Andreas Broeckmann on Mon, 12 Jan 1998 10:41:28 +0100

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Syndicate: Kathy R Huffman - Report from Cluj/Ro



Date: 12.30.97
From: Kathy Rae Huffman (
Subject: Structures & Strategies in Developing Multimedia

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Structures & Strategies in Developing Multimedia: On-line and Off-line
in Cluj, Romania, December 9-12, 1997

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The long trip to Cluj started at 4 a.m. from Novi Sad, Yugoslavia.  As
the sole sleepy passenger in a large van, I found myself looking down a
dark, narrow road heading towards Belgrade.  We arrived there at dawn.
The driver, arranged by the VideoMedeja festival, helped me buy a one
way ticket to Timisoara, Romania, where I would join a group for the
drive to Cluj. Everything at Belgrade's main station was in disrepair.
Everyone there looked cold. Eventually we found the unmarked platform
for the dilapidated train to Timisoara. The train was unheated (it was
well below zero-Centigrade), and there was no food service available.

Not many people were travelling, and so I had the shabby compartment to
myself.  Understandably, most locals prefer the modern buses which are
faster, warmer, and safer.  Trains are frequently robbed, and use
indirect, 'old routes.'  But, the train gave me glimpses of the harsh
life of the rural inhabitants in the border region between Yugoslavia
and Romania. Vast, frozen landscapes of cultivated fields (all carefully
prepared for the next season) separate small villages.  Many of the
inhabitants still use horse-drawn wagons.  The scenery evokes a place
lost in time.

Since the war in Yugoslavia, smuggling and economic sanctions have
resulted in heavy security at border crossings. If all one's documents
are not in order, these border crossings can become major ordeals.
However, the crossing was quick and the guards were in a good mood: I
was lucky and was not detained.

I arrived in the bustling, romantic town of Timisoara mid-day.  I went
to IDEA, a fully equipped Macintosh Graphics studio, and settled into a
warm chair for my first coffee of the day -- it seemed like another
world.  I discovered that Timisoara has an active multimedia community,
even though it is removed from central travel routes.  After several
telephone calls, I was taken to Alexandru Patatics' studio, Art &
Ambient Visual Research, where I checked my e-mail.  Because two car
loads were making the long drive to Cluj, I was assigned to Alexandru's
more comfortable (and newer) car.  After a quick stop at McDonalds, we
set off on the 7 hour drive to Cluj. The fog was unexpectedly dense as
we travel down two lane, winding country roads.  As darkness fell, my
imagination went wild, inspired by the scenery of the heart of

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The four day symposium, 'Structures and Strategies in Developing
Multimedia: On-line and Off-line,' a collaboration of the Soros Center
for Contemporary Arts (Bucharest) and Dynamic Network Technologies
(Cluj) began early in the morning of December 9.  The meeting took place
in the modern facilities of Dynamic Network Technologies, a remodeled 4
story building in a residential neighborhood, complete with full
technical staff, in-house snack bar, library, and copy services.  A
private company, Dynamic Network Technologies began as part of the Soros
family in 1995, but has since split off to become a self-supporting
business that provides Internet and translation services, conference
support, and software development (often for Soros-supported events).

Symposium guests met up at breakfast in the vast dining room of the
Sport Hotel (we were surrounded by athletes in expensive training suits,
eating huge breakfasts).  We carpooled to the first session, where Irina
Cios, director of the SCCA, introduced the Symposium and presented the
SCCA's strategy for supporting Romanian electronic art projects.  She
gave a brief history of Romanian media events since 1993, beginning with
the video installation exhibition 'Ex Oriente Lux.'  That exhibition,
which included an international symposium and brought many visitors to
Bucharest for the first time, was intended to initiate international
communication about media arts in Romania.  Then, in 1995, there was
MEdia CULPA, an annual exhibition and CD ROM project, and a major
collaboration between artists, The Institute for Computers, and the

Cios announced at the outset that the Cluj seminar was designed to
stimulate interest in multimedia in Romania, including artistic and
commercial projects in video, WWW, 3D animation, and CD ROM.  The
following days of the Symposium consisted of presentations,
demonstrations, and discussions -- all meant to examine current
interests and levels of ability.

Each evening, staff, local artists, and visitors dined together, then
visited Cluj's local bars and night spots. Cluj's economy seems
relatively vital, and the local population upbeat and innovative - it
was interesting to see a club and boutique sharing the same name and
doorway -- probably a great business strategy!  Although it was bitterly
cold, spirits were high,  food was great, and our small group exchanged
ideas, contacts, connections.

Highlights from the Symposium's program included a presentation from the
Bucharest Art Academy's Roxana Trestioreanu, and another from various
artists from the Multimedia Department of Cluj's Visual Art Academy.
There was also Melentie Pandilovsky from Skopje, who presented
"Macedonian Electronic Art 1994-997".

The most impressive commercially viable project was the CD ROM,  "The
Roads to Heaven," presented by Professor Rãzvan Theodorescu of the Fine
Arts Academy in Bucharest.  This educational project organizes massive
amounts of information on 15th & 16th century Moldavian mural painting.
A CD ROM work-in-progress, "Report 1990-1995," containing detailed data,
images and documents, on the dramatic changes in the history of Romania,
was presented by Olimpiu Bandalac. 'Report 1990-95' is a study of
newspaper, television and other press agencies, and provides the most
comprehensive report of seven years of the contradictory revolutionary
events in Romania. It will be distributed by the Eurotelier Association.

Artistic CD ROM projects included "Intermedia 11/1997" a multimedia
version of the magazine Intermedia, published since 1994 in Arad (in
English, French and German) by the Arad Museum and members of the Kinema
Ikon workshop of media arts, with sponsorship from the Soros Center for
Contemporary Art in Bucharest.  This heavily designed, but very
informative project was also exhibited at the Ostranenie festival in
November. Dieter Penteliuc presented "Timisoara - The Bridge City," a
very personal look at his home town developed during his residency at
SCAN, Academie Minerva in Groningen (The Netherlands).  This multimedia
project, which started off as a video documentary, is a romantic visual
exploration of the Timisoara's bridges, revealing the town's history and

The final day of presentations, which took place after my departure,
featured Alexandru Patatics, who recently participated in the ICC/NTT
Biennial in Tokyo. Also presenting was Roy Ascott, director of the
Center for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts (CAiiA-STAR). Ascott
already has many connections to Romania through the international
student exchange program Erasmus. Finally, there was Calin Dan, a
Romanian artist now living in Amsterdam. Dan is a former associate
director of the SCCA Bucharest, and helped organize its first media
exhibition in 1993.  Well known for the media installations he made with
the group subREAL, Dan now creates solo, provocative interactive works.

I left Cluj with a personal commitment to return, to explore information
and resources, and to share new opportunities with the talented
multimedia community there. The experience taught me that communication
is highly valued in Romania today, and that we have much to learn from
the dramatic references and reflections made by the artists and
designers in a nation on the mend.  Romania is not only rebuilding her
cities and society, but also her contemporary artistic vision.

[This article originally appeared in Telepolis Magazine for Net Culture