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Mare Tralla, coordinator of the Tallinn programme
Images by Huffman

  FACES dinner in Tallinn, Estonia

FACES reports from ISEA


Monday Morning


Greetings from ISEA! We have spent one night on the ferry from Helsinki – one more to go. It is huge, 10 floors, with a lot of meeting rooms, shops, pools, casino, etc. Not really 'luxury' but certainly a different experience for us all! The good thing is that all the passengers involved are in some way with ISEA; there are no 'tourists' on board. Lots of conversations are going on, in all corners of the boat. We had a hard start -- it was cold and rainy in Helsinki. Six of us --coming from cold and rainy Manchester -- had our baggage delayed, but luckily it was waiting for us in Stockholm this morning when we docked to take on more passengers/ISEA participants.

The panel discussions began today at 13.00, with a panel called ‘The List’, organised by Melinda Rackham. Melinda is the list owner of empyre, where there is currently a discussion running during August on this same topic. Here at ISEA, Charlotte Frost, who is doing her PhD on Lists and runs the Furthertext site; Axel Bruns, a facilitator on the fibreculture list, the general editor of m/c journal at University of Queensland and a lecturer in media and communications at Queensland University of Technology; and myself, representing FACES. We were joined by Jonah Bruckner-Cohen, Mark Tribe, Beryl Graham, and a number of other audience members to discuss general list strategy and the future of 'The List'. One thing that came out of the panel, was the seeming lack of crossover or connection between lists, we know that many people are on several lists, but there is rarely reference to other lists when posting (except maybe on Nettime).

Nathalie Magnan presented her project in the French Showcase, which was moderated by Anne Roquigny. She talked about her ISEA performance project 'Sailing for Geeks'! She is on a small sailboat with several crew members and is navigating the waters between Helsinki, Tallinn and other small islands in between – wireless – and charting her trip primarily with non-technical means. A documentary video will be available about her project.
The ferry hosts a non-stop sound programme all night long...in the various social spaces of the boat. The slot machines are covered up here, and all table tops have laptops open because there are different wifi possibilities. It is great! The breakfast and dinner are part of the package, and it is all you can eat, with plenty of vegetarian selections....quite a lot of food, wine, and all very good quality.

The information about where to go, what was going to happen, etc. at ISEA was all rather late coming, but it did finally get into our hands. There are constant updates, and the weather has turned brilliant – the islands we pass on our way to Tallinn are quite beautiful (this scenery is quite a shift of perspective from the computer screen).

Here on the boat, there are networking sessions mainly based on country specific projects. This morning was the networking session among African artists present (unfortunately I missed it because it was at the same time as The List). The panel discussions are based on a kind of thread of presentations about The Networked Experience, in general.
So, sorry for jumping about a bit, I'm often distracted by seeing someone I worked with several years ago in a different city, or watching a flock of birds fly by the window. Some interesting and disparate reflections begin within this context.

Tomorrow we dock in Tallinn....for the conference on Wearable Technology, which has been coordinated by Mare Tralla. She has posted to the list about her part in ISEA already. She is facilitating FACES to meet a group of female artists in Tallinn, probably on Wednesday evening-- for those of you who are logging in, go to: www.kultuuritehas.ee

I'll try to send more information later on; now, I'd like to jump over now to the panel called: Social Networks of Resistance. Any other FACES here in ISEA, who want to connect, ask any of the conference organisers, and they will point me out if you don't already know my face, already!


Nina Czegledy, President of ISEA
Images by Huffman

  Nathalie Magnan

17.08.04 - Tuesday
Tallinn, Estonia

The ferry was basically a big series of focused networking meetings, and some presentations on the network experience. There was an active night music programme going on into the early morning...which means 5 am. I have to admit it, I missed most of it. It was very smoky in the bars, and hard to hear anything above the djs, so the kind of group that gathers around tables to talk, gathered in quieter places to exchange opinions. I found myself sitting a lot with colleagues from the UK, in a group that grew quite large over the evening. We often joked about meeting up in far away places to have social conversation! There were approx. 800 people on the ferry, the first leg of the journey, and a lot of Estonian and Finnish artists were among the participants. There were projects located about the various decks, and as I said, a heavy music programme was ongoing -- all night.

Back to our question from the panel (and list responses): I asked others who I met at ISEA about this question, “why lists” -- and especially, “…why the interest in the structure of lists”. The response I got (and to be honest, I wasn't going around like a reporter) was basically that people are interested in the structure because they want to start lists THEMSELVES and want to know (from successful ones) why they work. Unfortunately, people think it is because its how a List is constructed that makes it work, rather than the people who use it. Of course, there is no one answer to this...each situation is different. However, there are definitely categories of lists: academic theoretical lists, special topics which get support from a university and usually have a person or department as the source of energy (plus a sysop as well as list maintenance and software support). There are local lists that are usually language specific -- regional or city based -- for keeping up on important information, planning events, etc. There is a new category of list becoming recognized -- the list as art project, meaning that the leading personality of the list is evolving a style, interaction or such as part of their personal work. Cited as one of the obvious examples is Jonah Bruckner-Cohen's bumplist project. There are others, and it is a growing phenomena. Sometimes it seems to evolve out of a special interest -- other times it is ego based, but not always. There is also a category of list that is service based, giving information to a community, sometimes supported by subscription payment but not always. It made me think we should survey FACES and find out the three favorite lists you subscribe to, and if you would recommend.

