For the last two days, bosreving this ancient building of a bygone purpose in Plovdiv, I was contemplating on how both this conference and the site itself reflect the topic of local and translocal aspects of communication, connections, links, media intercourse and dissemination - topics I would like to discuss this morning.
This conference speaks for and embodies the vsision of the five curators who against all odds brought into existence an event providing us with an opportunity to discuss the issues of communication, one of the most prominent themes of our present day, as well as our future.For this event they chose a site, which is very much grounded in the history of local culture . When I arrived the various empty chambers of the building reminde me of similar places of my native Budapest, acity which once belonged to the same empire as Plovdiv. Both there and here, i was reminiscing (in the half light, under the cupolas) on the everyday life of those people who used these places not only for their own needs and comfort but also for communication.
Barely two days later (by means of notable miracles) monitors, projectors, and VCR-s - never actually meant to be functioning in turkish baths - fill these spaces and in internet connection unites us with a wider world. The placement of theis equipment here is also a strong reminder how artists subvert the original intention of manufactures by appropriating commercial software for artistic purposes, for art-communication, by placing data-projectors in turkish baths.
Three years ago, together with Iliyana Nedkova we were working on our first Crossing Over workshop in Sofia. The first and subsequent workshops were intended to provide access in this region to artists to create media-art. Then, (with a few exceptions, such as the Soros Foundation sponsored exhibitions) it wasw hard to imagine a show of video-installations by Bulgarians. Yet, today - and I have to repeat once more, against all technical and organizational odds, most of the intriguing installations in this ancient building were created by Bulgarian artists, proving how the ground can and does shift.
By resourcing this ancient building and by displaying local and regional work, this event firmly grounds us into local reality. Simultaneously, by presenting topics and speakers from within an international context and using the internet, we are transported into translocality.
In the age of instant electronically mediated communication, the terms "local" (physical) and "translocal" (distant, remote, global) acquire new definitions. A brief further glimpse into the shifting meanings of these terms, as well as their relationship to current cultural and societal contexts might be an extremely useful exersise.
As physical beings we operate in the framework of time and space. In the last decades - mainly due to the rapidity of technology-aided communication - the use of available time and space changed dramatically. While time and space are interrelated, this discussion concerns itself primarily with the spatial aspects.
Our physical space is sensed by sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and potential extra-sensory perceptions. Within our own "localiry" or in our own body, sensing (in psychological terms) is interactive and essentially electronically mediated: we receive stimuli from our environment which elicit responses to them. Since the last century, bur especially in recent decades, various new interfaces have been created to facilitate interaction between ourselves and the outside world. Due to these developments we are increasingly relying on distant externally mediated connections. The rapid developments in digital technologies have opened up new areas, new vistas and brought unforeseen changes which permiate our everyday lives. They also contributed to entirely new art-forms. In the virtual world, sensing is simulated and at this point in time it is confined to the visual and audio signals at the expense of our other sinsory perceptions. In summary, on one hand these developments extended our perceptual possibilities, on the other hand they have diminished our sensory capabilities.
In our visually privileged culture only our eyes are encouraged - we tend to fabricate and manipulate images, our hands are "off-limits". Tactility is only one of the neglected senses, however it is the example used in this discussion to illustrate loss, possible alienation, isolation within ourselves and between our local and physical and the virtual world. The emphasis here is not on the qualitative importance of the equal use of the senses. After all visual emphasis is the result of biological and societal developments. The emphasis is on keeping a more even balance.
Tactility belongs to the physical world. To touch (except in the most cursory sense), is a bold proposition. It implies intimacy, a controversial notion in an age when direct contact is increasingly replaced by remote control. To touch means to reach out from within our own "locality". in a certain sense, touching, bridges the gap between the "local" and the "translocal". Current cultural and societal trends in the so called developed societies often favour the simulated world to the "real". obsession with the virtual could lead to further atrophy of our other sensibilities. To be aware of the seductive foce of the virtual undermining the integrity of our innate ("local") sensibilities is essential. It is equally important to investigate and chart new territories and thus attempt to create a fresh balance between "local" and "translocal" values.