. community —

lines open for ISEA97 discussion

In response to Pit Schultz's call for a mailing list to discuss issues of
diversity at ISEA97 [see "<a href="/cgi-local/query.cgi?action=grab_object&kt=kt0483">Representing
ISEA97</a>," RHIZOME CONTENTBASE, 3.2.97], Alain Mongeau wrote:

The mailing list mentioned above already exists. It was launched last
fall, after ISEA96, in direct reponse to the wish manifested by a group
of people that raised the issue of diversity and multiculturalism during
the symposium's ISEA plenary.

The ISEA Multi-Cultural discussion list was established for those who
want to contribute to developing specific strategies for making ISEA
more multicultural.

To subcribe, send a message to:

no subject
with the message in the body:
sub ISEA-Multi Your Name

+ + +

G.H. Hovagimyan wrote: "I find it incredible that ISEA decides on a
quota system for THIRD WORLD participants. I mean really. I'm Armenian
but I was born in the US. Does my race disqualify me or my birthplace or
my gender disqualify me from being an interesting artist. I live in NYC.
I'm sorry I don't live in SF near silicon valley. Does that make me less
of a digital artist? The spirit of internationalism is a good thing but
to set up arbitrary criteria for choosing who gets to present work and
who doesn't is more of the same "OLD FASHIONED HIERARCHICAL RACIST
BEHAVIOR." In cyberspace no-one has to know your, race, gender, age,
nationality and so forth. It shouldn't matter."

Comments like these show how difficult and tricky this issue could
become. ISEA's concerns with multiculturalism are not recent, although I
can't really say it was always addressed in an effective way. My first
contact with ISEA was during the joint ISEA/ISAST meeting that was held
at SIGGRAPH in 1991 (Las Vegas). The Australians were then promoting
TISEA (Third International Symposium on Electronic Art) that was to be
held the following year. I was quite surprised by the discourse they
held, exposing plans to extensively implicate aborigenals and cultures
from neighbouring countries. It was all full of good will and very
"politically correct". In actuality, during TISEA, the picture was quite
different. What was projected did not materialize. From an outside
point of view, it is difficult to know why. Perhaps cultural diversity
is a sensitive subject for Australians, so they took upon themselves to
address the issue during TISEA, but lost some of the projected vision
when they were caught in the organisational turmoil of the event. Ever
since, the question of multiculturalism has reappeared in cycles within
ISEA. The strongest one certainly manifested itself during the ISEA
plenary in Rotterdam.

What's difficult with the issue? Well, I think that we could easily be
caught half way between tokenism and technological imperialism. G.H.
Hovagimyan reacts against what I'd call tokenism: make an effort to
bring in a few players in order to satisfy some concerns, and then sleep
with sweeter dreams. At the other end of the spectrum, we have what I'd
call technological imperialism: become very pro-active, spead the good
technological news and colonize new territories - a new form of
evangelism (very Wired).

ISEA is aiming is to generally become more aware and receptive to voices
and initiatives that express pragmatic concerns with cultural and
linguistic diversity. The real test in this context is action and that
is precisely what the Chicago team is trying to achieve with their
announcement, and what the ISEA98 team is also doing in hosting LEAF97:
"LEAF'97 would like to take as a starting point the ISEA98 broad topic
of Revolution and introduce an ISEA context well in advance for ongoing
discussions and debates that could be further explored off- and on-line.
Moreover LEAF'97 would eventually aspire to bring the East European
Electronic Arts awareness to ISEA98 agenda."

We have to start somewhere and I think that we're slowly seeing good
will transforming itself into concrete moves.