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<eyebeam><blast> Translocality

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(Parts of this text has been published in SIKSI magazine, parts in a
column for Nokia Mediarama, parts are written as a response to some of
the eybeam postings)

Doing Nettime
Fleeing from prisons of national discourses

"There are two big revolutions during this century - the end of
communism and the beginning of Internet."

If I recall it right, this is approximately what Lev Manovich said in
his talk during the Ostranenie festival, held in Dessau, Germany last
October. Perhaps the advertising of communism and Internet have shared
predictions of bright futures. For European media art, the slow opening
of borders and the fast crossing of geographical distance with Internet
has been a revolution, or at least a catalyst.

Media art has become a carrier for discussing social change in Europe.
In the process of mediation of the local politics and events, Inernet is
not only a site where several projects are produced, but it has proven
to be an important medium for delivering information ranging from
private messages to manifestos, from invitations to press releases, and
from PR to very private points of view. It is the glue that makes the
translocal scenes work together.

To name one example, Radio B92 from Belgrade became known as the station
that during censorship turned to Internet for international attention,
and to the streets for local support. The combination of political
pressure has made it possible for B92 now to publish magazines, run
media art projects and the radio itself.

Being translocal

One reflective "mirror site" of the changing media and geographical
landscapes is called Nettime. It consists of a mailing list, a threaded
noticeboard, series of meetings and publications. People that subscribe
to Nettime are usually theorists, journalists, artists or net activists.
(Many readers on Eyebeam possibly know this).

In an art festival Dokumenta, held last summer in Kassel, Nettimers,
Syndicalists - and several other formations of artists/writers met
within "The Hybrid Workspace". A major topic there was Deep Europe,
changing understanding of the continental mapping. Echoing the words of
Bulgarian artist Luchezar Boyadijev, "Europe is deepest where there are
a lot of overlapping identities," German critical writer Inke Arns
characterizes Deep Europe as follows:

"With the notion of Deep Europe we refer to a a new understanding of
Europe, which leads away from the horizontal measuring of the size of a
territory (thus including East / West etc.), towards something that
could be called a vertical mapping or a vertical measuring of the
different cultural layers and identities in Europe."

In terms of Deep Europe, lot of activity has emerged from Netherlands.
Based in Rotterdam, the Syndicate/V2_East mailing list delivers valuable
information and points of view of living, politics and media production.

Unlike the rhetoric of Howard Rheingold (and now Lev Manovich) would
propose, these lists are not about like minded communities. Many
individuals look for the discussions they are interested in from many
sources and, what is most important, deliver the information through
local print media or radio to those who have no Internet access. The
next Nettime meeting is planned to be held in Tirana, Albania.

If language is a prison house, as Frederic Jameson has put it, same
analogy could be made about Internet. Is the theoretical and political
discourse within Internet confined to its technical and discoursive

Being Digital, the Necropontean slogan, is such a conceptual prisonhouse
since it contains a Cartesian body/mind split (but sells well). In
contrast, networked media art is characterised by being translocal.

Media artists, especially net.artists, work very fluently in several
local environments, irrespective to national borders, yet not floating
around claiming to be unattached nomads. So instead of being confined to
the net, doing Nettime is a possible catalyst for actions in real life.

In this respect, traditional art, mostly housed in institutions whether
"avant garde" or modernist, speak to
art audiences. There is the local market with socially dense private
views, and the international market for jet set travellers reading
magazines loaded with advertisements. (Gallerists speak of gallery
audiences, museum curators of museum audiences - and they are right.
Studies show with incredible consistency how the demorgraphics of art
institutions do not change over the years. Instead of white well
educated males, in Finland, the archetypal museum and gallery visitor is
a well educated, working white woman). I would say that the threshold to
do art on the net is geopolitically much lower than that in the urban
art institutions.

From Practice to Policy

With the immense investments in developing telecommunication
technologies, the need for content to the networks has become apparent.
Late last year, over 20 organisations dealing with new media and arts
met in Amsterdam in a conference called From Practice to Policy: Towards
European Media Culture.

A central point was raised in the conference. The policy makers of
information society may not know it, but a rich network of content
producers already exists in Europe. The focus in politics could shift to
support those environments where the emphasis is on innovation, and
innovative usage of technology, not technology alone.

Followed by the Amsterdam meeting, British media and art experts
gathered to discuss how to develop co-operation between the private SMEs
(Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) and media art practitioners. The
meeting led to an investigation of starting a public cultural media
prodution company, one comparable to Channel 4 for television

Creating production companies that combine private and public
investments could be a solution that takes the European media culture
beyond the construction of "Information super highway". As the copper
and fiber optics have been laid down, it is time for concrete content.

