[iDC] Re: Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?

Chris Byrne chris at crowriver.net
Thu Aug 17 10:43:50 EDT 2006

Hello list,

I wrote a short text in 2004 which may be of interest, which is based  
on a presentation at the last ISEA in Helsinki/Tallinn. 'Mobile  
Realism?' reflects on locative media and their relationship to  
Situationism and the Mass Observation movement, which I feel is  
closer to the model which many mapping projects adopt:

Much of the work in the Interactive City strand was flawed, it's  
true. This may be the result of an open submission process, where  
artists and researchers self-select instead of being curated, though  
the jury and programme committee process for ISEA helped to filter  
out certain biases inherent to any open competition.

There were other strands in ISEA: Transvergence, Community Domain and  
Pacific Rim, which were perhaps more successful in addressing the  
conceptual and geopolitical context for ISEA / Zero One. There were  
also some interesting curated exhibitions, for example Edge  
Conditions curated by Steve Dietz showed strong, critical works in a  
historical context. I should declare an interest in that I was a  
member of the jury and programme committee for Transvergence, and  
presented as part of Community Domain. Nevertheless my point is that,  
while critique of unsuccessful works, strands, approaches and  
ideologies is essential, it would be unfortunate if we lose sight of  
the diversity of voices and experiences present over the last week in  
San Jose.

As to the presence of corporate interests, any arts event needs a mix  
of funding and as we all know, public support for the arts in the US  
is quite limited. Would private foundations be more acceptable as a  
source of support? For me sponsorship was less problematic, as San  
Jose is part of Silicon Valley, the site of Adobe's HQ and therefore  
technology corporations form part of the local context for the  
festival. This aspect of location was interesting in itself, and was  
even underplayed in the programme. One project that addressed the  
social and political contexts of Silicon Valley's economic boom, and  
which only a limited number of people experienced, was the 'Free Soil  
Bus Tour', which for me was one of the highlights of the week. More  
info at http://www.free-soil.org/tour

The opening night speeches by various CEOs were truly dreadful, but  
no less so than similar oratory by the Mayor. I understand that the  
2004 ISEA very nearly received major sponsorship from Nokia, but the  
deal fell through: I'm not sure exactly why but I hear it was about a  
branding issue. This was something else that was much discussed last  
week in San Jose: the identity confusion between ISEA and Zero One  
and the reasons why. Personally, I think if ISEA manages to leave a  
lasting legacy in the shape of a biennial festival, and some benefit  
to the arts ecology of San Jose oapart from an inevitable financial  
deficit, then that is positive and overrides concerns about the  
identity of ISEA per se.


Chris Byrne
Art Research Communication
chris at a-r-c.org.uk

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