I was personally fascinated at the growing number of research projects that analyse lists, and PhD projects (like the research of Charlotte Frost) that use Lists as the main focus -- either as a research tool in itself or ... gaining insight into other things, too.
OK, what didn't really get discussed, is when a List is a journal, and what is the difference between an online journal (don't think it is only about payment) and a List that offers texts. On many Lists, texts are shared, and given first preview reading for peer response, etc. Also, it made me conscious about how FACES will evolve its new online form, only with the participation of its community. The decision to change FACES is certainly drawn from the success of other list structures, and from interest expressed by women in person, and by questions posted to the list.

Who is here at ISEA from FACES?
Ok, I didn't see everyone yet -- and for sure there are FACES I don't know. Nina Czegledy (president of ISEA) , Mare Tralla (coordinator of the Tallinn programme); Nathalie Magnan, Adrienne Wortzel, Hanah Iverson (who will start teaching at Temple University in one week!), Sara Diamond, Sabine Seymour, Teri Rueb (who I met for the first time yesterday), Diane Ludin (I didn't see her yet, but she is on the programme tomorrow), Norie Neumark, Anne Nigten, Maria Fernandez, Trish Adams, Manu Luksch, Rachel Baker, Ingeborg Reichie, Amanda Crowley, Beryl Graham, Sarah Cook, Julienne Pierce, and I'm sure there are more! Sorry -- please identify yourself !

Here in Estonia, a heavy conference programme begins, and will continue for two days -- in two locations, with two strands of competing content (with a bit of a hike between them). The theme here is WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY, the keynote was delivered by Joanna Berzowska -- who has some research roots with the MIT Media Lab. It was quite a lengthy presentation, and the dependence on funding from military sources and the tie-in to commercial fashion designers was a distressing factor brought out in the discussion. She, herself, resigned from one company because of its strong links to military research. But, she pointed out how much of the technology we use today evolved from military research and war. Maybe the 'look' of it all is very close to home for many women, I'm not really sure (and leave it up to others to respond to this one, especially others of you who were here for the presentation). I'm not a journalist, so forgive me if I don't get it perfect, consider it 'interesting' what I come away with off the top.

The main conference venue is at the Cosmos Kino, near the centre city. There are two auditoriums at Cosmos, with simultaneous programmes going on all day. There are no electrical outlets inside the cinema, so everyone is queuing up for two AC plugs that have been discovered in the lobby, but wireless is strong and free. I ran out of battery power sitting in the auditorium presentation, and had to come back to the hotel to charge up. I was thinking I wouldn't be able to get online again to send this, but was happy to see that my hotel offers wireless connectivity. It is not free, but only 1 Euro per hour (but I need to be in the lobby to use it!). I'll lug the laptop around again tomorrow, and give a report late in the afternoon. Now, I must get myself ready to see some performances, and attend a reception in the town hall. The city is very supportive of this conference, and we are guests of the mayor tonight.

Regarding the economic questions we discussed on FACES previously, information from one good friend from Eastern Europe was very sad. He would have to spend the equivalent of 5 months salary to attend the conference, and he left early because he couldn’t afford the Tallinn and Helsinki parts (travel and lodging are the biggest expenses). Indeed, it is quite expensive for somebody paying from their own pocket. ISEA has had this conflict for many years, yet it always emerges as a new issue – how to make it available and accessible to many. What ISEA has as its basis is a strong academic contingent, with its base of peer review of papers and projects presented (which is so important for those in academia). As the emerging ‘electronic art’ culture changes, ISEA will also necessarily need to change. It is a local/global conference, with the participation of artists from the host country as well as international artists and academics. Tallinn is an emerging EU country, so many of the costs are also very high…while food in restaurants remains very reasonable, hotels are equal to Helsinki prices. The conference organisers have made arrangements for Hostel accommodation, but that came quite late.



Here is a very quick report on the FACES dinner in Tallinn last night, and a big thanks to Eve Kiiler, an artist in Tallinn, and some of her Estonian colleagues for arranging a place for us to meet, and for sitting with us and giving us a chance to get to know female artists in Tallinn. Approximately 30 FACES had a wonderful dinner together at the New Artists Club (near the town hall in the Old Town). We were really lucky, and could occupy very one long table, and another adjacent section with lounge chairs. The food was great, inexpensive, and it was really wonderful to have the chance to circulate in an environment of curiosity, support and good female energy. We didn’t have any special theme or any presentation (like was so successful in Paris) it was just a social get-together, and everyone felt it was a great time. Unfortunately, it was the only time we could meet, and all the ‘presenters’ and ‘organisers’ were at an official dinner and couldn’t attend with us. Anyway, we would have needed the entire restaurant to accommodate the larger group. We must plan ahead to do a more structured meeting up in San Jose in 2006!

