Arthur Bueno on Thu, 18 Nov 1999 22:34:52 +0100

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Syndicate: De Hoeksteen Presentation London School of Economics

>Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 21:11:46 +0100
>From: (Raul Marroquin)
>Subject: De Hoeksteen Presentation London School of Economics

>"Innovating within a non Commercial Framework"
>(Outline of the presentation of De Hoeksteen at the conference: New Media:
>Working Practices in the Electronic Arts. London School of Economics
>November 12th, 13th, 14th 1999)
>A presentation by Prof. Alexandra Ramos.
>The main reason why "De Hoeksteen Communications" has been selected for
>this presentation at the conference New Media Electronic Practices is
>because the very basic but complex infrastructure in which De Hoeksteen has
>been operating in the Netherlands for the past seven years.
>In order to understand the simplicity and complexity of that infrastructure
>it might be important to first look up
>to the way in which De Hoeksteen has developed into its present form and
>the cultural, social and geopolitical circumstances that surround that
>The First Steps
>De Hoeksteen began as a four hour long, local television program in the
>spring of 1992, cablecasted by Salto (Amsterdam umbrella organisation for
>local radio and television) every Third Saturday of the month from 22:00
>until 02:00 the following morning, for the Amsterdam metropolitan area.
>Months latter, the entire night was allocated to De Hoeksteen and the
>program was transmitted from 22:00 hours Saturday until 10:00 hours the
>following morning.
>The program was initiated Raul Marroquin, a Colombian artist living in the
>Netherlands and Dutch stage actor and director Titus Muizelaar, they have
>been experimenting together with video, since their student days in
>Maastricht during the early 70s.
>Muizelaar withdraw shortly after but has continued until today to
>participate as columnist, contributing editor and advisor.
>The Early Years
>At first De Hoeksteen -like all of the television in Salto- was a
>pre-recorded program but when it was decided to cablecast the whole night,
>it became for those involved, tedious and exhausting to produce such a long
>program on a monthly basis.
>After 3 months of pre-recorded programming, media artist Marino Maturana
>suggested to Raul Maroquin to go live avoiding with this recording and
>editing. This conversation took place on the Wensday before the
>cablecasting; Marroquin contacted Salto to inquire if there was a video
>link in any of the five radio studios at the Salto premises.
>After finding out that there was one place with a video connection that
>Studio 5 had such a connection it was decided, to go live the following
>Saturday with what became the first cablecasting of De Hoeksteen Live!
>Politics and Finances
>The first cablecastings De Hoeksteen Live! Television mainly consisted of
>interviews displays and performances by visual artists, theatre makers and
>experimental musicians but slowly, slowly politics and economics began to
>play a more prominent role in the programming and soon the became paramount
>features of the program.
>This change in editorial policy took place organically and to some degree
>accidentally, mainly because of the simple, flexible infrastructure of the
>organisation, the accessibility to politicians and opinion leaders
>characteristic of Dutch society and the influence and connections of
>Hoeksteen's main anchorman Otto Valkman (1946-1996) in local and national
>politics, as well as Marroquin's desire to work in areas beyond culture
>-not "making art about art" or culture only- trying to penetrate fields
>that gave a chance to play a more active part in the local decision making
>Within months the programming of De Hoeksteen Live! Television began to
>play a quite important role in the coverage of local and national politics,
>culture, economics, communications culture and current affairs in
>artists, local city council members, house wives, MPs and cabinet members,
>environmental activists, opinion leaders, taxi drivers, academics, main
>stream journalists, captains of industry and many other representatives of
>the community  became regular visitors and active participants. Some of the
>names include Prof. Dr. Rick van de Ploeg: Secretary of State for Cultural
>Affairs and Communications -and a graduate of the London School of
>Economics-, Hans Hoogervorst: Secretary of State for Social Affairs,
>Eduardo Valencia Ospina: Register and Secretary General of The
>International Court of Justice and many others.
