World Information.Org @ Brussels
June 30th to July 30th 2000
Centre Brussels 2000, Brussel
While the official Austria, isolated by the "sanctions" imposed by its 14 partner nations in the EU, was less than welcome internationally, the appreciation of Austrian artists and cultural workers abroad remained unchanged.
The Vienna Institute for New Culture Technologies / Public Netbase was invited by the organizers of the European City of Culture Brussels 2000 to stage the lead project the new media program. A major motive behind the invitation were hopes among the small Belgian media art community that the leading institution of net culture in Austria might result in a boost of creativity and in greater media attention for their own work. The Brussels net art initiative "Constant" received the amount of attention it deserves only as a secondary effect of its involvement with World-Information.Org.
From 30 June to 30 July, 2000, World-Information.Org was presented for the first time as an exhibition. The "Cultural Intelligence Agency" established in Vienna formed the hub of activities at the "Centre Brussels 2000" in Brussels. Prior to the project's launch, the ideas and concerns reflected in World-Information.Org had motivated UNESCO to assume patronage of World-Information.Org
Under the attentive eyes of the Belgian and the international audience, World-Information.Org organised three exhibitions titled "World-Infostucture Exhibition", "Future Heritage Expo" and "The World-C4U-Exhibition" respectively. The exhibitions took visitors on an informative and appealing journey through the world of information. It presented the work of acclaimed new media artists and confronted visitors with state-of-the-art security and surveillance technologies.
In July 2000, approx. 20,000 people visited the Centre Brussels 2000, a large building in the centre of Brussels, which served as the highly visible base for World-Information.Org. 3000 people agreed to undergo electronic face recognition and fingerprint scans at the access controls of World-Information.Org.
The experimental handling of information and communication technologies by artists has exercised a powerful influence on contemporary art. The digital, process-oriented and interactive multimedia installations put on show at World-Information.Org have contributed towards the evolution of a lively and varied electronic art scene.
The names of the artist present at Brussels seems to be taken from the Who-is-Who of international art. Documenta X veteran Marko Peljhan (Slovenia), media camouflage experts RTMark (USA), the Critical Art Ensemble (USA) and Ingo Günther (Germany/USA), known for his work with globes, all supported the objectives and the work of World-Information.Org with their respective contributions. These artistic interventions are both cultural documents of the present, and indispensable points of orientation and identification in a highly complex society. Today's digital art is the cultural heritage of the future.
The organisers of the exhibition also provided ample space for the documentation of politically active net communities; among these, the Austrian "Internet Generation" who, since February 2000, has been protesting against the extreme right's inclusion in the government, was presented at the Future Heritage Expo. Images of the exhibition are available at World-Information.Org website (http://world-information.org)
The World Infocon conference that took place within the framework of the exhibition programme, was attended by many members of the European Parliament, by EU Commission officials, and an interested public. Among the speakers were Cees Hamelink (NL, author of several UNESCO Communication Reports), Privacy International director Simon Davies (UK), Echelon expert and journalist Duncan Campbell (UK), founder of OMEGA foundation Steve Wright (UK), and media theoretician and Critical Art Enemble activist Steven Kurtz. In their contributions, the speakers provided thorough insights into the political and cultural imbalances of the worldwide complex of information and communication technologies. Transcripts and video clips of the presentations can be viewed at the web pages of World-Information.Org (http://world-information.org)
Representatives of independent culture, Internet and media initiatives used World-Information.Org's presence in Brussels in order to voice their interests at the centre of European decision making. European Cultural Backbone (ECB) representatives held their official meeting on 10 and 12 July 2000 at the Centre Brussels 2000. Demands directed at the EU institutions centred upon the need for a solid support for initiatives working towards an emancipatory and non-profit oriented use of information and communication technologies, indispensable for a democratic and pluralistic European information landscape.
The initiatives forming part of the ECB stand for experimental, open and networked working structures that stand against the desertification of virtual space caused by commercial and government interests. The activities of the ECB member organisations have both artistic and emancipatory components. Research, development and critical analysis of new technologies is as much on the agenda of free media initiatives as the international exchange with decision makers on cultural and democratic issues.
Within this context, the World-Information.org-Roundtable was of great importance. Politicians and officials of the EU institutions had the opportunity to meet artists, net culture activists and scholars for informal talks.
Politicians attending the round table included Hannes Swobody (MEP, ESP), Mercedes Echerer (MEP, the Greens), Ilka Schröder (MEP, Greens), Marlou thijssen (Ministry of Culture, NL), and Eurig Wyn (MEP, Greens). They met Robert Palmer (Director of Brussels 2000), Marleen Stikker (Society for Old and New Media, Amsterdam), Konrad Becker (Director of World-Information.Org), and Cathy Brickwood (Virtual Platform NL).
Finally, the first non-virtual presentation of World-Information.Org was accompanied by an exciting range of events, performances and parties. A video summary of the overall programme is available on request and may be downloaded from the World-Information.Org website.
The overwhelmingly positive response to the World-Information.Org exhibition may be considered a particular success for Public Netbase. Preparations for a presentation in Vienna (24 November - 24 December 2000) are already under way, while Public Netbase has also been invited to present World-Information.Org at the European Parliament (January 2001), in Frankfurt, Toulouse, and England.