Report from a conference about electronic networking
. Programme Summaries
Programme summary: Joachim Blank and Karl-Heinz Jeron (www.sero.org) worked in the gallery for 3 days building the "Borg" installation, and Redundant Technology Initiative (www.lowtech.org) built the ASCII videowall: a bank of around 50 computers showing streaming ASCII video. At intervals during the day, work stopped for presentations by the artists – one on each afternoon of the weekend. A handful of people came in to read and research more information about Linux and other free software applications that had been assembled by the organisers. The installations were successfully completed, and were marred only by a power failure in the Lux Gallery caused by an overload on the gallery electricity mains circuits which are wired for little more than domestic electricity loading.
The ASCII videowall remained at the Lux Gallery as part of Tech_nicks until the following Monday, 19th June. The Borg installation remained at the Lux Gallery as part of Tech_nicks until the Lux residency finished on 25 June.
Additional outcomes: For Redundant Technology Initiative the 3 days at the Lux were an opportunity to refine and develop the installation which was then re-built in the Netherlands after the 19th June. Unfortunately the power failure and subsequent surge on re-connection damaged some of the installation so the work done at the Lux was not as productive as it might otherwise have been.
Blank and Jeron chose to donate the Borg installation to Redundant Technology Initiative so that it could be permanently sited at Access Space in Sheffield.
On Saturday, 10th June, the opening day of Tech_nicks, a launch tea-party took place, publicised mainly by email, which brought around 40 people to the Lux Gallery.
On Monday, 12 June an early-evening launch was held attended by around 30 people to celebrate the completion of the installations.
Comments: Blank and Jeron expressed an appreciation for the format in which their working process was visible to public and accessible via semi-formal presentations and personal contact with those who were particularly interested, in combination with an exhibition opportunity. They felt that having both reflected well the different aspects of their interests and practice.
Though the "public" for the presentations was small, much was gained through thorough information sharing and problem-solving between the groups – who did not know eachother previous to this event – and members of the tech_nicks team, the Lux Centre and also some of the geeks from Oven Digital who came for tea.
|I N F L I G H T Talk: Fly SKYJACK, play CYBERJACK|
|Saturday 10 June 19.30 – 21.00
|Tech-nicks welcomes Johan Grimonprez for an INFLIGHT discussion in the Mobile Lounge. In collaboration with Anthony D'Offay Gallery
INFLIGHT has all the right ingredients for a regular airline magazine: motion discomfort bag, safety instructions, inflight entertainment, shopping specials, passenger information, plus a series of feature articles, as well as some uncommercials & subvertisements. But inside, INFLIGHT tells quite a different story: the visual and written account of airplane hijacking, seen through the history of its indeterminate relationship with news media. INFLIGHT is conceived by Johan Grimonprez and designed by Pandiscio inc and will be available throughout Tech-Nicks from the mobile lounge
Programme Summary: The talk went ahead successfully as planned. The audience was around 30 people.
Comments: A more art-world crowd than that attracted by RTI and Blank and Jeron. This crowd did not generally return for other parts of the Tech_nicks programme. From this it was clear that the constituencies are very separate. The art-world crowd did have their curiosity piqued by the work of RTI and Blank and Jeron and took the trouble to look at the installations. However, it would seem that the practical workshops or the more deeply exploratory and demanding discussion eg. in Software Summer School were not appealing or accessible to them.
|Software Summer School|
Tuesday 13 June to Thursday 15 June
|We wondered what might happen if we tried to create a new discipline – "software studies". We might not finish, but this is a start. Explore with us the social, economic, psychological and aesthetic values and assumptions embedded in our familiar software tools. Ask how software determines our thoughts, creative and working practices. Go deep into the promises of the Open Source movement, and ask if artist produced tools and the idea of "social software" produces an opportunity for different kinds of involvement in technicality, and can open up the processes of 'innovation'.|
Programme summary: The two sessions on the first day were more or less run together into one, with the "Retrograde Renegade" exercises making a illustrative and funny opener to the panel discussion: Futureproof Obsolescence. The death match speed trial was actually performed by an Apple LCII and an iMac, the multiple mouse collaboration exercise resulted in drawings of peculiar hybrid animals. The rust-bucked storage device was not made because, having just spent three days with Redundant Technology Initiative, no-one wanted to ruin a VCR or nice old computer. The discussion was attended by around 20 people, total, including the participants of this and subsequent sessions in the Summer School. In a room in which a level of knowledge or at least understanding about programming could be assumed, the discussion was able to go to deep level of engagement, complexifying the relationships and distinctions between hardware, software and the human operator, and between commercial applications, artists software projects and open-source development.
