For Agricola de Cologne, curating, as well as networking forming the basis for curating, is representing his specific kind of art expression, it is virtual and physical art alike. Curating is no “job” and does not represent an institutional task based on scientific research, but an artistic action based on the need to approach art from a different point of view, but like doing any other kind of art, exclusively from his very personal point of view.
In fact, he started curating in 1990. Although he was following courses of art history during his university studies in Munich (1971-1974), he had, however, no education in curating, courses in curating did not exist, yet. He did it, like anything else, by doing, because the given situation required from him to curate. In this sense, he did it rather like a museum curator without the ambition to do an artistic action via curating.
Agricola de Cologne’s curatorial activities can be divided in two parts 1990-1994 and 2000-
In 1989, he started the Project “German Re-unification” on 9 November 1989 by founding ARCHA Society Foundation (ARCHA e.V. – Archives and Research for Contemporary Humanism and Art), which he was running as its President and curator until 1994.
He organised and curated three major projects for ARCHA Society
Patronage The Prime Minister of the Free State of Saxony – Prof. Dr. Kurt Biendenkopf
Starting in 2000 his third life from point zero, dedicated to the new artistic (electronic) media, using the Internet as an artistic medium was automatically enforcing curating as a primary activity. Agricola de Cologne was combining all kinds of responsibility in one person, the programmer, the designer, the director, the artist, the curator, the public relations manager, thus the entire staff of a production company or museum etc. This aspect that everything Agricola de Cologne was doing since 2000, was exclusively the work of one single person, whereby his project, as typically Internet specific works, were, differently from usual art works, ongoing after their initialization, so the creator was always running different projects and platforms, at the same time, influencing each other progressively.
When Agricola de Cologne initiated himself as a brand and virtual artist, he had no idea about the consequences. In one way, he actually wanted to continue his ideas of an artistic commemoration on a virtual level in Internet, which had started in physical space years ago. On 1 January 2000, he released as his first artistic manifestation on the net ” A Virtual Memorial”, the counter part to his physical project “A Living Memorial” (1995-1998), but expanded to a global level adressed to the online audience on all parts of globe. He started a kind of diary posting at first daily, later weekly and monthly his reflections about incidents global-wide which he was thinking to be worth to be commemorated by creating smaller Internet based interactive works. He initiated his first calls for artists participations, not being aware that he was starting curating by inviting the first artist to participate and contribute.
Projects like “JavaMuseum – Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art, A Virtual Memorial or The New Museum of Networked Art give evidence of the ambition to simulate in Internet such established cultural structures by doing it in an Internet specific way via partcipatory and networking aspects, by including curators, artists and cultural institutions. Curating was not restricted to take responsibility for a physical art collection or an exhibition, but the contents, the artists, the curators, artworks, networking partners – institutions or organisations and not to forget, the virtual and physical space.
By realising his projects by inviting artists, curators and institutions he was continuously creating and generating virtual and physical artworks visually and sensually perceivable by the users. Via the interactivity of these projects, the users became curators, as well. In this sense, curating means for Agricola de Cologne also basically activating the user or viewer and eliminate the passive consumer position.
Although the curatorial activities during the first phase (1990-1994) had retrospectively seen, also highly interactive components by encouraging the audience and enforcing dialogue on different levels, they were nevertheless quite conventional compared with that kind of curating which the Interet was generating, enabling and enforcing, and Agricola de Cologne did that kind of curating not define, yet, as an art creating of itown, which he became aware only later. So, curating became part of his artistic concepts born from the necessity the Internet as a medium of art was generating.
One has to consider, when Agricola de Cologne started in 2000, only short time before, the Internet had become only popular, the computer was not recognized, yet, as a serious art tool, and the established cultural structures like art museums, were generally refusing the computer, the Internet and new technologies and the artists using these tools.. The Internet connection was at the lowest speed of 28 Kb-56 Kb, streaming video was still an utopia, nevertheless, Agricola de Cologne recognized immediately the relevance of streaming video, and generated from his own digital video sources a kind of low-tech streaming video by programming, which became obsolete when the technology became more advanced some years later.
