was founded in May 1991 by
Heiko Daxl, Ingeborg Fülepp,
Bojan Baletic and Malcolm LeGrice
NAVIGARE NECESSE EST
AT THE END OF THE MILLENIUM
VISIONS ARE MISSING
Once the old rooms have been crossed, time has come to continue working on the building of human development, thus passing the threshold to different new rooms. Those new rooms, however, will always be linked to the old ones, even if we have lost the keys to their doors. The new can only be built upon the foundations of the old (experience, knowledge, and reflection). This is where our civilization has its origin, the source of greatness and failure, intelligence and fatal and false estimations, of humanity and cruelty.
PASSING THE THRESHOLD
Like people in the rising age of industry, we too find ourselves in a profound crisis of sense, obliging us to search the new, to discern and to understand it. And this is not least what affects contemporary art-creation. This crisis of sense will primarily manifest itself in a wide gulf between the social structure (economy, working) and culture.
We will have to understand the construction plan to be able to find our way within the jungle of structures that get increasingly difficult and complicated, and to make the right decisions, to chose that room that will open up more, following rooms out of a number of rooms. We must be aware of the fact that this passing may on the one hand be favourable for our well-being and developement, but on the other hand it may open up the way into catastrophe. We must alway be aware of where we are going.
Our situation in today's world resembles a modern Babylon. None of the existing languages will lead out of this dilemma. We will have to look for new forms of communication and symbols. What is needed is the approach to the world, life and the society on new ways and the development of new conceptual terms, so as to provide everyone with the opportunity to take part (in a material and an intellectual form) in progress and to help to shape it in a creative way.
GIVING EXPRESSION AND SENSE TO TIME
It has always been the driving spindle and the elixir of avant-garde art to condense intellectual trends, social developments and technical innovations to become an up-to-date artistic interpretation of reality.
Since the development of modern depicting and reproduction technologies earlier in this century, the "world of art" has literally started to move. Film, television and especially the latest advances in media technology did not onyl fail to ignore daily life but visual arts as well, and they brought up the questions on the reflection on and the production of connections of "sense".
In introducing electronical image systems like TV, video, computer animation, and other technologies the term "new media" became common talk. However, the real meaning, relevant axioms, and cornerstone work in the "old" media are often being negated. From this one can conclude an unreflected belief in future and a lack of historical consciousness. Only when media are being regarded as informative, communicative forms of expression, of being independent from their 'bearer' material and their degree of distribution and as a civilizatory achievement, the question of progress may come up. This progress will have to be seen as an advance of ideas, since any development of media will in the first place be a "thinking-beyond", a "passing of the threshold".
That is the way all cultures create their media; from the cave-painting to the alphabet and the animated image. Every media technology has its own immanent capacities and limits, reflecting economic, aesthetic and social qualities of its time. In talking about visual technical media today, we find ourselves at the provisional final point of different developments. One of these developments led to film, one to video, others to numerical or holographical productions of images, but as well to mixed forms that combine the appropriate media in order to develop their ideas.
ON THE NECESSITY OF VISION AND ART IN MEDIA
In the age of high technology we can observe a re-approaching of the often opposite-considered poles of art and technology.Artists are discovering the new technologies while scientists and technicians are turning their attention to the arts.It will have to be the aim of an engaged and - in a positive sense - future oriented media art to face this situation, to critically analyze it, to place it within wider contexts, and to develop new aesthetics and other working connections.
To make the artists' reflections on modern information and communication technologies a more important public subject, to question technical developments, and to use them for shaping a human environment, to make them 'visible', will be important contributions to overcome the problems of the future.
This will challenge the artists' creative work. The preconditions for a pluralist-type future of media with new forms of art will not consist of stereotypes but of an emphasis on the information and knowledge factor and the distinction from a modernist conception of media.
The development of man as well as the transfer of knwoledge has been an ever-progressing series of formulations: from cave-paintings to pictography, from phonetic syllabary to the alphabet and the digital code of today.
However, the progress entailed as well an increased specilization which is usually expressed by people's lack of understanding towards these subsections. In addition to this, there is a constant increase of parallelly-existing codes, languages, alphabets of the most various cultures, which is due to an ever-extending trade, traffic and exchange.
THE END AND THE NEW BEGINNING OF "WRITING"
Take the Czech-Brazilian cultural philosopher Vilem Flusser's example of the written word: "Writing in the sense of lining up letters and other characters seems to have hardly some kind of future or none at all. Meanwhile there are codes that transfer information in a better way than characters do... And a lot of things which could not been written up to now will be noticeable with these new codes."
