Gigantic Jelly Blobs and 1000 Handshakes: The Best of transmediale

We combed the digital art festival's program so you don't have to.

The 2016 edition of the Berlin-based art, culture, and technology festival transmediale kicked off Tuesday at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW). In past years, the festival has staged exhibitions separate from a program of lectures, workshops, and screenings. But this edition of the festival is called transmediale/conversationpiece, and with its focus on hybridity, features a roster of fluid installations and programs within the HKW.

Each lecture, workshop, performance, exhibition, and screening falls under the category of one of four “conversation starters”—Anxious to Act, Anxious to Make, Anxious to Share, and Anxious to Secure. Events address the various anxieties prompted by our late capitalist, digitally-enhanced world. One of these anxieties is clearly related to the overwhelming number of choices our online feeds present us, so to quell the anxiety of deciding specifically which events are worth their ticket price, we’ve sorted through the entire program and selected our best picks.  

Drone-2000 by Nicolas Maigret (c) Eastern Bloc & Luce Moreau


Artist Burak Arikan is leading a two-day workshop on his platform Graph Commons, where users can turn data into interactive visual networks. The platform helps to untangle complex networks of information ranging from the world’s penal systems to coffee shops in Turkey. In this two-day workshop, Arikan will guide participants through the processes of mapping and analyzing information networks.


Anxious to Make is a keynote conversation moderated by curator Teresa Dillon. The conversation will question the nature of contemporary maker culture—the term that has come to define the space between analog DIY and software hacking—by examining its origins and speculating on its future in the wake of concepts like Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.


On the festival’s opening night, biologist and artist Francois-Joseph Lapointe performed a piece called 1000 Handshakes in which he shook 1000 hands,  periodically sampling his DNA to later create a series of “Microbiome Selfies.”  This  talk will examine the handshake as the earliest form of networking, contrasting it with today’s impersonal digital idea of networking.

Affection Systems by Brody Condon (c) Brody Condon


The performative lecture and participatory workshop How to Turn Yourself Into A Commissioning Body in 5 Easy Steps examines the sharing economy and the desire to have others work for us so we can work more. Participants are required to bring a laptop and to spend at least five digital dollars, all in the hopes that they can turn themselves into their own commissioning body.

The Gigantic Jelly Blob is a performance by Valentina Karga that will investigate the place of art in an immaterial economy. We do know that the artist and viewers will create a collaborative immaterial sculpture, but there’s no word yet on whether actual jelly will be involved.


Accompanied by “the immaterial presence of a fictional AI,” the Affection Systems workshop requires physical contact. Participants will be subjected to “intimacy simulation,” a vague phrase that probably has something to do with the way we physically connect less than ever before.   

Hito Steyerl is the most important video artist working today, so her presence alone should be enough of a draw big crowds to the festival’s keynote conversation. But the themes with which she works—like (in)visibility and surveillance—also suit transmediale’s 2016 program perfectly.

Hello, City! by Liam Young (c) Liam Young

To learn more about transmediale, click here.


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