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ART+COMMUNICATION 2000, Riga
Chronicle of "InterCultural Jamming" Festival and NICE Meeting

Tania Gorucheva <tangor@redline.ru>, Moscow MediaArtLab


On August 24th - 26th, 2000 in Riga, the newly-founded Centre for New Media Culture RIXC organised the NICE [Network Interface for Cultural Exchange] <http://nice.x-i.net/> meeting in the framework of E-LAB's organised 4th ART+COMMUNICATION "InterCultural Jamming" festival <http://rixc.lv/00>. All events happened at the "Noas" Gallery, which was transformed into a floating quay staying in a dock on the Daugava River almost in front of E-LAB Centre.

The opening "dam" party in the rain happened in the struggle of the elements; natural and artificial: "long reverb time vs. intellectual non-musical tones and structures" (Clausthome/Riga) in real time and a wet real space. Culmination -- fire, water, and steel tubes which sounded with the help of natural gas, burners, and men in black overalls and masks -- was the performance by Erik Hobijn "Fire whistling organ"/Amsterdam. "Features of
minimalism" played at the end were preceded by visual "mini-geo" sets and other video features by F5/Riga which accompanied two compositions from DJs Pollution/Bologna, Charlie Ferrari/UK, AG&Raitis, Clausthome/Riga.

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The first day started with the open working session for NICE members. The Network Interface for Cultural Exchange was initiated a year ago and the first meeting took place in November 1999 in the frame of "TEMP - temporary media art lab project" in Kiasma Museum, Helsinki. At the moment, NICE unites several media centres and art organisations from the Baltic Sea and north-east European regions (and beyond). This meeting agenda included presentations of members' activities, discussion of some strategic and practical issues of future collaboration, and its support. Questions, which appeared in the process of presentations and the discussion, can be summarised in the next key points: how can NICE be beneficial for its members? What are the objectives of its existence and function? What sort of activities and projects can be realised and supported through NICE? What sources of support might be available for these projects and how might NICE help? What are the perspectives for further development of NICE? Answers to these questions are needed for proposals in order to force bureaucrats from foundations and local authorities to invest money in media culture. The starting point should be to take into consideration the actual interests and needs of every member of the multicultural network and collaborative search for the most appropriate forms of self-organising and ways of activity that meet them.

From the very beginning, like many mailing lists aimed to provide sharing of information, ideas, and opinions in order to stimulate more close communication and provoke co-operation between people who have common interests, NICE was established in the form of a virtual network on the Internet. The primordial aim was to pedal physical co-operation between subscribers through exchange of information about events, projects, programs, etc. The next step was an idea to propose a project which will help to understand the deeper local situations of NICE members and, thus, to make collaboration more productive.
It became a project of the Mobile Media Lab inside the bus, which would move from one "NICE place" to another around the Baltic Sea, organising events and educational programs, and thus, making networks visible. Kristin Bergaust (Atelier Nord/Oslo) and Rasa Smite (E-LAB/Riga) spoke about practical details of the project and it seemed that the Mobile Media Lab would demand serious technical and organisational preparations as well as serious funds.

This meeting aimed to become the next logical stage of NICE development, i.e. a step towards official recognition in order to make a virtual network into a real umbrella, which can provide its members with the necessary support at the institutional level. At the same time, being a non-formal self-organising network community, NICE in its activity goes beyond the institutional constraints. Earlier examples of the similar networks related to media culture are Nettime and Syndicate. The Nettime mailing list was initiated primarily to distribute media discourse, Syndicate's primordial goal was to help media artists and curators from Eastern Europe to find partners on the West which would make it easier to get support for joint projects from European foundations. NICE's objectives are mostly tied to local context(s).

Its not the first initiative of this kind in the Baltic Sea and North European region. Two years ago in the frame of Art+Communication III, two relative initiatives were presented in Riga: Baltic Interface Net and Interfund. Both seemed to slow down. The first one was going to rely on the support of the national government establishing itself as "a joint forum for culture" and "a vehicle for co-productions and events". The second one, conceived as "the international decentralised self-supporting platform for innovative and creative projects and research works in new media field" was supposed to be a shared "Resource Pool" and a sort of buffer between official structures and artists, while at the same time preventing the latter ones from self-institutionalising.

