On Networked Collaborations at Ars Electronica 2002
> Nina Czegledy

The festival brochure of Unplugged, Ars Electronica2002 featured R.Buckminster-Fuller's Re-Mapping Our Mental Model of the World on its introductory page an apt correlation with Gerfried Stocker, Festival Director's statement: "Perspectives obtained by looking out beyond one's own horizon are meant to intersect and interact with points of view held by "others," and thereby make this festival for art, technology and society itself a setting for the complex dynamic of a global reorientation." Accordingly, the various viewpoints of African theorists, artists and activists were prominently featured over the five day Unplugged Symposium. The Conflicts Video conference between Paul Virilio and Derrick de Kerckhove provided an intriguing highlight and drew a wide audience. Beyond the conference presentations, concerts of the Urban African Club as well as African Art screenings contributed to the conceptual remapping of African culture. The collaborative Search project, fully rounded the African panorama of Ars Electronica2002. Canadians watched with special pride the Interactive Art prices awarded to David Rokeby's (Golden Nica) for n-chan(n)t and to Luc Courchesne's (Honorary Mention) for The Visitor Living by Number.

Predictably, Unplugged, offered a rich variety of events, which made choosing difficult between attending the symposium, participating in live performances, or visiting the exhibits. The most exciting part for me by far, was to experience some of the networked, process based projects.As a lengthy critical essay is outside the scope of this account, I will confine my brief subjective report to Open Air - Radiotopia, and Search, as these collaborations reflected best, in my opinion, some of the leading concepts in the borderless landscape of digital culture. Both projects involved the onsite and virtual involvement of many participants.

Kingdom of Piracy < KOP>, online open workspace, co-curated by Shu Lea Cheang, Armin Medosch and Yukiko Shikata presented yet another very exciting project. KOP investigated "piracy as the net's ultimate art form". I attended KOP only sporadically, consequently apart from interest and appreciation, I don't feel able to comment adequately on the project.

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Open Air - Radiotopia, the most extensive festival conceived program this year presented a global sound network data base at http://www.aec.at/radiotopia. The project was hailed as the first of its kind: "a simultaneous storage bank of freely accessed sound material that transcends time, location, cultural and geographical borders."

As a festival visitor you could hear the live mix of sounds of Radiotopia on the Main square of Linz, in the Brucknerhouse festival venue, on the river banks, on radio stations and of course on the internet. The main "control desk" complete with a lot of gear and featuring an info desk (decorated with the names of participants) was located in the Brucknerhouse, where at all hours of the day and night people congregated, watched or participated in the broadcast sound events. Music, noise and spoken words were heard for days on end - all of this facilitated by the networked sound data base.

"Radiotopia, -as Rupert Huber, the artistic director told me- can serve as a model, to bring people together who share certain ideas". Rupert's self confessed aim was to create a space for peaceful, creative co-existence and he felt this has been achieved. The idea for Radiotopia, was shaped between Rupert, Gerfried Stocker, Andreas Bosshard and Elisabeth Zimmerman. The concept for the sound network database originated from August Black and Norbert Math with contribution from Rupert. To provide a better insight, I have asked August, Norbert and Isabella Bordoni from the Radiotopia crew, for comments on their project involvement.

"It was important for us - said August- to develop as easy a structure for online uploading and downloading as possible. At the same time if anybody sent a cassette, we did our best to encode it and incorporate it in the database, which consist mainly of sound and some text and image files and incorporates a playlist of 500 files."

August's main interest in the project was directed to the question of how to deal with static database files and how to turn it into live elements - a live network where five or six individuals or radio stations play together. He also designed the website and organized a large part of the network. Together with August, Norbert Math was involved in the preliminary work to set up the database, server and the online mixer. He felt that while his contribution is often of a technical nature, it as also artwork, "or framework for artwork -as he noted- because it is the creation of a system between people and sounds".

What fascinated Norbert, was the possibility to create a network, which is self-organizing. "It becomes a collective decision for each node -said Norbert- it is an experiment in relinquishing control, because the database is used by so many people, people with different backgrounds and different quality of work." He felt that at this point the open ended approach was not made visible enough: "but it is still a learning process. After all we are all used to be in control."

Isabella Bordoni, an Italian sound artist participated in the live Soiree performance as well as day to day live mixing. I was in the audience at the Soiree performance and truly enjoyed her contribution to the concert. While she was pleased by the success of the project, she has also noted that "it is very important to take a next step and go further." No doubt, they will.

Hundreds of people signed up ahead to participate online and hundreds more joined in the course of the ongoing event. The enthusiasm was infectious. Late one evening Honor Harger and Adam Hyde of radioqualia arrived by taxi from Ljubljana as they did not wish to miss their broadcast in Linz. On Tuesday evening the long night of broadcasting lasted till early next morning, while earlier Tuesday evening at the Soiree, presenting remote hook-ups, conference calls, concerts, and performances - online, onsite, onair - festival visitors as well as remote audiences could fully experience the sounds of Open Air - A Radiotopia



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Conflicts Video conference between Paul Virilio and Derrick de Kerckhove



David Rokeby accepting the Golden Nica
 
Event: ARS Electronica -
Unplugged:Art as the Scene of Global Conflicts.
Place:
Linz, Austria
Time: September 7-12, 2002
Words: Nina Czegledy
Websites:
ARS Electronica: www.aec.at
Open Air - Radiotopia: www.aec.at/radiotopia
Search: www.onair.co.za/thetrinitysession
www.onair.co.za/thepremises
www.onair.co.za/sanman
KOP <Kingdom of Piracy> www.aec.at/kop