“OUTVIDEO” festival: Penetration of video art into LED screen network

Arseny Sergeyev

In this issue of our magazine we would like to say more about OUTVIDEO festival which was broadcasted on screens of CityVision network in June-July 2006. We already widely covered the events during conference “Urban Screens 2005” which took place in Amsterdam (see our issues #9/2005, #7/2006) and also the problems of integration of modern technologies into public spaces which were brought up at the conference. In Russia the problems announced in Amsterdam are going to be solved. The proof for it is a co-operation of “OUTVIDEO” festival and “CityVision”, the biggest in Russia network of outdoor video screens. More detailed information about this co-operation you will find in the following article by Arseny Sergeyev, the curator of the festival.

Historical meeting or how it all began

In September 2005 the Conference “Urban Screens” was held in Amsterdam. It was dedicated to the problem of cultural adaptation of fast-growing infrastructure of outdoor video screens to urban space. At the Conference Russia was represented by 2 projects and each of them can be called “super”: the biggest in Europe LED screen network “CityVision” and unique Yekaterinburg festival of video-art on outdoor video screens “OUTVIDEO”. This “historical meeting in hospitable Holland” gave a stimulus to both sides to cooperate. And this cooperation gives us an opportunity to say that a brand new cultural record has appeared in Russia.

Only such epithet can be given to the regular international festival “OUTVIDEO’06” which was broadcasted on video LED screens of CityVision’s outdoor video network in 16 Russian cities in the period between 5th June and 5th July 2006.

Evolution of the festival

International festival “OUTVIDEO” is a project developed and shown for the first time in Yekaterinburg in 2004 when the first network of LED screens was installed in the city. Until that moment any attempts to offer the owners of free-standing displays the cultural contents for their displays were doomed to failure. The owners of LED screens didn’t get the reason to stir well-selling advertising air time with cultural content. Selling rate of each screen was really high and needed no additional or PR.

The appearance of LED screen network in Yekaterinburg in 2004 not only created a space for hard competition to take audience’s attention and also gave an opportunity to realize the idea that was living in mind of Yekaterinburg curator and artist Arseny Sergeev: “…if there is no opportunity to broadcast art video on LED screens constantly so nevertheless we can make (lately it became the first one in the world) a festival of video art on that carriers”. And video clips should be broadcasted in the same volume and frequency as common commercials. And it worked!

Every day from morning till evening during the whole month one clip from the day-list which was broadcasted every 5-7 minutes on every LED screen of the network. So this fundamental feature made the festival Russian know-how and became a distinguishing capacity from similar west projects where LED screens were more likely used as a temporary platform for representation of art video. But these projects were solving problems of cultural intervention, which do not influence on a process of cultural communication in urban space (for example, “The 59th minute” by Creative Time when art video is shown every last minute of hour on Panasonic video screen on Time Square in New York or one-time video installations or short-term broadcasts single-channel video clips in the framework of modern art forums).

It turned out that “on equal terms” integration in context of commercial advertising not only increases the attractiveness of the on-going advertising flow but also gives modern art an opportunity to function as social constituent which in current situation of absence of modern art areas in Russia seems to be unrealizable.

With help of CityVision’s LED screen network the project rose to higher level and it gave a brand new opportunity to convert the festival into cultural brand of national scale, which not only establish reputation of Russian in sphere of modern art but also is a very good example of creative partnership between culture and business.

The main idea and format of the festival

So the main idea of the festival is a broadcasting of feature video clips which are made in specific advertising format (short silent video clips) especially for follow-up broadcasting on outdoor LED screens. The festival fundamentally relies on recourses of outdoor video networks which unite many LED screens for maximum coverage of audience.

STALKSHOW on Pushkinskaya square in Moscow STALKSHOW on Pushkinskaya square in Moscow
STALKSHOW on Pushkinskaya square in Moscow.
Every one could participate in STALKSHOW performance on Pushkinskaya sq. in Moscow.
Photo credit: Hermen Maat

Day-list of the festival is broadcasted during the whole month. Besides 2 last days of the festival (rather 2 last nights, form 00.00 till 02.00) everybody can watch “Night program” of the festival which is broadcasted without commercial breaks. It consists of nearly 200 video clips which didn’t come through jury’s selection for “Day program”. Every year there are off line actions as a constituent part of the festival (video presentations in cinemas, lectures and master classes) and also projects of the artists which are adapted specially for broadcasting on outdoor video LED screens.

