Talking to Dr. Andreas Bienert at the EVA [Electronic Media & Visual Arts] conference

We recently attended the 25th EVA [Electronic Media & Visual Arts] Conference in Berlin, the theme was: the bridges between material culture and virtual representation. This “Digital Twins” principle, applied to the Cultural and Heritage sector, is transforming our practices of how we curate, document and communicate.

You have a degree in “Art history, literature, and linguistics” from the Philipps-University Marburg and the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. How did you end up in developing the interest in digital and virtual tools as a medium for cultural interpretations?

In the 80’s I first worked as a student in the picture editing department of the Marburger Index, published by K.G. Saur Verlag. This was in conjunction with Prof. Dr Lutz Heusinger, a pioneer in digital humanities. I was immediately fascinated by new research options of the collaborative electronic documentation systems developed under his aegis. In addition to my own negligible application programming, I gained experience in dealing with large data repositories and in database design.

In 1989, you contributed to the development of the digital catalogue of the collection holdings of the Art Credit Basel-Stadt: what is a challenging memory of that process? In retrospective, how do you see the evolution made since that initial step from almost 30 years ago?

Leonore Sarasan’s far-sighted article “Why museum computer projects fail” from 1981, which is still highly readable today, was the great challenge to reflect on improved strategies. The collection of Kunstkredit Basel-Stadt with its congenial curator, Agathe Straumann, offered me the opportunity to put my previous experiences into practice. Fortunately, the development of ICT has progressed well since then, but as they say in England – there is always a devil behind the devil – Every problem solved leads us to new challenges. Contrary to the omnipotence promises of IT companies, the structures of Semantic Web are quite expandable. VR and IoT are at the very beginning of a development whose direction we may foresee from a technical point of view, but whose social and political implications we do not even begin to suspect.

How do you see the future role of electronic media storytelling in cultural institutions used to engage audiences?

At the risk of repeating our commonplaces over the years:

Audiences do not want information, but stories.

Which project has been a good mix of accessibility tools and electronic media which you have noticed in the past years?

The Digital Joseph Beuys Video Archive which we developed in 1998 at the National Gallery Berlin – Hamburger Bahnhof, and which we had to run down already in 2000 from copyright restrictions. Giving the audience the opportunity to have their questions answered by the artist himself was one of the most beautiful challenges concerning digital storytelling. Another very remarkable and firmly anchored project in my memory is still online: the electronic edition of a beautiful, decade-long and intimate correspondence of the architect Erich Mendelsohn and his wife Luise: Have a look and feel how history can become stories from their perspectives:

What has been the most interactive exhibit /experience you recall that blended well tangible and storytelling elements?

Exhibition: Stories for a more-than-human world, 5 Jul 2018 – 8 Jul 2018, Museum Kesselhaus, Berlin, Germany (with Bianca Kennedy and others).

We thank Dr. Bienert for the time and taking part to the organization of such an interesting conference… connecting digital and museum!
Take a look of some EVA live tweet moments here

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