The Next 5 Minutes Tactical Media Conference
Amsterdam & Rotterdam January 18-21 1996
The Next 5 Minutes Conference in Amsterdam (January 18-21 1996)
brought together a mix of political activists, on the edge practitioners
and just pure nutters from all over the planet for three days of debate,
planning, exhibition and anarchy in Amsterdam and Rotterdam
contemporaneously and at the same time.
In attempting to pitch at a point where art meets politics, access meets
excess, activism meets academia and community media meets TVland
madness it managed to hit a nerve which we in the UK can only
contemplate. There is no equivalent forum in the UK and not the
slightest hope in hell of anything like it in the next three years.
People were there from all over the world. In the space of a morning I
renewed acquaintance with people from five Continents. More a global
living room than a global village. Described as "proudly non-academic"
by one of the organisers David Garcia it indeed proved an excellent
balance between structure and chaos, organic design and technical
The structure of the N5M took acount of the speed of the media. As
well as the previously booked extremely full and interesting
programme in two cities -there were two projection spaces - Temporary
Autonomous Zones - complete with video and PA which participants
could book up at very short notice to present papers, screenings or just
So what did we do apart from hob-nob, network and set up big jobs
for ourselves with pots of Euro-funding?
It was a chance to see and hear what was happening straight from the
horse's mouth. To see tapes fresh off the plane from Johannesburg of
14 year olds with knives as long as your arm and the cutest little
automatic pistols with which to shoot up the local
neighborhood.There's a rape every 65 seconds and car-jacking has
replaced Mandela as the flavour of the month. It was a chance to make
comparisons with Northern Ireland where another post conflict
ceasefire is about to be thrown into mayhem by the activities
of freelance gangsters and a stone deaf government.
The range of people here was immense. While northern Europeans
worried about web-sites and the copyright niceties of intellectual
property, Noni from TV Maxambomba in Brazil lamented the absence
of Alexander Bell's most recent invention. 66% of the world still have
no access to a phone - an interesting fact for cyber - theorists.
What was the point of the conference? To create new ways of using the
media, not just simply celebrating the old. To create common agendas
and a shared strategy from a diverse range of communities. Subtle
changes are taking place in the cultural democratization movement.
Terms are shifting from public access to community access. The
question is no longer access to whom but access to what.
The threats are obvious. As communication infrastructures pass from
public to private hands the universal state of TV seems to be the more
you watch the less you know. The move from top down to bottom up
communication is now further away than ever, despite the great leaps
forward in technology. Many to many instead of few to many is the
goal and the Internet is the darling of the decentralised community
networks. Communication as opposed to broadcast.
The V2 conference in Rotterdam which ran parallel to N5M was a
practical hands on conference concentrating on digital media
particularly translocal networks on the internet and their effect on
community, conflict, culture and identity - the digital diaspora. Much
debate centred around the attempt by the Church of Scientology to
attempts to monopolise service providers in the US.
A new network, PANET, has been set up on the internet facilitated by
Paul Garrin's MediaFilter organisation (www.mediafilter.org) to
continue work begun at the conference and disseminate information.
The Next 5 Minutes own web-site is still open for feedback and
research. Check the site (http://www.dds.nl/n5m) for details.
So what was achieved? The advantage of such gatherings is to energise
the participants to tackle seemingly impossible tasks. The confidence to
know you're doing the right thing. It counters the isolation that
activists feel as they battle away daily against insurmountable odds and
It was a chance to compare projects and get inspired enough to face
low-funded, Tory controlled, grey-skied, wrist-slashing Britain where
the basic infrastructures such as open channels on our cable system
have yet to be built. I came away from this conference with a real
understanding of the shrinking nature but expanding community on
this planet of ours. The essence of being human is that our humanity is
intertwined with all humanity. That a person is only a person through
other people. A feeling of connectedness that rises above the notion of
being wired. The South Africans have a word for it and that word is
Ubuutu. And not a spliff was burned! Ubuutu!