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

john sobol john at johnsobol.com
Wed Aug 23 10:18:19 EDT 2006

A few points, as concisely as I can manage, about ISEA:

- I didn't go but I was one of the jurors for the c4f3 show at ISEA 
(haven't heard a word about that here, how did it turn 
out?)...according to Steve's post there were 200 jurors (200!!!) so 
obviously a very wide range of perspectives went into selecting 
works...this was a proactive hyper-democratic curatorial choice 
facilitated by a custom-built jurying interface that I found to be very 
well-designed and useful...obviously a great amount of effort went into 
this aspect of the festival organization...if (and I'm not saying it 
did) it failed it was at least a really excellent and innovative 
attempt to use the web to build effective curatorial communities... 
that is significant in and of itself...

- Anna's critiques

> - irrelevant or not completely articulated and worked through themes

this is the challenge ALL major festivals face in that of necessity 
they must decide themes far in advance in order to get funding and then 
they have to try to find works that embody or extrapolate those 
themes...and this is NOT always easily done even with the most open and 
engaged selection process... as always, one does one's best and hopes 
it will be great..sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't...show me a 
major festival where it's otherwise...

> - a general sense of experiencing the relationship to the city of San 
> Jose
> and its space and architecture as dislocated, nonlocated, delocalised.

can't really comment on this one not having been there...except to say 
that NOTHING is more difficult for any festival in any field anywhere 
than to build meaningful relationships with local community members who 
are not part of the primary target audience (in this case SJ new media 
types)...as anyone who has done this kind of work can attest this is 
always very time-consuming and intensive and for many festival 
organizers – working mad hours trying to pull an event together – it's 
a goal that remains elusive simply because there are only 24 hours in a 
day and not enough staff... again, if there was a real failure in this 
regard at SJ I think one needs to consider it the symptomatic norm of 
festival culture rather than as an unusual or exceptional failure... 
and anyway, as Steve pointed out...serious attempts were made to 
address exactly these issues and build local bridges... and that's HARD 

> -a sense that too much was trying to be achieved in too many disparate
> spaces. That's a case of being over-ambitious and obviously
> under-resourced.
> Less things more tightly drawn together might well remedy this. People 
> do
> not need to be constantly entertained but rather thoughtfully provoked.

well, again, this is what often happens to ambitious festivals...and 
certainly the option is there to forgo the 'big festival' dynamic and 
embrace a much smaller model...but as a general rule we like big 
festivals (why else did everybody attend?)... and whether it's a film 
festival, jazz festival or some other kind of festival these are all 
the standard critiques and challenges... festival directors often bite 
off more than they can chew (guilty of that myself on several 
occasions) but it is always with the aim of creating the most catalytic 
and comprehensive and collective event...

> -a sense among many artists and thinkers and cultural producers that 
> there
> are terribly more urgent issues at stake right now

well, yes, no doubt we all feel that way, but again, the thematic and 
in most cases specific curatorial choices were all made long before 
Israel's recent aggression and neither a carefully worked out festival 
schedule nor the vast majority of individual new media works are 
flexible enough to be able to suddenly change focus to deal with urgent 
current events... that is up to the attendees...i.e. you...and in 
Anna's case you are doing a good job of ensuring that we remain alert 
to these urgent issues...but don't look to ISEA to create world peace 
or start a revolution...as you said yourself, Anna, in an earlier post, 
there is little enough that new media artists now hold in common...

> I did not expect ISEA to be smooth, slick or perfect. I expected chaos 
> and
> the rough and ready...

um...when organizing events that involve planning for hundreds of 
people from all over the world to come and do their thing, especially 
when that thing requires extensive tech infrastructure, and when also 
trying to connect audiences to those people in specific times and 
places...well, chaos is generally what organizers do not want...if 
that's what you were after (and why not) then you were bound to be 

So to conclude, I think people should give the organizers a break. Go 
out and create your own event the way you think it should be done. I've 
put on countless festivals and other events over the years and one 
thing I've learned is that everybody talks the talk but that when it 
comes to really putting other people's work first and doing all the 
endless hours of grunt work required to showcase other people's work 
properly, few are willing to really walk the walk. I've also learned, 
and again it's been confirmed here, that artists are a pretty 
ungrateful lot. Has anybody on this list, any of the attendees or 
participating artists reading this thread, said 'thanks' for any of the 
honest work that went into trying, at least, to do something 
constructive on everyone's behalf?

I'm going for a walk.

> --
bluesology • printopolis • digitopia

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