>Special Events
>Next to the Third Saturday of the month, regular program, De Hoeksteen has
>done extensive coverage and discussed the Amsterdam local elections and the
>national parliamentary elections in 1994 and 1998 as well as most of the
>Amsterdam's referenda during that period. The 2500 hours of extra coverage
>of the local and national elections, two referenda and the Amsterdam
>Eurotop in January 1998 are some of the examples that illustrate the
>Viewership and Viewers Participation.
>Although ratings were never a priority or the motivation to initiate or
>generate De Hoeksteen and on the contrary it was always considered a
>special interest program from the very early stages it became clear that
>the many "Amsterdamers" was were watching the program. by 1993 De Hoeksteen
>had an average of 200000 viewers at "Prime Time" -De Hoeksteen Prime Time-
>02:00 hours (the time when bars close and Amsterdamers go back to their
>It is important to take into account that 98 % of the house holds in the
>Amsterdam's metropolitan area have cable.
>>From the very early stages viewers were invited to phone into the
>cablecasting, send faxes, and by this, take part in the events taking place
>on their television sets.
>There was no filtering of  either phone calls or faxes, receiving an
>average of 200 calls and roughly the same amount of faxes per program.
>Viewers participation increased more with the introduction of e-mail, IRC
>and Net Meeting  in the programming.
> Radio
>In the Summer of 1993 De Hoeksteen Live! Radio was introduced; a weekly
>program broadcasted & cablecasted from one of the Salto studios every
>Tuesday morning at first and latter on the afternoon of Wednesdays.
>Parallel Television Programming
>In 1996 when Salto introduced a Second television channel.
>This channel was inaugurated with De Hoeksteen first simultaneous, live
>cablecasting of two different programs (in two different channels at the
>same time) for the inauguration of the N5M, Next Five Minutes that year (a
>tactical media conference initiated by British media artist David Garcia)
>parallel programming became latter a standard feature for special events
>and occasions.
>Citizen Digital Communications Technology
>>From the very early stages in live programming De Hoeksteen Live!
>Television incorporated digital technology in the cablecastings, first bbs
>(bulletin board systems) mixed with the camera image.
>The Second step was to incorporate IRC and moderated discussion groups
>running parallel and discussing the subjects ventilated in the program.
>Cu-See Me in the meanwhile gave the first opportunity of a basic, graphic
>interface that permitted the incorporation other locations outside the
>studio and as soon as more sophisticated office and latter consumer video
>conferencing became available, they were immediately incorporated allowing
>the participation of groups and individuals outside Amsterdam and the
>Netherlands. Dispatches from places as far London, New York and Tokyo and
>as close as The Hague and Rotterdam became an integral part of the overall
>In 1996 De Hoeksteen had its own studio "Studio Den Haag" in the Second
>Chamber of Parliament in The Hague, at the office of Oussama Cherribi MP
>where interviews were conducted with MPs and civil servants that could not
>be present in the studio.
>In 1998 ISDN video conferencing was used to transmit to Amsterdam the May
>First celebration organised in Rotterdam by the PvdA (Dutch Labour)
>featuring among others the newly elected Tony Blair.
>>From 1997 on De Hoeksteen began to stream both radio
>and television programming via ASDL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) a
>new system introduced by the Dutch PTT as a try out in the Amsterdam city
>center at the same time it began to make items available "on request" from
>the archives of De HoeksteenNet, the program's site on the web.
>Steaming radio and t.v. programming open the doors to the introduction of
>the streaming division of De HoeksteenNet that has been operational since
>June of 1999.
>The Summer Webcastings of De HoeksteenNet
>On the suggestion of Lisbeth van de Kar from the DDS (the digital city in
>Amsterdam) a series of webcastings were organised that began in June of
>1999 and have continued throughout the fall.
>At first the webcastings of real video were streamed at random until it was
>decided that Thursday was the best (less bad) day for everyone involved so
>now a days programming is streamed from 16:00 hours in the afternoon of
>Thursday until 04:00 hours on Friday morning C.E.T. (Central European Time)
>every other week.
