Extract from the 2010 archived version of the former UniversCity TV website
created by Christian Vandeborght:
Today, after more than a century of technology and electricity, we have thrownour central nervous system itself all over the globe like a net, thus abolishing space and time, at least as far as our planet is concerned.
Marshal Mac Luhan, Understanding Media.
Since 1990, UniversCity TV is the creation and the setting up of a network of interactive communication, linking different European cities (Eurocities) thanks to the modern audiovisual media. The communication between the different Eurocities comes about through the experimentation of Advanced Technology.
UniversCity TV is a mobile laboratory bringing the participants (Cinema and Art school students, teenage groups, etc) a “savoir-faire” and truely “sharp” and “high performance” technical material . Graphical computer, effects control room, use of High Definition, satellite links for a direct and interactive connection between these different European cities (Mediacity).
UniversCity TV is aiming to promote artistic television live between the European cities, the TV screen being the meeting, exchange, communication place, the Cathodic Agora.
To do so, to set up a multimedia institute at a European level,working on the research and practice of a new interactive, artistic televisual language. For this research to result in an “Interactive TV Art” model.
1 Working Tool
The UniversCity TV international association is made up of artists, media men (technicians, directors), scientists, Cinema or Art school teachers, students, researchers, professional humans of diverse nationalities (France, Germany, Czecoslovakia, United States, Italy etc).
UniversCity TV has existed in practice since the 89 Ars Electronika festival. Since then numerous meetings have taken place all over the world. We came together as a group of reflection in the 80’s. Our goal was the constitution of an interactive network of european artists working on/in the new media. The media took diverse names and multiple forms: Infermental, European Media Art Network, Frigo-CodePublic, Radio Bellevue, Ponton Media Lab, Van Gogh TV, video papers, a radio station, performances, multimedia shows, “live TV”, cable experimentation, live and recorded TV broadcasts, and so on.
All these multimedia communication networks worked thanks to the people who founded them. Those people generally met during video festivals. They come from different backgrounds, but with a common ground: the quest for truth has to be true itself (Media-Mystic), and also: theory is practice.
For more than ten years, we’ve been leading a relevant reflection upon the artistic practice of international and local media. Those experiences have been a source of knowledges, offered to a larger and larger audience. The present success of that research is the concept of UniversCity TV, whose axis of work is the practice of live interactive television.
We work like a mobile laboratory, (re)creating a new ephemeral television each time, adapting ourselves to the local situation.
UniversCity TV is a flexible tool, a mobile and economic institute, a coordinated plant (interface) of groups or individuals towards a joint project (output), the creation of a new european, televisual artistic language.
The keyword is experiment. First of all experimenting. Always experimenting. Once the path open, it remains open for a long time..
2 NETWORK : Mystery is in the surface
UniversCity TV is the live application of the concept of network.
Visualizing the network in using the TV screen as a surface of communication, the arena in which everything meets, the interface of Work and Leisure, the Piazza Virtuale, and in the “piazza virtuale” one meets the “terminal citizen“. This terminal citizen is soon over-equipped with all kinds of artificial limbs and protheses, the pathological model of which would be that “spastic”, equipped to control his domestic milieu and communicate with the outside world, without physically having to move, according to Paul Virilio.
Many people of the new generation practise the idea of network at home. Everybody has the new media of communication in their home and it is a part of our life. The medium to connect them to one another is the television that can include all those electronic disciplines thanks to the telephone line.
The traffic of interfaces in the beginning of the third millennium is the Cathodic Agora: same medium and same technology for the whole “communication” (communication = content + relation). No more definite distinction between newspapers, television, telephone, data processing, work, etc.
With the direct practice of the television medium, UniversCity TV wants to give students from Art schools and Universities a training adapted to the european requirements, generally speaking in the frame of employment, and in particular of the youth integration.
The aim of Universcity TV is to train practicioners to use the new interactive TV media techniques, to introduce about fifty people every year to 3D pictures, mixing and video editing, filming, to the set up of models of broadcast on the cable and satellites nets, production of programmes about and for the European culture, in order to establish news codes; a new writing of reality.
Teach the body, not the mind.
