People, 1. -  3. October 1998
Eddie Berg

Eddie Berg helped establish Moviola [now known as the Foundation for Art & Creative Technology] in Liverpool in 1988. Moviola initially aimed to bring to wider attention the work of artists using video, and particularly those working in an expanded context within galleries and museums. In ten years it has grown to be the largest commissioner and exhibition support agency in the UK for artists creating video installations, interactive or electronic artworks.

He established and curated the first Video Positive biennial in 1989, which has now grown to be one of the largest and most successful video and electronic arts festivals in Europe and in 1997 was staged in Manchester as well as Liverpool. He was also director of revolution98, the exhibitions and events programme of ISEA98, again in Manchester in Liverpool.

During the early 90's Moviola established a unique set of partnerships with major galleries and museums in Britain, co-commissioning a wide range of projects with leading contemporary arts organisations. In total Eddie - through Moviola/FACT - has been responsible for commissioning more than 80 artworks, from video installations to tapes, CD-Rom's and internet projects.

In 1992 he helped establish MITES [The Moving Image Touring & Exhibition Service] as a major part of the company. It offers artists and exhibitors throughout the UK a combination of large quantities of exhibition technologies [from data and LCD projectors to computers and audio] to technical advice and expertise when planning and presenting projects.

MITES now provides exhibition technologies for 90% of all technologically-mediated artshows in the UK. In recent years it has provided exhibition equipment and technical support for many international artists working in Britain including Bill Viola and Gary Hill.

In 1996 Moviola relaunched as the Foundation for Art & Creative Technology, with an expanded range of activities and services. This included establishing a partnership with Liverpool John Moores University and Manchester Metropolitan University which successfully bid to host ISEA98 [the International Symposium on Electronic Art] in both Liverpool and Manchester. Under the banner of 'revolution98', FACT was responsible for developing and delivering the exhibition and events programme in partnership with every major contemporary visual and live arts venue in Liverpool and Manchester.

Eddie has also made presentations and given papers at many events and conferences throughout Britain and Europe. He has also acted as a consultant on several cultural and creative initiatives, is an assessor for the National Lottery and is a selector for newcontemporaries 98, the largest exhibition of new art in Britain.

Institution: Eddie Berg is Director of FACT [the FOUNDATION FOR ART & CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY]

FACT is an agency, not a centre, although we're currently developing a purpose-built operation in Liverpool City Centre, which - subject to successful Lottery bids etc - will open in spring 2001.

We probably commission more work by artists who use video, electronic and digital media than any other organisation in Britain. We commission work by both British and international artists and about 50% are commissioned in partnership with a gallery or museum. Many of the commissioned works are realised within a visual arts context, but increasingly we're engaging with interdisciplinary practice and production. The resulting work often requires unorthodox exhibition/presentation solutions, using non-traditional art spaces. We do not directly engage with or facilitate the production of artists projects. Rather, we work in partnership with others to help deliver this. Occassionally FACT is used by artists as a computer production centre, but we're not physically equipped to facilitate high-level needs.

In the past three years we've commisioned 32 different projects, ranging from video installations in galleries, to CD-Rom publications, web-based, sound and performance work. The biennial Video Positive festival, which we organise, acts as a high-profile showcase for a number of these initiatives and has helped establish a strong regional and national audience for video and new media work over the years. At the time of writing, the exhibition and events programme of ISEA98 - which FACT curated and organised - has attracted approximately 37,000 visitors to the 25 different galleries, venues or public sites which are hosting projects in Liverpool and Manchester.

A key project within FACT is the Moving Image Touring and Exhibition Service [MITES]. It was established in 1992 in order to provide an exhibition technology support service for artists and exhibitors. What this actually means is that we house a large number of exhibition technologies which can be hired by artists and exhibition venues at about the tenth of commercial hire rates. MITES houses around 35 data, CRT and LCD projectors, playback equipment, audio, computer and customised technologies. Around 90% of public-sector galleries in Britain have used the service. Additionally we provide national training courses on the uses and application of exhibition technologies. We have recently established a partnership with a national commercial audio-visual company to pilot a scheme with artists using DVD playback equipment.

FACT is also involved with the production and facilitation of projects with communities, which are led by artists. These collaborations have resulted in a wide-range of projects that establish alternative possibilities for the authorship of new media works. Amongst the projects produced within this context was the original installation version of 'Rehearsal of Memory' by Graham Harwood.

FACT exists within a complex, yet interrelated series of networks on which it is entirely dependant in order to achieve its objectives. The loop involves artists, exhibitors and audiences. We pay a great deal of attention to what audiences have to say about their experience of the artwork and feed that back into the commissioning/research/testing process.

In terms of European networks, FACT does not currently have a high level of engagement. However, we are increasingly concerned with the need for research, development and testing of artists ideas and are seeking to facilitate the means of supporting artists at this key stage of project development.

Most European funding that emerges from one of the DG's, rather than at a local/regional level, appears to demand hard outputs more in keeping with commercial imperatives than cultural objectives. Hence, many so-called European partnership projects appear hopelessly compromised artistically and philosophically and ultimately the results, on the whole, are uninspiring, at least in my experience. I remain to be convinced that there are effective uses of centralised European funding that can directly meet artists' needs. Too many project funds appear to be directed at sustaining the needs of a large-scale instituion rather than the needs of artists, or indeed audiences.

I believe in the value of networks and partnerships but I'd like to hear [nad see] some examples of successful Euro-wide collaborations that are as constructive for artists as they may be for the organisations who directly benefit from centralised European funding.

FACT Foundation
panel 2 debate 1