>Instead of retransmiting cable -radio and television- programming via the
>net, De Hoeksteen concentrates in the streaming of real video specially
>produced for an interactive international public.
>This new initiative has brought radical changes in the modus operandi of
>the team:
>-Interviews discussions and presentations are not longer in Dutch, as it
>was formerly done with the cable programming, but in English, Spanish,
>French and German.
>-Dutch interviewers from the cable division cannot interview Dutch guests
>in a foreign language so a new team of (foreign) interviewers has t been
>put together to talk with the Dutch guests and Foreign guests have to be
>constantly found for the Dutch team.
>In all items that are been streamed the views and opinions expressed by the
>viewers participants have to be taking into consideration not only because
>of ethical considerations but because they are -very- present there right
>next to the video
>-Another important conclusion reached after the very first webcastings is
>that some of the issues that are interesting for local radio and
>television, often become confusing, boring or even incomprehensible in the
>global context of streaming media, so radical changes where forced in
>editorial policies from the very early stages.
>-The idea that the streaming of video can be followed from everywhere in
>the world have brought a new dimension to the
>operation. Potential guests outside Amsterdam are more inclined to
>participate "in remote mode" phone, chat, video conferencing when they can
>follow the program in their own computers.
>-Although not been new in De Hoeksteen environment, user video conferencing
>facilities have enhance the incorporation of point-to-point and multipoint
>video conferencing features that become one of the most regular items in
>the program.
>- Streamed video is only one of the elements of the webcasting; moderated
>discussions run parallel to the streaming and become more and more
>important within the overall situation.
>Video on Request
>Programming on request have proved to be very important. There are more and
>more visitors to the archives containing all items that are streamed during
>the program, reaching an average of 2000 visitors a day.
>La Piedra Angular en La Red (the Spanish speaking division of De
>One of the great frustrations at the moment is that only 20% of the
>capacity of the DDS is been used during the webcastings of De HoeksteenNet
>so the short term plan is to begin a Spanish division "La Piedra Angular en
>La Red" (Cornerstone in the Web) that runs parallel to the streaming of the
>international (English / French / German / Italian/ Greek and Turkish,
>etc.) webcasting of De HoeksteenNet.
>Spanish has been chosen not only because Raul Marrqouin and many of the
>editors and interviewers are Colombians, native Spanish speakers or
>individuals who speak that language, but also because Spanish is the second
>languages in the Net.
>Similar divisions in other languages are been considered at this moment.
>Global and Local at the Same Time
>Last September DDS Joost Flint, director suggested to combine the streaming
>of De HoeksteenNet with the cablecasting of De Hoeksteen Live! Television
>for the Amsterdam cable network, simultaneously the DDS. The initiative was
>enthusiastically received by the entire Hoeksteen team; a dedicated fibber
>optics and a microwave link  already connect the DDS and the Salto
>transmitters, so it is only a question of finding the right time slots in
>Salto's schedule so  that the transmission of both programs simultaneously
>and independently can be implemented.
>Such a set up creates a lot of challenges as well as many possibilities: it
>simplifies production while maximising the use of the presence of guests
>that can participate in one program and than go to the other. Killing two
>birds with one stone.
>Technical Facilities and Requirements.
>Since the very early stages De Hoeksteen has been produced with office and
>consumer, second hand discarded equipment
>that has been bought for very low prices or that have been donated. It
>could be said that De Hoeksteen operate with electric appliances instead of
>television equipment.
>This minimises costs and consequently fund racing efforts that can be very
>demanding while contributing to the development of a new, audio visual
>language urgently required to distance self media from industrialist, main
>stream media and mass communications.
>The "graphic quality" of an old black and white video camera from the late
>60s or early 70s can hardly be achieved or even imitated with one of the
>newer models  (not to talk about the new generation of digital equipment)
>so it is very interesting to combine different sources of different quality
>in order to break up with the monotony of uniformed, linear programming.