Each European City and its region must make itself be listened to, must have the human and technological media of its ambition. Let us pragmatically form youth, in refoming ourselves with the practice of communicating communication (let us say interactive). Let us give the principle of succession up for that of simultaneity; applying this training and its research into the production of avant-garde technological, computer and audiovisual programmes, developing research programmes on Hypermedia with industrial companies.
4 Technique of work
Between the vast future of the thing-to-be-done, which is our “duty”, and the immense past of the “done” thing, which is our presumedly “achieved” duty, there must be an elusive and extremely short ocurrence, as dazzling as happiness, that can be called the being-done, that is being done.
Vladimir JANKELEVITCH, The Seriousness of Intention.
The strategy of avant-garde:
UniversCity TV has two simultaneous axes of work: the implantation of the interactive network, and the practice of the television medium, which is the raison d’être of UniversCity TV: making live interactive television.
We produce a wholly live TV broadcast, all the elements of which (Hardware-Software) have been designed for the “life”.
The preparation is generally carried out in a workshop, mixing the techniques, and the speakers (artists, art school students, professionals, etc).
The interactive experimentation is the most important part of it, the object-onlooker becoming the subject-onlooker. There is a reciprocal confirmation of the “self” in the excitement of shared risk. The subject’s creative virtualities reach in real time the “Teleaction“. That includes the classical artistic disciplines tool, like actors, musicians, computer graphists, scenery, costumes, etc..
We do not want to focus anywhere else other than on polyphonic poetry. It will be about finding a new form of TV art, that allows to visualize the network, multi-directional jigsaw: a breakage limit beyond which the system is abruptly altered into another or goes beyond, in its dynamic processes, a point of no-return, the sharing over long distances of other broadcasting sources, centralized live in a place of creation and not “tin” broadcasting (Video-Art).
Process becomes anew an important part of the artistic work. Democracy of technique is shown on screen. On a general theme (time, distance, language), several action, video, computer layers are projected simultaneously. As for a music concert, the participants (actors+tele-viewers) jointly agree on some basic melodies, so as not to lose the general direction. Solos sometimes induce actors to change the current of the trip (fulkingen). It’s the true research of a new televisual language (atmosphere, poetry, climate).
The idea of meeting, on the same public electronic place, and of interactive communication between different european countries, is seen on the screen (Cathodic Agora).
Activating the dialogue between the different layers of society, expressing Visions from inspiration, warming up the cold media from the crossbreeding of our individual cultures. That is entering the extreme (virtual-reality) thanks to the technique; that is formalizing the mass fantasy in a space of liberties, in the surrealists’ “cadavres exquis” style.
5 Technical Media
The basic equipment of UniversCity TV is the one every human terminal corps (transmitter-receiver) should already possess:
- Telephone: interaction of public or long-distance communication.
- Mailbox: many computer users communicate in real time (Chatline) thanks to a mailbox. Watching a TV broadcast, the viewer can take part as he directly writes/transmits his impressions onto the screen (no censorship).
- Numeris-Minitel: directly on the screen, the general information every citizen has the right to demand, with always this possibility of dialogue.
- Newsticker/Teleprinter: information from Press Agencies.
- Picturephone: picture and sound broadcast via the phone line.
- PC type Graphic Computer: all the possibilities of desktop editing, texts and 3D pictures, like in bigger computers.
- Internet: the world wide Web
- HDTV: the multiplication of surfaces and sources implies in the short term the involvment of high definition in our interactive system.
The technical medium is the means one really wants to take advantage of. In the new Media, everything tends to be the interconnection of systems (Midi-system, Genlock etc). As a laboratory, UniversCity TV has its own “software” equipment. But in the setting up of broadcasts, UniversCity TV equally uses any kind of medium, adapting itself to the technical configuration of the place, the aim of the manoeuvre being the experimentation of interactive possibilities in the Television Medium.
Widening the field of possibilities, finding other territories for fantasy implies a strategy: strategy of implantation and communication, which consists of extending the network, improving the interactive techniques of communication, not following the event but in preceding it, of activating the research (Software-Hardware). UniversCity TV has to give itself its own means of ambition.
As a laboratory, UniversCity TV tests the limits of existing technologies and/or in gestation. The equipment we use has as a function to connect itself to other systems of communication, in order to be the closest possible to teleaction. In mixing professional and “amateurish” media (adapted by “media-freaks”), we’re creating another way of “making” television pictures, a new form is being born thanks to UniversCity TV. The mutation we’re taking part in is an increase of knowledge. “UniversCity TV is no fake” we say, paraphrasing Magritte.
