Ars Electronica 1994
Festival-Program 1994
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Festival 1979-2007



'Marc Ries Marc Ries

"in this way, everything is going through changes* in this turned-around* world"


The traffic (*) does not stop at your door. It has already come in; its pathways – "much business and busyness" (1) – are visible everywhere, though sometimes only at its terminals which are intended as such, where the flowing traffic* is transferred to the consumer, the user. The latter is not the final consumer, the goal of the traffic's pathways*, but an entity which moves along with it. Someone who is in contact with the available energy for a short period of time, who associates* with it, who makes himself or herself available to the energy, thereby becoming a mobile entity. In this way, a certain kind of approach to that which then reverses itself* inside the house, which turns into its opposite at the beginning of the first connections. Privacy unfolds into a public experience, as the "private sphere which has become relevant to the public". Inside the house, a forward movement and transformation of the residents into mere co-residents and fellow mobile entities succeeds henceforth.
Since the second half of the 19th century, traffic* has represented an ensemble of powers and preparations, the mobile as well as the distanced, the pathway, the fuel and the people who travel by means of them. The global trade of the colonial supra-regional movements of the 16th century correlates with the total connections of the planet's transport technology – via waterways and streets, rails and air routes. When someone carried on a great deal of trade* at that time, it meant that he brought large amounts of goods into circulation, sold a great deal of these goods, was skilled as a businessman. However, not only the early capitalistic exchange of goods, but also art was an object of this trade*: "works of art … can … be copied, cast, and the copies can be publicly sold* with out the approval of the creator of the original being required …" (2) The works were sold, "brought into circulation". The more general and, at the same time, more intimate meaning of 11 social contact" was freed of this commercial association. "Keeping company with someone" meant to have public contact* with someone, social or sexual intercourse. The location of the action is therefore relocated from an economically determined external arena to an intermediate social space, into an intimate internal space.

A turn (Wende) is contained in the oldest meaning of the word, the turnabout, the transformation and the distortion – turning something into it's opposite – the Kehre ("… had Circe the power to change* men into animals"). (3)

"Verkehren" in the sense of association, commercial activity* and transportation* suggests all the same a transfer and a connection, whereby the turnaround or change can be the result of these movements. The technical connection, the attachment from the circulation of goods made by all those involved in the process of exchange in the market economy, the connection to natural resources and energy forms produced by industrialization, the scientific connection to the phylogenic chain of development as well as the quanta of material, the deep-psychological connection to the unconscious, the battles of annexation all sorts of wars and the telematic connection to the world as information – which, on the other hand, can tell us about all the other annexation practices: All these connections correspond respectively to a turnaround* or change, a turn from an earlier status to new conditions, new relationships, new ties.

The modern age reverses* the relationships between humans and between humans and nature. From now on, the traffic in goods, "much business and busyness", is becoming the dominant power of social bonds, and association* among humans, both public and personal, is defined by it. Goods and humans are, as a consequence, accelerated in such a way that they, the mobile entities "roll their eyes" in association with one another* to a point where time ("racing standstill") and space ("cyberspace") undergo a change.
The public space, when one traces it back to its beginnings, corresponds to architecture of the non-visible flow rates with unstable, open final products. By this I mean the new speeds of the traffic* in goods and information, which turned around the living worlds in the 17th century in the context of financial and trade capital. The simultaneous construction of traffic* architectures includes new forms of streets, the abstract lines of shipping networks, later air routes, the battlefields of banks, the stock market, the mail system and the press, the energy supply system, the spaceless transfer of data via radio waves, the digital communication highways. These forms of pathways and actions work towards the flow rates of the goods and the information, are unstable per se, as they are subject to constant transformation. Traffic* architectures correlate with a topology of the city as a subcutaneous public space, propagated as a public arena of the informational networks, as a public space of transmission, or to be more specific, the city of the present crystallized into an upper section – the ethereal space as a communications broadcasting studio – and a lower section – the earth's interior as a sewage and cable network. Between the two, on the surface, exists the constructed manifestation of the city with the two traditional transmission spaces, the street and the railway. The new public space – a public space of dissemination is essentially intensity, permanence: constant contacts, constant communication. Its architectural derivative is not to be found in any of the constructed streets or squares, the bars, shopping or cultural centers; rather, it is an architecture of microelectronic dispositives; it constitutes a space which describes the surroundings of the transmitting and receiving machines. This space – which is neither public nor private, exists as intensity, as the intensity of the communication.

With every map, every plan of the city, one should include a map of its energy routes, its networks, its transmission surfaces. It is within and with all these features that the city visibly becomes an organically woven structure, a vital principle, an on-line city in an on-line civilization. Life itself is – being public and private simultaneously – connected.
The traffic* architectures of capital and the kinetic machines perpetuate themselves in architectures of transmission and dissemination.

