honor on Fri, 22 Oct 1999 14:36:40 +0200

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Syndicate: Notes from Day 2: Future State of Balkania

Designing the Future State of Balkania
October 17-24 1999

Group 2 of:
TEMP, a Temporary Media Lab
At Kiasma, Contemporary Arts Museum Helsinki, Finland
October 8 - November 11, 1999

A Summary of the discussions of the 'Designing the Future State of
Balkania' workshop group.
noted by Honor Harger

Monday 18 October

Katarina introduced the day by summing up that there could be two potential
approaches to the Future State of Balkania:

1. State as Structure
This approach would encompass analysis and planning which relates to the
real states of the Balkan region.  This approach may also include the
elements of simulation which were discussed both at the original Budapest
meeting, and are exemplified by projects such as NSK.

2. Transcending the physical
This approach involves thinking beyond the actuality of the real Balkan
region.  It would posit the Balkans as a window to the fast moving pace of
history, but would not necessarily site the project within a geographical
or regional reality.  This approach could incorporate some of the
philosophical, conceptual or sematic approaches, as discussed by Ana.
Katarina pointed out that, this approach, the construction of something
'outside' the real creates somewhat liberating possibilities.  Even as
someone who is from the Balkan region, for her the location of 'home' often
feels more natural within network meetings such as this.

* Ideology
A heated discussion about whether or not an ideology needs to be defined
for the project, followed.  Dejan stated that there was a need to position
the activities of the group on a platform of mutually agreed on ideas.
These ideas may derive from the need to redefine the ideology of art.  Art
could be viewed as communication as opposed to artefacts.  Art could be
seen as the process of building tools for, and modes of, communication.  As
we are meeting in an art museum it may be appropriate to address the
context of art ideology.

Discussion ensued about the definition of ideology, the necessity to
predefine it, or whether it can be perceived after the process of building
the project takes place.  It was argued that the concept of ideology misses
something: if you adopt one approach, you automatically leave something
out.  Is this the Open Source mentality (so favoured by the group), which
is necessarily the opposite of dogma?

It was pointed out that there are already present ideologies within the
group; the ideology of Deep Europe for instance, and most particularly the
ideology of the network.  Network activity is not just defined to mailing
lists or internet activity, but is expressed in meetings and collaborative
projects, in information sharing and shared resources.  Thus it could be
said that The Future State of Balkania could develop a wired ideology; not
the Californian one, but a Balkanian one.

Discussion centred around the need to introspect in order to come up with a
creative 'systems solution', to the conception of the Future State of

This linked back to the earlier identification of the need for networks,
and communications infrastructure within the Balkan region.  There is a
real and present need for both communications mechanisms and communications
content within the Balkan region.  The Future State of Balkania could
provide a model for actual communication linkages between the countries of
the Balkans. It could be a communications platform and a content platform.

Melentie made the point that the Balkans is actually a very creative
region, and that despite the logistical problems, it is possible to achieve
very ambitious projects there.

As part of the discussion about ideology the point was raised that we need
to recognise our position as culturally privileged individuals who have
'access privileges' to technology and opportunities.

* Designing The Future: A Future Generator
Discussion about the lacklustre nature of The Stability Pact, the failure
of the NGO scene, and the need to come up with a new approach, lead
Melentie to a suggestion.  In past sessions there had been discussion about
the fictionalising of history, the creation of alternative histories.  For
a project such as The Future State of Balkania, why not turn this around,
and instead create alternative futures.  These projections could not be
said to be fictional, as there is no prescribed path for the future.  In
fact by projecting into the future, one can set the agenda for potential
future events, and crystallise energy toward the achievement of particular
goals. For example, the science fiction literature of the 40s and 50s, and
film and television of the 60s and 70s, very much defined people's notions
about space.  It could in fact be said that the popularity of such fiction,
focussed activity, public opinion and resources around the prerogative of
space exploration.

