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Novamedia: an Australian first

Lisa Gye

The challenge facing any artistic movement is to find an audience. While the sale of Tracey Moffatt’s iconic Something More No 1 for $74,000 in 2002 was seen by many as an indication of Australian photography’s new status as legitimate and collectable art, let’s not forget that medium had been around for 176 years at the time of this sale. In comparison, new media arts are mere pups. Public interest is however on the rise. This is in no small part due to the hard work of a number of key government agencies and arts organisations. The Australia Council’s New Media Arts Board has played a crucial role in the promotion and development of this work in Australia, as have organisations such as Experimenta Media Arts, dLux Media Arts, the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), to name a few key players.

However, it is the artists themselves who have done the most to move new media more firmly into the public eye. They have had to be adept at writing funding submissions, negotiating and installing sometimes complex technical infrastructure for exhibition, and marketing their own output. The desire to lift this burden on individual artists drives the model for new media arts management being pioneered by Melbourne-based company, Novamedia.

The company was founded by Alessio Cavallaro and Antoanetta Ivanova in December 2001. Their experience as curators and producers informed them of the need for Australian new media artists to be represented, professionally supported and promoted beyond a rather narrow circuit. Managed by Ivanova, Novamedia is Australia’s first new media arts agency and its primary business objective is to encourage and support the development of a broader market, locally and overseas, for Australian new media art. It provides specialist producer, management and advisory services that not only help artists realise projects, but also stimulate greater visibility and appreciation of their work and of new media art in general.

Currently, Novamedia represents an impressive stable of well known artists including Justine Cooper, Linda Dement, Stelarc, Ian Haig, Jon McCormack, Tina Gonsalves, Troy Innocent and The Lycette Bros, as well as emerging artists such as Mari Velonaki and Metraform. The kind of work created by these artists is diverse, ranging across net art, digital photo-imaging, medical imaging, interactive art, artificial life, animation, desktop video, holographic art and robotics. Novamedia works closely with individual artists to ensure their needs are met. These range from management and partnership development, through to matching artists with interested public and private collectors.

Introducing new media art to collectors is something that distinguishes Novamedia from other types of agencies working in the field. It is notoriously difficult to find a market for this work. Consequently, the kinds of rewards afforded other artists through the sale of work are not always available to those working in new media. In a ground-breaking initiative Novamedia will be staging the first commercial new media art exhibition at the Melbourne Art Fair in September this year. Ivanova is enthusiastic in her appraisal of the possibilities for new media art collection: “If we are true to our times we must look into preserving and learning to appreciate [new media works] beyond the odd gallery or event visit.” Ivanova says that Novamedia is working with public institutions on developing collections and educational resources with a new media focus: “I encourage Australian public art galleries and museums to invest not only in digital images, and DVDs, but also to consider acquiring interactive installations, net art projects and games, as Centre Pompidou and the Whitney Museum have been doing for several years now. Educational institutions should be acquiring works, especially by Australian artists, to be incorporated into the curriculum. The State Library of Victoria has also started a collection of Victorian-produced games, which is a fantastic initiative.”

Ivanova is acutely aware of the need for intervention in the circuit of distribution and promotion if the profiles of both the artists and the artworks are to be elevated. Ivanova says, “We provide collectors with expert advice on developing quality new media art collections. There are complex tasks associated with this type of art, such as technical maintenance, durability and archiving. Perhaps most importantly we provide a collector with the essential knowledge of the particular development and context of the artwork, which in new media terms often involves other disciplines such as medicine, science, astronomy, engineering, ethics.”

How does Novamedia fit in with the vision of the New Media Arts Board and the Audience and Market Development Division of the Australia Council, whose current 3 year plan includes the international promotion of Australian new media art? Where does it sit in terms of ACMI, and events like MAAP (Multimedia Arts Asia Pacific) and BEAP (Biennial of Electronic Art Perth, see page 27)? Ivanova sees Novamedia as “an independent agency, established to provide a range of services that at present none of the above, or any other Australian institution for that matter, provides. Novamedia responds to the needs of a developing niche market of new media artists, collectors, corporate clients and the education sector. It does not have a public program/exhibition agenda the way BEAP, MAAP or ACMI do. However we do focus on developing specific international touring programs. Last year we presented ozone, a survey of Australian digital media art at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Barbican Centre in London. Novamedia produced Melbourne DAC (Digital Art and Culture) 2003 Conference which took place for the first time outside Scandinavia and the USA.”

Novamedia is currently working on a raft of projects to raise the profile of their artists here and overseas. It is the Australian producer for Japan’s Granular Synthesis, who are making their Australian debut with the performance of Modell 5 at the 2004 Melbourne International Arts Festival, and the producer of Game Time, a major international event dedicated to game culture.

Novamedia has also initiated and produced a tour of Australian new media art works by Metraform, Jon McCormack, Troy Innocent and Mari Velonaki to be presented at Ars Electronica in September in partnership with the Australia Council’s New Media Arts Board. To coincide with the 25th anniversary of the festival, Novamedia is publishing Unnatural Selection providing an overview of a range of internationally renowned new media artists who have contributed significantly to the field in Australia and beyond. As well, an Australian-French exchange exhibition entitled Reactivate! in collaboration with a consultant/curator at Centre Pompidou will be presented in Melbourne and New Zealand later this year, in partnership with the State Library of Victoria. As Ivanova says: “There is a lot of work to be done by all of us. We have a better chance of succeeding if we work together.”

Novamedia is aware that it has to respond to the very particular needs of new media artists. It has to be innovative because there is no single model to follow. Ivanova says “as well as offering production and management, collections development and acquisitions, Novamedia is working with associates on a legal advisory service that will deal with commercialisation of Intellectual Property, partnership negotiations and contracts. In many respects the complexities of new media art are much closer to film or architecture than other art practices.” Novamedia was established to help new media art succeed in such challenging terrain.

Lisa Gye is a Lecturer in Media and Communications at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. She is also a facilitator for fibreculture,

RealTime issue #62 Aug-Sept 2004 pg. 31

© Lisa Gye; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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