International Journalism Festival 2011. Organization notes

The International Journalism Festival is one of my favorite events in Italy, so much so that this year I’m skipping the Milan Design Week in order to be in Perugia.
The Festival is wonderfully organized (by Arianna and Chris), it attracts a wide range of truly international speakers, and downtown Perugia is a fantastic stage.

Still, the Festival can and should be improved. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Panelist should prepare. Panels should be a dialogue among panelists, not a sequence of monologues. In order for this to happen, panelists should be strongly encouraged to get together and coordinate beforehand. A good example is the SXSW Speaker Agreement, a pledge that all speakers have to sign before they show up at the event.
  2. No whining. More than once, speakers have spent too much time discussing what’s wrong, and not enough time proposing how to fix it. (Same comment, loud and clear, from Micah Sifry, quoted here and here). We all know the problems: it’s a constructive event if we talk about solutions.
  3. Questions should be questions, ideally offered in less than 30 seconds. Too often, someone from the audience grabs the microphone and starts offering way too much information on their entire biography, their views of the world, and the issue they want to call attention to. It is perfectly appropriate for moderators to interrupt kindly but firmly and say “What is your question, please?”

I hope to come back to a new and improved Festival next year. It takes a little extra effort, but it’s worth it.

Tony Oursler. Alienation, emptiness and videosculpture

Last Sunday I visited one of my favorite places in Milan, the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea. I have had reasons to praise their exhibitions in the recent past (Yayoi Kusama, Franko B., Joel Peter Witkin and Jan Saudek). The current show – until June 12th – presents works by American videoartist Tony Oursler. From the press release:

The work of the artist, since the beginning of his career, has been dominated by themes such as violence, the relationship with media, drugs, mental illnesses, pop culture, consumerist compulsion, sex, pollution. Ourlser’s analysis is focused on how all those things affect man’s corporeity and social and interpersonal relations.

Being all of these topics in which I am rather interested, I had high expectations. They were not fulfilled.

As I walked through the exhibition, I was nagged by the persistent feeling that the artists’ technical virtuosity as a videographer creating three-dimensional animated sculptures had taken over whatever meaning he wanted to convey to the viewer. I left the show not having learned anything about the unconscious, about schizophrenia, about art, or about anything else.

Tony Oursler was also the inaugural contributor to the Adobe Museum of Digital Media, which you can visit online (www.adobemuseum.com), but which at first glance looks to me line an elaborate showcase for Adobe’s Flash.