By this logic, a forum for the projection of a future set of events
concerning the cultural, social or artistic development of Balkania, at
least makes a positive statement about the capacity we as cultural
practitioners have to occupy a space in the future.  As a conceptual
statement this is very important.  The political agendas that organisations
such as the EU, NATO, multinational corporations etc, have for the Balkans
will define the future for the region unless an alternative statement is
made.  A conceptual project offering an alternative view is an occupation
of future territory; it puts a flag of intention on the future.  This
necessity can be summed up by the phrase: if you do not attempt to map the
future for yourselves, someone will do it for you.

One practical method of realising the project could be through the use of a
web interface which can map suggested future events on a timeline:
eg. 2001: the launch of the first Balkanian satellite
2003: activation of the first Balkanian fibre-optic network
This method would accept input from other users, such as the members of the
Syndicate and other networks, opening up the conception of the project to
other participants.

The Future Generator could also develop a text treatment device which can
take texts and randomly compile possible futures.  This text generator
could also be used to generate a constitution, should such a thing be
desirable.  eg. Mindflux's 'Conspiracy Theory Generator' and Labinary's
'Mainfesto Generator'.

* Approaches to Designing Radical Futures
It is important to be mindful of deconstructing the theoretical aspects of
the project too much.  This leads to the problem of critique without
subject.  The most important deconstructionist approach to be mindful of is
the need to be able to deconstruct the ideology of the ruling class (eg.
NATO, CNN, etc).

In the real Balkan States there is a split between cosmopolitan society and
agricultural society.  Forced modernisation has created a lot of social and
historical tensions.  Within the design of the Future State of Balkania, it
may be important to be mindful of these real world issues.

* Visual Metaphors
Dimitrina suggested an approach which is related to the earlier visual
metaphor of the brain, which exists on the website at the moment.  This is
the metaphor of the body / organism with interdependent / symbiotic cells,
molecules, organs.

* Common Ground
It was noted that it was important for each of the projects to have common
conceptual elements.  Some of these were defined as:

- recognition of existing personal and practical collaborations
(eg. Syndicate, European Cultural Backbone, <nettime>, concrete network
- the index of possibilities
- Open Source mentality
- question of borders / mapping schemes
- interdependency / symbiosis
- instability
- identity
- histories -> alternative histories / futures, fictionalising accounts
- time shifts, delays, looping ('The Balkan Loop')
- promoting the Balkans as  a cultural facility -> promoting the cultural
capital of the Balkans
- designing radical futures
eg. 1 Launching the Future state of Balkania on the Futures Market
eg. 2 Establishing gambling / betting facilities for people to put money on
proposed future events.

* Practical Projects
During a brainstorming session, the following practical projects were
identified as potentially realisable within the framework of the workshop:

- A Future Generator
A web based interactive timeline, projecting future events

- Railway Hack
A railways website, such as Deutsch Bahn, could be simulated, with train
routes and services through the Balkans rerouted, and new services
developed for the Balkans.

- A Publication
A publication could document the process of the workshop, or provide a
conceptual reflection of the project. This could take many forms, eg. A
Millennium Calender, Conversion Table, Reference Table, Scales, or a

- Meta PR Structures
Parodies of slogans, election propaganda material etc

- A Network Interface
An online organisation system for shared information resources, and remote

- A Language Generator
A device for generating or deconstructing phrases, concepts of lingual

- A Pizza making / delivery service
A meta pizza company which construct pizzas made of images submitted by the
Future State of Balkania group

- Musical Chairs project
Based on Luchezar's earlier 'Chairs and Symbols' work.  In this new digital
version, animated individual chairs can be arranged into an order or a
symbol by the click of button.


========		: in transit
randomness is less a question of pooling knowledge

========		: amsterdam
than an accumulation of our uncertainties

========		: the netherlands
nasty little constructs that we may or may not be susceptible to are

========		: honor@va.com.au
surrounded by an incredible network of lines

========		: http://www.radioqualia.va.com.au


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