reports from ISEA
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!
Czegledy, President of ISEA
Images by Huffman
17.08.04 - Tuesday
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
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!
Helsinki, Saturday Morning
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
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
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.