An Archaeology of Imaginary Media - De Balie, Amsterdam, February 5 - 8, 2004

Posted by Eric | Mon Jan 12th 2004 5:59 p.m.


An Archaeology of Imaginary Media

Excavating mankind's dreams of the ultimate communication medium

February 5 - 8, 2004,
De Balie - Centre for Culture and Politics, Amsterdam

An Archaeology of Imaginary Media is a mini-festival in De Balie in
Amsterdam around the eternal return of mankind's desire for the
ultimate communications medium. Will technological progress finally
resolve the human communication problem? The mobile phone mania
demonstrates a compulsively attempt to arrive at an affirmative
answer to this question. Digging in the history of human
communication and its media provides ample grounds for serious doubts.

De Balie will bring together a distinguished selection of artists,
filmmakers, authors, theoreticians, and especially media
archaeologists, to undertake a thorough investigation of the utopian
visions of the ultimate communications medium. In a variegated and
highly diversified panorama, the visionary perspectives of
technological dreamers throughout the centuries will be excavated and
held up to the audience.

Already for some years, cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling has been
collecting dead media. Media that have withered and are mostly
forgotten (much like Dutch tv comedians van Kooten & De Bie predicted
the demise of phillips' cd-i many years ago). Erkki Huhtamo has been
digging up the pre-history of interactivity from the caverns of
forgetfulness. Edwin Carels discovers in the pre-history of cinema
the bizarre concept that moving image and sound might be a medium to
establish contact with 'those in the hereafter'. Siegfried Zielinksi
also finds death in media in the (delusional) conceptions of the
media-engineers. Edison created a machine to communicate with the
"sprits", and Zoe Beloff made a film about it. She will cast a light
on the matter. And wasn't cyberspace the ultimate means to abolish
the borders of race and gender? Away with the body!!! Who still
beliefs that today? What is it that inspires men time and again to
believe in their own machines? Maybe literary scholar and
media-sociologist Klaus Theweleit can shed some light in the dark?

Peter Blegvad became famous as a musician because of his involvement
with cult-bands such as Faust, Slap Happy and Henry Cow in the early
seventies, after which he went through a remarkable solo career. As
an avant-gardist he appeared in New York in the environs of people
like John Zorn (Locus Solus). Simultaneously he established himself
as an extraordinary cartoonist with his series Leviathan, widely
regarded as an important innovation of the cartoon genre.
Blegvad created a theatrical performance "On Imaginary Media"
specifically for this program. A philosophical drama, a multi-layered
collage of meditations on the sublimity and tragedy of imaginary
media, of the dream for the ultimate communications medium. Musicians
John Greaves and Chris Cutler, with whom he has previously realised
many avant-gardistic music projects, and Dutch actor Kees Hulst
accompany Blegvad during the performance.

Richly illustrated lectures, films, discussion, a narrative space
with works by cartoonists and artists, the philosophical theatre of
Blegvad and an extensive film program, together paint the contours of
an eternal dream that manages to hold people time and again under its
sway, from Heinrich Suso's late-medieval Horologium Sapientae to the
unfolding debacle of 3G**.

(**3G: third generation mobile phones)



Zoe Beloff is a film maker and media artist, originally from
Edinburgh, she lives and works in New York.

Peter Blegvad is cartoonist, musician, writer, and the creator of the
cartoon series Leviathan. He also produces radio plays for BBC radio,
and lives in London.

Edwin Carels is a freelance curator and writer, who is especially
interested in the relationship between visual arts and film, video,
and photography. He writes a.o. for "Andere Sinema".

Timothy Druckrey is a curator, writer, and editor concerned with
issues of media history, representation, and technology. He lives in
New York.

Erkki Huhtamo is a Finnish Media Researcher, Curator, Writer and
Professor at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

Bruce Sterling is a writer, mostly renown for his cyberpunk fiction
oeuvre. His publications include Schismatrix, The Hacker Crackdown en
The Difference Engine (met William Gibson).

Klaus Theweleit is a writer, literary scholar, and cultural theorist.
He is the author of a.o. the monumental series "Buch der Konige"
(Book of Kings) and "Der Pochahontas Complex".

Siegfried Zielinski is a media researcher, the founding and former
principal of the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. He teaches and
researches on the history, theory, and praxis of audiovision; his
special field of interest is media archaeology, and he has published
numerous books and articles on the topic.


