|day 63 - A Description of
the Equator and Some ØtherLands
presented at the documenta x on Friday August 22nd 1997.
(For a RealPlayer Video and Sound of this talk go HERE.)
|there are several streams of information happening concurrently. "Øtherlands" is projected on the documenta halle, alternating with screens of pure ascii text from a live irc chat session between florian wenz in chiang mai, thailand, udo noll in cologne, and anonymous audience members typing at terminals situated in the hall. philip pocock at the podium switches between these two visual streams, while reading fragments from his daybook. an "Øtherlands" co-author, frederick william ayer, joins him for a follow-up discussion with audience members.|
day 63 - mövenpick hotel, kassel, morning. 22nd. august
i am going to read tonight. some might find that out of character for an internet artist - reading statis words on pieces of dead wood. i have my reasons. first of all, on-line means reading and composing text all the time, interpreting the identity of øthers, and composing your own identity to be exchanged in this marketplace for identities.
by reading, i hope to open up, at least temporarily, a new channel, a parallel channel, rather than a commentary on what you see going by on the beamer. commenting upon that would be anecdotal, reading in parallel adds one more fold to the screen, splits it once more, and in trying to piece things together, perhaps some audience members will come up with questions, issues to discuss, when things 'cool' down, and this 35 minute speech is up.
take 0 - in my room, karlsruhe. 19th. august
i sat down to write this presentation several times, even in several countries. i never finished it. so what i have for you are a few beginnings, which may add up to describe "a description of the equator and some øtherlands," a long title, better known by its two aliases, "the equator" and "øtherlands."
i should say right off the top, that i am one of "øtherlands" four ©ore authors.
øthers, udo noll and florian wenz may be virtually present, thanks to the documenta technical crew here, present as text on the screen, present for any exchange of words some of you may wish to initiate.
thanks are also due to the few institutions that supported "the equator" project, among them schloss solitude and the canadian department of external affairs. due to the interstitial nature of our use of this new medium, many granting bodies were unable to locate us within presently accepted categories. we left them willing, but unable to help, scratching their heads, and hopefully updating the grant guidelines for network art.
take 1 - room 45, lee garden guest house, kowloon city, hong kong. 16th. august
the equator is a word. and words are my agency here tonight.
the equator is not on the equator. where could it be on motherboard earth?
the equator is fold after fold after fold. (courtesy deleuze) storylines folding into storylines. narrators folding into narration. the audience folding into the script along with the authors. folded cinema.
the equator is a social generator, the potential for virtual community, a connecting machine.
the equator connects, misconnects, reconnects, disconnects. read me in. print me out. turn off your computer. look out a window.
the equator is a group autobiography. a beat diary about shifting relations and identities. identity, like memory, offering the possibility of repetition, but only the possibility.
the equator is not a great line or circle. i drew it as an open-ended cone.
the equator is subject to revision at any time.
the equator is slow.
the equator is a zone of shared ambiguity.
the equator is an opaque grid of information.
the equator has no doors, no windows. (courtesy leibnitz)
the equator is no reason to do anything.
the equator is occupying your screen.
the equator is a film i'd like to see made by someone else.
the equator is thinking about the end of art as we know it.
the equator is a pure exhibition of military hardware and software spin-offs.
the equator is terminal madness.
the equator is decentralized democracy.
the equator is resistance by other means.
the equator is difference as identity.
the equator is endless rebirth.
the equator is where we can be angels.
the equator is many persons in one body.
the equator is one person in many bodies.
the equator is listening.
the equator is when language is spoken and written at the same time.
the equator is a successful misunderstanding. (courtesy david)
the equator is all middle.
the equator is a journey from one instant to the next.
the equator is a city of bridges.
the equator is the geography of mind.
the equator is playing at a cinema not near you but in you.
take 2 - on the intercity between cologne and karlsruhe. 18th. february
paradigms are shifting. from the mechanical to the medial. from thingness (dingheit) to isness (istigkeit.) there is this desire, this perceived lack of the isly (istig,) which has motivated legions of students to pick up where the cold war left off and write free software to get people connected to the internet.