The Linker rally began at 4pm on the Wednesday afternoon, and was an extraordinary occasion. Work that was made using Linker (http://www.mongrelx.org) was shown mostly but not exclusively in person by their makers. A group of five students from Fine Art Acadamy in Rennes, France, who had been taught by Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji from Mongrel attended, their visit made possible by the college. A group of three young mothers from the group in Bristol who had participated in a Linker project as part of the Clark Bursay award project undertaken by Mongrel in October 1999 attended with their young children. Their visit was financially facilitated by DA2 and made possible practically by Carole Wright who had facilitated the original workshop. Mongrel members Graham Harwood, Matsuko Yokokoji and Mervin Jarman presented their own works and the results of workshops that had taken place in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Lisa Haskel presented four linkers that had been completed by artists at Cyber Rex in Belgade following a one-day workshop she facilitated during a visit in March 2000, with additional commentary from Milica Rankovic from Belgrade, part of the Tech_nicks support team. The aesthetic range and artistic or social purpose of the works were extremely diverse, reflecting both the wide range of and objectives of each of the groups involved, and Linkers ability to facilitate production by people with different levels of experience in producing media. A strong message came through, especially from the experience of the young mothers: that a software tool developed with a specifically social agenda can only function as such if there is an accessible, flexible, sympathetic ongoing and committed human infrastructure behind it to facilitate learning skills, creating content, and following up on the ideas and aspirations unleashed by a good creative experience.
The evening's discussion suffered from some fatigue after the afternoon's intensity. The publicised panel was added to by Danny Sofer, a programmer involved with Open Source development. The discussion, together with the Linker Rally provided a good sense of range of models of practice that could constitute non-commercial, socially concerned software development.
The third evening's discussion had the additional presentor, Jon Pollard who was the programmer involved in Tomoko Takahasi's "Wordperfect" project. That day it was announced that Takahashi had been nominated for the Turner Prize. The presentations set out a number of approaches to investigating interface design: origins, effects and – as illustrated Richard Wrights presentation – the commercial imperitives that result in good interfaces getting abandoned in favour of bad ones.
For the shutdown event – the Life Machine Simulation a crew of around 30 people showed up with umbrellas to follow a complicated set of instructions to create a neural net by human endeavour. If anybody needed proof that computers are better than humans at complex but systematic repetitive tasks, they would only need to look at the mess and hilarity resulting from this exercise. Lisa provided a running commentary by mobile phone for a perplexed GLR radio presenter for their drive-time arts programme. Open Source ice cream materialised at the end of the evening for everybody concerned.
Comments: In Software Summer School there was a strong sense of a range of issues being set out and a discussion started that could provide an influential frame of reference for discussing, analysing and supporting software projects that originate outside the commercial sector and with non-commercial aims. A developed sense of the range of debates and how they interlock was achieved: individuals with contributions to make gained a better sense of eachothers work and perspective and the process of putting the programme together had fostered new alliances and discussions. There was also a sense that some ways in to this quite specialised discussion had been devised and tested. However, there was also a strong sense that the discussions and activities that took place had the potential for a much wider reach and benefit than was achieved at Tech_nicks. Therefore the resulting sense of achievement was mixed: formats and subject matter had been tried among a sympathetic and expert crowd, in ways that would definitely be useful for future events with a bigger, broader audience. However, it was also disappointing that more people – maybe not a lot more as the shared knowledge was a useful starting point – were not present to share in the discussions Whether this is a straight "marketing" issue, or an indication of having to work harder and in different ways to create a consitutency was discussed afterwards among the participants and is covered in the end section of this report.
Flash For All
16 June 12.30 – 17.00
|A workshop with Marie Persson (OVEN Digital) A unique opportunity to get your hands on the infinite possibilities of this revolutionary tool for creating animation on th web: Macromedia Flash.
18.30 The Character in Your Browser Window: New Animation Genres
Macromedia Flash and streaming technologies are providing a platform for an entirely new genre of animation. Bringing together previously remote fields of web design, animation and the delivery of dynamic content, Flash developers are redefining approaches to motion, character development, interactivity, composition, rhythm and the narrative. Our panelists examine today“s richmedia landscape and its“ implications. Panel includes Nik Roope and Tom Calthrop (OVEN Digital), chaired by Lina D. Russell
Til late: Flash Windows: A programme of the best of richmedia sites on the web today, on the Lux Gallery windows after dark, in the gallery before.
Programme Summary: The programme went ahead as planned. The workshop was heavily over-subscribed, so we accommodated extra people and laid on an extra session, on Monday 19th June. The workshop was suitable for the design and computer literate, but without prior knowledge of Flash, and was able to cover a great deal of ground in its four hours. The general sense of achievement and satisfaction with the workshop was good.
