kitblake (by way of Andreas Broeckmann) on Wed, 6 Aug 1997 12:03:51 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Syndicate: deep europe Visa Department

deep europe Visa Department

The Syndicate convened again at Documenta X in Kassel. Its members form a
distributed community, initiated two years ago as a network of people who
stay in touch through an Internet mailing list. They share a common
interest in media cultural developments in Eastern Europe, and the loose
goal of the Syndicate is to further cross pollination and synergy/support
between East and West.

It's interesting when you meet somebody whose words you know but whose face
you've never seen. In 'normal' encounters, you see someone, sense their
personality, and perhaps probe their thinking. In a distributed community,
you already know their thoughts, so when finally face to face you explore
the person. It makes for a social scene.

The first Syndicate meeting took place during the Next 5 Minutes conference
at V2 in Rotterdam in January 1996, with the inception of the supporting
V2_East web site. Since then, the Syndicate has evolved its role from a
parasitic function - meeting during other events and festivals - to an
invited player in one of the satellite projects of the Documenta X. With
the support of the Berlin Biennale, IfA Stuttgart, and APEXchanges, Hybrid
WorkSpace is hosting the Syndicate's Deep Europe workshop. Documenta X
provided a large space in the Orangerie, one of the Documenta buildings.

The dX lasts all summer. Hybrid WorkSpace, steered by Thorsten and Geert
(at least while I was there, there are many others involved), brings a
continuous flow of people together in ten consecutive working groups for an
ongoing dialog. There's a reasonable Internet link, never enough computers,
and a flexible space with smart movable walls and stage platforms. The
audience at dX is a bit of a load. They come into the space expecting to
see art, and there isn't any. One sign read "No art beyond this point".
There were so many questions that we finally selected one person to be the
host each day and deal with the public. "No, there won't be any art in
here."  "No, you can't go into the workshop."  "Here's a schedule of
today's activities, there's Romanian video at 15:00, a performance by
Dimitry at 16:00," and so on.


Hybrid WorkSpace is a media machine. Participants engage whatever form they
prefer, even if they're not there (it's still distributed). Certainly the
MediaMaster 97 award goes to Thomax, who superbly executed the Java/web
site, with its publishing backend, a realtime information distribution
system ( Documents and images which
don't fit its focused format can be found at V2_East -

Visa Department

On Saturday we produced an event, the deep europe Visa Department. The
name, deep europe, was invented for this workshop in the Hybrid WorkSpace
at dX, and must be taken with a grain of salt. But most of the participants
are from the East, and that is another Europe. It's across the BORDER, and
residents on the other side are not EU citizens. They must apply for a visa
to visit. For Germany, for instance, the application costs 50 DM, for
England DM 100. And you may not get it. You have to wait. You have to
answer questions. "Do you have any transmittable diseases?" "How much money
are you bringing?" "What is this organization that's inviting you?"

It's a different world. When you're sitting at your dining table, and you
hear the bra-a-a-t of a Kalishnikov on the other side of the wall, well,
you 'sort of' get used to it. As Edi said, like you 'sort of' get used to a
roller coaster ride. Obviously, living in an environment like that means
your media addresses certain issues, and those projects are the focus of
the Syndicate.

Preparation for the deep europe Visa Department integrated with the other
activities. Flyers were made and spread around Documenta. They invited
everybody to a performance and party on Saturday night, and to come apply
for a visa to deep europe between 2 and 6. A deep europe logo was created,
taking a cue from the dX 'd', integrating it with an 'e', and adding an
accent, an eastern inverted caret character. This was used in documents,
stamps, signs and badges.

Forms were created. They were written in Albanian only, with no
translation, and asked the usual questions. Erasers and potatoes were
carved into stamps, and various colored ticket books were found. From the
dX participant nametags, badges for officials were made by overlaying a
laser print with a window cut out so the photo would show thru. Of course
the deep europe logo was on the badge, and in a techno-fascist typeface was
the word "Absardze". This is Latvian, and it's a new, thus obscure word,
which means guard, or control. Throughout the event, hardly anybody, even
from the deep europe group, knew what it meant. Which means it was perfect.

A soundtrack was put together. Rasa ( pulled
a bunch of audio off the Net, including some military song from Edi Muka's
video-performance project, a sort of Donnau anthem, and this became the
basis for the mix. Analog noise was filtered in, to mimic a bad sound
system. This manic march was played - loud - during the proceedings. At
various intervals an announcement was woven in. This was usually in some
unintelligible East European language. A series of barked commands in
Albanian, or Serbian instructions that may or may not apply to you. Once in
a while some English, "Please be patient," and eventually a longer one,
"May we have your attention please. If your visa permits entrance for more
than one day, you may be required to take a blood test."  This one bit of
understandable information then faded away, "Blood tests are conduc...."
The manic march paraded on. Throughout Saturday afternoon it looped
continuously (and will be available on the Net in a day or two - watch the

At the entrance to the event, Alexandar and Michiel set up a video
surveillance camera. One of those CU-SeeMe eyeballs, it stared down the
crowd. Also present was a microphone, to pick up the crowd's mutterings.
The signal was displayed on a monitor near the door, with a distracted
Absardze sitting there not watching it. Other material was shot with a
HandyCam, and this will be combined with, naturally, the manic march for a
soundtrack, into an event compilation. Again, watch the Space.

The walls surrounding the entrance made a kind of banked curve the visitors
had to follow, lined with tables, forms, and officials. One Absardze in
super shades managed the door, letting people in two by two. The process
applicants had to follow was typical mind-mushing bureaucracy. Little
translation was provided, and forms had to be filled out correctly.
Iliyana: "Oh, you have a yellow ticket? You have to go to that table over
there and get a green one."  And fill out a form.  Marjan: "Green ticket?
Here's the form."  In a language few people can read. One Absardze was
sitting at his desk looking bored, reading a magazine, a Closed sign in
front of him. At another point Lisa brought in these giant bratwursts, and
the Absardzes stood around munching, ignoring the crowd. Forms were stamped
and double stamped, sometimes with a coffee break in between. The march
looped on.

The amazing thing was the queue that formed. It started growing just before
opening, and in a short time went all the way down the block. Some people
were in line for over half an hour. It started to rain, and they stood
there under umbrellas. All this to get a worthless piece of paper with a
potato stamp on it.

For the most part, the audience liked it. They got it. They followed the
procedures, and left with a visa to deep europe. Even distant foreigners,
like Japanese with little English and nothing else, took it seriously and
seriously enjoyed it. You may not know the language, but you recognize the

There were some negatives. One older German man, certainly around since the
war, listened to chain smoking Branka's explanation, and when he realized
it was a visa application, threw it in her face.

At five before six Absardze Andreas went out and announced to the crowd
that the Visa Department would close in five minutes. At six the doors
slammed shut, and twenty minutes later there were still a dozen people in a
queue to nowhere.

Entering deep europe

That evening, Hybrid WorkSpace hosted a performance/party. Heading the bill
were the Instituut voor Betaalbare Waanzin (Institute for Affordable
Lunacy). Their performance merged into a visceral mastermix, blending
Latino dance tracks into Rotterdam GabberHouse. "This is the music our
children listen to!"  Thump, thump, thump, thump....  Ongoing video
flickered on the walls, and the bar was fully stocked. It was a good party.

Visitors streamed in, clutching their visas. There were a few Absardze
badges floating around, but no guards, no border, no control. Welcome to
deep europe.

People folded their visas, and put them in a pocket.

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