..here nor there..
Electric December event report
Watershed gallery Dec 21 1999

As part of electric december here nor there organised an event linked to the 21 dec ‘window’ of the advent calender . The content of this window was designed to co-incide with the thematics of ‘solstice’ - on the longest night of the year a virtual candle was lit in Bristol and Tbilisi in celebration of the many connections between the two twin cities.The lighting of the candle was not only a symbol of ritual and respect but also a pertinent reminder of the power supplies which are still severely rationed since Georgia gained independence in 1992. That same year the first substantial exhibition of Georgin contemporary art was held at the Arnolfini, Heat & Conduct. This exhibition was the beginning of the artist network now established between the two cities which has been maintained through friendship and mutual respect of professional practice.The ...here nor there.. project has utilised on-line communications as a spacefor collaborative project development and creative exchange since the beginningof 1999. The effects of the electricity situation in Tbilisi on our communication are visible through the documentation of this period..During the winter months live on-line communication has been severely limited and although the technology makes communication through a variety of media economically viable the cuts affect the spontaeneity and focus of our weekly ‘chats’.

For the Watershed event we decided to extend the project to include works and documentation of previous artist links with Tbilisi and, in a spirit of celebration, we invited participation in what we termed an ‘experimental space’.Utilising the electric december facilities and Watersheds fast connection to the internet we presented a ‘glimpse’ of our working processes through “chat’ and live transmission of images plus video projection of rough cut flight documentation. Project collaborators and invited artists worked at short notice to compile and present relevant works. The gallery became an active laboratory of text and image transmission accompanied by an exciting and atmospheric live mixing of Georgian and British music.

Invitations to this event were restricted as we were aware of the reality of participation resources in Tbilisi: the time difference meant the possibility of a late night in a cold uncomfortable environment on a shared computer likely to be interupted by powercuts. Added to this is the concentration required to read and respond in english to a substantial number of people communicating on a fast line in a comfortable and social environment of easy access.

Approximately 70 invites were sent out to people with Tbilisi or media arts connections. We estimate the attendance to have been in the region of 50, apologies were sent by a number of people unable to attend mainly due to Xmas arrangements. During the three hours the level of participation was consistent as people came and went.We were joined on-line by Jacky Puzey in New York, Pata Sabatesh , Koka Ramishvili and Mamuka Jhapharidse in Tbilisi, and briefly by Nelli from Geneva.

Tbilisi maintained communication throughout the evening and since then we have met breifly on-line to discuss the experience. In our experience it has become evident that ‘chat’ is far more productive between a small group of people when it becomes a significant medium in its own right.

The nature of text only and time delay is a concentrated environment whichbecomes a powerful tool for focussed communication. However in an open situationonly the surface is skimmed: the sheer enjoyment of waving across distance.In retrospect it may have been better to have used the data projector for concentrated live capture, transmission and reception of visual material.The chat areas could still be accessed on a more personal terminal allowing fordiscussion of what was being transmitted. The music mixing by Roger Mills was a fantastic addition to the evening, as thesound created a welcoming and stimulating environment which has also led us to discuss the possibility of future sound transmission projects.

Comments from visitors were varied, it appears that unless familiar with technology, intensely curious or related in some way to the project it was not easy to grasp what was happening. However, the experimental and process-led atmosphere was stimulating and we recieved many positive responses to the use of the gallery as a ‘laboratory’.

Issues are raised: on the one hand the gallery becomes a process-led space whilstat the same time concerns are voiced re. attracting and educating ones audience. Watershed has recently invited a number of in progress events, residencies and explorations and continues to address and consider its position within contemporary media arts.

The gallery is a site with specific implications, historically the white/black cube is aspace for passive interaction and culminated work. The context is relational to itshistorical, geographical, architectural, audience, promotional and funded parameters. Work involving computer interaction and a demand for interaction within the gallery space still seems to require intensive explanation and guidance.

The recent events UseIt, Electric December and more recently DoTV have beeninteresting experiments in the use of high quality internet access to promote andexperience a number of digital projects. However on these occasions it is interestingto observe the public use of the facilities. Inevitably word gets around and theterminals become a resource for cyber activity, surfing and email. Many cybercafeshave become free access and internet projects are being produced and usedindependently from curatorial or institutional parameters.

Watershed has a lively and varied audience, the cafe/bar and cinema being thecentres of activity.The technological capacity of fast internet access will inevitably move into digital film, on-line conferencing etc. Perhaps the addition of a ‘cybercafe’ in the waterside and regular evening or weekend digital audio/visual events, project screenings, interventions etc in the gallery would encourage more interest and participation.