We know it well enough, one of the essential tasksof language is to cross spaces, to abolish distances, to create a spatial continuity, to find and establish a common language through waves.
Roman Jacobson, Essay on General Linguistics.
6 Setting up of a network
Advanced telecommunication Zone
The united Europe is first the T.G.V, the Airbus and the Telecommunications, in other words that “urbanization of real time” which would perhaps give us the possibility of avoiding the most dreaded peripheric marginalization
Each city has its own Universcity TV structure. Each structure is made up of individualities; artists, art school teachers, local prominent figures from the media and communication.
The outline of installation and implantation of a Universcity TV cell is generally as follows::
- A phase of setting up
which consists of finding the local partners and the minimum technical medium (Hardware-Software).
- A phase of practice
due to organizing the reflection on the television medium and putting into practice that reflection.
- A phase of active and regular experimentation
to the creation of a new European TV language, in taking part in the Europe Universcity TV activities, and in creating other UniversCity TV cells (cooptation-supervision).
Of course, this check-list is not exhaustive and is not to be taken linearly, but simultaneously.
… the ancient city, progressively becoming a paradoxal agglomeration, a METACITY, the relations of immediate proximity from now on giving way to distance interrelations.
These structures are equipped with light and mobile technical media, giving the participants (art, cinema school students, youth groups, etc.) a savoir-faire and a truely innovatory technical material .
These technical media give way to the production of independent programmes.
These programmes are broadcast on local (cable or free) television channels; the metropolitan cable network is in favour of a direct and interactive contact between the different European cities, by the means of satellites Using the local media of broadcasting means having the possibility of opening the cable network; the local, cable, public televisions to the broadcasting of such programmes.
Each Universcity TV “cell” becomes a zone of advanced communication, committed in the future Europole.
If we erase the borders, distances too are to be suppressed, otherwise we’ll have big problems in the peripheric zones.
In concrete terms, UniversCity TV has been setting itself up since 1988 in Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen, Lyon, Paris and Geneva. We’re not speaking about activism, but really about creating zones of advanced communications. Only the interactive “cells” are necessary (useful) for Ubiquity has to be made democratic, in other words democratizing inertia. If we suppress borders, distances have to be suppressed.
Suppressing distance is opening the television medium to interactive communication, that’s UniversCity TV or the cathodic agora. What we expect of an intervention depends on the philosophy of the therapy we have adopted.
7 “Strategy of the beyond”
Our purpose is to establish a mediatic bridge between East and West, a laboratory likely to establish a constructive dialogue, a cathodic workshop that would give us the possibility of visualizing the new communication networks which are being built throughout Europe. A virtual place where we meet without any a priori thoughts, the East and the West, where any of us can put forward his point of view, discuss, exchange, interactively communicate: a Hertzian space open to art, philosophy, research, but also to the new life-styles which are settling in Europe, a collective speech that does not cancel the private, intimate speech.
These experimentations break down the myth of the Media technology. It is the way to an active participation from a European public and a true democratization of information. Because the aptitude of communicating is established upon an inter-active practice, speakers assert their identity. The pleasure of acting directly on the media offers the satisfaction of shared, recognized, trained responsability. A new community can arise on that basis of exchanges. Our personal network, implied in such practices of communication asserts it. They’ve already affected our reality.
8 UniversCity TV as an INTERFACE
Lots of technical equipment is already present in the universities and regional Art Schools. Regional Art schools, Cinema and Television schools can easily understand the use of connecting between themselves different student and youth groups, from diverse European cities, working simultaneously on the same medium. The experience of “free” or “pirate Radios” is determinating, we know that it is possible to make fourty voluntary people work, 24 hours a day, but we know of the limits too, of the breathlessness which leads the wild chase of state grants, which nevertheless never come.
We’re already doing UniversCity TV, the question for us now is to know whether we can count upon a serious support from Schools, Universities, Cities, Regions, States and Europe at any scale whatsoever.
