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Edited by Sanneke Huisman and Marga van Mechelen. | With text contributions by Arie Altena, Karen Archey, Angela M. Bartholomew, Josephine Bosma, Martijn van Boven, Melanie Bühler, Constant Dullaart, Sandra Fauconnier, Darko Fritz, David Garcia, Sanneke Huisman, Jan Robert Leegte, Geert Lovink, Sven Lütticken, Marga van Mechelen, Sabine Niederer, Anne Nigten, Katja Novitskova, Domeniek Ruyters, Dick Rijken, Marina Turco, Lucas van der Velden, Suzanne Wallinga and Gaby Wijers. (377 pages) Prinsenbeek: Jap Sam Books 2019

Highlighting the history of Media Art in the Netherlands since 1985 is highlighting a specific media (art) culture. First of all an activist culture: artists used digital and electronic media to call into question both mass media and arts institutions. Secondly, through early access to the Internet, state subsidies, good infrastructural conditions and dedicated institutions and festivals, not only a vivid counter-cultural environment with a hacker/squatter/maker scene in all its different guises developed rapidly, but also a cosmopolitan artistic and intellectual scene, that lead the Netherlands to hold a unique position in regards to the development of media art. A Critical History of the Netherlands. Platforms, Policies, Technologies is compiled and edited by Sanneke Huisman and Marga van Mechelen who are also the authors of the four introductory chapters in which they retrace the main events and actors (governmental institutions, festivals and other art venues, artists and curators) of media art. They as well as the other nineteen contributors to the book, all specialists in the field, look at media art and culture through the lenses of the three key concepts of the subtitle: platforms, policies and technologies. Attention is given to traditional art venues such as the museums in presenting media art, that is to say mainly video art, as well to clubs and festivals and specialised institutionalized platforms for computer art, net.art, sonic arts, robotics, VJ-ing, live cinema, and the private sphere of the application of the CD-ROM or online video art. The book not only covers a broad field of diverse technologies and applications, but also raises questions regarding the relationship of media art to other forms of contemporary art and the concept of art more generally, as well as to entertainment, mass media and technological sciences with all the varieties in producers (makers) and audiences.

The year the book begins with, 1985, is the year that awareness concerning what is going on in what still is called video art reaches the political agenda and the first steps in the direction of a national media art institution cautiously are taken by the minister of culture, a plan that in the end was not realized but opened space for a private initiative, the fusion of MonteVideo and Time Based Arts into the Netherlands Institute for Media Art, that existed from 1993 till the moment that Huisman and Van Mechelen call the guillotine of State Secretary of Culture, Education and Science Halbe Zijlstra, in 2012, when its doors were closed. As argued in the book, all his predecessors had a special interest in media art, as the area where new technologies and art could meet, what from the perspective of cultural politics was considered of great importance for education in general. E-culture became a new concept promoted by ministries of culture in the nineties with still the glance of old ideals of the sixties and seventies, that faded away in later years.

The last essay of the book, written by Sven Lütticken, looks back on the genealogies of critical media art but also ahead, to the today’s media art activism.