Virtual Revolutions

The second media art workshop in a series of four coined the term "irrelevant encounters."

Jun 1998
Jul 1998
location: V2_Lab, Eendrachtsstraat 10, Rotterdam

Virtual Revolutions was a series of four media art workshops which took place at venues across Europe in Sofia/Bulgaria (SCA), Rotterdam/The Netherlands (V2_), Tornio/Finland (Polar Circuit 2) and Manchester/UK (Revolting) in spring and summer 1998. Virtual Revolutions built diverse and international teams of artists to work together and enjoy each other's experiences. Different artists participated in each of the workshops, yet, they were able to communicate and build on each others work through a collaborative working environment on the Internet. The workshops were another step in getting beyond the former east/west divide of Europe and test the creative potential of translocality and virtuality. The Virtual Revolutions series led to the production of a CD-ROM and a WWW-site that documents the participants projects in a shared environment. This documentation was presented during the ISEA98 conference in Liverpool and Manchester in September 1998.


Virtual Revolutions 2

a report by Andreas Broeckmann

In June / July 1998, V2_Organisation Rotterdam organised a week-long workshop with eleven artists from seven East and West European countries. The workshop was held in the new V2_Lab, International Laboratory for the Unstable Media. During the week, the artists worked together under the theme of Virtual Revolutions: The Doppelgänger Revolution, exploring the aesthetics and the politics of online identities. The theme raised the question of personal identities in virtual environments. In a week of brainstorming and hands-on workshop sessions, the participants explored ideas about selves, others, avatars and agents in virtual environments.

Important features of this workshop were that the participants knew little about each other's work before they came to Rotterdam, there was no pressure to produce a specific result, and there was no strong leader who would push the discussions or the working periods on the computers in a certain direction. This openness was a risk because it meant that the group had to find its own rhythm and goals for the week, but it also offered the opportunity to allow for accidental and unexpected things to happen. In the end, it seems that this strategy was successful, allowing for a very relaxed and open process to unfold. An interesting observation was that the consistency of the workshop was greatly enhanced by putting the participants up in shared accommodation, so that they could also spend leisure time in the mornings and evenings together with other workshoppers.

Several productive strands emerged from this process in which the participants worked together in different constellations. One strand were communication spaces and online environments like IRC, the Palace, MUDs, etc. Palace-junkie Terhi Penttilä (FI) and Katja Martin (D) with her expertise in designing multi-user and 3D-environments were joined, amongst others, by Graziella Tomasi (NL), who is running an identity agency on the Internet, and Anneke Pettican (UK) whose work has dealt a lot with surveillance and urban existence. To this exciting mix, Taylor Nuttal (UK) added his know-how and ideas about VRML-based design. In two separate sessions, the artist Debra Solomon (NL) presented and discussed her current online-performance project The_Living, and Kit Blake (NL) talked about the Dutch Palace project Havendam, which he coordinated as a project leader.

Nikolay Milev and Dimitrina Sevova (BG) focused on the production of several video interviews about the workshop and its themes. Dimitrina was additionally helped by Vesna Manojlovic (YU) to bring her first WWW-project online. Stefan Saskov (MK) also made extensive use of the video studio, as did Daniel Garcia Andujar (ES) who was working on a new video clip for his ongoing project, Technologies To The People. Together with the Novi Sad-based programmer Branko Milosavljevic (YU), Daniel also started a new project which will be developed in the coming months. And a lot more was happening in-between people, machines and online worlds.

A term that came up during the first discussions at the beginning of the workshop was "irrelevant encounters," and the question of what is irrelevant, how you can define irrelevance and how you can make things and memories irrelevant, became a red thread for many creative sessions and conversations. The culmination of this was the participation of the whole group in a net-radio broadcast on the last day of the workshop, under the collective name of Sounds Irrelevant. This frantic online performance, which saw the emergence of interface artist Jukka Ylitalo (FI) as 'DJ Krasch' and the inception of the new genre of 'IRC-based text-to-speech composition for live-streamed online radio', was a playful and exstatic finale to a week in which many ideas circulated, projects and concepts were forged and questioned, and in which friendships were made.

With financial support from: - The Internet Program of the Open Society Institute, New York. - The European Cultural Foundation, Amsterdam. - North West Arts Board, GB - APEX, Cultural Exchange, Amsterdam.

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