The first energy distribution systems, those for water, gas, oil and electricity, already established the program. They are not conceived as unique, goal-oriented units, which expend themselves at these destinations (for example, as a gas engine at 180 kph). Rather, they generate a circular system, a transformation, movements which involve the human user, which take him or her along. This circular system outlines an exchange of energy, an installation as being something interactive that transfers all exchanging elements into a socio-physiological formation of movement. The human, connected to the energy transformer and being one him or herself, (4) changes (and changes something fundamentally), allows him or herself to be changed also. Warmth regulates the presence of humans in rooms, makes these rooms inhabitable; light lengthens the presence, the daily rhythms of life and work.

Energy is "that which must be added to or removed from a material system in order to transform it or move it forward". (5)

We correlate our individual movements with the movement of the energies to which we are connected; we move with them and therefore change our pathways in life, our access to life, continuously. Intelligent connections.

The transport of energy indicates a change of shortage into its opposite, the dissolution of limitations, the creation of a condition of being fulfilled.

The transport of energy therefore means the transformation of work, an artificial process as an expansion of a person's own sphere of action, in relation to the architecture, the beginning (archein) of new living spaces.

The first transmission architectures satisfy primary bodily functions. Water flows; gas warms; electricity provides light and movement. The next step expresses the possible. The electromagnetic waves are informed, an "intelligent current": Telephone, radio and television offer interfaces, which intensify the traffic and create milieus of communication. The traffic in energy now means not only the exchange of raw energy, but also the communication of informed energy. Energy that is transposed into a certain form, into digital values, impulses, signals; on the other hand, the forms of the things that are transmitted transform themselves into energy. The energy becomes a medium; it assumes a foreign, a preelectric nature, transposes its form and transmits it to another place. This is what happens with the radio and its voices, the television and its pictures and voices, Internet and its writings…
Television is permeable. It is transitive. Its definite outward manifestation is not the image on the screen. The transfer of information to the recipient can – what is more – inform, excite, or motivate him or her. In order to initiate a certain type of action, to intensify it, to make it agree - on this side of the screen. This affects the viewer both as viewer per se and as purchasing power, as citizen, as participant and as someone who lacks something. This side of the transmission closes itself to the creators – producers, advertising strategists, politicians. Television is permeable only for the connected bodies. Even if the reality, the advertised product, the political mind as a media product is staged in such a precise way, its reception, its effects in the reception spaces can only be guessed at, or formed in vague mean values of the creator's blinded religious practice. This zero-situation is increased excessively by the assumption of the TV regime (and the political and economic ensembles connected to this regime) that they are "informed" about the mass media and masses of consumers and voters that are connected per se. The permeability of television makes it possible to experience the artificial movements – as the efforts of politics and capital to exert power and control - but also as movements of the medium itself, the transmitted music, the eroticism, which cannot be determined rationally in an easy way – in the real-time movement of the channel frequency as the viewer's own movement (stimulate to purchase, direct towards a political decision, inspire to keep watching, stimulate to dance). This transmission of movement, as an experience of the transitive nature, points to the moving body itself (the "medium") rather than to a construction, an idea, and it also points to a simple presence, to that which is in front of the camera, something full of equivocal particles of information, that effect a metexis rather than a mimesis in the viewer.

Behind the appearance of the concrete pictorial figure, the iconic representation of a scene, the fluid, concentrated energy of the electromagnetic waves is moving, and this fact is valid for every piece of electronic pictorial information. The image, which is constructed on the screen, is only a pale reproduction of the information, which both unfolds itself in the space in front of the screen and travels directly to our retinas and our brains, and also carries me as viewer along its energized threads back to the origin of their appearance in order to immerse me in the events completely. This undercurrent, which pulls one towards the picture's concrete situation, to the things and people in front of the camera, who link themselves to me, to every viewer via their energetic transformation, this undercurrent makes this participatory dimension of television real. This does not take place by means of cognitive understanding, but by means of sensitive, corporeal reactions. Television is primarily a corporeal technology, a corporeal technology with which the concrete, real objects distributes itself with the abstract electronic nature of the visual/audio impulses in the reception of the information by viewer's body. This participation in the world and the participation in the viewer's world, in his or her living space, is of a completely different nature than the conventional, "natural" and the "technical" communication of the raw energies.
The networks have an imminent provocative structure. Their presence in a person's own apartment, in all apartments, evokes participation in the exchange of energy, in the transitivity of the transmission media and in the performance of telematic services. With every additional connection, an additional line between the private and public spheres runs through the middle of the house without causing a visible change in the concrete architectural style. Considering the user, the recipient, and the network technician themselves on the strength of these presences means assigning an attributive element, which corresponds to the energetic composure of the dispositive element itself. And so, one could possibly speak of an undulatory individual, a subject which moves in a different way in its associations* with the flowing nature of the energies, with the electromagnetic field. With the connection to the performance of the service networks, a genuine experience of modern privacy apparently repeats itself. The "society's private sphere which has become publicly relevant" (6) marks an essential turning point for the bourgeois public sphere of the late 17th century. "The bourgeois public sphere can be understood primarily as the sphere of the private persons who have gathered into a group". These private persons resist the state's public authority "above the general rules of business in the fundamentally privatized, though publicly relevant sphere of the traffic in goods and communal work. The medium of the political discussion has neither a characteristic nor a historical prototype: the public reason". (7)