take 3 - lion hotel, kampala, uganda. 21st. june
i'm embarassed to say i expected high fives and loud music at the airport when we landed in entebbe. anyway, what greeted us was unbroken silence, a silence that said: i know what ground is under these feet.
we've met a bunch of students. since there is little to no middle class here, and they don't live like most øthers, by the side of the road, they have to come from the ruling class. still their english is better than mine, and their political engagement far beyond my own.
two of them joined our team - andrew and jude. they got the "øtherlands" idea in two seconds. maybe they'll relieve me of my ©ore duty in due course. i hope so. i can't stand the techno-stress. and i'm tired of the 'cage criticism' we're getting in the press, john cage that is. they used to complain that his music was arbitrary, random. that's what they're saying about our movie. he tried to free sound, like we're trying to free the shot. to free sound from - no pun intended - the cage of composition, free from the control of the author, like we're freeing the shot from the control of the director.
"the problem with computers is that there's not enough africa in them." (courtesy brian eno)
take 4 - in my room, karlsruhe, uhlandstrasse. 3rd. january
networks - and "øtherlands" is just one more - are nothing new. just look at your body. or look at the roman road coupled with gutenberg's press. when european man rediscovered the source of the nile in 1872, he telegraphed it to the world from uganda. it read: "the nile is settled." now a network is a "negotiated environment," a two-way street. the burning question is: for how much longer?
take 5 - sun sun hotel, singsingapore. 6th. august
i had to come here to understand how disappointing architecture can be. everything is concrete - architectural formaldehyde. even the green spaces, sprayed weekly with pesticide, are hard as cement to sit on. the buildings, all with names like: lucky plaza, suntec city, the prime center, fortune center, and my favorite, across from the hotel, the peace center. more guns inside than fort bragg. a video arcade, like wowie, row after row of virtual cops and kung fu fighters. terminal madness.
singsingpore, 100% urban, no change since 1984. and now the city fathers want to urbanize cyberspace. they call it singapore 2000, a network terminal in every home. no nomad wanderers allowed though. every access is over a centrally censured proxy server. an urban internet for spit and polish singapore.
take 6 - cafe gloria, cologne. 4th.
may my story behind "the equator"- and there are øthers - is two-fold. one dates back almost 5 years, the øther more than 250. an eccentric traveller named pococke journeyed up the nile, across egypt and through palestine in the 1740s. some of his drawings of architectural sites are their only remaining records due to subsequent wars. he collected them into a book called: "a description of the east and some other countries."
what i related to was not his vague kinship, that was only how i found out about him. what i related to was his take on travel-as-art-as-information, and even more, his specifically unspecific view of destinations, implicit in his fuzzy choice of words: "and some other countries." it became clear to me that geographical terrain was not his point as much as his own geography of mind. his travel was so not about locating himself in new spaces, but locating new spaces in himself, travelling to destinations within. that's just like cyberspace.
flashback - 1977, gregory battcock writing in his essay "art express:" "...the airplane industry seems to be exploiting the wrong principle, mainly that of getting people from one place to another quickly. they defy another principle - the important principle of not getting anybody anyplace at all. ... the future idea of travel and what it is all about is, mainly, the functionless, uneconomic sensual/cerebral idea of art itself. thus travel becomes important 'as travel' in much the same way that art was (is) important 'as art.'"
take 7 - on the outskirts of town - the industrial zone sometime earlier this spring.
he jerks out of the car, one hands his big bag, and heads up. to the itness studio. today it's power and po. yes, he is connected to his body. in fact, it's like he's turned into the back of his neck. all of him. he's a body person. not a kopf mensch. so is she. and he. they all are. getting out of their vehicles, connecting to their legs again, for a revisit to the itness studio. and then there is the guy watching them. he hears his breath, smells the macdonalds next to the glass containers. he even smells their metal. they go to this particular salon because it doesn't smell at all. not a trace of organic matter in the air conditioning. skin tastes like live metal when it sweats vitadrink. enough voltage to connect. and when he is pumped and out of there, he avoids anyone who sits. that says kopf mensch. that is unless they are drinking brake fluid, or electrolytic beer. face it. face the machine. the mechanical machine. the mechanical republic. the eve hypothesis is another thing here and now. it's not about mitochondria, it's about mercedez benz.