The evening event was well attended, with around forty people. Oven digital (www.oven.com) provided post-discussion drinks.
Comments: The Flash workshops and events were without doubt a success according to a criteria of demand, enthusiasm and attendance. The programme came under some criticism on the basis of it being an "odd one out" in the Tech_nicks programme on the basis that it was primarily showcasing developments in the commercial sector, and was dealing in an uncritical and unreflected way with a propriatory software product that is a prime player in generating demand for bigger and more powerful computers and bandwidth. In retrospect perhaps this part of the programme could have been integrated better on a conceptual level with other debates and activities.
|Tuning the Net – Streaming Media with r a d i o q u a l i a and friends|
Saturday 17 June to Monday 19 June
|Real-time delivery of audio and video content direct from producers to target audience has become a reality with streaming media. Tuning the Net provides a multi-tasking workspace environment for audio, video and streaming text production and distribution, skilling-up and swapping information. Get familiar with the quirky characteristics of the net and the essential questions of access to bandwidth, server facilities and production tools. r a d i o q u a l i a is an on-line art collaboration experimenting with concepts of broadcasting and the net.|
Programme Summary: The programme for "Tuning the Net" was a combination of structured workshops for fixed numbers of participants and more open opportunities for people to access equipment and get familiar with software tools necessary for creating and distributing streaming media. Again the practical workshops were oversubscribed and additional space for onlookers was made. There was a high demand from people who work for institutions especially the Arts Council of England and the Tate Gallery so additional workshops were arranged for the Monday afternoon, 19th June which accommodated around 10 people from these organisations. The workshops were run by Honor Harger and Adam Hyde from r a d i o q u a l i a (http://radioqualia.va.com.au/) plus 2 colleagues from Amsterdam, Rene Leithof and Nik Limper, both steaming media specialists on the technical side. Katie Cook, Jason Horner, Rachel Baker and Armin Medosch also contribute. Most of the people who attended the practical workshops also attended presentations. Through this twenty people will have achieved a comprehensive overview of the technologies and the methods required to produce streaming media either for live or archived distribution. The information ranged from essential details such as compression technologies and recording techniques to discussions on the scheduling and server tools that enable audiences to have access to streams in efficient, comprehensible but self-managed ways.
In the late evenings, the output from r a d i o q u a l i a 's streaming media scheduling tool, the Frequency Clock (radioqualia.va.com.au/freqclock/) was projected onto the Lux Gallery windows – an excellent showcase for both the scheduler and the many pieces of artists' work that it can manage.
Additional outputs: Through the Lux Gallery's encounter with the Frequency Clock, it has begun to programme its output as a regular part of its window projection programme.
Comments: The streaming media weekend was undoubtedly successful in the sense that it met a substantial demand to know more about streaming media and its possibilities from both practitioners and arts policy-makers. It was a very full and ambitious programme on the part of r a d i o q u a l i a and their collaborators which was frustrated, but happily not totally undermined, by the infrastructure of at the Lux. The computers and network available for the workshop sessions were under prepared and the gap was taken up by the workshop team itself, taking undue time and stress. Notably, the opportunity to access computers and the network in a more free and unstructured way was not taken up, in the way that it was when we worked outside of the Capital. This seemed to indicate that the consitutency being reached by this event at the Lux is more needful of access to knowledge and ideas than they are for access to equipment.
Tuning the Net was programmed by Honor Harger and Adam Hyde from r a d i o q u a l i a.
Programme summary: The Wireless for the People programme was a mixture of internal working sessions among specialists and evening sessions, open to the public, in which the work could be made accessible and interesting to an outside audience. The participants in the whole meeting was as follows:
Marko Peljhan (Insular Technologies, PACT systems, Slovenia makrolab.ljudmila.org, www.insular.net), Wam Kat (Balkan Sunflowers, NL/DE/Balkan region, http://www.ddh.nl/org/balkansunflower/), Sam de Silva (media producer, AUS), Hugh Daniel (encryption expert, USA, http://www.freeswan.org/), Toni Prug (Indymedia, UK/Croatia uk.indymedia.org), Sheep (Architect and information designer, UK), James Stevens (Architect and autonomous infrastructure provider bak.spc.org, consume.net), Mervin Jarman (Mongrel, initiator of the Container project UK/Jamaica http://www.container.access-it.org.uk/), Rachel Baker (net artist, radio afficionado, www.irational.org/rachel/), Adam Hyde and Honor Harger (r a d I o q u a l I a, UK/NL/AUS radioqualia.va.com.au ), Howard Jones (IhaC – International Humanitarian Aid Communications, UK, http://www.ihac.org/ ), Rupert Gammon (sustainable energy systems designer, UK), Amy Alexander (system administrator and artist, CalArts, USA, http://shoko.calarts.edu/~alex/), Annabel Fawcus (education worker, Site Gallery, Sheffield, UK). Audrey Okyere-Fosu from Hull Community Radio was not able to come at last minute for personal reasons.
