Armin Medosch (1962-2017)
[This was initially written for nettime, where many others joined in to complete the picture of a life well lived.] [Update, early March: We turned the many memories and remembrances into a small publication.]
Armin Medosch died yesterday, on the day two months after being diagnosed with cancer. I'm sure many people on nettime knew him very well. He was a true pioneer of the media arts and network culture scene in Europe. Indeed for much longer than even nettime exists.
I first learned of Armin not as a person, but a legend. In the early 1990s, he was one of a band of artists of an unqualifiable streak who roamed the Baltic sea on the Kunst-Raum-Schiff, MS Stubnitz. An 80m former freeze & transport vessel of the GDR high seas fishing fleet, they had re-purposed as a moving center for experimental electronic culture. He curated and organised exhibitions and symposia in Rostock, Hamburg, Malmö and St.Petersburg. The project was incredibly evocative, even for someone like me who had never seen the ship, because it fused many of the ideas that would come to define network culture, namely nomadism, a total disregard for established culture institutions, DIY and an exploration of the wild wastelands opened by the breakdown of the Soviet system, after 1989.
A few years later, when he was the co-founder and editor (1996 to 2002) of the groundbreaking online magazine Telepolis, he gave me the first change to publish regularly on network culture. Telepolis, which came out of exhibition on what was then called “interactive cities”, was the first European (or at least German) online publication that followed and understood the newly emerging phenomenon of the network culture. Together with Mute in London and nettime as list, Telepolis was a key node in establishing something like a European perspective on Internet culture, in clear opposition to WIRED and the Californian ideology.
In the early 2000s, Armin and I found ourselves living in Vienna. A collaborative working relationship turned into friendship. We still collaborated on a lot of projects, such as a Kingdom of Piracy, an exhibition project he initiated with Yukiko Shikata and Shu Lea Cheang, one of the first art projects that focused on the legal and illegal cultural practices of sharing digital materials.
Over the last few years, we worked together in the framework of Technopolitics, an independent research platform, he founded initially with Brian Holmes, aiming at developing a more materially-grounded cultural critique, one which could relate cultural practices with deeper, more structure social transformation. A task we considered urgent after breakdown of the neo-liberal paradigm following the crisis that started 2008.
All of these projects, and many more that I cannot account for personally – and need your help to fill in – where transdisciplinary, collaborative and exploratory, often ahead of their times. This is, however, something that the art and the academic systems rarely appreciate.
Technopolitics continued this cross-disciplinary and collaborate work, but also reflected his new focus of work on developing a deep and sustained cultural theory and art history. His most recent publication, “New Tendencies: Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961-1978)” (MIT Press, 2016) was a first major achievement of this new direction. So was Technopolitics which we were able to present to overflow crowds at the transmediale late last month, an event which he could only witness via stream from his hospital bed.
Quite recently, we even became neighbors and we would walk over to each other's house for discussions, food a drinks. No more.