Narrative Space

The idea for a narrative space was developed together with Peter
Blegvad: A visual space where the visions and conceptions of
imaginary communication machines are presented. A number of
cartoonists and artists have been invited to contribute their visual
imaginations about imaginary media in the form of drawings or short
cartoons. During the entire weekend these visions can be viewed
continuously in a simultaneous three-channel projection in the public
vide in De Balie.

Participating artists:
- Thomas Zummer
- Jonathan Rosen
- Peggy Yungue
- Sasa, aka Aleksandar Zograf
- Gary Panter
- Dick Tuinder
- Neal Fox
- Les Coleman
- Ben Katchor
- Francois Ducat
- Peter Blegvad


Further background information, essays, information about the
presenters and web links can be found in the dossier "Media
Archaeology" on the website of De Balie:


Film Program An Archaeology of Imaginary Media:

- Main program 22:00 Thursday, February 5:

My Browser
A web browser imagined as a person's alter ego

Modern translation of the Greek myth about Orpheus and his wandering
in the underworld, where a radio becomes an indispensable device to
communicate with the after-world.

- Main program 22:00 Friday, February 6:

Shadow land or light from the other side
Stereoscopic film about the connection between technology and
imagination, presenting a mental projector to communicate with the

In Absentia
Many visual illusions in a hybrid animation film in which the
thoughts of a woman writing a letter are visualised. Soundtrack by
Karl Heinz Stockhausen.

Out of the ether
Handmade 16mm film, composed on an optical printer, tells about dark
techno forces that attempt not only to invade or bodies, but also our

Gothic Aztecs
A demonic reliquary of Medusa-Quetzalcoatl gives godly and demonic
visions to a young woman. Gothic Aztects is a film in which the
viewer is projected into the brain of the female priest, and in doing
so experience her artificial mediatized delirium.

- Late program 23:30 Friday, February 6:

Anatomy of time
The waving to the camera of filmmaker and time-traveller Arthur
Dauphin, obscure contemporary of the Lumiere brothers, who already
knew a century ago that behind the seemingly lifeless machine of the
camera a new secret future world was hidden.

Out of the present
Russian cosmonauts leave the Soviet Union for space station Mir.
Meanwhile the Soviet empire collapses, leaving the cosmonauts in
limbo. Out of the present contains the first breathtaking 35mm
footage ever made of planet Earth. Due to technical problems the
majority of that footage and a 35mm camera were set overboard before
the last crew returned to earth, leaving the pictures of the earth
encircling it forever.

- Main program 22:00 Saturday, February 7:

Conceiving Ada
Programmer Emma wants to get contact with the long since passed away
Ada Byron King, pioneer on artificial intelligence and daughter of
the poet Lord Byron. Emma manages to establish contact by emerging
her body into an experimental DNA memory-coding device. The narrative
of the film is structured along the spiral of the double helix of DNA.

- Late program 23:30 Saturday, February 7:

Clay-animation in which a lonely engineer invents an apparatus that
makes live in the industrial age bearable again: 'Happy product',
though without happy ending thanks to the management of the world.

Quatermass and the pit
London subway construction is immediately halted when bones and
sculls are found. The well-known professor Quatermass discovers that
the bones and sculls are enclosed within the rotten structure of an
ancient spacecraft.

- Main program 20:00 Sunday, February 8:

Esoteric illusions of the Quay brothers within an 'illustrated'
reading about physical and mental perception.

Eye like a strange balloon
A drawing of the French Symbolist painter Odile Redon is taken as the
surreal inspiration for a story about the triangle relationship
between a father, his son and an orphan girl during a strange train

Like Plateau's disk, the 'retrospectroscope' can be seen as a
procession of flickering phantasies and fragmented lyricism; its
existence today lies hidden within the processes from which it has
created itself.

Contemplation about the apparent void of time and space as
communication vehicles for thought and matter.

- Continuous screening of documentaries,
6, 7, 8 February 14:00 - 20:00 hrs, among others:

The man who wanted to classify the world
Documentary about Belgian visionary Paul Otlet, who, long before Ted
Nelson claimed and invented the term hypertext, imagined the so
called 'Mundaneum' as a kind of proto Internet, aimed at a worldwide
information system to support and establish world peace, but
obstructed by WWII.

"Alle kennis van de wereld, het papieren internet"
See description of 'the man who wanted to classify the world'.

Archaeology of the moving Image
Three issues of a Finnish documentary series about the archaeology of
the moving image.
(English subtitles)


Tickets and reservations

Ticket prices:
Lectures and film screenings:
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