>Old, discarded equipment in De Hoeksteen Communications is cherished and
>used with the respect it deserves.
> The Financial Aspects of De Hoeksteen.
>De Hoeksteen has always been produced on a no budget basis; it is a non
>commercial operation, everybody in the team collaborates voluntary and has
>a job on the side: architects, bankers, bus drivers, artists and many
>others get together and make the program not as a hobby but as the
>initiative of committed citizens willing to participate in the developments
>taking care in their community.
>At first, in its pre-recorded period, Tonnelgroep Amsterdam (the theatre
>company where Hoeksteen co-founder Titus Muizelaar plays and directs) paid
>postproduction and cablecasting costs. Latter when the programme became
>live, the cablecasting costs were paid with a small subsidy given by Salto
>(to pay Salto!) or privately by either Raul Marroquin or Otto Valkman until
>his dead in 1996.
>Salto in the mean while is fully financed by the city of Amsterdam with
>part of the money received by the city with the privatisation of the
>network in the early 90s.
>In 1998 right after the national elections, Salto presented De Hoeksteen
>with a bill of more than Fl. 20000 (aprox. 10000 euros) demanding its
>immediate cancellation or a solution found through public subsidy or
>private sponsorship instead of simply increasing the subsidy.
>De Hoeksteen refused to go for either of the options proposed by Salto and
>radio and television programming stopped in the late Spring of that year.
>Public Founding
>De Hoeksteen's refusal to comply with any of Salto's scenarios is not only
>based on the fact that everybody in the team is working full time and have
>a busy agenda with no time left to invest in mascarades introduced by
>bureaucrats to work less and "look more professional"
>Local public access in the Netherlands is not there for the programming of
>professional radio and television (professional
>meaning looking professional) constantly adding more incompetent
>bureaucracy while clumsy imitating the prehistoric, dying, administrative
>infrastructures of mass communications. Public access is there to encourage
>and facilitate the input of groups and individuals that want to play an
>active in the decision making process of their communities so
>infrastructures like Salto should be open and flexible to fresh new
>initiatives. It is after all because of projects like De Hoeksteen that
>public founding for Salto tripled in the last half a decade and the sad
>result is that Salto is today a sinking ship with to half empty channels
>and the double of personal that walk around like beheaded chickens trying
>to look busy but without any idea of what they are doing or which way to go
>next,  in stead of investing in research and development while trying to
>keep the administrative infrastructure flexible and to the minimum.
>Other Sources of Public Founding
>More than 80% of the local initiatives in  public access in Amsterdam are
>financed with the of the city's cultural budget or its equivalents on
>regional and national levels.
>Although the cultural budgets have steadily increased because of the
>flourishing of the Dutch economy, sponsorship is aggressively promoted by
>cultural administrators. Government agencies dealing with art and culture
>are been privatised at a very fast rate. This dangerous trend is due to
>several reasons:
>First because civil servants want to work less, Secondly and more dangerous
>because founds allocated for culture are been diverted and used for
>political propaganda.
>Fake, populist schemes disguised as "multiculturalism" on behalf of the
>Social Democrats and the use of art and culture as exclusive entertainment
>by the liberals, are the two main trends hunging above the government
>cultural policy.
>Open air "barbecue" concerts and art exhibitions (that everybody should be
>able to understand!!!) have become a regular feature in urban environments,
>mainly targeting the less educated native population and new immigrant
>communities clearly preparing the electorate for the next elections.
>Not that long ago a conference organised in the Stedelijk Museum in
>Amsterdam tried to find ways to make art more user friendly (as if art is
>something is something to be used)
>instead of considering ways to elevate the cultural level in the less
>favoured sectors of the community. It is the same as if the level of
>quantum physics research should lowered so that everybody can understand
>While Social Democrats see use art and culture as the means for populist,
>political propaganda, Neoliberals demand the right to transform museums and
>concert halls into souvenir shops and receptions centres for their own
>entertainment. According to them all public space, cultural institutions
>should function as Sky Boxes for the entertainment of the rich and
>Harry van Bommel MP form the SP the Dutch Socialist Party (the extreme left
>in the Dutch political landscape) was one of the first to detect these
>dangerous tendencies as a member of the Amsterdam city council and the
>first to ring the alarm bell and make people aware of the situation.
