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Asia-Pacific: new media exchange

Amanda McDonald Crowley

Amanda McDonald Crowley is currently executive producer for ISEA2004

There has recently been a significant increase in access to information and communication technologies across the Asia-Pacific region. In some countries new media practices are well established and recognised as part of the art world, in others they have yet to carve out their own cultural space. In December 2003, a 2 day international joint UNESCO/SARAI colloquium, Old Pathways-New Travellers, was held to explore these issues and initiate the development of new media and digital art networks across the Asia-Pacific region.

The aim of the colloquium was to come up with a plan of action for the promotion and development of media arts and electronic music in Asian and Pacific societies. The event was run in co-operation with UNESCO's Digi-arts web-based program ( and SARAI ( a program organised by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, India. As the colloquium invitation stated:

We need to recognise that despite a diversity of conditions, certain basic features are similar in a host of Asian cultural contexts-these include the co-existence of old and new communicative cultures, a dynamic history of popular media practices, the cross fertilisation of cultural materials across ethnic, linguistic, geographic and cultural divides, a diversity of languages and traditions, and a ready acceptance of technological innovation.

With this context in mind, a key discussion item of the forum was the building of sustainable networks not reliant on constant referrals to 'the north.'

A real collaborative space has not previously existed in the region, nor have the means been there for networks to develop. Border cultural and fiscal issues have often prevented, or at least hindered, collaboration and exchange. But as Japanese freelance curator Yukiko Shikata suggested, media art is not just about using technologies, it's also about how artists conceptually and intuitively develop communicative and connective works. If there is a 'new' element in new media practice, it is perhaps a return to an art embedded in culture, rather than an art that stands apart from and comments on society.

Discussions on curatorial practice for the region spoke of building a collaborative model where the roles of artists, curators and technicians break down and become blurred. If new media practices have precipitated a major shift in the arts of the region, it has been through encouraging a method of cultural production inherently centred on collaboration. This is why local networks need to be developed to allow practitioners to work together, understand local cultural specificities and share their knowledge and experience. To date it seems that much cultural collaboration has been based on bilateral exchange with countries outside the region. Hopefully this meeting has begun a process of multi-lateral exchange closer to home.

The ongoing aim is to enable the creation of new media arts and electroacoustic music works through inter-regional partnerships, masterclasses, exchanges, residencies and mobile media labs travelling to different cities in the region. A database of regional artists and musicians is also being developed through the Digi-arts portal on the UNESCO web site. These resources will be useful to curators and cultural workers, as well as artists interested in identifying opportunities for exchange and collaboration.

Old Pathways-New Travellers: The Impact of Digital Arts in the Asian and Pacific Cultures, UNESCO and SARAI; New Delhi, India, Dec 4-5, 2003

Amanda McDonald Crowley is currently executive producer for ISEA2004

RealTime issue #62 Aug-Sept 2004 pg. Onl

© Amanda McDonald-Crowley; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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