Several of the participants knew eachother from on-line and particular projects, especially a number of radio projects from the past year in Kosova, Albania and Macedonia though few had actually met. In the workshop time, the opportunity to discuss and compare experiences on these seemed to be valuable. Additional to this, a great deal of work was focussed toward Mervin Jaman's/ IandI Media's Container project. This project is underway, creating a mobile media lab in Jamaica which is self-sustaining in terms of power and which is also able to operate outside the monopoly internet service provider in the country. In order to succeed, this project needs to have significant technical expertise directed to it, from people who also understand its social and cultural objectives. The think-tank around this specific project was useful both for iani media and also to generate issues and ideas applicable on a more general level. Tech_nicks tried hard to make the meeting engage participants and draw in expertise from across different sectors. This was moderately successful, with some technical experts, industrial designers working with sustainable technologies and architects participating. However, although approaches to larger NGO's with experience of humanitarian work and community development work were made, for instance Oxfam and VSO, these did not elicit active participation.
The first evening introduction provided cross-section of technological and human strategies: fuel cell technology, short-wave packet-radio based wireless networking, an overview of the work of the Balkan Sunflowers volunteers in the Balkans who have been using and providing needed communications projects in crisis situations and whose expertise is in both technical and humanitarian areas, and the building and use of independent media channels by environmental and anti-globalisation activists. The second evening focussed all minds on the Container project, with the team making suggestions for its construction, equipment base, network and connectivity. The third evening played host to the scheduled Association of Autonomous Astronauts video presentation, CD launch and party, plus an additional workshop session had also been arranged, in which Hugh Daniel, a networking and security expert, gave a detailed technical seminar on setting up secure, encrypted internet servers. This workshop was attended by 15 people and provided a rare and valuable meeting point in which technical experts – all of them new to the Lux and to the media culture scene in general – and people active on the cultural scene were able to meet and find out more about eachothers work and interests.
Additional outputs: An additional daytime session was held on the Thursday, 22nd June for a group of around 30 students from a certificate course in digital media at UEL – University of East London. The students had the opportunity to meet with about six of the participating artists and had a tour of the Lux, in addition to tech_nicks facilitating a presentation by Derek Richards of Club 21st Century for the students. The students visit was organised by Carole Wright and colleagues at UEL and this was clearly a great feat of organisation and scheduling on their part. The feedback from this visit was extremely positive from both staff and students.
Wam Kat from Balkan Sunflowers returned to the Balkans with a financial donation of 350 uk pounds. This money originated from some work done during the Kosova crisis by an informal group in London, most of whom were involved in tech_nicks, and had been waiting for a safe pair of hands and a specific need to be identified. The money and was spent on a digital camera that has already been used extensively by a community of gypsies in Macedonia with whom Balkan Sunflower volunteers are working and individuals are offering some ongoing support to this project.
Comments: Wireless for the People was a unique gathering of people with a great deal to contribute to eachother, and also potentially to a wider constituency of people from different sectors. While the introductory session was well attended and added some new approaches to thinking about independent media, there was, like the software summer school, a sense that the issues being discussed potentially have a much wider interest and relevance than that reflected by the people who came. While the working sessions were constructive and their informality benefitted the Container project, some of the time suffered from a lack of focus, suggesting that for such areas of work, a topic-led approach is perhaps not enough, and that a task-orientated meeting might have been the most effective format.
The additional sessions, Linux/freeS/WAN workshops and the UEL students' visit added a lot of energy to the project as a whole, and pointed towards areas that could and should be built upon constructively for the future. Though very different constituencies, they illustrate the effects that can be generated when different specialisms and experience of production culture and cross into eachothers territory to share knowledge and experience and develop new sense of possibility.
WFTP – Wireless for the People programme was devised by Lisa Haskel and Marko Peljhan with Honor Harger.
