RE: documenta x

Johannes Birringer (orpheus2@t-online.de)
Fri, 27 Jun 97 02:45 +0100

Hello listmembers, here's a first report on the just-opened "documenta X" in
Kassel, Germany, for those of you interested in visiting the exhibition during
the 100 days it's on.

Two scenarios/projects, as a kind of introduction, I will add some critical
reflections in later weeks.
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I: HYBRID WORKSPACE
A temporary laboratory in the old Orangerie
-a project by Eike Becker, Geert Lovink/Pit Schultz, Micz Flor, Thorsten
Schilling, Heike Fll, Moniteurs, Thomax Kaufmann, the dx team, many others,
on-going for 100 days.

The concept-plan describes this project as one that transforms the Orangerie
into an open media studio to collect, select, connect, record and distribute
information and content. It will deal with current social, political and
cultural issues. Hybrid WorksSpace will provide possibilities to comment,
interview, discuss and present the resulting data objects and will forge
connections with material brought in from outside. Distribution beyond the
Orangerie (one of the exhibition sites at documenta X) will be realized via
selected zones on the Internet as well as through print media and radio
broadcasting. A subsequent publication will allow the content flow produced
throughout the documenta X to be widely accessible.

Hybrid WorkSpace can best be described as a temporary laboratory that produces
its own type of content. It also condenses the viewpoints and positions brought
to Kassel by the "100 Days - 100 Guests" program [the curator's plan to have
a different guest speaker every day] into streams of subjective approaches,
represented in digital data. Most importantly, it allows remote participants to
directly access the devlopments and debates in the Orangerie. This includes
input from external areas into the physical setting of the Orangerie.

The architecture itself reflects a non-hierarchical perception of different
functions, zones, images, and situations. Similar to icons on a screen, the
different elements of the set can be decomposed and rearranged. Projection
columns, pedestals, and tables create an interface between the real and the
virtual. The polymorphous and moveable architectural elements precipitate a
playful dialogue among themselves, including hosts and guests. Furthermore the
chosen interior appears useful as a laboratory and workshop for programmed and
spontaneous interactions and presentations. Multifunctional video and audio
facilities are included into the movable projection columns that structure and
serve the space. The visitor can expect Hybrid WorkSpace to appear dark or
light, full or empty, full of images or sound, noisy or completely silent.

Hybrid WorkSpace is an ambient space and document store; it is a pin-board and
global newspaper; and it is both local and world wide radio channel. Out of this
heterogeneity, the project constitutes itself professionally improvised as a
media laboratory involving both transparent and opaque fields of activities. In
this way, it becomes simultaneously a dynamic system - open and closed, private
and public.

Hybrid WorkSpace mixes old and new media, connecting data streams of different
sources. The polymorphous structure allows spontaneous rearrangements to suit
the demands imposed on the space by discourse, presentations, events, and guests
working in the Orangerie. This could be interviews, dialogues, group discussions
or informal gatherings.

It is a zone of critical thought and productive conflict, a social space to
manufacture consent, initiate dissent, a place where distribution, reception,
and production compress and expand. Within the social context the relation
between senders and receivers makes things happen. Meanwhile traditional
broadcasting media like radio, video or journals become technical metaphors to
put information onto the Internet. The organisation of time, the scheduling, and
the architecture of a collaborative archive as an arena of memory will be
modeled in space as in software. Collaboration is strongly encouraged, with
radio producers, virtual communities, video makers, magazines, etc., to provide
the technical facilities to easily produce vivid net content.

In addition to the coordinators of the space there will be temporary teams of 2
to 4 editors who will be in Kassel for a 10-14 day period. After the preparation
and realisation in Kassel, the WorkSpace will be transfered to Berlin, as part
of the first Berlin Biennial scheduled for summer 1998 in various locations
throughout the city.

Contact:
http://www.documenta.de/workspace
email: workspace@documenta.de

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[the above text is promotional description from the documenta literature. I
visited during the first two days and found the space mostly empty, silent,
dark, uninviting, off-putting, badly designed, and hermetic. I did meet an
interesting artist from Bulgaria, Luchezar Boyadjiev, who was interviewed by
Geert Lovink and then talked with me about his project with hackers. At this
point, one needs to be lucky to meet someone or perhaps stimulate some
action-interface, but surely the project will get under way and become lively
soon.