Eurocities are organizing themselves, as a result of European federalism a new regional structure arises , giving some historical centres a way into the new development of European Communication. It is rather too soon to “imagine” what will be the new world rules, but we can hope in the first place to occupy the brackets other people are deserting.
We’re convinced that Regions have a role to play in the compounds that begin to appear.
As far as the “Rhône-Alpes” region is concerned, we can observe Geneva-Frankfurt-Milan, and also Lyon-Marseille-Hamburg, or Grenoble-Geneva-Lyon, as well as the Geneva-Kreuzberg-Vaulx-en-Velin Scats, this being in every direction and at every scale.
Hourly brackets on regional televisions, use of the cable network, the setting up of a punctual place of a programme for a cultural happening, link-up, are no more than some instances of possible broadcastings.
As far as production is concerned, several technical means have to be taken into account. From form to content, options are open..
9 A Europe of Regions
Geopolitical Europe goes through a phase of transition, a shift from the out-of-date Nation to the found City: State-City, Europole, Eurocity, Mediacity; conceptual shift from energy to information.
A trend drives our regions, it appears as a great confusion, but the fact is there, a cultural identity tends to arise here. It sets fire to our suburbs, consume the intellectuals. Everyone is on his “starting-block”, waiting for the signal. Hear those who have ears. Let us take advantage of that “hot” moment and let us have the means to unite, to bind the threads of social fabric with an ambitious project.
Let us propose an alternative to officialese, let us hand over to youth without any restriction, let us bring out our savoir-faire without any paternalism. Everybody’s talking about cultural crossover, so let us take the risk, let us play the game. In order to come out of that crisis, let us communicate with “equal arms”.
Every one of us turns a blind eye to the problems of youth nowadays, we are all ex-teenagers, we all see the gruesome fact of foreseen future. But the technical means able to positively half-modify that future do exist. There is just a lack of will in acting over that technology. Experimenting in communicating.
As if knowledge were only given us in order to know what we cannot bear to know.
Maurice Blanchot, The Step Beyond.
“Expérimenting“: What kind of a medium would be a telecommunication medium made without any pleasure of research? Can we go on swallowing the surrounding pedantry which bravely advises us to flee and to forget about the fact that we are responsible (Narcocapitalism) without even turning a hair ? How to combine the individualism of goals with the nostalgia of a community, in order to avoid the reign of clans and sects, the Sicilianization of the city (L. Sciascia).
Let us create anew a system of intercommunication between eurocities, as it existed during the Renaissance.
UNIVERS CITY TV, work in progress
But if it is right that it is difficult to express oneself today in France, that a Palestinian or an oppressed blackman in the United States know better than me how to expres themselves. I do not express myself right, but I haven’t lost the will of expressing myself, of transforming the way of expressing myself better and better.
Jean Luc Godard, Ce n’est pas juste une image, c’est juste une image (It’s not just a picture, it’s just a picture).
10 Negativ Horizon
If the majority of our fellow-citizens recognize themselves in the main communication Media (national radios and televisions), the same thing does not apply at all as far as so-called proximity media are concerned (cable networks, local televisions). The media which are made use of to open them to the population have soon been lost in the bureaucratic meanderings. Youth is almost absent at every level. It is not new.
From now on, state borders go through cities.
Mayor of Philadelphia during urban riots.
Youth is becoming impatient, Borders catch fire, suburbs burn, Europe shivers, this is new. The problem tackled here is the access of youth to communication media. And the difficulty of the problem is in the problem itself. An active solidarity unites youth, and the deep need of commitment in some positive, useful thing is obvious. The project is the choice of radicalism, for the honest man, over-saturated with the media, scornfully turning his head away whenever new communication media are involved. Only the tradesmen, politicians or artists dare venture into it.
A latent intifada truely exists in the mind of youth; even in the most moderate such a feeling is present, to be alien to an adult earth. The identification to ghetto heroes: Mandela, Bob Marley, the American rappers-taggers, rai music, the dashing biker on his tragic bike, a whole code adults despise or consider as short-stay trends (as they are though, but the archetype of the Romantic Hero remains).