For "Living Mute" the editorial team of Mute magazine (www.metamute.com) were asked to create a discursive programme for the final weekend of Tech_nicks, incorporating invited guests JODI (www.jodi.org) and Rtmark (www.rtmark.com). In a collaboration with Artec and as a launch for an upcoming CD in collaboration with the Staalplaat label, Alexei Shulgin from Moscow was to have performed as part of the weekend's programme. Unfortunately Alexei was rejected for a visa by the British Embassy and was therefore unable to come to the UK. His visit did however take place later in September. The rest of the programme went ahead more or less as planned. For the Mapping Globalisation, Damien and Simon from Mute illustrated the interconnections and contradictions being described as examples of the causes and effects of globalisation, as the discussion unfolded . The presentation by JODI seemed to prove that net-artists *can* have a following. The saturday night saw a successful evening party and on the Sunday two discussions took place. The first an extended presentation and debate on rtmark's work which presented them with a range of questions and challenges, and then a philosophical spectacle in the form of the "Annual General Meeting of the Necronautical Society". Audience numbers were around 30 to 40 for each event. Kate Rich from the Mute audio spin-off "Fallout" provided live soundscapes and gathered recorded content.
Comments:The mute weekend was well attended and its formats provided some refreshing twists, providing more visual, conceptual and performative interest than most seminars or conferences, and mostly allowing for greater participation and discussion. The level of debate was high and rtmark in particular mentioned their appreciation for people's willingness to be challenging and ask difficult questions. As with the inflight magazine launch, there was more cross-over with the more critically engaged edges of the Lux Gallery audience. This was satisfying, but nevertheless indicates the growing gap between those engaged in practice and those working primarily with ideas and critique.
Living Mute was programmed by the Mute Editorial team with Tech_nicks.
General comments on the Lux: In physical ways the Lux Gallery (www.lux.org.uk) provided a good space for Tech_nicks; its size, shape, natural light when wanted and blackout when needed made a good environment for our work. We were able to use the space in a very flexible way: with both its physical layout and occupation often changing two or three times a day, from a workshop set-up to presentation set up, to a scattered series of small discussion or working groups. In theory the equipment base and network should have provided a good technical basis. While a certain level of stress is to be expected when working with technology, and especially when a space is constantly being re-configured for different purposes, the infrastructure was found under-developed and under-maintained to support the ambitions of the programme efficiently. The floor was problematic for wiring, the space is lacking basic facilities such as baby change and the gallery windows are dangerous for children. With its position on the first floor with no visible entrance from the outside the space does not feel accessible and welcoming to people who are not already familiar with it.
While some members of Lux staff embraced the programme and offered invaluable support and encouragement, it was disappointing that more of them did not use the programme and the guests in brought to the gallery as a resource for their own development.
Although the Lux is a purpose built media gallery, the space was found to be not flexible enough, physically or socially, to accommodate a project such as Tech_nicks with a degree of openness that matched our ambitions for it. See the final section of this document for more commentary on this topic.
Programme summary: At Site Gallery (www.sitegallery.org) and RTI/Access Space (http://access.lowtech.org/)the Tech_nicks programme took on a slightly different shape than at the Lux, in that the entire residency was taken by one group, Irational (www.irational.org). Vuk Cosic's visit had to be cancelled at last minute for personal reasons. Although he was missed the programme seemed full enough without his presence.
At Site Gallery the entire contents of the digital production and training suite had been relocated from an upstairs "digital suite" into the Gallery space. There was a good equipment base of six G4's and G3's, PA and data projector. The Gallery's digital media co-ordinator who was new in post had worked hard on setting the machines up for production and training in digital video and, together with the part-time education worker had made the gallery setting welcoming and interesting for both artists and visitors.
The programme at Site Gallery consisted of one full day workshop in digital video production on the first day (Tuesday 27 June), and on subsequent days evening presentations and discussions. The daytimes were mostly given over to the irational group working together, with a focus on producing a video. Irational are a group of four artists, geographically dispersed across the UK, Canada, Mexico and Spain, who share a set of tools and support eachothers work on independent projects, but who do not usually make work together. The group had spent some time discussing the video production in advance, using email and internet chat, but inevitably there was still a long way to go in planning before any systematic production could take place. Although some material was produced during the week it was done in a patchy and ad-hoc way, which was effective enough for the group, but was not a method of working that could be easily inclusive to other people. A main focus of the weeks activity evolved into the manufacture of a range of food products: "GirM" – an provocative exercise in packaging avowedly genetically modified food products and testing their reception in the public domain. A large proportion of irational's work is concerned with being visible on the street, or in other public or semi-public sites in which corporate structures and symbols proliferate The group did intervene in the local area by taking the products out into public space, uploading the re-packaged cans onto supermarket shelves, setting up a stall in a local alternative products fair and taking up an invitation to be interviewed for a web-TV "youth programme" that was being produced at Sheffield's Centre for Popular music. All of these activities effective in themselves also generated material for the video.