Of course, Agricola de Cologne was not the only artist or cultural activist, who was dealing with the virtual art works in virtual space, nevertheless projects like “JavaMuseum – Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art” were pioneers in many concerns, as a new cultural structure such a project was curated in any concern, by designing a museum acting in virtual space for virtual art, designing interfaces and curating virtual space, developing the projetcs (departments) incorporating Internet based art works by active artists, keeping close contacts to the artists and encouraging them to continue, creating and maintaining networks. Until 2005, he curated in total 18 projects for JavaMuseum to be followed by two big shows in 2007 and 2010 . All of them are still running online, but were many times installed on monitors as a part of physical exhibitions. As a designer of culture, Agricola de Cologne got many privileges because he was dealing with the artists directly and it was obvious that the project of the museum or platform was representing an art project itself.
In 2003, Agricola launched on the day when the Iraq War began, his project “Violence Online Festival”, a curatorial challenge running until 2005. The global-wide effects of the manifestations of violence were representing an occasion to deal with violence and war, but the real cause was, of course, to reflect the own affection of violence via the art works by other artists and curating.
A particular mark is representing the year 2004 for Internet based art, it was a high time and cumulation point before its decline, and 2004 was for Agricola de Cologne a changing point, as well, because invited by Biennale of Electronic Art in Perth (Australia) he created the global networking project [R][R][F]200x—>XP – featuring different plafforms for different digital art media like VideoChannel – video project environments and SoundLAB – sonic art project environments.
While he realizsed in the context of SoundLAB until 2010 annually in total 7 huge sonic art projects, featuring the best sonic art works by the most prestigeous sound artists – giving evidence of his privileges compared with institutional instances, in VideoChannel he was realising dozens of curatorial projects, whereby Agricola de Cologne started curating curators from the beginning in 2004. which was at that time an enormous provocation, while it is usual nowadays. VideoChannel was also the starting point for a new type of curatorial activities in a new field “art and moving images, resulting in 2005 CologneOFF – Cologne Online Film Festival , to be renamed in 2007 to CologneOFF _ Cologne International Videoart Festival, a kind of mobile festival without a static festival location – a consequence was the multi-dimensional CologneOFF – International Festival Network – http://coff.newmediafest.org – consisting of a wide range of internal festivals run by artvideoKOELN and the global-wide network of festival partners, so curating meant in trhis context also curating the festival partners.
Focussing his activities after 2005 on CologneOFF was representing also that big change and new challenge in the curatorial activities, realising projects in an exchange between virtual and physical space, generating that kind of dualism, which made Agricola de Cologne’s projects so successful on long term. It became also evident, that not all artists were following the open structures of the Internet, also because institutional instances and major festival structures were demanding a kind of exclusivity.
While during the first years (2000-2004) the virtual space of the Internet was the basic medium for Agricola de Cologne’s curatorial activities, the exchange between virtual and physical space required new curatorial strategies by including physical networking partners, so the new curatorial aspect became – curating networks, curating curators, festivals, organistions and create and generate new type of virtual & physical “images”.
Consequently, Agricola de Cologne established in 2005 his own publishing platform, named: “netEX – networked experience”, curating & promoting selected activities of “Third Parties”.
One of the major projects, created for an exchange between virtual and physical space was entitled: ://Selfportrait – a show for Bethlehem – a show for Peace,
a media art exhibition incorporating different digital media like video, photography, soundart, multi-media etc.
In 2009, he also launched, the project “Draft title: Shoah” and in this context “Shoah Film Collection” and as a result of it “Collective Trauma Film Collections” – http://dts.engad.org – world-wide unique merdia art contexts.
