WRO and contemporary music
The WRO Art Center in Wrocław, which opened its new site in 2008, is connected with the WRO new-media festivals launched in 1989. The WRO festivals have from the start been devoted to audiovisual art involving electronic media. Besides the obvious allusion to the city in which the festival is held, the name WRO was short for Wizualnych Realizacji Okołomuzycznych – “music-related visual art”. This conveyed the festival’s goal of presenting recent audiovisual works that used the synergistic creative potential of electronic media – one of the primary characteristics of new art at that time.
In the early years of the festival, from 1989 to 1995, many of the video pieces presented were collaborations with contemporary composers Heiner Goebbels, Vinko Globokar, Ion Hassel, Christian Fennesz, Monte Cazazza, Yehoshua Lackner, La Monte Young, Pierre Boulez, Stuart Jones, Stephen Vitiello and Brian Eno. There were also live audiovisual performance pieces by composer/performers like Mesías Maiguashca, Tibor Szemző, Ulf Langheinrich, Mark Trayle, Marek Chołoniewski, Jarosław Kapuściński, Krzysztof Knittel, Marcin Krzyżanowski, Tadeusz Wielecki, Zbigniew Karkowski and Maciej Walczak, as well as groups like the Kormorany, Pociąg Towarowy, The Blech and Granular-Synthesis.
In 1995 the festival was revamped and renamed the WRO Media Art Biennale. In the new format, audiovisual forms are still among the main foci of the festival, complemented by new interfaces and explorations of interactivity and communications as significant regions of new media art. Among the artists who have performed their interactive audiovisual compositions at WRO Media Art Biennales are Bertrand Merlier and Jean-Marc Duchenne, Derek Holzer and Sara Kolster. Michel Waisvisz, Suguru Goto, Johannes Kreidler, Ge-Suk Yeo and Stelarc have presented new instruments/interfaces. Jaron Lanier, who originated the concept of virtual reality, has debuted two of his compositions at WRO Biennales, including a work created specially for WRO: Concert for Virtual Instruments and Orchestra, which he performed with the “Wratislavia” Chamber Orchestra, directed by Michał Nesterowicz. The
DS-X.org group, Seiichiro Matsumura, Lynn Pook and minimalist Phill Nibblock have presented works exploring the microsound esthetic; and the low-tech genre has been represented by the 386 DX Cyberpunk Band and the Gameboyzz Orchestra Project (a group associated with WRO). Paweł Janicki and Brian Mackern have presented groundbreaking productions using the Internet as an instrument and audio environment.
Since 1995 another important element of WRO Biennales has been a club venue open to assorted offbeat undertakings that combine digital music with visuals by artists like Scanner and D-Fuse, C.U.K.T., Trymigi, SPEAR, i-club-residents, Milosh, Ellie Blanchard and many others.
The WRO Art Center, in addition to its steady program of national and international exhibitions, educational activities and publishing endeavors (including the Polish/English multimedia periodical WIDOK: New Media Art Reader), is currently developing international multidisciplinary projects both in contemporary art and in other cultural contexts. WRO is also actively involved in organizing international residencies and exhibitions for artists working with new technologies and innovative approaches to image, sound and perception.