Although the irational video did not get finished in Sheffield, an opportunity was offered at the next Tech_nicks venue, in Hull, for the post-production to take place in the Avid editing suite there. A 6 minute tape was completed and screened as part of the Tech_nicks programme in both Hull and Bridport.
The digital video workshop was oversubscribed from its published limit of 6 participants, but everybody who wished to do it was accommodated happily by sharing machines. The objective of the workshop is to present an overview of digital video production, from shooting, though capturing, editing and outputting and to achieve the very basics of each of these stages in practice in one day. The workshops attenders were a wide range of abilities and previous computer experience. A few participants had brought their own cameras and part of their objective was to find out how to use them. This was also lucky because the cameras belonging to Site Gallery were not insured for use outside the building. Although for the most part it turned out not to be appropriate either to the participants' interests or to the irational video production process to for workshop participants to follow up their interest by collaborating on the irational videos, some participants did come back to the gallery in the following days to use the computers and build on the basic knowledge offered by the workshop. Additionally some Tech_nicks team made a follow-up visit to one participant, a youth worker whose organisation had recently aquired some digital video equipment but was missing basic knowledge and expertise to use it.
The evening discussion topics and formats were chosen by the Irational team and took place at either Site Gallery or Redundant Technology Initiative's access space about 20 yards down the road. The three discussions covered: streaming media and net-radio, server provision for artists, like irational, working in the kind of cultural activist border area, a practical workshop on radio and webcasting at access space and an open discussion that looked at issues around media and activism. This final discussion that took place at Access Space was mainly internal to Irational, RTI and the Tech_nicks team, but which included a Site Gallery user who been working with mainstream media channels and doing street-level actions of his own to advocate for awareness and change in the mental health system.
Comments: The Tech_nicks programme in Sheffield presented a number of challenges to the host venues and to the participating artists. It was at Site Gallery where the tension inherent in doing a working residency in what is usually an exhibition space was most keenly felt. The invisibility of collaborative practice and media production to a gallery audience was clearly a problem in the context of a primarily visual arts exhibition space. However, as the work progressed, the problems were discussed and dealt with constructively . Tech_nicks organisers, Irational group members and Site Gallery together came up with several strategies to bridge the gap between a working environment needed and expected by the artists and the need from the Gallery's point of view to supply something for its regular, drop-in visitors to engage with. The Irational artists set up a display of the GirM products and provided more accessible information about their work. With the Tech_nicks organisers a system of "hosting" was put in place so that gallery visitors had a point of contact with a person who could take time to address their interests and questions. Meanwhile the gallery itself re-wrote its introductory texts for visitors, emphasising the "showcasing" of production equipment in the gallery that is usually invisible in an upstairs production room, and using this to solicit requests and expressions of interest from people in training and access programmes in the future.
Redundant Technology Initiative's Access Space meantime works in a way that was much more at ease with the Tech_nicks model of working – more interested in sharing skills and building a community of producers than offering exhibitions or services. At Access Space, simply being present was an adequate way to contribute to the venue, with a sunday afternoon barbecue open to all RTI, Tech_nicks, Irational and Site Gallery staff being easily as effective to its programme as the scheduled discussions and workshops.
It felt clear that there is much to be gained from both ways of working, and much was gained from connecting the two venues whose user groups and even staff have tended to be separated. Access Space is deeply concerned with the politics of technology and its method of working with both technology and people reflects this. Site Gallery is more concerned with supporting visual and audio-visual production, reflecting its background as a photographic resource and gallery. For individuals with specific projects or objectives in mind, it seems important that both resources should be used pragmatically and be seen as an ecology of provision.
Across the venues, however, there was a re-iteration of the issue of numbers for the presentations and discussions. Although they were constructive and useful to those who took part, there was a continual problem in defining who they were addressing and why. The experience in Sheffield was illustrative of the whole issue of constituency: that the self-defined, self-identified constituency around independent new media practice is very active and can be engaged at a deep and constructive level by a programme such as Tech_nicks, but it is very small in number. "General" visual arts audiences, it seems, are either not interested, and/or their ability to engage is hampered by a gap in knowledge and experience of internet culture and technology needed to understand and appreciate the work, even when there are areas of common ground for instance in collaborative cultural practice or socially engaged art. There are potential interested parties out there, but the work represented by Tech_nicks, at least when placed with in the frame of art institutions, is very far from their general awareness of possibilities for media practice. In order to gather in these audiences, a whole different kind of strategy, closer to forms of outreach work than to standard forms of marketing, is necessary.