In 2005, artvideoKOELN international” was launched as an idea for the curatorial platform running all projects “dealing with art& moving images”, releasing later in 2009, CologneOFF as a nomadic pfestival roject in collaboration with networking partners around the globe, in this way and due its experimental character, CologneOFF became not only an artistic and curatorial, but also a networking challenge.
By starting his projects in 2000, Agricola de Cologne established his social network long before Mr. Zuckerberg estalished Facebook. Differently than Zuckerberg, Agricola de Cologne had never commercial ambitions, instead of this he created artistic structures for artistic purposes. Although the Internet as such was generating social networks through itself, Agricola de Cologne has to be considered as a pioneer in creating at the early stage of 2000, already his network, which ist still ongoing and growing, despite of countless followers on the artistic and commercial field.
A special relevance got the nomadic festival project “CologneOFF 20XX – videoart in a global context”, an experimental tour around the globe on the search for the ideal form of presenting videoart to an audience. It was an extraordinary curatorial challenge preparing and creating for each of the numerous annual venues an individual screening program, showing the artist’s/curator’s ambition to create virtual images inside of the audience via curating and activating the audience, this way.. In these terms, curating had not the intention to present the best films or videos or promote the most famous artists, but those videos and artists which fit at best into the artistic concept behind the respective screening program. It was intentional to disturb the audience this way, as well as giving unknown talents a chance to enter a most complicated art system. In 2012, he extended CologneOFF about some new formats like One minute films, animations and experimental documentary.
In 2012, Agricola de Cologne restructured and redesigned his project environment “A Virtual Memorial” as a foundation and a center for commemorative interventions – http://avmci.a-virtual-memorial.org, an experimental event framework for “Draft title: Shoah”, with manifestations in Riga, Warsaw, Vilnius, Phnom Penh, Milan, Timisoara, Tel-Aviv between 2012 and 2014.
After 10 years rapid and exciting media development, after 10 years being an active part and witness of new technologies in art, Agricola de Cologne transformed CologneOFF as an individual festival into the International Festival Network of the same name – consisting of an internal and external network – generating new curatorial platforms and event structures like artvideoKOELN – audio-visual experiences, d//light Darkness Into Light Festival or The W:OW Art Film and Video Festival.
Agricola de Cologne’s artistic/curatorial activities, and in this ways a carreer in this field, was not planned, but came up by actively doing following an internal creative necessity. It is now the task of “artvideoKOELN international” to work in future as an “operating system”, and as such a new challenging art work.
Many of his curated projects incorporate artists and other instances from many countries on the globe, and one might call Agricola de Cologne the first virtual and global curator, since he uses the communicating media for creating a world wide net of art activities and projects of different kind.
His projects are presented and realised in cooperation with numerous art institutions and organisations and he is also invited to join external networks by co-organize and co-curate festivals and media art exhibitions in different parts on the globe.
As his specific type of art working, curating takes a particular influence on the perception of the artworks through the audience, since they follow the classical idea of the “collage” resulting most complex and dynamic constructions of different identity and authenticity in the framework of an interactive context. But the way, he was curating during the past 15 years, eg. taking responsibility for art from a continuously changing point of view, means also consequently to return to his own physical art works one day under a completely different point of view., this is good for the art creations before 2000, as well as for those after 2000.
And a final note. Agricola de Cologne started operating from point zero in 2000, this means also in material terms.. Behind all activities is and was standing one single person, which was not paid to do a job, but was organising its own survival as an artist. While other artists were continuing painting, sculpturing or creating installations, Agricola de Cologne was exploring his abilities, possibilities and opportunities in new kinds of artistic fields. He used technology and exploring unknown territory in the same way as a tool, as a painter is using brush and colour for making a painting.
While after the initiatization of Agricola de Cologne as a brand on 1. January 2000, nobody knew what would come, and at least the artist hinself, now after more than 15 years, it can be stated, that “Agricola de Cologne” made an unusual carreer as a virtual artist and curator, and only now actually one can speak of “Agricola de Cologne” as a project itself – and consequently – the artist was curating himself very successfully.