The lab description sounds perfect for a dance-technology studio, except no
dancers are invited to the documenta except Meg Stuart, who is among a group of
8 or 9 "theatre makers" invited to Kassel to take a look, leave, develop a
sketch/plan amd come back in early september to present work during a 3-day
theatre marathon. The strangest idea I have ever heard. Anyway.

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II. MAKROLAB
An autonomous modular solar & wind powered communication and survival
environment/LADOMIR FAKTURA project - insulation/isolation strategy.
Devised by Marko Peljhan (Project ATOL, Ljubljana, Slovenia)and crew.

At documenta Halle: MAKROLAB-Console, a communication unit for MAKROLAB
contacts, designed by Project ATOL and PACT, 1997.

contact: http://makrolab.ljudmila.org
email: mconsole@ljudmila.org

Here I won't use literature but describe what I know, Marko is a friend and
collaborator.

The project LADOMIR FAKTURA is a long term project, now in its third phase, and
Marko took the inspiration from the Russian constructivist/poet/mathematician
Velimir Khlebnikov; the process is an investigation (scientific/artistic) into
autonomous bio/technical organisms, communication systems, survival systems;
perhaps also a critical investigation of a possible utopia at the end of
a century of failed ones.

For documenta Marko has constructed a module, like a space station, called
MAKROLAB, which he is now assembling outside of Kassel (on the city's periphery)
on a cornfield on Lutterberg, a small hill. It is not meant to be accessible to
the documenta visitors, although friends can come, surprise visitors too.

The position is only disclosed cartographically and in terms of wave-access:
N:51 23' 10"
E: 9 35' 40",
altitude 350m,
QTH-Locator: JO 40 SJ,
radio beacon: 144.9625 MHz,
call sign: DH/S57NTS.

But in any case, at the documenta proper there is a console (inside station)
which functions as a communication post, receiving (and visitors there can send)
communications from the MAKROLAB (via radio, video, ISDN Net, lines) while also
"exhibiting" the archive, files that document the project-concept, i.e. files of
concept, theory, Khlebnikov in Russian and English, communications with
documenta, module designs, finances, artistic project phases, etc, all on
microfilm,also accessible on their website, so that in other words the documenta
visitor can interface with Marko's crew, inform themselves about the scientific
aspects of the constrcution, and intimate the e x p e r i m e n t the crew is
undergoing/living outside on Lutterberg living in the MAKROLAB, which is powered
by wind-solar energy and has a satellite dish.

A North American collaborator on crew is recording satellite feed-ins, and the
MAKROLAB imitates or investigates its own radio and transmission capacities as
an "apporpriation" of military and broadcast (corporate) industry practices,
setting up its own (artistic) 'performance-signals' of an organism operated by
a few civilians who learn to navigate complex technical systems and broadcasting
structures (alternative ones, like shortwave radio, but also the internet),
inviting the documenta visitor to log on, send, receive, communicate, make
dialog.

(footnote: on opening say I photographed audience activity around the black,
metallic console, quite amazing, since it seems so scientific, cool,
intellectual, it attracted large numbers of young and old people, but
unfortunately a user broke the microfilm component first thing in the morning).
It's fixed now.

Two live feed cameras show the construction activities on location (Lutterberg),
and I noticed that some documenta visitors really seemed to enjoy trying out the
radio contact to the far-away (well, 12 miles) artists. Apart from the
complexity of the underlying theory and operation, I think the idea of
exhibiting a communication/link post as "exhibition object" (needing time, for
the user, first of all, to study the manual how to operate the console and its
devices.......) is rather fascinating, in midst of the mess of artworks, bad
video installations and kitschworks and stuff shown in all the documenta sites
that overwhelm you.

The Slovene crew will be in the MACROLAB for 6 weeks, then there will be 4 weeks
of analsyis, reflection, data collection, and a another week of
demonstrations/lectures/publications (net)- thus the project for documenta
really is a kind of performance process and investigation experiment.

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I am sure both of these projects invite input, questions, comments,
communications, so I encourage you to explore.

End of report.

greetings,

Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co.
current studio base, West Germany
email: orpheus2@t-online.de