Every social crisis is a crisis of vanity, teenagers, students, suburbian youth want to be taken seriously, they have the desire to institute a true dialogue. They’re fed up with the potatoprinting workshops adults offer them. Since when should the teenagers trust adults? They do not speak about self-management anymore, they put it into practice. The difference with May 1968 in France is in the absence of cliques resulting from the actual youth’s trend. No PCMLF nor FNLMLC, but rather some Fatima What’s-her-name or Peter Thingamajig (the fact that leaders are indifferently between one sex and the other does highlights the change of an era). And when the teenager speaks about tragedy, the adult thinks about fault (see the drug problem).
The impossibilty of instituting a dialogue, an interactive communication between society and youth stems from the lack of a joint language. Why should the teenager only give up his “real” way of speaking to enter naked the more “subltly differing” way of speaking of adults. Finding interfaces, here is what seems to be a part of the solution.
I think that the problem is about evaluating the mass of authority that is necessary to maintain society in motion, and that means not too much nor too little. I think that we must have a look at the establishment and be ready to fight it. On the other hand, I certainly do not have the utopistic idea that, having destroyed the social institutions, man would emerge in his natural kindness! One of the most difficult problems to resolve today is to know how the authorities can maintain themselves without becoming repressive, and how to institute trust among people in law and politics as a solution for social problems. More and more, people have the feeling that authority is feeling threatened by terrorism and anarchy. The question is: how is it possible, if it still is, to carry out a balance.
All that is bureaucracy, administrative heaviness repels youth. Organizations, which are directly public do not have the necessary fluidity to penetrate the social fabric of present youth.
11 Now future
Television is so hard a subject for litterary minds that it has to be approached indirectly.
There is a puritanism towards the Media that makes us think we would be necessarily sullied from any contact with those new electonical gimmicks that are television and in a minor way radio. (France Culture c’est chic, Radio-Solidarnosc, c’est choc). Is it really serious side-stepping from the last avatar of modern technology, are we afraid of dealing together with reflection and practice?
In order not to be the Hoplite of power, the western european intellectual hides away into the no man’s land of non-doing. At the dawn of the third millenium we enter naked the prophesied “virtual realities”. Each age dreams the next, and our foretold future is the future of the Terminal Citizen, a spastic as says Paul Virilio.
Some find it “moral” to condemn that probable future, they let others “dirty their hands”, preferring to hide away into the sunny lands of the “other worlds” (the Third and the Fourth Worlds).
The artist, as far as he is concerned, refuses the “laisser-faire”, he dives with pleasure into the hazy domain of good western conscience. As a cosmonaute of forbidden thoughts, he thinks in practising reality. The artist daily forms the future.
I do not look for, I find.
With the Universcity TV project, it is definitely a matter of Art and of Artists meeting to invent, to create a new European language of live artistic television. To answer to those who would ask why Europe, we will answer because now the state borders go through cities, and because in defining the present in isolation, you kill it (Paul Klee).
Activating the direct dialogue between different groups of individuals, an active, concrete, INTERACTIVE dialogue, making this dialogue not cross soliloquies, but making it a reality that the pleasure of “working” (undertaking) together makes us “like” (appreciate) the other. Let us make our cultures confront without fear of practising and crossing them. Perhaps will we then find the “semiologic” bases of a Meta-Metalanguage of communication on communication, the cathodic screen being used as a ground for the manoeuvre of such an ethologic research in action (work in progress).
UniversCity TV is a theorical, practical, necessary, social, poetic, avant-garde, popular, moral, revolutionary, indispensable, mobilizing work to be put into practice without further delay and for this to use the technique which starts with the thing we want to invent and go back as in a production line, step by step, up to the place from which we can launch into the path of the wanted object.
12 The Choice of Art or UniversCity TV
Art as a counter-milieuor an antidote becomes more than ever a means for the formation of perception and judgment.
Marshal Mac Luhan, Understanding Media.
In a concrete way the project wants to lead the public to the practice of a new artistic culture that takes into account the mass-media as the 90’s mode of expression and information.
UniversCity TV wants to make legible the research (HYPERMEDIA, virtual Realities) which shape a new reading of reality thanks to electronic aids such as Video and computers. Television (as an interface) proposes directly to the viewer the amount of available information and events of the World Village “shows”. What’s the point in requiring it to shift in order to see an event of which he will have a better view in front of his cathodic screen? In the new order of values, the new “philosophical deal” are already now the mediatic revolution, the synthetic languages, the fractal models, world peace, the global individualism, the quality of life, the interactive networks, generosity.
