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Banff New Media Institute

REFRESH! The First International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology

Conference: September 28 – October 1, 2005

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The Refresh! conference was hosted by the BNMI, Leonardo / ISAST, and the Database for Virtual Art and was generously supported by Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Canada, Daniel Langlois Foundation, Telefilm Canada, Canada Council for the Arts, Goethe-institute, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Villa Vigoni, UNESCO DigiArts, INTEL and ITAU Cultural.

This Refresh! archive forms a unique educational resource for new media practitioners, historians and learners. Recognizing the increasing significance of media art for our culture, the Refresh! conference on the Histories of Media Art discussed for the first time the history of media art within the interdisciplinary and intercultural contexts of the histories of art.

Leonardo/ISAST, Banff New Media Institute the Database for Virtual Art and UNESCO DigiArts collaborated to produce the first international art history conference covering art and new media, art and technology, art-science interaction, and the history of media as pertinent to contemporary art.


After photography, film, video, and the little known media art history of the 1960s-80s, today media artists are active in a wide range of digital areas (including interactive, genetic, and telematic art). Even in robotics and nanotechnology, artists design and conduct experiments. This dynamic process has triggered intense discussion about images in the disciplines of art history, media studies, and neighboring cultural disciplines. The Media Art History Project offers a basis for attempting an evolutionary history of the audiovisual media, from the laterna magica to the panorama, phantasmagoria, film, and the virtual art of recent decades. It is an evolution with breaks and detours; however, all its stages are distinguished by a close relationship between art, science, and technology.

Refresh! discussed questions of historiography, methodology and the role of institutions of media art. The conference contained key debates about the function of inventions, artistic practice in collaborative networks, the prominent role of sound during the last decades, and emphasized the importance of intercultural and pop culture themes in the Histories of Media Art. Readings of new media art histories vary richly depending on cultural contexts. This event called upon scholarship from a strongly international perspective.

Refresh! represented and addressed the wide array of disciplines involved in the emerging field of Media Art. Beside Art History these included the Histories of Sciences and Technologies, Film-, Sound-, Media-, Visual-, and Theatre Studies, Architecture, and Visual Psychology, just to name a few.


Although the popularity of media art exhibited at exhibitions and art festivals is growing among the public and increasingly influences theory debates, with few exceptions museums and galleries have neglected to systematically collect this present-day art, to preserve it and to demand appropriate conservatory measures. Thus, several decades of international media art is in danger of being lost to the history of collecting and to academic disciplines such as art history. This gap will have far-reaching consequences; therefore, the conference also discussed the documentation, collection, archiving and preservation of media art. What kind of international networks must be created to advance appropriate policies for collection and conservation? What kind of new technologies do we need to optimize research efforts and information exchange?


Leonardo, Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology, has documented for the past 37 years the pioneering work of artists who work in and with new media. Together with Leonardo Book Series and LEA Electronic Journal, the journal is published by the MIT Press. For further information about the long-term Leonardo Media Art History Project, please email to join:

CRUMB, Ron McLean of Wildhorse Productions, MIT Press

and special thank you to all of those individuals who have worked on the development and delivery of this event over the past two years. There are too many individuals to name, but please know that your contributions are greatly appreciated!

Conference Organization

Honorary Board
Rudolf Arnheim; Frank Popper; Jasia Reichardt; Itsuo Sakane; Walter Zanini

Advisory Board

Andreas Broeckmann, Berlin; Paul Brown, London/cotton Tree; Karin Bruns, Linz; Annick Bureaud, Paris; Dieter Daniels, Leipzig; Diana Domingues, Caxias Do Sul; Felice Frankel, Boston; Jean Gagnon, Montreal; Thomas Gunning, Chicago; Linda D. Henderson, Austin; Manrai Hsu, Taipei; Erkki Huhtamo, Los Angeles; Ángel Kalenberg, Montevideo; Ryszard Kluszczynski, Lodz; Machiko Kusahara, Tokyo; W.J.T. Mitchell, Chicago; Gunalan Nadarajan, Singapore; Edward Shanken, Savannah; Barbara Stafford, Chicago; Christiane Paul, New York; Louise Poissant, Montreal; Jeffrey Shaw, Sydney; Tereza Wagner, Paris; Peter Weibel, Karlsruhe; Steven Wilson, San Francisco

Conference Chair

Oliver Grau
Director, Database Of Virtual Art
Prof. Dr. Of Bildwissenschaft and Dean Cultural Studies, Danube University Krems, Austria;

Summit Chair

Sara Diamond
President, Ontario College Of Art & Design

Banff New Media Institute

Susan Kennard
Director and Executive Producer, Banff New Media Institute (Conference Developer)
Luke Azevedo Director, Creative Electronic Environment, The Banff Centre


Annick Bureaud
Director Leonardo Pioneers and Pathbreakers Art History Project, Leonardo/olats

Publications Committee Lead

Roger F. Malina
Chair, Leonardo/isast

Banff New Media Institute, The Banff Centre

Jennifer Dysart, BNMI Coordinator
Narendra Pachkhede, Refresh! Facilitation Coordinator
Luke Heemsbergen, Refresh! Research Assistant Work Study
Iwona Erskine-Kellie, BNMI Assistant
Christina Kargillis, Arts Administration and Technology Work Study
Tahira Baulackey, BNMI  Special Events & Work Study Coordinator

The Creative Electronic Environment, The Banff Centre

Luke Azevedo, Director, Creative Electronic Environment
Michael Pelletier, Manager, Creative Electronic Environment
David Kretz, Lead Creative Programmer, Interactive Media
Marc Bernier, Computer Technician, Interactive Media
Interactive Media Work Studies
Technical Services

Humboldt University, Berlin

Anna Westphal, Organization and Website Design
Wendy Coones, Planning, Meeting Facilitator, Organizer

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