Art as a generator of ideas, as a laboratory. The artist or the designer
will venture into areas that today haven't even been named. The models to
be developed will have to be overlapping and interdisciplinary and empirical.
They should be made accessible as empirical laboratories in order to have
technologies built into culture by those who will live with them from now
on, as technical development must not change our view of the world without
cultural sensitization and the artists' placing of signs in a single-handed
There is Roy Ascott's example of telematics: "But apart from the industrial, military, economical and financial areas, the construction of a data space of the ecology of a telematic culture is not being given any attention. As yet there are not any data-space architects, there are not any scenographers. The interface of the computer is still regarded as a keyboard, as a console, or as mouse - linked to a trick-box. Being artists we can either play around at this digital entrance or we can take seriously the necessity of taking over the construction of a comprehensive data-space landscape we ourselves."
IN THE NETWORK
What leads to new forms of art will cease to be the accumulation of knowledge, of events and facts as we used to learn at school, instead there will be their connections, associations and the navigating within the data- and information-space.
The aim of the alphabetically writing poet will above all and primarily be the critics. "The new poet will not address such receivers. The models he will built are to be received in order to be altered and then forwarded. He takes part in a game of permutation which he had received from previous poets, and he will pass it on to future poets."
This means thinking in systems of history, science, politics etc. other than those linear, hierarchic ones we are used to, because linear causalities will lead to "disastrous systems" (Baudrillard). We should think in global terms and between the existing categories. Universalism as the only meaningful definition of the individual in networks that respect different cultural, national characteristics, and that will not take us by surprise in a neo-colonialist way, but co-operate and search for new connections and dialogues in open systems which will enable everyone to understand our world again.
"The calculating poet will leave the rules and the repertoire of language to the whim of chance or permutation, and his intention will be to chose from those accidentally emerging computations the most adequate ones. It will be this new field of intentions playing with chance that distinguishes new literature from the alphabetic one."
A system's conception as a movable, dynamic process with free variations. A system that constantly changes as a loose and open network where any input of a component will not only change its relation to the other components but the input of the other components as well. This is communication as the real core term of a living system allowing for free interaction between the components. Interaction as a mutual influence in behaviour and in consciousness.
Once alphabetical writing will be replaced by digital programming, all messages that have previously been transmitted by texts, all models of behaviour, of knowledge and of experience will be transferred by the new informatic media in a more effective and more creative way.
This means that the image, the sound, the word, the symbol will in the first place be raw material to the artist, and it will obtain new reality by processing and alienation, thus referring to functions of perception and knowledge and making their conditions a subject.
Dominant stilistic trends will no longer be discernible, they will be hybrids that will not have any regard for limitations. Well-known forms will be combined with new contents, and well-known contents will be combined with new forms. The viewer will have to think about himself and his experiences.
The possibility of reproducing will rarely turn up. The mere naming of things known will not help as a rule either. Experimental forms will show the limitations of the usual, and they will not offer any guarantee of completely solving the mystery.
IN MEDIAS RES
"Can there be subjects without media?" Joseph Beuys asked. The answer to this question is the conclusion that media and the new technologies themselves are one of the great themes of our time. Processes of changing will be set in motion the origins and impulses of which as well as their potential consequences are relatively indefinite still. This will not only concern the existing material order of the world, but especially aspects of sensual perception, therefore the basis of our mental positioning as well.
Shaping time with contemporary means will undermine conventional categories of art, it will upset terms of purity of style, of original and copy, thus representing the catastrophe of sense. If this sense is destroyed, the hegemony of language over art will be endangered too. What still exists will be a "language of images", like modern cave-paintings, on its way to a communicable visual alphabet.
In speaking about new forms and contents of current media work we will at the same time have to speak about the new forms of transferring this work, in order to make communication actually "visible". Words of "Who is to teach that" are difficult and obscure. Their meaning will confuse the untrained mind. Traditions will fasten the emotions of an era. Art will be mirrror and voice ... (according to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1919).
For everything is in man themselves. Let me finish with a quotation by Allen Turing, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence: " Only when a machine can write a sonnet or compose a concierto, and this on the basis of thoughts and feelings, not because of accidental meetings of symbols, we will be in a position to agree to the statement that a machine equals the brain, i.e. that it knows it does not only write something, but knows as well that it has written it."
For it is aims not ways that are to be defined. It is not about answers where there are no questions, but questions the answers do not exist yet.
YOU ARE YOUR NAVIGATOR!
Heiko Daxl 1990 (first published in "Seuls - Treshholds", Tokyo 1991)