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A Translocal Formation

A Translocal Formation, V2_East, the Syndicate, Deep Europe (1997) is an essay by Andreas Broeckmann.

'There will be difficulty defining the appropriate structure because it will always be mobile, i.e. in process.' Robert Fripp

Globalisation as a general cultural and economic trend is a scam. There is no overall unification of the 'Global Village', and the 'New World Order' is a slogan used by those who would like to define its terms.

What we experience is a situation in which different levels of locality are enmeshed in a complex 'felt' of layers: local and regional traditions and cultures, national and international politics, international financial markets and transnational incorporations. Rather than by 'globalisation', our situation is characterised by translocality, in which different local agents, individuals and initiatives, operate within a networked environment. Translocal means that you are dealing with individual local situations but they are distributed within a larger geographical and cultural system. The global is locally embedded. In the best case, the global is a learning process. If we want to understand the global as something that we can work with, we have to understand ist forces and layers and also to understand how it is connected to the local.

The effects of the described situation are, in East/West Europe, exacerbated by the political changes in the former Eastern Bloc on the one hand, and the restructuring of Western Europe in the name of the European union which is still, more than anything, a European economic community.
The tensions arising from this remapping of Europe can also be felt in the arts sector, and we felt that we could tackle and diffuse some of the problems by connecting to others, asking questions, telling stories, exchanging ideas, and working together.

In the winter of 1995/96, V2_Organisation launched ist 'V2_East' initiative which has since been a conceptual attractor for different network, collaboration and presentation projects that were held in Rotterdam and elsewhere. V2_East is dedicated to enabling and enhancing contacts and co-operantions between people interested in media art and media culture in Europe. The most important result of the V2_East initiative has been the formation of the 'Syndicate' network. The name came from a comment that Vladimir Muzhesky from Kiev made during the initial V2_East meeting at the end of the Next 5 Minutes conference in Rotterdam in January 1996:

Individually, we are rather weak when it comes to negotiating with funding bodies and governments about support for new media and electronic art projects. However, if we could join up and form something like a syndicate, then we would be able to speak with one voice when it is strategically necessary, and become more powerful than we are now.

Since that first meeting of 30 participants, the Syndicate network has been growing steadily. It arose from an East-West co-operation idea and is now, in the late summer of 1997, a network that connects more than 170 people from 28 European and 3 non-European countries. The East-West axis is becoming less and less relevant for defining the character of the Syndicate which is, at the moment, turning into a European platform for media culture and art. We meet regularly in the context of festivals and conferences, like at the DEAF festival in Rotterdam (September 96), the Video Positive festival in Liverpool (LEAF, April 97), the Hybrid WorkSpace/dX in Kassel (Deep Europe, August 97), or at the ars electronica in Linz (Net.Shop, September 97). We organise publications, either by producing cheap readers or by editing special issues of magazines. There are always more ideas and possibilities than can actually be realised, but high on the current wishlist are a Syndicate Publication Series, the creation of a Translators Network, and the formation of a Student Fund for Digital Media Training.

The most important communication channel of the Syndicate is a mailing list through which we exchange information about upcoming events, about projects and ideas, and which we use to circulate texts that are interesting in relation to our work. A website is used for archiving messages from the list, for collecting Syndicate-related material, and for linking to the websites of the members of the network.

There is a continuous discussion about the different labels that we use: the 'East' dimension can be seen as a neo-colonialist effort on the part of Westerners; the 'Europe' dimension has become increasingly problematic at a time when the continent is as much of a cultural and political patchwork as ever, when war is waged about competing versions of history and identity, and when the continental powers are trying to build a fortress against the 'rest of the world' which, after centuries of exploitation, is bringing 'reality' back home to the Europeans. As Calin Dan put it: ''Etre EUROPEEN' is both as weird and as dull as being no matter what other kind of excessive minority. Because the EUROPEANS are a minority, and if the political class developed from this complex an irritated attitude on both home and global matters, we - the average EUROPEANS - should try to experience it without such a ridiculous intensity. More relativism concerning one's origins could do only good. And reversing the aggressive question from the other to the self should be an exercise of polite(ical correct)ness not only for the EUROPEANS but also for other fundamentalists.'

We therefore use the mentioned labels not as 'black holes of identification', but as heuristic tools for describing a temporary situation or for writing grant applications, and try to be as ironic and reflexive about them as possible. The spirit is pinpointed by Vuk Cosic's proposal for the Ljubljana Digital Media Lab to create the 'Ljudmila_West' initiative that would support Western media practitioners and help them to learn from the Eastern expertise.

For the Syndicate workshop at the Hybrid WorkSpace during the documenta X in Kassel we chose the title "Deep Europe". We were looking for a term that was neither East- nor West-specific, that carried some of the historical baggage of the notion of Europe, and that was at the sametime strange enough to be easily understood as ironic. It was an experimental title that turned out to be an interesting focus for thinking about the context of our work. In the end, Luchezar Boyadijev's (Sofia) reading of 'Deep Europe' was accepted by most participants: 'The notion is a metaphor which could be problematic. In the logic of this metaphor, deepness or depth is where there are a lot of overlapping identities of various people.

Overlapping in terms of claims over certain historical past, or certain events or certain historical figures or even territories in some cases. It could also be claims over language or alphabet, it could be anything. Europe is deepest, where there are a lot of overlapping identities.'

This mapping of culture and of the depth of identities onto the mental and physical geography stands not in contradiction to, but is a condition of the work that is being done in electronically networked translocal environments equipped with all sorts of telematic gear. After the workshop, Branka Milicic Davic wrote: 'what is deep europe? is it real? is it safe? my answer is - yes. deep europe is real. it exists. i do not need visa to be there, i do not need an invitation letter to be there, i can simply sit and think and i am there - in the land without borders, policemen, elections, president, government.... where no radio or TV station will be banned... whose citizens are speaking different languages without shame... and lot more. deep europe is my homeland, my private mental space, which i share with others. deep europe recognizes words like exchanging, sharing, growing. and that's why i believe deep europe exists. because i went there, and i can go there whenever i wish. to exchange, share, grow and understand.'

On the surface, the Syndicate is an informal network and an 'intercom' system for people in the media art community in Europe and beyond. At the same time, this inter-communication effects a re-mapping of cultural and mental territories that transcends the political, religious and territorial separations which we regard as a temporary nuisance, rather than as the last word on this imagined continent/container. Lisa Haskel (London) concludes her Deep European 'letter from home': 'So perhaps, this is what Deep Europe is all about. Not a political position, a utopia or a manifesto, but rather a digging, excavating, tunnelling process toward greater understanding and connection, but which fully recognises different starting points and possible directions: a collaborative process with a shared desire for making connection. There may be hold-ups and some frustrations, quite a bit of hard work is required, but we can perhaps be aided by some machinery. The result is a channel for exchange for use by both ourselves and others with common aims and interests.' At some point in the future we might reach a situation in which the heuristic tool V2_East - as was formulated from the very beginning of this initiative - will have made itself obsolete.

 

[Published in: Ostranenie '97. Catalogue of the International Electronic Media Forum, November 1997. (Edited by Stephen Kovats.) Dessau: Bauhaus Foundation, 1997, p. 281-286.]

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