CYFEST 15 International Media Art Festival Curatorial Concept Announced: Vulnerability.

 Ivan Karpov (Russia), Fine Body, Audiovisual object; Author’s hydroponic system with a live plant, 2022. CYFEST-14, HayArt Cultural Center. Photograph by Ann Prilutckaia
Ivan Karpov (Russia), Fine Body, Audiovisual object; Author’s hydroponic system with a live plant, 2022. CYFEST-14, HayArt Cultural Center. Photograph by Ann Prilutckaia

CYFEST announces the curatorial concept for their 15th edition of the festival entitled Vulnerability. The 15th edition of the CYFEST will focus on imagining new perspectives regarding the ostensible (anti)fragility of human and non-human body, bio and cyber environments, histories and futures, encounters and relationships with the world in transition.


Concept of the International Media Art Festival CYFEST-15

Every man, every woman, every living creature is vulnerable. Nobody lives forever. Ever since the origin of human civilization, gods, demigods and heroes discovered one or more elements of vulnerability in them: in their body, history, encounters or relationship with the outside world. Now it becomes clear: it is not important what kind of global catastrophe could happen — ecological, anthropogenic, political, military or biological. Suddenly, everybody has seen how vulnerable their habitual existence is and that the world of well-being, promised by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is an illusion that gets dissipated in an instant and that it gets replaced by chaos and suffering for no apparent reason.

Vulnerability is a natural quality of any human being. What’s paradoxical is that it is precisely on this that the self-awareness and personal dignity of a human being seem to be based. Acknowledgement of one’s own vulnerability makes us truly stronger. The expression of one’s desires, reevaluation of personal boundaries and questioning are actions that entail a certain risk, but, at the same time, help to overcome the fear of being rejected or misunderstood. They prepare us for submerging into entropy without fear, but also without superfluous hope, and for meeting destruction face to face. By recognizing our vulnerability, we also discover the empathic ability in ourselves – this is what feeds our ethic responsibility towards the others, society and environment. 

However, vulnerability and fragility are not always the same thing. In 2012, Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the notion of antifragility into the world discourse. This concept presumes that the antifragile, having gone through trials and tribulations, becomes better than before. That is to say, a certain portion of risk does such systems (and the human being is one of them) good. If they are fragile — chance events destroy them. However, if they are antifragile – errors and damages make them stronger and better. This is the world’s fundamental quality, using which one could achieve tremendous successes. 

Our present renounces compassion and responsibility in totally different forms than our past because the very notion of vulnerability has acquired new dimensions. In the posthuman age, in which anatomy, unlike it was maintained by Freud, is no longer destiny; we measure ourselves in the juxtaposition of two poles: Bio and Cyber. Of course, these poles reflect the schism in human nature between the “legacy of primeval dirt of the bodies” and the projection into a higher sphere of the spiritual, in which the flesh — an ephemeral material — will be sublimated by the unsubstantiated nature of information. However, the comparison of reason and computer, as the software of body and machine, while reflecting the Cartesian dualism of reason-body, still acquires a new resonance. 

It appears that only art, as the pinnacle of manifestation of the “civilized reason”, is capable of accumulating universal problems and constantly holding them in its attention field. Contemporary artists explore the “territories” that previously were not included into their area of interest: preservation of nature, social stability, self-identification, scientific research, medicine, artificial intelligence, politics and so forth. Above all, they explore not the disciplines themselves, but what’s going on with human beings and how they change the world around them, first and foremost, from the ethnic point of view. Art can truly illuminate global matters, offer an unending comprehension of the common path and delineate an unexpected glance at the familiar world and to console with compassion and hope. It can inspire the creation of antifragile signs, upon which one could built a different future. 

Vulnerability can be a truly positive force, as a counterbalance to obsessions of safety that we experience every day and that could not be guaranteed at any level.

This c is, in fact, a stable and firmest foundation that is capable of withstanding any traumatic situations. As for whether or not yet another lesson would be learned — time, of course, will tell, though there is not much hope for this. Human tendency to regain one’s own comfort at any cost frequently pushes aside the critical evaluation of reality.

Silvia Burini 

Elena Gubanova

About the CYFEST

CYFEST, one of the biggest international media art festivals in Eastern Europe, was founded by a group of independent artists and curators in 2007. Since its inception in 2007, CYFEST’s main concerns have been to examine the dialogue between various visual languages and technology cultures, and thus to explore a way of commoning with both art professionals and scientific communities. CYFEST unites artists, curators, educators, engineers, programmers and media activists all over the world, and creates an inclusive platform for mapping, mediation, and documentation of new media art on different regional and international levels.

CYFEST is one of the world’s few nomadic cultural events: throughout the year, festival projects are presented at leading cultural institutions around the world. Each year, the festival program includes several exhibition projects, sound art, video and educational programs.

The organizer of CYFEST is CYLAND MediaArtLab and CYLAND Foundation Inc. The project is generously sponsored by One Market Data.