Stefaan Decostere (by way of Pit Schultz <>) on Fri, 6 Jun 1997 16:52:19 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Re: BRUSSELS 2000



How would the world have looked like without television?  Would the rapid
raise of islamic fundamentalism have been possible without the video
cassette?  What would our vision of the future be without the current
corporate interest in internet?  

The effects of the telephone and the hi-8 camera, satellite television, the
pc and the net, make us realize to what extent technology is capable of
re-mapping the planet and of transforming our vision of it.  

Technology, more and more so, and at ever higher speed, expands the range
of senses we have of ourselves.  It gives corporate and political lobby
groups the illusion of global consumer control.  It empowers individuals
and minority groups to give voice to their demands.  It creates new desires
and controlls.  It definitely makes people see it can be used and abused to
anyone's advantage or disadvantage.  Technology is at the same time an
instrument of power and a tool for good.  

Today all make us buy modems.  The net has lots on offer, the ads say,
especially its promise.  However, tomorrow, in order to do more than
digital shopping on the net, people will have to learn much more about this
new medium than the cybercafés and cyberfairs are willing to demonstrate

What is being said about the net also works for virtual reality and for the
newer technologies to come.

Brussels represents a market for sure.  The question is : how can this
market become a real challenge to the corporations which for the moment are
only interested in warming up the consumers for their own business interests?


Corporations are only interested in art and culture so long these can serve
as vehicles of their corporate message : how to transform the user into a
willing consumer.  The aura of culture and art is considered helpful in
reaching that goal.

A similar strategic attitude characterizes the way institutions and subsidy
organisations use art and culture in order to reinforce their own
propagandic goals.  That counts for the national, the regional as well as
for the European organizations.  All have a goal of their own, and the
money goes only to art projects which promise to serve these goals at best.

The problem with this practice is not so much that it may destroy art (one
may ask oneself what is left of it, in Europe), but that it definitely
excludes individuals and groups interested in art and culture as a means of
critical resistance to these market driven attitudes.

The existing corporations and institutions are only interested in
regressive forms of art and culture : in artist-stars, as healers and
heros, and in community arts as cultural street-animation.  

Lately, the same corporations and institutions are very interested in
supporting art ventures that imply new technologies.  Easy to see way.
They join efforts, because they are being advised by the same strategic
market agencies.  Easy to see what kind of artistic ventures they are
looking for, and if not available, what kind they will try to create (for)

Brussels 2000 is the kind of event wanted and financed by corporations and
institutions.  It will therefore need a strong team of its own in order to
make sure its venture will not be completely recuperated by the exclusively
market driven stategies of its sponsors.


Technology not only creates a new kind of jobs (at the cost of existing
ones), new desires, new loosers and new winners, it also calls for new
needs, new attitudes and new contents.

Technology detroys, and because of that, it reenforces the need for change.
 And because old replace new technologies, hope is ever again renewed, by
the promise of the latest technology.  Why then would most people not be
interested in getting involved in the current technological debate?

Whatever the strategists may claim about 'popular culture', people are not
only interested in techno fancy fairs.  Whatever the loosers amongst the
intelligentia may claim about 'elitist art', people do not expect techno
art shows will answer their question : how to make a better life in a
technological driven society.  Nobody wants to be a media-clown or a
'heroic' art-martyr, in life.

Labels such as 'popular' and 'elitist' have since long been used by the
market strategists of corporations and instititions as instrumental
language to prevent any other expression of art and culture to be tolerated
beside the ones they need and tolerate.  Even public television stations
recently select carefully the artistic and cultural realities they
broadcast, silencing anything that they consider as potentially
competitive, banning non-tv image-related technologies near to completely.

Brussels 2000 will have to develop a new kind of platform, if it is really
interested in addressing the inhabitants who have questions about their
life in the future.


The need is here and now.  And the need is defined basically : a place
where a platform is being worked out that wants to become an interface
between the current corporate offer of technology and the real demands and
questions of the potential users.

First the platform will have to examine what is on offer, in hard and
software  It has to look for means of altering the machines and their
programming, in order to make these tools instrumental for uses not
foreseen by those who order and market them.  It also has to think of ways,
alternative to the ones used by institutions and corporations, of finding
out what the 'real demands and questions of the potential users' really are. 

Therefore not a new building is needed, but a place to work.  Not a
collection of expensive hardware, but a group of motivated humanware.  To
develop the platform, no art or techno specialists are needed, but people
with an awareness of what technological culture stands for, individuals
alert of the local needs and who are informed of what is available and is
being developed in other similar platform-attempts abroad.  

Whatever the platform will create - be it work stations, information
debates and discussion platforms, events and publications in bookform, on
the net or in multi-media form - it should stimulate existing cultural,
community and educational centres and users to build models of their own
for future techno-cultural existence, and always it should be alert,
willing to test and question these models.  

The platform should be open and demanding at the same time, for the users
as well as for the specially invited.  It should bridge the gaps between
the data-users and the date-less.  It should be as diverse as life itself :
serious and playful, community based and challenging enough to stimulate
untested plug ins.  It should push and pull, bringing to the surface the
very many questions, concerns and conflicts of what technological change is
all about.

Brussels 2000 has to consider the city as a living product of its time : a
testing ground for future urban life, so far too much solely in the hands
of political, corporate and entrepreneurial interests.  Therefore Brussels
2000 needs a platform, conceived of as a kit and tool, stimulating its
inhabitants, its centres and communities to become more actively involved,
at least in defining their own needs and desires, in a way that competes,
which means in a much more technological format than is the case up to now.

Stefaan Decostere, May 27th, 1997.

(in response to a discussion with Guido Minne and Dirk De Wit)


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