Responding to Kenseth Armstead, J.M. Cheddie wrote:
You sent me an email regarding what I would like to see on RHIZOME
E-MAIL. Though I value the list for keeping me informed of current
events, there are a number of things that I would like to see which at
the moment I think are being avoided or not talked about. These are
mainly the cultural context in which this digital technology is
operating in and the ways in which particular communities of interest
are forming around this community. Often contributors to RHIZOME assume
that there is an homogenous community and that this community has a set
of shared values and interests.
This issue is bought home to me about around the discussion of ISEA 96,
there has been a complete lack of debate concerning what happened in the
plenary session of ISEA 96 and surrounding discussion about the Chicago
ISEA 97 & Liverpool/Manchester ISEA 98. The issues of representation
dominated plenary. This centred on "How was Isea going to insure the
greater participation of peoples from the non-western world?" – an
issue which was raised three times before being seriously addressed. The
little discussion I have seen on RHIZOME concerning ISEA 96 choose to
completely ignore what happened in the plenary and its implications for
The Displaced Data (J.M. Cheddie, Roshini Kempadoo, Keith Piper, Derek
Richards) an evolving organisation of artists and writers of colour,
went to ISEA to alert people to the existence and presence of digital
artists working with this technology, and to introduce into the debate
ideas about cultural diversity and cultural democracy through the
'Beyond The Digital Diaspora' panel.
However, we were at the lack of a presence from peoples of colour around
the world at such a gathering, this issue was only addressed when it was
bought up by a person of colour. So once again peoples of colour are
placed in the position of potentially spoiling the party .
Why are issues of representation important? –(though after the 1980s I
feel like this issue should not need to be gone through again - but here
we go anyway):
There is work by digital artists of colour which is not being
represented in ISEA. ISEA should (if ISEA is truly interested in being
an international symposium) be seeking out this work and showcasing it
to the symposium.
Work by artists of colour, should not be at ISEA because it is by
artists of colour but rather on the basis that such work adds to the
richness, diversity and texture of the symposium, by challenging the
narrow range of debate and cultural practice which at present exists
within such forums.
A conference which concerns itself with many of the political and
contextual issues surrounding emergent digital technologies, cultural
practice and communication should be seeking to explore the
implimentation of these tools around the world especially in the so
called "Developing World."
The lack of such pro-active endeavours, at present, renders the
symposium little more than a social gathering where a privilaged clique
exchange business cards and use the issues for no other purpose than
We welcome however the supporting efforts made by ordinary delegates at
ISEA '96 to try and address these issues at the end of the symposium and
hope to see some genuine progress at ISEA 97 and 98. But in order for
the wishes of those delegates to be turned in reality we need to start
organising now. Displaced Data itself is discussing a number of
strategies including the development of a residency or exchange
programme which provides access for artists of colour from strategic
geographic locations to the latest technology and tools and would
welcome support from the many highly capitalised resources represented
at ISEA '96 in these efforts.
Displaced Data calls upon all those interested in the issues of cultural
democracy and cultural diversity within digital technology to make sure
that ISEA 97 & 98 are not re-runs of ISEA 96. If ISEA 97 is really to be
about 'content' it should also be addressing the context and communities
of interest and how they are forming and articulating agendas of access,
inclusion and exclusion.