Programme summary: The main parts of the programme were whole afternoon sessions on each day of the weekend, on the Saturday by the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (http://www.uncarved.demon.co.uk/aaa.html), on the Sunday by rtmark (www.rtmark.com). Monday was left as a discussion day around the Root festival and an opportunity for participants to have some unstructured time together.
The Saturday "Media Invasions Workshop" was attended by roughly 25 people, which included guests of the weekend as a whole, HTBA staff and members, and participants preparing projects for the upcoming Root festival. The workshop was extremely well structured and prepared by the AAA, drawing mainly on the experience of the organisation in obtaining quite wide coverage for its activities over its – just concluded – first Five Year Plan. The AAA is a lose grouping of people taking a deadpan prankster approach to discussing the politics of science and technology, making visible its propagandist role in state and corporate image-making by advocating for community space travel open to all. While successfully generating its own community and media , through newsletters, websites and events, Its light touch and humour, and ability to create media friendly slogans and images has helped it achieve a profile within mainstream media. The workshop usefully and successfully shared skills and strategies through a series of practical exercises, but also opened up a series of questions about the effects and ethics of collaborating with the priorities and methods of mainstream media when dealing with an essentially anti-corporate politics.
The Sunday workshop with rtmark was geared towards generating ideas and material for their current project. The group were investigating the origins, presentation and reception of a PR company in London which had created a comic character – a super-hero – designed to promote the notion of European integration. rtMark's visit to London and Hull had been facilitated as a collaboration with Public Netbase's "worldinformation.org" project that was running concurrently in Brussels and the research and production of a video had been taking place across both venues. In Hull, RtMark took their own version of Captain Euro out on the street with all the workshop participants, to ask questions and guage reactions, and by so doing gather materials for a video.
The Monday discussion additionally involved three people involved with the Indymedia project in the UK and in Australia (www.indymedia.org) and Olga Samborska, a researcher and writer based in the Ukraine and Czech Republic, working in the field of genetics whose approach stretches across science, philosophy and direct action. The discussion, raised many points of distinction, contradiction and limitation between interventions in public and media space that are primarily artistic in origin and intention, and which are supported by state-funded institutions, and those that are primarily directed towards providing an independent media channel for political actions which heavily oppose state and corporate power.
Comments:The pranksters workshop brought up a lot of difficult questions around the effectiveness, appropriateness and necessity of using either mainstream media or officially-sanctioned (ie. state-funded) cultural institutions as a base for work that is interventionist primarily in a political sense. The discussions generated a strong sense of the contradictions, and perhaps the limits of a programme such as the Root festival, and indeed elements of the Tech_nicks programme, and the dangers of culture as a means of co-opting and diluting the message of social and political movements. These are, of course, insoluble questions within socially-engaged artistic production, that are only intensified by the possibility of networked media to provide an independent platform for alliances of people and distribution of media. If there is a conclusion to this discussion it is perhaps within a pragmatic approach that always asks whether the most appropriate means are being chosen to address particular constituencies, and that maybe also is aware of distinctions between intervention in the field of representation and in the field of life.
Programme Summary: The streaming media section of the Tech_nicks residency in Hull consisted of two parts. Two seminars/training sessions: the one-day digital video workshop as undertaken in Sheffield, followed by an introduction to Streaming Media by Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits from elab in Latvia (www.re-lab.net. The subsequent three days were taking up with building and programming of an open access "web TV" station that would run for three days, mainly with the help and guidance of James Stevens (bak.spc.org) David Garcia was not available to take part, and Café Society were working in Austria, so although they helped us remotely they were unfortunately not available.
The digital video workshop was again over-subscribed, but all of the dozen or so people were accommodated as either observers or by sharing machines – which had been borrowed from the University of Humberside digital media arts department.
The streaming media presentation and subsequent workshop seemed was of particular relevance and interest to HTBA staff and members, and this part of the project as a whole took on a primarily staff and organisation development function. In this it was very successful. The basic technology required: a PC with video capture card and encoding software was set up by Tech_nicks team in collaboration with on the HTBA technical staff, consolidating the knowledge of both, and ensuring that both the hardware and expertise remained in-house at HTBA. Although Tech_nicks guests helped build the studio, all of it was assembled from equipment readily available from HTBA's production facilities, with the exception of a video mixing desk that was borrowed locally and could be accessed again at any time. A loose schedule for the TV station was devised mainly from the film, video and performance work of HTBA members, including some live sections. The schedule is still accessible on: www.timebase.org/tv. Guest content creators were invited to participate by actively producing material for the station on the fly. On saturday afternoon HTBA member Rob Gawthrop made a special sound performance for the stream. The crew from the "Livestock" FM and net-radio project that took place in Stockton, NE England in April 2000 re-assembled for a saturday night set of eclectic sounds – vinal, recorded and computer generated – accompanied by on-the-fly live camera visuals by anybody who felt like it. On Sunday afternoon, a group of local musicians, "Rhombic Youth" played a 2 hour live electronic mix. They expressed a wish to make webcasts in the future, and Tech_nicks team ensured that the group were totally familiar with the streaming technology and studio set-up.