take 8 - later that day, cologne. 4th. may
the second fold in my story behind "øtherlands" begins on june 1st, 1993, in the morning, when felix huber an i tossed a laptop and a digital camera into the back of a '64 kadette and drove east to the black sea. our images and text travelled the øther way, back along the telephone wires we could see planted along the roadside, back to somewhere at the biannual in venice. don't ask me where. i was never there. i think when the show opened, we had just toured the "iron door hydroelectric plant and museum" under a bridge linking serbia with romania. "black sea diary" was about time lines, tourist bubbles and transmission errors. all alive and well along "the equator."
take 9 - late at night in my room, karlsruhe. 19th. august
the net-artist has to, right off the bat, confront the formal characteristics of a network. let me see, what are they: a negotiated environment, yes, a flattened social hierarchy, little or no claim to authorship or authority, no center, no linearity, no censure, fake.space, øtherselves, less attention paid to the art object and more attention paid to the object of the art, namely the recipient.
and a net is still more holes than anything else, so beware, it's easy to fall through. take it from me. misinterpretations, miscommunications, misconnections are all a part of it. no excuses. in homeopathic doses, they can cure a lot of on-line woes. it helps to think of beuys' maxim: "denken gleich form." it says the same thing mcluhan preached without any pop attitude. i find that helpful in developing net strategies. net-art, if art is the appropriate term at all - just ask udo or florian about that - is about putting up content, at least for me.
for the net-artist, less interested in the mannerisms of a techno-design aesthetic, and more concerned with bare naked content, great resistance is ready to pounch. you see the art world is out of practise as far as content is concerned. after decades of artmaking, much of which was oblivious to content, outside of its own perpetual aesthetic codes, content appears to be a risk. perhaps it is this gambit that underpins the discourse surrounding documenta x. i hope so. anyway the gamble that the net-artist must take is to put CONTENT back into art. the danger for the art world is that putting content back into art puts art back into the world, and out of the closed loop of privileged aesthetic discourse. i guess i just lost a few friends.
take 10 - still later, cologne. 4th. may
the saga of the second fold behind "øtherlands" continues in 1995, when felix and i did another travel, this time to the "arctic circle." http://www.dom.de/acircle
"arctic circle" was a double travel: on the one hand, up along lost highways in canada to, along and over the arctic circle, through one of the planet's last deep wildernesses; on the other hand, we uploaded fictional performances and real information - or was it the other way around? - up onto the crowded infobahn, building homepages on a server called "the thing" in new york. virtual co-travellers tagged along. so did a couple of hitchhikers, turning what began in the vein of 70s banality into the likes of a 90s lynchian melodrama.
"arctic circle" was an investigation into two types of loneliness: one, 'lost' in a vast natural space, a space where one feels no longer welcome, for good reason perhaps; and, two, sitting in front of a computer screen trying to connect to the equally vast cyberspaces behind it. living, performing and videotaping, only to sit in the van at the end of the day to see it all go by again on the screen was quite something. somehow the virtual travel took over, and we began to live for the reruns on the screen. everything we did after two weeks on the road was for that little screen. there was no more out the window. everything we did anticipated its life on the screen. we were like fiction. everything was fiction, no matter how real it really was. we've dragged this observation on the nature of net-art content into "øtherlands."
take 11 - cathay pacific flight #289, hong kong - frankfurt, according to the digital map beamed on the big screen on-board, we're heading north of the plateau of tibet. 16th. august
"øtherlands" is really hard to describe. there are no precedents. it's a game. it's a movie. it's a newsgroup. it's lofi video. it's network art.
when george lucas was asked about interactive moviemaking he said: impossible. it can't work. the psychologies are too different. he said it would be like his reading a book while playing ball with his son. then he said it's like swimming and flying at the same time. oh, i think they call that diving.
