The projects described below are selected to show the development
of artists' use of telecommunications and to indicate the various
media used and the increasing sophistication of their implementation.
This summary concentrates on projects which included an Austrian
participation or originated in Austria and in which I was personally
involved and is therefore is by no means complete.
In 1979 an invitation came from Toronto to take part in an on-line
computer conference. A timesharing* company, I.P.Sharp Associates
(IPSA), had just opened a local office in Wien and the company was
providing free computer time for INTERPLAY, an art and telecommunications
project in the program of "Computer Culture Canada". Interplay
took place from about 20:00 to 22:00 on April 1, 1979 and linked
12 cities in Canada, U.S.A., Australia, Japan and Austria. There
were actually 2 locations in Wien; Richard Kriesche and I were in
the l.P.Sharp office in the Linke Wienzeile while Gottfried Bach,
IPSA manager, had another terminal to the Funkhaus in Argentinierstr.
for a live broadcast of the network conference in "Kunst Heute"
(the forerunner of Kunstradio) on O1.
In 1980 Bill Bartlett, the organiser of Interplay, sent out invitations
for another project: an on-line expansion of the ARTISTS' USE OF
TELECOMMUNICATIONS CONFERENCE at the San Francisco Museum of Modern
Art (SFMMA). The media for this conference were Slow-Scan TV (SSTV)
and Computer Conference. IPSA was once again providing free computer
time and the network included San Francisco, Vancouver, Victoria,
Toronto, Cambridge (MIT), Honolulu, Tokyo, New York and Wien. The
Austrian contribution took place on Feb. 15, 1980 as part of the
"Video Made in Austria" exhibition at the Museum des 20.
Jahrhunderts with the support of Dieter Schrage. I was assisted
in the organisation by Grita Insam and the participating artists
included Valie Export, Richard Kriesche, Peter Weibel, Ernst Caramelle
and Karl Kowanz.
The problems of organising world-wide communications projects using
air mail and telephone were becoming serious and, in the summer
of 1980, Bill Bartlett and I began to put pressure on IPSA to develop
a cheaper and more user-friendly E-Mail program for non-corporate
and non-institutional users.* This resulted in the creation, by
Gottfried Bach, of ARTBOX - a cheap and simple version of the IPSA
"Mailbox". ARTBOX went through a number of versions untill
about 1983 when it became formalised as ARTEX - the Artists' Electronic
Exchange program- a "user-group" on the IPSA network.
ARTEX had about 30 members and was used for the organisation of
global projects and as a medium for art projects as well as for
personal contact. It existed untill about 1990 when IPSA was purchased
by Reuters and eventually closed down.
In 1981 Tom Klinkowstein Joined ARTBOX and proposed a telefacsimile
(FAX) project. FAX was virtually unknown then but we had heard of
experiments between artists groups in North America. The project
took place on Aug. 5,1981 between the Mazzo Club in Amsterdam and
the Blitz Bar in Wien and was the first FAX project by artists in
Europe. Christina Schopf from the Ars Electronica was present at
the performance in the Blitz Bar and invited me to propose a telecommunications
project for Ars Electronica 1982. The result was "Die Welt
in 24 Stunden".
DIE WELT IN 24 STUNDEN was the most ambitious project using low
tech (telephone-based) communications equipment to be attempted
untill that time. It involved setting up a global network of participating
artists and groups that would each organise a contribution from
their location using any or all of SSTV, Fax, Computer mailbox/
conference or telephone sound. The cities involved were: Vienna,
Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Bath, Wellfleet, Pittsburgh, Toronto, San
Francisco, Vancouver, Honolulu, Tokyo, Sydney, Istanbul and Athens.
Each location was called from Linz at 12:00 local time - so the
project began at 12:00 noon Central European Time on Sept.27 and,
following the midday sun around the world, ended at 12:00 noon C.E.T.
on Sept.28. In Linz I was assisted by Waltraut Cooper, Norbert Hinterberger
and students from the class of Prof. Ortner at the Hochchule fur
Gestaltung. In Wien the organisation was by Helmut Mark and Zelko
Wiener at the Österreichische Kultur Service (ÖKS) Studio.
The collaboration with Helmut Mark and Zelko Wiener continued and
in 1983 we formed the verein BLIX together with musician/technician
Karl Kubaczek and technician Gerhard Taschler. The support of the
ÖKS also continued and that support was crucial for most of
the subsequent projects in which Austrian artists participated.
