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Berlin's House of World Cultures reopens with digital feast

Transmediale festival inaugurates €10m revamp of landmark building

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One of Berlin’s most recognisable architectural landmarks, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures, HKW), re-opened last week after a €10m revamp with Transmediale, a festival on art and digital technologies. First launched as a video art festival, Transmediale has evolved into an internationally-celebrated event over the past 30 years. It now includes an art exhibition and a conference exploring the ever-deepening relationship between culture and technology. 

Under the title Ever Elusive, this year’s Transmediale (until 5 March) drew large crowds to HKW’s halls on the opening night. The exhibition “Allien Matter,” features 17 works by artists such as Katja Novitskova and Mark Leckey, and ranges from a monumental sculpture of fibre optic cables by Evan Roth to a display of bottled synthetic chemicals by Aliens in Green. The works share an ambivalence (a mixture of paranoia and nostalgia) towards technology. Meanwhile, a new exhibition hall in the lower foyer was screening the early films of computer art pioneer Lillian Schwartz during the preview.

The opening ceremony on Thursday night took place in the newly-renovated wood-panelled auditorium that has been modernised for better acoustics and flexibility for multimedia events. The queue outside of the auditorium was longer than the 1024 seats available—at least 200 people were turned away. The ceremony included an eclectic mix of talks, political rallying calls, performances and video screenings and was followed by more performances that lasted until 1.30am.