We must shift from chronological and industrial politics to ontologic fantasy. We must escape from the logic of a world in which the category of necessity has totally replaced that of possibility (Deleuze). In that cycle, cultural practises are void of any break-up force.
To allow youth the choice of taking part in the definition of the morales which govern us and will govern their future, is urgent. To want to impose our “political” views on those demandings is nowadays arrogance.
Men have realized that arts are “counter-milieux” or antidotes that give the means to perceive the milieu itself.
UniversCity TV wants to break away from the practices stemming from the industrial revolution and practise the passionate “wanting” of electronical revolution.
SILICON versus CARBONE
The interconnected interplay of technical and creative potential is what interactivity is.
Salvatore.Vanasco, Eunémia, l’amour des lois.
The concept of interactivity is linked with the concept of “live TV”, they stick to one another. Interactivity is meant to turn the passive viewer into a “terminal citizen” and to be “active” he has to get to the access of real time.
In the absolute, the terminal citizen will communicate by the means of a multiplicity of interfaces, he will have a vast choice of possibilities thanks to the interaction of the television screen and the phone (or thanks to their avatars). He will have the possibility of not only changing, modifying the TV programmes, but also interactively communicating with several networks (see mailbox and minitel) and data. A great part of the “work” activity will take place like this (home-working).
The ambition of UniversCity TV is to practise interactivity in a concrete way, for we see in it the tomorrow ‘s “morale”, that is the wrecking of “Big Brother“, the mediatic parallel of the collapse of the Berlin wall.
Since the experience of performance, the central theme of media arts is to think that interactivity can be used to enter new spheres of research. Those artistic practices are only existing as their own fleeting monstrations, as fluctuating appearances (as well as dance and theatre) of human reflection. This languag in the process of being made, which hesitates and asserts itself is seen and perceived by the TV audience who’s also acting in that virtual construction.
Interactivity is an artistic answer to the modern world, the Viewer becomes an integral part of that space of representation and dialogue.
European culture, becoming reality thanks to satellites and TV cables, must give the possibility of initiating a dialogue between the different individual spheres of this society and inspire us with a visonnary approach of our future culture; or then “Welcome America!”. The huge anglo-saxon networks are going to leave little space…
Mediane must no longer be only subordinate to the needs of the economical sphere (managing at the best the Europe shop). Mundane reality becomes unbearable next to the luscious simulations which appear to us on the screen. People are waiting to take part actively into that virtual world. They’re still no more than the passive and obliged elements of that communication. The social suicide (narcose) we’re witnessing comes as a result.
The proposition of UniversCity TV is to establish an advanced interface between artistic practice and industry. We want to set up an experimental research shared by those extremes to develop productions and a material, accessible by all in european cultural projects, to test the limits of existing technologies and to promote new evolving technologies (Hypermedia, Virtual Reality, High Definition).
To invest in this research is to establish the foundations of a new community.
14 Emotional Logic
With computer and audio-visual technology, using the emotional logic of the human being to communicate a philosophy of existence likely to deal with the XXIst century’s stakes and to give fantasy new territories.
The present context which uses artificial and heterogenous languages to express a point of view on reality is different from classical languages, as they deal with information, in an analytic way, not in a synthetic one. Information is simultaneously regarded at different levels of perception and knowledge to understand the complexity of existence. This synchronizing and power of the media becomes the new cultural deal of our universe as the “truth of feeling” reality.
“The making of work is in a reciprocal and changing articulation with the artist’s receptivity towards the world” says Maldiney. Benedetto Croce says that “The whole of history is contemporary history”, as an answer to Frederico Zeri who says: “the sensibility with which each era has produced its works cannot be re-created”.
The introduction of video aid of expression and its informatic and synthetic extensions as a mode of communication and representation, obliges intelligence to suffer a mutation, mutation echoing the invention of photography and cinema, which have changed our perception of the world. This quantifiable progress of techniques that sets up values of the representation of an era demands once again the affirmation of the truth of feeling art in order to flee the entropy of standardization power.
To want to make us believe that there is only one way of making television or dealing with social and cultural information is a fascination of thinking.
Extract from the 2010 archived version of the former UniversCity TV website
created by Christian Vandeborght