Warmly, Kathy

Helsinki, Saturday Morning

Hi Faces,

So, for my final report, from Helsinki. Like almost everyone I’ve meet, we are all pretty exhausted. I depart this afternoon -- and most people will stay through tomorrow. The entire conference moved from Tallinn to Helsinki in two batches – on fast ferry boats (2 hours vs. 2 days). It was hectic, but we all made it.

The Helsinki conference has been located at the Media Centre LUME, at the University of Art and Design (UIAH). It is a huge building with lots of theatres, and various venues. However, it seems that the delegates to this year's ISEA outnumber the expectations of the organisers. It is quite crowded, everyone searches for some place to sit to eat lunch, etc. This is the best problem, I can say as an organiser, and not really a 'complaint' -- but a condition that testifies to the widespread interest among so many Finnish artists, along with the international contingent, in the topics being offered – ‘The Wireless Experience.’

We have noticed excellent female representation at this conference, and excellent inclusion. It is a real exception and it has been often discussed in casual meetings-up. In addition to Mare Tralla and Nina Czegledy, Sara Diamond has played a significant role, and as always, her clear thinking and straight to the point remarks move the discussions forward to new levels. Many of us had the pleasure to hear Monica Narula (India) who moderated and presented very interesting information from the Sarai New Media Initiative, New Delhi (the prize winner of the UNESCO Digital Arts Award 2004). Maria Fernandez has been exceptional, as well as Laurie Neumark, Pamela Jennings and many other strong and vibrant women. Gosh -- this is such a responsibility to report to you all -- I hope I have not overlooked someone -- I am sure I have! So, big apologies in advance.

I'd really love to hear a few words from some of the other FACES attending, maybe when you get home and collect yourselves. I find it is impossible to see everything, I do my best, but when SO much is going on, it is hard. Then, I would much rather sit and talk to old and new friends, than sit with my head in a computer screen and write it all down -- this is such an opportunity to connect IRL. Thus, some quick and hasty overview of the situation.

Right now, I'm in my hotel room, where I can concentrate. The Internet broadband here is 4 Euros per hour, but it is an investment I am happy to make. Today, I'll spend time at Kiasma, to see the exhibition quietly. The opening was jam packed, and there was no way to access the work, and the crowded spaces were nearly impossible to deal with (as a curator I do like to see the work!). So, I will spend a couple of hours looking at (and trying to figure out) many of the wireless works on view. This is certainly new territory for me, and I want to give it as much consideration as I can. Perttu Rastas, who is the new media curator, is an old friend, I slept on his floor when I attended ISEA in 1994! It will be great to meet up with him and find out how Kiasma has treated him.

The weather in Helsinki has been pretty good, it is fresh with scattered rain - now and then. Actually, the out of pocket costs have not been as terrible as I remember from previous visits to Helsinki (i.e.: ten years ago). Perhaps coming into the EU has leveled it out somewhat? Hotels are expensive here, however, and that is problematic for everyone. I didn't get a catalogue yet, they were NOT ready when I left the conference at 4 pm yesterday, as I had an appointment with an artist who lives 3 hours outside of Helsinki. It was a long day for me!

I'll miss the wonderful performance tonight by Ambient TV and FACES member Manu Luksch. I really would appreciate a report on that -- anyone?

I'm sure that there are also some additional good, positive criticisms of the conference. Anyone who attends the final meeting of ISEA, and perhaps the meeting about 2006 in San Jose, would you be kind enough to send the list a report. It need not be journalistic, just let us know what YOU think.

Signing off very warmly, and thanks for all the great friendship from all FACES I met during this week. Special thanks and appreciation to the hard work that Mare Tralla, Nina Czegledy, and Amanda Crowley -- they did a fabulous job to shape this event with Tapio Makela—programme chair 2004 -- to be truly a memorable experience.


PS..I did purchase a catalogue for €30 before departing…my final expenditure of the trip.

PSS. Noticeably, upon re-reading the dispatches, I did not mention the Art very much. Talking with my colleagues after returning, and in various emails exchanged, it was a quite different kind of exhibition. A kind of ‘art’ that will take a time for digesting. Wireless communication is normally one-to-one, and delivering that concept to a larger audience is problematic. Additionally, many of the works were quite aesthetically visual, but without being able to engage in the communication, were non-assessable. Most of the work was the exploration of the limits of the technology, and that was the subject of the content. Many of us who have moved through the generations of ‘new media’ and adapted our vocabulary accordingly, were often stumped by the work on view. On the other hand, the younger artists, curators and students (especially) were fascinated and felt that the exhibitions were very close to their experience, and hope for the future.

Personally, I will be standing by and willing to take another look at ‘Wireless Experiences’ and ‘Wearable Technology’ in the next years, meanwhile we are confident that the ‘Network Experience’ is working and fully functional, now – not without it’s intermittant problems, but nevertheless it is now part of our lives.


Kathy Rae Huffman reports on ISEA 2004 Conference


Kathy Rae Huffman reports on ISEA 2004 Conference


Marina GrŽiniĆ on Manifesta 5 in San Sebastian 2004