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I X . 9
Z K M ­ Z e n t ru m f ü r Ku n s t u n d
M e d i e n t e c h n o l o g i e - C e n t e r f o r A r t s a n d
M e d i a , K a r l s ru h e
: A c u l t u ra l c e n t re o f
e x c e l l e n c e f o r t e c h n o l o g i c a l i n n o v a t i o n
Obviously, there is a kind of natural affiliation between a museum for new media art
and its focus on new technologies.What else could be expected in an institution that has
dedicated itself to "explore the creative potential of the new technologies, assess their
character and their impact on contemporary art and define their current and future influ-
ences on our lives"? (ZKM, 1997) Under this mission statement, the ZKM ­ Zentrum für
Kunst und Medientechnologie (Center for Art and Media), Karlsruhe, Germany, since 1996
has developed into a world-wide focal point not only for new media art, but also into a
place where technological innovation is happening.
This case study presents a cultural organisation that has a strong technological focus
and spearheads technological development in many of the areas addressed in this chapter.
In particular, the study highlights:
the unique institutional model of the ZKM, and in particular the research and
production components as basis for technological innovation in art practice,
the centre's approach to the Internet and the development of an online archive,
art as driver of technological innovation and difficulties of technology transfer,
and finally,
the possibility of the ZKM serving as blueprint for other cultural institutions.
A short history of the ZKM
Political foresight paired with vision fuelled the discussion around creating a centre for
the emerging media art already in the mid-80s. Based on a broad concept of the user-value
of technologically based art, the to-be-built centre should demonstrate the possibilities of
new media and its influences on our lives.The primary agenda of the ZKM was never
limited to technological and educational aspects only, but clearly focused on social
advancement. As such, the ZKM strives to become a new kind of museum, a museum of
the third kind, as described by the British telematics art pioneer Roy Ascott:
"The digital museum of the third kind will be anticipatory, not imposing perspectives of
the history art, but opening up a pool of possibilities from which art might emerge,
working at the forward edge of contrary culture, as an agent of culture change, as a course
of art practice rather than as a cultural effect." (Schwarz, 1997: p. 11)
The stimulating discussions and floating ideas won solid contours in 1986, when the
steering and working group formed by local politicians, representatives of the university, the
art academy, and the nuclear research centre and other institutions of the city of Karlsruhe,
published a first concept entitled "concept88". Inspired and motivated especially through
two model institutions in the USA, the then artists-driven research centre MIT Media Lab
in Boston (<>), and the popular, interactive, hands-on science
museum Exploratory in San Francisco (<>), the idea was
to create a "hybrid" institution that would combine both those components: interactive new
media art that had its origins in artist-driven research and development.
The original concept foresaw three working areas: image, music and media for citizens,
which today are represented through the Institute for Visual Media, the Institute for Music
Sources used in this case study: DigiCULT Interview with Thomas Fürstner, Head of the Institute for Net Development.Vienna, June 26, 2001.
DigiCULT Interviews with Jeffrey Shaw, Head of the Institute for Visual Media, and Boris Kirchner, Head of the Administrative Department;
Karlsruhe, June 29, 2001. ZKM ­ Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe (Museumsführer) (1997) München. Schwarz, Hans-Peter
(1997): Media Art History: Media Museum, ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. Munich.