The first of these projects was "Telephone Music", a telephone
concert organised by BLIX between Wien, Berlin and Budapest on April
TELEPHONE MUSIC was an attempt to use the telephone (as the most
universally available electronic communications medium) to create
a common space for artists across the ideological barriers that
divided Central Europe at the time - between "western"
Wien, divided Berlin and "eastern" Budapest. At the ÖKS
in Wien, Artpool in Budapest and Aufbau/Abbau in Berlin, we simply
connected our telephones to amplifiers and played live music to
each other for a couple of hours.
WIENCOUVER IV (Dec. 4, 1983) was a much larger project which used
the know-how gained from TELEPHONE MUSIC for a 3 hour exchange of
sound and image (SSTV) between the ÖKS in Wien and the Western
Front in Vancouver. I was at the Western Front as "Artist-in-Residence"
and organised WIENCOUVER IV, together with Hank Bull, as part of
my residency program. The Vienna organisation was by Helmut Mark,
Zelko Wiener and BLIX. Two telephone lines were used for sound and
SSTV and artists' bands, artists and performers were invited in
both cities to perform live on-line. WIENCOUVER IV was, in effect,
an experiment in 2-way interactive Television. In Vienna WIENCOUVER
IV was preceeded by a live telephone concert with Warsaw and Berlin.
In Vancouver Bill Bartlett, the real pioneer of low-tech artists'
telecomm, made his farewell appearance in a communications project.
As part of my Western Front residency I also organised the network
for Roy Ascott's ARTEX project LA PLISSURE DU TEXTE, an experiment
in collective authorship for the ELECTRA'83 exhibition in Paris.
Participants in 11 cities around the world were assigned roles in
a global fairy tale which took place between Dec. 11 and Dec.23,
1983. The roles were: Alma (Quebec) - BEAST; Amsterdam - VILLAIN;
Bristol - TRICKSTER; Honolulu - WISE OLD MAN; Paris - MAGICIAN;
Pittsburg - PRINCE; San Francisco - FOOL; Sydney - WITCH; Toronto
- FAIRY GODMOTHER; Vancouver - PRINCESS; Vienna - SORCERER'S APPRENTICE.
ARTEX was the medium for LA PLISSURE and IPSA provided 3 weeks free
network time for the project. The participation in Vienna was organised
by BLIX at the ÖKS Studio.
For the Wiener Festwochen of 1984 BLIX organised KUNSTFUNK, an
SSTV project for amateur radio at the Wiener Secession. For one
week the upper rooms of the Secession were used as a radio studio
and performance space. Each day a different artist or group installed
or performed a work for SSTV transmission. Short wave was used for
local (Europe, Middle east, Africa) and VHF to a local "ham"
for retransmission via satellite to Pittsburgh. The project was
organised, installed and managed by Zelyko Wiener, Gerhard Taschler
The last project supported by the ÖKS was KUNST BTX, an experimental
video text magazine. In 1985 the OPT introduced BTX in Austria.
It was a much better system (CEPT2) than those in use elsewhere
in Europe and the OPT provided the MUPID, a cheap computer capable
of creating screen images in 4096 colours. With funding from the
ÖKS, Zelyko Wiener developed the first issue of KUNST BTX for
BLIX in August, 1985. The project was carried on by Gottfried Distl,
Andrea Dee and Robert Adrian untill the end of 1986 when the ÖKS
terminated support for art projects. At no time did the OPT offer
any assistance, in fact they were actively hostile to creative use
of BTX - which is probably the main reason it has failed.
PLANETARY NETWORK was a part of Laboratorio Ubiqua at the Biennale
di Venezia of 1986. Curated by Roy Ascott, Tom Sherman, Don Foresta
and Tomasso Trini, PLANETARY NETWORK summed up all the low-tech
telecommunications projects by artists since 1979. I organised the
network on ARTEX for the last time. It was also the last comprehensive,
multi-media, global network project. The networking of Personal
Computers in BBSs and the increasing presence of FAX and other telephone
peripherals in offices and homes made ARTEX and large-scale telecomm
projects superfluous. It was also the last project for BLIX which
drifted apart after the ÖKS changed its funding policy and
closed the ÖKS Studio.
The pioneer days were over ....
Die Pionierzeiten waren vorbei ...