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 Theory of “Biomedia”

Until very recently technical media were the focal point of media theory investigations, but now technological advance has developed a number of innovations that some thinkers are terming “biomedia”. Professor of Media Theory Ingeborg Reichle studies the interaction between media theory and the new theories of “biomedia”, as well as the relationship between contemporary art and the production of “nature” within the realm of the technosciences (biotechnology and synthetic biology). In recent years media theory has concentrated mainly on technological media and human–machine interactions, but a vast number of recent innovations makes it necessary to include also biological media, because in the expanding sphere of biotechnology, biology becomes technology. DNA codes and computer codes are increasingly merging, opening up new possible constellations for designing the biological sphere, which are already making their way into our society and the arts as biological and technical constellations of media technologies. The changes to societal and cultural processes that accompany these developments are examined and analyzed from an interdisciplinary perspective in the Department’s courses and research. Specific contemporary artistic approaches (e.g., bioart, transgenic art) are explored as well as the current societal and economic processes involved, taking artistic modes of production as well as the respective scientific discourses into account in order to develop a critical understanding of the role of media and the arts in the twenty-first century.