Additional outcomes: Two groups of three students travelled to Hull especially for the workshops: a group from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee participated in the media pranksters workshop, and a group of design students from the de Kooning acadamy in Rotterdam participated in the digital video workshop. The Dutch students completed a 3 minute video – "Pretty Colours" – in the two days of their visit, using as their material all kinds of typography visible on the streets of Hull, from shop signs and advertising to flypostings and graffiti.
Comments: HTBA was a well matched host and space for Tech_nicks. Its project space is flexible – not always open as an exhibition venue and therefore has less fixed expectations about what and how the space is used and there was no "walk in" audience to cater to. The staff had great demands made upon them by the programme and supported it well. Just as important, staff and members got actively involved in the programme and took advantage of the presence of the guests. Between the local constituency, the Tech_nicks crew and guests, and the visitors from Dundee and Rotterdam, the general sense was one of a working gathering of 20 to 30 people in which everybody was actively involved, and the social activities planned by HTBA were very appreciated and contributed greatly to the residency.
While the "Timebase TV" exercise was designed as a chance to learn and experiment, test and invent formats for a means of distribution whose conventions of use have yet to solidify, some people raised concerns about its output in terms of a consistent artistic quality or about its stream not being accessed by significant audience.
Programme Summary: PVA (www.pva.org.uk)is a small-scale artist-run media lab, currently occupying a large space in Bridport, a rural market town. Because its smaller, more compact constituency of interest, Tech_nicks in Bridport was able to work in a way that was particularly flexible and responsive to the needs of individuals and small groups. The programme was followed more-or-less as printed although as the week unfolded many additional events, meetings and one-to-one sessions were arranged, with different members of the team contributing their knowledge and expertise in response to different people's interest.
The team in Bridport consisted of Heath Bunting from irational, biotech hobbyist, (http://www.irational.org/biotech/) Olga Samborska, geneticist, writer and researcher on direct action politics in Central and Eastern Europe (http://www.savanne.ch/tusovka/welcome.en.html)Micz Flor, artist, trainer (www.mi.cz), Carole Wright, artist, multimedia designer and teacher.
The first scheduled workshops on how to make a radio station and streaming media kicked off a collaboration with a group of local DJ's who we then worked with throughout the week on running a webcast and sharing knowledge of the possibilities of FM broadcasting. The Digital Video in a Day workshop was re-configured again to take account of the interests of the individuals who signed up. In this case the workshop split into groups of two and three, with tutors, particpants and Tech_nicks team working together and pooling their knowlege across shooting, capture, editing and outputting. This resulted in a friendly, constructive and confidence-building day for everybody. Production that began in the workshops was continued on an individual basis throughout the week.
The main, more public event was a scheduled talk on approaches to biotechnolgy that took place on the Thursday evening. In addition to the publicised programme, the line-up included Pauline Lane, a lecturer at the University of East London whose research is centred on the use and abuse by multi-national biotechnology companies, of the genetic materials of Indiginous peoples. The talk was very wide-ranging and in-depth, and certainly provided new information and thinking for the the Tech_nicks and PVA teams. Although the audience was small, 15 – 20 people, it was highly engaged and discussion continued long after the talk finished formally.
Additional outputs: The group of DJ's are still doing webcasting, and the guest artists, Micz Flor and Carole Wright are persuing the possibilites of further collaboration with PVA, possibly linking also to the Bristol young mothers group who had participated in the Linker Rally. The trip to Bridport allowed for informal discussion time on the beach, and additional visitors who had been concerned with Tech_nicks in other places came to join in. David Sinden from the Lux, Ade from HTBA, and Patrice Riemens, a researcher and writer on net culture and "hactivism" all made special journeys to Bridport.
Comments:Tech_nicks organisers and guests enjoyed the flexibility in the space, programme and engagment with people that was possible working in a small town and within an artist run organisation. We do not underestimate, however, the level at which this model of working is demanding on the host institution, requiring total responsiveness and flexibility at all times, and always holding the potential for disruption to its ongoing activity. The disruption we brought was embraced by PVA, and this was probably the most successful host to the "residency" model, in which visiting artists can contribute to a community of other aritists simply by their presence and using their own energy and interests to discover active people within a community.