Inke Arns on Sat, 22 Aug 1998 19:00:05 +0200

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Syndicate: Tim Druckrey: review of Deep_Europe

Dear Syndicalists,

I am sending Timothy Druckrey's review of "Deep_Europe: The 1996 - 97
edition" which was written in January 1998 and which will be included in
the upcoming Syndicate publication JUNCTION SKOPJE.

Check your hard disks NOW and send texts to our mailing list and archive!

Inke Arns


Fragmentation and Solidarity: Deep Europe

Timothy Druckrey


Deep Europe: The 1996 - 97 edition. Selected texts from the V2_East /
Syndicate mailing list, ed. by Inke Arns and Andreas Broeckmann, Berlin
1997, 143 pp.

Americans have long been 'suffering' the so-called 'culture wars,' a
presumed siege of the institutions and autonomous projects no longer deemed
supportable as they subvert or snub historical, academic, aesthetic or
moral traditions. Yet surprisingly little significant political debate has
materialized around the issues of constitutional liberties increasingly
being chipped away by legislative circumvention signified by shockingly
interpreted notions of the public and private spheres. In many ways, the
debate has been limited to undoing the pesky critique of power allegedly
perpetrated by cynical postmodern artists, 60s left academicians, or
cultural theorists determined to expose and/or exploit the authorities and
spectacles of a wholly mediated technocracy.

In typical American style, the appropriation of opposition as a dynamic
marketing technique has well served the so-called 'new media' industries.
Even the recent shift from the 'Californian ideology' of Silicon Valley's
wildly exuberant house organ, Wired, or its lesser, but not to be ignored,
psychedelic sidekick Mondo 2000, to the less extravagant, but no less
significant, corridors of New York's Silicon Alley, hardly suggests less
than the economic consolidation of the 'new media' market with its Digital
Cities (owned by AOL) or its (owned by Microsoft). Indeed the
debates about monopolistic practices, antitrust legislation, censorship as
protectionism, corporate spamming (forcing the censure of Netcom), far
outdistance any comprehensive understanding of the role of 'new media' as a
mechanism of, or for, public debate, articulated opposition, or creativity.
In the end, the inadequacies of much American criticism are hinged on a
failure to see beyond the broadcast ideologies and seize the net or the web
as a legitimate territory.

And if the urgency of the confrontation with the cultural significance of
the net is limited to a debate around "life on the screen," the "electronic
frontier,"or "being digital," then the foreclosure of a social realpolitik
seems a predictable conclusion.

Yet the emergence of responsive and cogent forms of networking has in no
way been eclipsed by the 'solid state of the art.' A number of net
initiatives are grappling with on-going fragmentation, dispersal, and
solidarity. The history of these initiatives, no less their continuing
effectiveness, is a largely neglected terrain. The most important of these
initiatives, the mailing lists from Nettime, P2P, Faces, V2_East/Syndicate,
all emerging from Europe, have catalyzed an on-going international debate
concerned with the functioning, possibility, and viability of the net as a
force in postnational media politics. Simultaneously, they have framed a
series of localized communities where communication technology is situated
not merely as a resource circuit, but as an active state in which
information demands attention.

Sadly, publications from these sources are sustained by commitments outside
mainstream outlets. The now classic nettime anthologies ZKP (now 1-4), for
example, are a bound resource of inestimable value but which find
distribution into limited communities (mostly conference attendees). The
publication of the Deep Europe reader that collects material from the
Syndicate mailing list, an initiative of V2_East (in Rotterdam), is
inarguably a vital moment in the dissemination of materials that range from
field reports (from numerous artists and theorists) to sustained treatments
of media collaboratives to historical debates concerned with the effects
and opportunities for networking outside the conglomerates of the telecoms,
the philanthropic (or misphilanthropic?) initiatives of Soros, of the EU,
the Council of Europe, the World Bank...

Deep Europe, edited by Inke Arns and Andreas Broeckmann, originates in a
series of meetings beginning at the Next Five Minutes (N5M) conference in
Rotterdam in 1996. There V2 outlined  the "vectors" of V2_East as "exchange
of information, organizing the network and initiating projects." The
anthology, with more than 50 contributions, stands as both a record of
achievement and as a occasion to consider the importance of media theory
outside the surface oriented writing permeating the American and western
European scene.

There is just no simple way to encapsulate the inter-cultural breadth and
difference of the contributions emerging from Moscow, Sofia, Tallinn,
Belgrade, St. Petersburg, Tirana, Sarajevo, ... but an excerpt from the
excellent essay ���Small Media Normality for the East��� by Arns and Broeckmann
will suggest a perspective:

"Throughout the Cold War, the public propaganda machines of the east and
west told their great stories of the crime ridden system of exploitation
and of the Evil Empire. At the same time, the readers and watchers in the
east were better prepared for what was to follow and what now not only
affects the pseudo-east, namely, learning how to live, as the Agentur
Bilwet put it, in the society of the debacle. The creative engagement was
the impossible, the avoidance of the seemingly necessary, the refusal to
identify oneself negatively with inevitable failure...The small narratives
of this tradition most commonly told by the little independent propaganda
machines, the pamphlet distributors and poster plasterers, the local pirate
radio stations, student papers and the networks circulating forbidden books
and records..."

NGOs, Radio B92, the Soros Centers for Contemporary Art, the Meeting Point
exhibition in Sarajevo, all come under scrutiny from a community wholly
willing to confront intricately complex and problematic situations. This is
importantly tackled in the section of the book reporting on the Hybrid
Workspace at Documenta X. This unique moment heightened the issues by
positioning a discursive project amidst the artworld atmosphere in Kassel.
The list of participants itself suggests its scope and meaning. Among them:
Luchezar Boyadjiev (Sofia), Nina Czegledy (Toronto/Budapest), Eduard Muka
(Tirana), Dimitri Pilikin and Valery Savchuk (both from St. Petersburg),
Branka & Alexander Davic (Novi Sad), Calin Dan (Bucarest/Amsterdam), Rasa
Smite (Riga), Iliyana Nedkova (Sofia).

Often narrative and immediate, the accounts, reckonings, and histories in
Deep Europe are demandingly unsimplified and rooted in direct experiences.
An important remark emerges in Geert Lovink's text on media art:

"Many visionaries proclaim a sort of inevitable revolution from below,
inherent to the logic of the technology, as a kind of built-in device.
Amongst us there is a strong wish and a hope for a paradigmatic change that
seems to be in the air. But perhaps completely other processes are taking
place around us, if we allow ourselves to look away from the screen for a

At the time of printing this review, the first edition (100 copies) of the
Deep Europe reader was totally sold out. A second print run will be made on
subscription (at a price of US$ 10,- / Hfl. 20,-). Please order your copies
at V2_Organisation (Andreas Broeckmann), <>.

---end of Druckrey's review---

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