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First Pandaemonium Festival, ICA

Crossing over with 'Spellbound', the first Pandaemonium Festival of Moving Image was staged by London Electronic Arts at the ICA in 1996. Abina Manning was festival director and single screen curator and the gallery show was curated by Gregor Muir. Ambitious in scope, the festival presented artists working with a diverse range of media; although by no means flawless, it made for a more wide ranging introduction to moving image than the epic exhibition Spellbound, with its sole focus on cinema. Five new major installations were created by artists who had been sought through a national competition: Gillian Wearing, Keith Tyson, Mark Wallinger, Jaki Irving and Michael Curran. Some criticism was levelled at the choice of young artists, the selection of which emphasised the current 'Brit Art' scene; in the wider context, the mid-1990s saw a real shift in emphasis from those artists who had been pioneering 'video artists' in the late 80s, to a new generation who did not define themselves by an affiliation to a particular media. The exhibition did however contextualise these multiple histories by presenting a screening programme of over two hundred films and videos including work by Scratch video artist George Barber, experimental film maker William Raban, seminal video-artist Nam June Paik and overviews of the films of the London Filmmakers' Co-Op. The festival also offered a major off-site project through the re-staging of Simon Bigg's interactive, site-specific work The Castle: Parsing the Book at the Royal Festival Hall, talks, seminars and workshops, along with a 'cybercafe' and CD-Rom work by British artist duos such as Thomson & Craighead and Graham Ellard & Stephen Johnstone, and Australian cyber feminist Linda Derment. This was an era in which the Internet, although already well colonised by artists such as Vuk Cosic, Alexei Shulgin and Heath Bunting, provided an extremely slow interface and in which Director based interactive CD-Rom projects had not yet been superseded by other technologies.

Marie-Anne McQuay

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Cover of brochure for the first Pandemonium festival, 1996

Courtesy of Lux
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