35 Years of V2_ II

In writing about 35 years of V2_ there’s no way around writing about the ‘Manifesto for the Unstable Media’. If there is a single thing that has defined V2_, it’s this manifesto. After it was written V2_ started calling itself ‘Institute for the Unstable Media’, and to an extent the manifesto still defines what V2_ is about.

Actually there’s a problem with this statement. Why? Because there are different versions of the manifesto. Not counting translations, there are two Manifesto’s. They use some of the same phrases, they do agree on many points, but they are also quite different.

The version that reached out to the largest public is the one that was the Dutch version which was published on 31st of Decembeer 1986 as an ad in De Volkskrant, one of the largest newspapers of the Netherlands, (at the time still left). It’s in the right hand corner of page 3, as you can spot from this scan. This scan allows you to read the text. Though it is clearly a manifesto, there is no header with a title.

The text starts with the statement ‘We don’t want to bring existing art to the public. We want new art and a new public.’ Followed by ‘We strive for constant change.’ On rereading the text of this first manifesto one is struck by sentences and statements which still make as much sense as they did in 1986. (Though obviously not  every single sentence). Take: ‘Art and science need to be a revolutionary power in society and not an embellishment of a dreary existence or an economic factor.’ Or – more problematic – : ‘We love incertainty and chaos.’ A careful line-by-line interpretation of this manifesto which would place the statements in the context of its time would be quite interesting.

This first Manifesto introduced the Manifest[o] exhibition that V2_ organized from January 3-17 in Den Bosch. The event featured The Haters, Strafe für Rebellion, Selektion, the Iron Brotherhood, and a live telephone interview with Kim Cascone in San Francisco. (Yes, the same Kim Cascone that would much later write about glitch art and would return to V2_ in 2007 for a Test_Lab). The event also included an exhibition with works by a.o. Selektion Optik, Die Tödliche Doris, Annemie van Kerckhoven, G.X. Jupitter-Larsen, and Vivenza.

It’s not the text of this first manifesto that was quoted in the years to come when it came to defining V2_, or explaining why V2_ called itself ‘Institute for the Unstable Media’. It was the second manifesto – now with the header ‘manifest voor de instabiele media’ from October 1987 See here . This one was written on the occassion of the first Manifestation for the Unstable Media. It took the sentence ‘We strive for constant change’ from the first manifesto, but continued with explaining what unstable media are: ‘all media that use streams of elektrons and frequencies’. These are ‘the media of this time’. They are also ‘a reflection of a pluriform world’. Now the manifesto states ‘We love instability and chaos.’ A statement which is followed by a paragraph that makes you suspect rightfully that the people at V2_ have been reading about chaos theory, and quantum physics, as well as Maturana and Varela on autopoetic systems.

This manifesto was printed in an edition of 40.000 and partly distributed door to door in selected neighbourhoods in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. I personally have a lively recollection of finding one on the doormat of my house, and reading it with growing enthusiasm.

Looking back from a distance of 30 years it is as if something very important has happened for V2_ between the last day of 1986 and the first Manifestation for the Instabele Media. It has become clear what the role of the instable media are in the story of striving for a new art a new society.

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