Postnational economies and public spheres

Instead of whining about Disneyfication, I much rather talk about how to
create possibilities for independent production, whether commercial,
state supported, artistic or documentary (no binaries implied). So much
money in Europe is being wasted to battle Hollywood, just to produce
similar content on another content is not really productive. Even worse,
if the independet field also creates a discontent to Hollywood, that is
not the most fruitful point of departure.

Analysis of the media companies (Is there an update of Ben Bagdikan´s
Media Monoopoly to cover recent conglomerations?) may reveal that
Hollywood does not exist anymore as a geographical site of production;
it is not quite as an imaginary "place" as Internet, but to look at
media or media art production through a national framework means to
dismiss how the production and economy works. The postnational companies
have developed much faster networked economies than the nation states.

Another interesting twist in the previous comments on Eyebeam is the
surveillance paranoia, very frequently encountered on mailing lists and
media art exhibitions. A culture that defends the rights of an
individual to guard her/his property with guns regrets the protection of
enterprise property with cameras (and more sophisticated techniques) in
so called public sphere.

Jürgen Habermas writes in his "The Structural Transformations of the
Public Sphere" how it was the commercial exchange letters that gradually
transformed into journals. According to Habermas, the bourgeois public
sphere was open to property owners that communicated to create a public
opinion, which in turn assured a calculatable environment for
production, and later for investments.

My analysis of the contemporary networked economy, and its seeming
unpredictability as it is written about in news media, is very unstable
since the controlling function of the public sphere has ceased to exist.
It isn not a public sphere of arts, education etc, but a political
public sphere that could through legislation control the economical
environment. There is not yet a public sphere that could counter-balance
postnational companies.

Even though the European Union was 90 % economical and geopolitical
move, as it replaces some of the power structures of nations it is
closer to the economical and political sphere of actions. Hence... it
seems obvious that the challenge for the construction of a public sphere
in Europe is also postnational. That should be the starting point for
political parties as well.

For media art practice to break national boundaries, Internet is the
most affordable medium. Art is mostly funded through national sources.
The EU-centeredness also creates Eurocentrism, as many non-European
partners are not included in projects due to funding restrictions. So,
in a sense, EU can be seen as a massive nation...

Perhaps it would serve right for European artists to be bundled up as
"European Artists", since European art
institutions still today use concepts such as "African art" and "Asian
Art Treasures". However, those individuals or groups that most actively
seek less bordered (rather than borderless) working environments,
attempt, at best, to leave also behind Eurocentrism - and orientalism.

Virtual Market Economies

Internet is as genial common denominator for theoretical exploration
than paper. It is not quite the book, the newspaper, the letter - but
still worth discussing. Networked means perhaps more "connectedness"
which is possible through paper still. Furthermore, being digital is as
interesting as being pulp.

Internet initself offers nothing. McLuhanist wankers keep on repeating
the "Jesus comes" type of assertions, "medium is..." or "global..." as
cited from his texts... oh when does it end? Give me a time capsule, and
let me go back and talk to McLuhan and to persuade him to start only
gardening... But, as this is not possible, perhaps to connect it to the
previous discussion of economy, in that realm, yes, McLuhan´s concepts
perversly have a function. (Now I will probably be turned back from the
North American media theory nation border, blasphemy... :-)

In stock markets, a release of a single product (like Netscape Navigator
4.0 for free) can, through increased market share prophecies, indeed be
a multimillion message.  In economical terms, internet, the cables,
number of people with access, different software are indeed messages
that can float virtually without content (within both national political
and postnational economical spheres). In the cultural discourse, where
the medium is a carrier of messages, more than less, McLuhanist slogans
fail. (See a recent Nettime posting by Andy Freeman for a vivid
description on how the software market may work virtually; perhaps the
increasing value within the art market resembles that within the virtual
media market).

But, like "being digital" and "disneyfication" etc., slogans that become
debatable, kind of virtual theory junk, can sell extremely well in areas
where the economies of media and theory merge - even if the theory or
product was never put to use, or critically contextualised.

/Tapio Makela <tapio@projekt.net>
(surname spells Mäkelä - if the umlauts work here...)

Some links
Ostranenie festival <http://www.orstranenie.org>
Amsterdam Agenda
>From Practice to Policy <http://www.dds.nl/~p2p/>
Nettime <http://www.desk.nl/~nettime>
To B92 throuhg this page:
V2_East mailing list and archives:

Tapio Mäkelä
writer, critic, researcher, producer, X
Projektnet Ab Senior Project Manager <tapio@projekt.net>
Muu Media Base co-producer
www: http://www.projekt.net  http://muu.autono.net.
Address: Lapinrinne 4 D 30, 00180 Helsinki, Finland
gsm +358-(0)40-5071965
fax +358-(0)10-2905004

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