In 2006 during the festival interactive installation-performance STALKSHOW by Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat was show for the first time in public spaces. The project represented feature intervention into crowded areas and analyzed feelings of self-protection absence and isolation and also relative to them feelings of outgoing threat from outer world. The artists provoked the public to co-operation with them. There was sensory screen placed on the rucksack of one of the artists. It was touched by passing pedestrians.

On the screen there was a program with different phrases brought from interviews with people who had the experiences of isolation and self-protection absence (former prisoners, refugees, victims of violence). A viewer (who was a participants at the same time) touching one or another phrase started the dialogue with himself as through the text he saw himself (there was a miniature fixed to the sensory screen camera which snapshoot in automatic mode). Thus in play- format everybody could try on himself the whole complex of extreme emotions of absence of self-protection and isolation and feel horror and at the same time attraction of that states. Through Wi-Fi connection made pictures with texts were transferred to outdoor video LED screen on Pushkinskaya square in Moscow which was not far from the place of the action.

Turning back to the festival it should be mentioned that its main goal is to broadcast video art clips between advertising spots. Functionally it plays a role of a break or something like respite from importunate and sometimes low-quality video advertisement. Broadcasting “small work” on big video screens in urban spaces we transform it into monumental composition (art clips for outdoor video screens should be of resolution which is half of ones for TV, half of TV clip duration: 30 seconds instead of common 1 minute or more spot on TV which were used in festivals like “One Minute” and “ESF” (www.esff.ru).

Video clip of the festival on LED screen in Moscow Promo clip of the festival on LED screen in Perm
Video clip of the festival on LED screen in Moscow Promo clip of the festival on LED screen in Perm

“Advertising” format of the clips (resolution of 320x240, duration not more than 30 seconds, no sound) makes easier to collect all video clips from the artists and then broadcast them using Internet. The clip itself has a lot of ways to be used – from outdoor video LED screens, LCD panels in shopping malls to pocket players, mobile phones and other screen-based systems which have rigid technical restrictions for volume of transmitted video data or specific conditions which limit the perception of solid genres of video and movie art. That compactness and essentiality of video clips performed in the play-list give an opportunity to conduct the festival not only locally (in the city) but also more globally (region or the whole country).

The main idea of OUTVIDEO festival is to overpass the frames of local development of Russian culture and creation of a room for social and cultural co-operation based on modern cultural values. The network of outdoor LED screens unites different Russian cities and during the festival they have new opportunities to change their cultural identity, new perspective of cultural sphere development. The festival shows images and messages which reflect emotions and feelings of the artists in the different parts of the world. It makes people who live in the cities the festival is shown in feel themselves co-participant in global cultural processes. At the same time the project tests abilities of fast-growing urban screens industry and shows how to combine commercial use of LED screens with cultural constituent.

Video clip by Dana Sperry on LED screen in Moscow Video clip of festival on LED screen in Yaroslavl
Video clip by Dana Sperry on LED screen in Moscow Video clip of festival on LED screen in Yaroslavl

New forms of video art

I would like to mention some more aspects. According to the cultural content the festival gave birth to new form of video art – 30 second silent video clip for outdoor video screens. Practically the festival restored lost aesthetics of silent pictures but at new technological level. Restrictions on time and impossibility of sound use in the presence of non-limited arsenal of graphic tools and specific advertising context of representation are some kind of challenge which stimulates the search of new expressive methods, laconic, effective expressions and images. The geographical coverage of the authors who send their work to the festival is very huge. The clips come from many countries of Europe North and South America, Australia and also China.

As social aspect the festival gives the participants the unique opportunity to express themselves towards huge audience and popularize their art. The bigger part of artists and curators are really surprised with scales of the event. Advertising format of modern art representation helps its integration into public consciousness and cultural life and this is very important especially in terms of informational deficiency and absence of developed infrastructure of modern art in Russia. People even changed their itinerary from work to home and back just to watch another clip from the festival’s day-list.

For the partners of the festival, owners of the network of outdoor video screens the festival help to reach new PR goals of creation positive image of video LED screens. Besides, the project already has a good international reputation in professional environment and well-known around the world because of its unique format. The festival is recognized by specialists as exemplary one in co-operation between culture and business for companies which work in sphere of hi-tech and it is represents the advanced experience for Russian and foreign companies.

And finally OUTVIDEO festival (and as a result of it all regular broadcasting of art content) transfers outdoor LED screens from outdoor advertising sphere to the sphere of culture. They become urban cultural sightseeing. Effective advertising means seem to be mythological and turn into fascinating “objects of desire”, channels for broadcasting of cultural values, variety of styles and “images” of life.