veldig.politisk - a digital attempt of restructuring the field of art in Bergen?

Grethe Melby
University of Bergen, Norway
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Abstract: "Every computer connected to the Net is a printing press, a broadcasting station, and a place of assembly. The question is, will citizens take up the challenge and pump some life into the public sphere?" Howard Rheingold, The Independent, June 28th 1999.

The project 'veldig.politsk' was started February 26th by persons from BEK (Bergen senter for Elektronisk Kunst). What first started out as a joke, was later tested as an art/art critic project. The project has similarities with the italian Luther Blisset-project, (more info: Nettime.org) but has certain differences.

'veldig.politisk' does so far consist of a false Bergens Tidende article on the Web, a video, and an art critic of the video, written by an invented art historian. The video was actually shown at BITteatergarasjen during the opening of Bergen as a Cultural City Year 2000. The article claims that there has been a cultural quarrel about the video because it contained a manipulated picture of the National Theatre. Several people are "quoted," and artist Jørgen Larsson is quoted to say "the project is about aesthetics, not politics." People are told about the web sites in a press-release sent out by e-mail. Later, a string of articles, mainly looking like a soap opera about the cultural life in Bergen, is to be posted to the same persons. Its content will depend on the reactions of the receivers. So far, reception has been divided between people who thinks it's funny, and people who ask to be removed from a mailing list to which they never subscribed.

Is this Net-art? This is one of the questions the project asks. It can be linked to the situations thought of Guy Debord, or contemporary theatre shown at the BIT. It certainly is a critique of the way the mass-media works, covering cultural life in Bergen. Theoretically, the insights given by the french sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (The Rules of Art (1992)[1992], On Television (1996)[1998]) are relevant. A map of Bergen is drawn in cyberspace that does not correspond with the map in the ordinary mass media. Nevertheless, we can only refer to the Gulf Crisis or the Kosova bombings to claim that what's going on in the "real" not always is what goes on in the mass media. In this way, the project explores the meaning of 'virtual,' and the hope is that the cybermap will intervene in the "real" representations in mass media. Another question the project poses is whether one can talk about cyberspace as divided from the real world, so often done by exploring how extremely local the project is. Referring to current cultural debates in Bergen, I will stress the importance of the relation between a text and its context. In other words, I will argue, people following Rheingold will meet problems that have nothing to do with the communication devices, but with the social environment in general.

About the Presenter: Grethe Melby is a graduate student in the Department of Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, writing her thesis on metaphors used to describe new technology and their relation to political decisions. She has been a Theatre producer for Prosjektteateret, and KrementX.