NICE looks most like a practically-oriented project aimed to develop "self-sustaining media culture practice" based on "mutual support" employed as both a local strategy (e.g. the Norwegian production network) and a tool for investigating and supporting the development of new models for organisational infrastructure (e.g. RIXC - the centre for new media culture
in Latvia, M-Cult in Finland), as it stated in the final press-release. Technically, network interface is going to be established in the form of a shared database <http://bin.rixc.lv/demo/nice.gif> presented at the meeting by Jaanis Garancs/Riga. Almost all NICE's active members are media art practitioners themselves. In fact, the orbits of practitioners and policy makers very rarely intersect in real time and real space. Another attempt to make "policy meets practice" (one of the panels) did not turn out as planned. Invited officials from local and foreign cultural and governmental institutions went for holidays. Only representatives of some foreign cultural organisations that supported the festival attended the meeting. After the speech from Andreas Drufva from the Swedish Institute, discussion got going around some practical aspects of communication with foundations.

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The next day was almost entirely dedicated to presentations of art projects and activities: Internet based works, experimental software and CD ROM art, video and actions.
The ASCII Art Ensemble (Thomax Kaulmann and Walter Van Der Cruijsen) <http://www.desk.org/a/a/e> demonstrated their streaming ASCII video during the conference by doing a live video broadcast of the meeting on the web in ASCII format.
Heath Bunting perplexed the audience by proclaiming that genetically modified products and people who eat them are new media. That's true because biotechnology and genetic engineering deal with nothing besides the transmission and modification of hereditary information contained in genes, which may have crucial consequences for our civilisation. Would it be the second information revolution when not only the objective world around us will change but also the next generations will look absolutely different and will have absolutely different minds? Let's follow the artist's experiments <http://www.irational.org>.
Alexei Shulgin spoke of his experience of challenging the potential of the porn industry on the web. The results exceeded all expectations. His fake on-line shop "Fuck You Fuck Me" where he presented gadgets for remote cybersex with the help of a computer, more precisely the CD drive, could potentially become a highly profitable enterprise. But this morally firm artist didn't betray himself and art. So he left it as "a small size provocation" <http://www.fufme.com/>.
0100101110101101.ORG did a sort of performance by reciting the history of their struggle for free possession (downloading) of web art projects.
Tilman Buamgaertel/Berlin gave some examples of art in the form of software that he considers the new form of public art <http://www.numeral.com>. This phenomenon deserves to be seriously explored as a new turn in the aesthetic evolution representing an interesting symbiosis of a pragmatic method of programming and irrational artistic ideas.

A special panel was dedicated to streaming media. E-LAB was one of the first who started to experiment with net radio broadcasting - OZOne project <http://ozone.re-lab.net>. E-LAB initiated the Xchange net audio network and mailing list <http://xchange.re-lab.net>, which unites independent net radio stations from different countries.
The first part of the panel consisted of presentations of alternative net radio stations and projects: Pararadio <http://www.c3.hu/para> /Budapest, Fallout
<http://www.fallout.org.uk>/London, MZX <http://www.radiostudent.si/mzx>/Ljubljana, and Net. Radio Jeleni <http://www.cafe9.cz>/Prague. Rachel Baker/London demonstrated her TM Selector project, a sort of navigation tool on the web where one can find a list of net radio stations with some additional practical info and other things <http://www.tmselector.net>.

The appearance and spread of alternative radio stations on the web were inspired by two needs. The first one is a natural resistance to commercial mainstream radio and the wish to have different and diverse content, very often experimental and innovative stuff, on radio waves. The second one is to satisfy tastes, interests, and demands of relatively small communities (youth, subcultures, artists, minorities, etc.) to which initiators of net radio themselves belong and which are not necessarily geographically determined. Thus, from the very beginning, these stations became energetic points of new network communities by following the actuality of their life and involving their members in the production of programs. Any collective activity tends to be centrifugal and to diffuse through making contacts with adherents. Following this logic, small networks started to form bigger networks by putting cross links to each other on their web sites, communicating through mailing lists, IRC, and on-line conferences, organising joint events, and establishing common interfaces. Thomax
Kaulmann/Berlin demonstrated the Orang project <http://orang.orang.org>, how produced audio and video material could be archived and then used by everyone via the Internet.

Rapid technological evolution very soon permitted not only easy access to production and transmission tools, and the integration of activities and projects but also the possibility of hybrid content production. Thus, the development of video streaming and web tv inspired the appearance of net projects produced on the combined technological platform. Movement in this direction was demonstrated by Manu Luksch's/London project, Ambient TV <www.ambienttv.net> which includes: online film, an online game based on the film, live webcasts and communication interfaces, collaborative production of TV programmes by means of the net, plus the fusion of linear narrative and open data structures. Another tv project that was presented at the festival was Tvvv_plotas by Jutempus group/Vilnius. The project was initiated a few years ago during a time when the artists Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas produced a series of tv programs about a local contemporary art scene and international media art movement.

There were presentations of other media initiatives from all over the world, including Indonesia, Colombia, Argentina. See more info: <http://rixc.lv/00>