NO PASSIVE CONSUMERS, BUT PASSIVE PRODUCERS!
This paper started as an e-mail dialogue between Reni Hofmueller and me. She invited me to take part in the third edition of [Prologue] at ESC (Graz) in October 2007. She suggested that I skould speak about the difficulties of writing history. She said:“What I mean is precisely this repeating of a situation when it happens to be where a certain topic is developed. First I am in a very energetic and empowering situation, but then there is no way to know where this happens and how, and there is nearly no language for telling these stories, or there is not enough time taken for that, or – as I know it – there are simply no resources to that as well, so in a way...we disappear again.” I reckon that Reni asked me to work on the topic of “writing about your own history” because I have been part of many different collective experiences in media, art and activist fields. Since 1995 I have been “present” as an electronic presence in the world of the BBS (bulletin board system), and since 1999, I have been part of Candida TV, a group of video makers and performers. When I look back at the years of Candida TV, I realize that the problem of how to speak about our own history is that we were trying to tackle too many issues at the same time. We had the vision of the “Make you own TV” and we have been trying to achieve this goal for us and for everyone working in different places and on different tracks. The issues that we faced were:
-economic: how to create our own economy,
-social: how to produce a social and cultural change,
-aesthetical: how to discover our own language.
We have been growing up with a TV screen in front of our eyes and it has been natural for us to manipulate with television. Since 1999, we have gone through almost ten years of frenzy activities, from the experiments on-air with the “Household TV,” to the realization of workshops; from the filming of demonstrations to the organizations of actions on the streets. At the same time, we felt the need to build new tools for sharing and producing. For this reason a group of media activists created ngvision.org, an internet platform for archiving and sharing independent video productions in 2001, after the terrible days of the G8 in Genoa. The project was not only designed for media activists but for whoever wanted to share her/his own video productions, from documentary to fiction. Things changed rapidly since then; in 2001 a social habit of uploading or searching videos online was not possible, neither it was imaginable the YouTube of today. Ngvision.org, a pioneer project in video sharing, was born from the needs and the visions of people whose aims were to be not just passive TV viewers, but active consumers and producers.
In 1997 Internet was not available for everyone, digital video technologies were not so diffused as well, but as we saw with the battle of Seattle during the G8 in 1999, things started to change and more and more people were on the street handling digital cameras. In Italy, we engaged in grassroots movements that shared with us the vision of a television made by people and for the people. In 2002, the Italian Telestreet movement came to life and we have been fighting together for the creation of a virtual convergence between internet, satellite and TV. It is hard to say if we failed or not when you see that what you have been fighting for is now apparently here. Since the launching of the online platform YouTube in December 2005, the claim for rights to communicate for everyone has seemed to be getting real. In the present moment thousands of people with nearly no knowledge about video technologies have a chance to put their videos online, and thousands of people can choose which videos to watch each evening. The idea of “Make your own TV” seems to be realized. Small movements of the 1990s made of subjects like us (Candida TV, Telestreet, ngvision) part of this history that has been promoting consciousness for what is possible today. However, there is still the need for rising awareness: if once we were passive consumers of the mediascape, now we risk to become passive producers. It is funny and it seems a paradox, but it is exactly what is happening, when you see what people choose to produce and share. There are enormous quantities of videos just for the sake of being there, being seen. I do not want to fall into aesthetic categories as I reckon that everyone has the right to express her/him by any means and everywhere, but the question we should ask is: what is behind the gesture of producing and uploading a video online? Is there a choice or it is just a compulsive action, forced by the dictatorship of the media and image?
We should face the future and shape the vision of it while feeling the past on our shoulders.
To write about our/your own history is useful; to keep sharing our knowledge and to investigate what has been feeding the necessity of sharing your own videos online. In the attempt to keep the practice of the past alive in the present, I have been asked to talk and to write about Candida TV in different occasions. A great challenge has been to write an essay for the Coding Cultures Handbook, commissioned by Francesca da Rimini and d/Lux/MediaArts. (A free publication, which can be downloaded here http://www.dlux.org.au/codingcultures/ )
The handbook focuses specifically on digital storytelling within urban and regional communities. It explores how new media technologies enable communities to express and share their stories and experiences in innovative and imaginative ways. I was asked by the editor to write in an intelligible way about the realities in which I have been involved from the 1990s – from the BBS (bulletin board system network) to illegal rave parties and telestreet. I had to imagine talking to people who are not familiar with technology neither with art practices. My task in writing the essay for Coding Cultures Handbook was to move from my closest beliefs. I realized that the most difficult thing is to explain what you are doing to the people you love if they are not part of your world and they do not share your technical language; if you cannot explain it to them maybe you cannot explain it either to yourself. When you write (about) your own history, you can see what from the past has been launched into the future, both on a personal and on a social level. What still needs to be shared is not to drown in the sea of media worlds.
Agnese Trocchi is an artist and activist that who in Rome. She is co-founder of Candida TV, a video project for the infestation of mainstream television channels in Italy.