This dimension of the electronic communication already seems to be included in these reflections of Habermas'. Even here in the networks, the "public authority" is unrealized in the permeability and transparency of the networks. Also, the rules of bonding and the contacts comply with open schemes there. And the "public reason" is the medium of the discussion, thinking aloud (in writing), arguing, negotiating in the mailboxes. This entire movement reverses vertical dependencies based on the closed household economy of the ruling-class system to the horizontal network of economic and telematic dependencies which is based on open relationships of traffic/exchange. (8) The specific telematic dependency is one which results from the universal and interminable process in which the private sphere becomes public; it results from the forced logic of the networks, i.e. connecting everyone to everyone else. The private sphere is no longer understood as a beginning and starting point of a relationship which has been released from its capital value, or a communication; rather, it is seen as a good which can be purchased. Because, it is in the network, within the connections, it is attainable only via an exclusion that must be found.
"Privacy is a type of information that has its polarity reversed; I imagine it as anti-information. In a world where everything is connected to everything – where connection and information and knowledge are dirt and cheap – then disconnection and anti-information and no-knowledge become expensive". (9)
"Disconnection" is purchased a service provided by "encryption systems" of the intelligence services, which have now been promulgated by the "cypherpunks". The individual de-publicizes him or herself in his or her immediacy by encrypting his or her own piece of information, for example by means of "public-key cryptography". He or she is, from then on, solely an anonymous nomad in the network, readable, attainable only for those to whom the message is addressed. A certain encryption software model is called "P.G.P.", Pretty Good Privacy. "Pretty good privacy means pretty good society." (10)

Encryption is required in order to confront the phenomenon that is able to develop and multiply only over the networks: an exposed, decentralized, on-line culture. The members of this culture urgently require a new anonymity: "An on-line civilization requires on-line anonymity, on-line identification, on-line authentication, on-line reputations, on-line trustholders, on-line signatures, on-line privacy, and on-line access. The cypherpunks' agenda is to build the tools that provide digital equivalents to the interpersonal conventions we have in face-to-face society, and hand them out for free." (11)

As the private sphere is threatened in its concrete corporeality as an authentic and anonymous sphere, it must mutate to an – incorporeal – private sphere within that of electronic communication - anonymous and authentic characters. The type of network communication which was originally propagated as "open, intellectual intercourse"* is changing to an intercourse* of ghosts, of anonymous bits. The "open private sphere" is destabilizing itself for the benefit of an "encrypted private sphere". And so, the communication within the networks takes on a secondary importance in relation to the communication of the transitive media and that of the media of exchange. The "electronic bracelet" (12) is removed to the advantage/disadvantage of a society of new secrets.

"Ennobling" quoted from the Deutsches Wörterbuch by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Vol. 25, Munich 1991, p. 625back

Immanuel Kant, ibid., p. 627back

Hans Sachs, ibid., p. 628back

Debeir, Jean-Claude, et al.: "Prometheus auf der Titanic. Geschichte der Energiesysteme", Frankfurt/Main 1989, Chapter 1: Energie und Gesellschaftback

Ibid. p. 22back

Habermas, Jürgen: "Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit", Frankfurt/Main 1961/1900, p. 76back

Ibid., p. 86back

Ibid., p. 71back

Kelly, Kevin: "Cypherpunks, E-money, Technologies of Disconnection", in: Whole Earth Review, Summer 1993, p. 48back

Ibid., p. 48back

Ibid., p. 46back

see Deleuze, Gilles: "Post-Scriptum. Sur les sociétés de contrôle", in: Pourparlers. Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1990, pp.240back

In the first two chapters of this text, four different meanings of the German word "Verkehr" and "verkehren" are used - in the sense of "changing, turning something into its opposite", "trading, engaging in business, bringing goods into circulation", "associating, keeping company with someone" and, in the reference which is commonly used in the present day, "transporting of goods or persons". Where the noun "Verkehr" or the verb "verkehren" was used in the original, this fact will be indicated with an asterisk and the primary meaning will be used in the translation.back