>What ever public money is left goes into cultural initiatives through the
>hands of "advisers" and specialised organisations that vampireze budgets
>through commission fees and other similar sort of schemes while trying to
>impose rules, have a say in the creative and redefine the role of the
>artists in society according to their own requirements. The consolidation
>of power for the sake of power.
>The city of Amsterdam paid Fl. 100 000 000
>(aprox. 50 0000 000) to advisors.
>It is as if art management  is more important that art; at such rate, a
>point will be reached where there is no art any longer but art management
>Artists today are no longer artists but interior decorators. In the
>electronic media, artists are no longer artists but artisans, the ones
>implementing the short sighted ideas of "the cultural elite" (that is no
>elite at all) or the entertainers of the private sector.
>Private Sponsorship
>(the dangers of a young, inexperienced industry)
>It was not until recently that the concept of sponsorship for art and
>culture was introduced in the Netherlands so it is not possible to talk
>about a tradition of private sector participation in the development of
>art and culture, there is not even an art buying tradition among the
>In terms of sponsorship, the private sector regards art and culture as one
>more outlet for increase in profits and self promotion, and the expected
>results are very high because the only point of reference are the
>achievements of sponsorship in sports and other mass events; sponsors have
>become one more uneducated voice in the discussion and the creative process
>of the artist.
>Only a few weeks ago the direction of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam
>(once again) almost signed a contract with German automobile manufacturer
>Audi for a Fl. 12 000 000 (Aprox. 6 000 000 euros) disguised as ten year
>interest free loan, that would give the manufacturer the right to use areas
>of the museum (a public space that is supposed to belong to all of the
>citizens of Amsterdam) to display their newest models.
>Gerrit Goedhart the leader of the CDA (Christian Democratic Party) in the
>Amsterdam city council brilliantly remarked that the Direction of the
>museum was giving the car manufacturer real estate worth Fl. 1200 per
>square meter in that part of the city for the modest sum of Fl. 120 per
>square meter.
>The Local Government should not expect that museum directors are also
>though, hard nosed businessmen when instructing them to seek sponsorship.
>In the particular case of local, public access the situation is very
>complex because advertisement was not allowed until recently in local radio
>and television offers were limited to bill boards after the programs and
>/or mentioning the sponsor's name in the title role.
>Because viewership was always measured in Salto with the instruments used
>by (national) network television, it was not until recently that anyone
>could have a rough idea of the approximate ratings.
>But even when ignoring these obstacles for the sake of argument, the
>advertisement industry  in the Netherlands is very young and conservative
>and cannot see any potential in local advertisement so it will be long
>before big business and corporations are present in local programming.
>The local business community in the meanwhile does not have the capacity to
>pay for advertisement or is not interested in it.
>Above all of this and most important, local programmers are small
>organisations of private citizens that, even if they want, don't have the
>human resources (nor the knowledge) to go after advertisers.
>>From Sponsorship to Partnership
>Although De Hoeksteen can rightly be described as a multidiciplinary
>project it is also an artist initiative and plans to continue working with
>in the parameters and traditions of the visual arts, rather going for a
>dignified partnership in stead of hard and dominating sponsorship with
>organisations like the DDS, one of those young, intelligent, innovative
>organisations that through hard work and vision managed to evolve from a
>subsidised experiment into a solid business that cater for the information
>community. They are among this new breed of organisations that see the
>importance of investing part of their profits as a business in research and
>It is because of this that De Hoeksteen plans to continue operating as a no
>budget, non commercial operation and the cable television program is coming
>back is only because the DDS will pay the cable time.
>A text by Raul Marroquin and Alexandra Ramos with reports from Idzarda

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