A. Fruhauf.

Media Theory and Film Studies

As a relatively young academic discipline, media theory has not yet developed any consensus as to its definition or the full scope of its enquiry. Because this field of study is so broad and developments in the media sector so dynamic, it is important that media studies at an arts university should clearly define the directions and contents of its research and teaching. The Chair of Film and Media Theory (Prof. Dr. Gabriele Jutz) focuses on the connection between art and the moving image. Central to this is the artistic use of audiovisual media, as is the case, for example, of experimental cinema, which ranges from the historical film avant-garde to expanded cinema and projection performances to contemporary “neo-analog” film practices. As well, sound studies, a largely neglected field of ​​film and media theory, are also an important field of inquiry.

The analysis of experimental films requires an awareness of the differences between media, something that is potentially lost as almost all of our media is being converted into digital data. The focus therefore is on an analytical approach that interlaces questions of aesthetics, materiality and context. In order to comprehensively understand both historical and contemporary artistic media practices, it is necessary to take account of innovative approaches to the history of media and technology in conjunction with their social, institutional and economic aspects.

Recently, cooperation with the Austrian Film Museum has been established. This provides selected collections – photos, posters, documents as well as film and cinema equipment – for university research. The aim of this collaboration is to work on unresearched collections and to carry out substantial research work in the contexts of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral theses.

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Rewilding with Synthetic Biology, Designing for the Sixth Extinction, 2013-15, light box, detail.

Media Theory and Biomedia

The chair for media theory (Prof. Ingeborg Reichle) engages with many different media in their role as fundamental techniques for mediating reality. Structural, historical, and phenomenological aspects of media together with their conditions of production and effects are interrogated, as well as contemporary media theories and experimental fields in art (media art, digital art, transmedia art, BioArt). Questions relating to aesthetics, technology, and history and archaeology of media are in the foreground, and also innovations that are currently referred to as “biomedia”: The technological and media framing of biology using techniques from biotechnology leads to exchangeability of code and matter, and opens up biology for new design applications, which are also entering the art context as biological and technological constellations of media technologies. The investigation in research and teaching of the concomitant changes in artistic and social processes from an interdisciplinary perspective aims to analyse contemporary art trends (BioArt, Transgenic Art) as well as present-day social and economic processes. Forms of artistic production are explored as well as relevant scientific discourses to enable the development of a critical understanding of the roles of media and the arts in the 21st century.