"øtherlands" is something you have to dive into to make it work for you. the two hours that the "spiegel" art critic spent at the entire documenta website, meaning that he probably spent no more than 10 minutes in "øtherlands." gives his bend on net-politics away, now doesn't it?
anyway, if you want to participate as an author on "the equator," first of all you must join the bloody infocracy, get at least enough on-line literacy - please direct your complaints to the computer, software and system designers - to pump up your netscape cache, login as a guest, hit the run button, and let it churn through the site for a few hours in the background. go to dinner, take a swim, do your laundry, i don't know, just let it work in the background while you do something else on your network computer, then come back to it. a lot of the bandwidth-hungry video animations will have been cached on your machine. this is how i handle it.
take 12 - documenta halle café, late afternoon. 22nd. august
br>i've changed my ending. actually, i just cut it off. gone.
instead, i'd rather provoke a discussion about net-politcs. i won't rap on about what the equator is, but what it needs.
the equator needs a public policy that guarantees a human right, the right to on-line literacy. we don't have to pay private tutors to teach our children how to read. net-democracy, a non- centralist self-regulating democracy, a global society, can only evolve should the hard-line between those with the power to navigate, the means to connect, and those without, is softened. this is my wish.
the equator needs more critique from within. its loudest detractors from without, like 'spiegel' and 'faz' would be better served to raise issues and maintain a critical discourse on-line rather than in print. otherwise, their sometimes genuine concerns become self-fulfilling prophecies. [ad hoc example given from the local kassel paper that morning on the death of language and the killer role played by the internet, published right next to a pre-event review of this evening's presentation.]
the equator needs no more digital cities. wrong metaphor. try wilderness, ur-soupe. cities bring conformity, control and outright law. they bring stasis, stasis brings storage and warehousing, warehousing brings inventory, inventory brings shopping malls, and warehousing people in the same place brings pure consumption and alienation, no matter how 'metro' a 'polis' may be.
the equator needs transparent technology, looping back, bypassing technic, to the earleist technology, even before someone picked up a stone and shaped an extension, a tool 2.2 million years ago, back to the ur-technology - social technology. other people.
© Philip Pocock 1997.
[NOTE:ad hoc elaboration on this point follows: an example of social technology as observed in a bonobo primate community; the differentiation of technic and technology; the on-line debate over the role of information versus communication, leading to more ad hoc remarks concerning information theory's premise that a receiver has only a 1 in 5 chance of ever being 'informed,' which led into audience questions to the podium and to the 'legibly' present "equator" authors, florian wenz and udo noll.]
log. all participants' took on pseudynyms ('nyms') for the chat session:
*** antje is now known as Ralf
*** agent01 (firstname.lastname@example.org) has joined #documenta
*** terminal1 (email@example.com) has joined #documenta
Ralf Abwässer unkender Kulturpessimisten mehr
Ralf und wir sind live!
*** wolle is now known as pocock
irc chat continued.............. große crossmaschinen
*** un is now known as cornet
cornet new vision raids the landscape --
*** pocock is now known as p02
*** cornet is now known as Udo
*** Udo is now known as agent04
*** agent01 has quit IRC (EOF From client)
*** agent01 (firstname.lastname@example.org) has joined #documenta
*** agent04 is now known as un
*** un is now known as root
*** root is now known as core04
*** core04 is now known as udo
*** philip is now known as p02
agent01 p01 ... over and out?
*** u04_in_co is now known as sysop
*** sysop is now known as udo
p02 agent01 there is a question here concerning the death of
language! the killer: the networks??
p02 udo, there is a feeling here that sexuality and finance (or
money) are the root issues of net-politica.
*** agent04 is now known as cornet
*** udo is now known as root * agent01 thinks that pretty well covered the issue! .. keep going
*** You have new mail From: root email@example.com
*** root is now known as udo
*** udo is now known as berit
berit nun ja, Du wohnst doch um die Ecke, schau doch einfach mal rein...
*** terminal1 is now known as agent01
*** berit is now known as udo_again
*** agent01 is now known as berit
p02 udo, agent01, we are ending it, or rather breaking things off.
lurk around and see if therer is any terminal madness for the next 2 minutes, then
*** berit is now known as wolle
*** udo_again is now known as berit
*** udo is now known as philip
*** berit is now known as udo
*** wolle is now known as juliane