ISEA Newsletter #98 - ISSN 1488-3635 #98, August - September 2004

* ISEA Board Editorial by Nina Czegledy
* ISEA News by Angela Plohman
* "A Brief History of Early Estonian Computer Arts" by Mare Tralla
* "Electronic arts and new media culture in Scandinavia" by Minna Tarka
* "Ponijpirts: The Mobile Sauna Project" Interview with Karlis Kalnins, conducted by Kristine Briede (edited by Marc Tuters)
* "Locative Media, the MILK model" by Marc Tuters
* "The Trans-Culture Mapping Network & the Iceland Workshop" by Marc Tuters

by Nina Czegledy

Dear members,

In August 2004, science, electronic arts, technology and popular culture converge to celebrate ISEA2004 in Helsinki, Tallinn and the ferry travelling between these Baltic cities.
Ever since m-cult's submission in Paris, we looked forward in great anticipation to this summer. Now considering the remarkable mix of programs on offer, we shall not be disappointed. 
It is a great pleasure to introduce on behalf of the ISEA Board this special issue welcoming ISEA2004, the 12th edition of the ISEA symposium. We are delighted to present special reports on a variety of topics from Mare Tralla, Minna Tarka and Mark Tuters. These texts reconfirm the unique cultural context in the Baltic, providing inspiration for outstanding collaborations such as ISEA2004.

The schedule of the ISEA public meetings have been published in our #97 Newsletter.
Aiming for a more inclusive means of cooperation and collaboration, we extend a special invitation to these meetings for all ISEA2004 participants to discuss current activities and recommend plans for the future. If you wish to be involved in ISEA or if you have questions or comments these opportunities will provide an excellent platform to express your views.
The African Network Meeting at ISEA2004 has a special meaning for the Inter Society.
We are extremely pleased to announce ISEA's endorsement of this workshop, reflecting our desire to collaborate on various projects in the field of digital culture and electronic arts. One of our primary goals is to extend the momentum of these activities in the future and to diversify our networks by co-sponsoring events in the global electronic arts community.
When ISEA was founded, it was hard to imagine the rapidly unfolding growth of the electronic arts scene. Nevertheless, despite the significant shifts over the years, ISEA remained unique and independent, and kept the role of organizing and promoting unifying yet nomadic multicultural events. For each of us involved in the organization ISEA might mean something different.  The strong team of Board members and the invaluable contribution of our Coordinating Director, Angela Plohman however stimulate the often-invisible work of the Inter Society,

Once again, ISEA2004 will be the place to meet each other, to be stimulated, to share our experience and plan for the years to come. In the hope that the symposium participants as well as our readers will gain inspiration, knowledge and pleasure from this special issue

Welcome to the 12th International Symposium on Electronic Art.

Nina Czegledy, Chair
ISEA board of directors.

by Angela Plohman

This very special issue of the ISEA Newsletter coincides with the launch of the all new website of the Inter-Society. The visual design and structure of the site is the creation of students in the Digital Arts Program at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, USA. (Bonnie Mitchell, faculty advisor; Nick Consolo and Andy Ranville). The structure of the site, based on the creation of the students from Bowling Green State University, was further developed and completed by two students from the Hogeschool van Utrecht (Mediatechnologie, Amersfoort, the Netherlands): Quinten Beek and Adam Chapman. The ISEA website is generously hosted by Public Domain, in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. This special enhanced issue of the ISEA newsletter was designed by René Paré (MAD, Eindhoven, the Netherlands).

We would like to thank all of the volunteers who have worked very hard to get all of this online, and would also like to thank everyone who has contributed to this newsletter focused on the Baltic region: Nina Czegledy, Minna Tarka, Mare Tralla and Marc Tuters.

As you have noticed, we are experimenting with a new format for the ISEA Newsletter. We welcome any feedback you may have - please feel free to write to us at info AT with your comments.

We hope you enjoy this special issue and we hope to see some of you at ISEA20004! In that regard, we would like to remind you that there will be several opportunities to meet with the ISEA Board and committee members at ISEA2004:

++ ISEA Networking Meeting @ ISEA2004
ISEA will be hosting an informal networking meeting on the Networked Experience Cruise during ISEA2004. The meeting will be held in the Carmen Conference Room on level 9 of the Silja Opera Ferry, on August 16, 2004 at 18:00. Representatives from the ISEA Board, ISEA Headquarters, the ISEA Cultural Diversity Committee, the ISEA-sponsored African-networking workshop, the Asia Pacific New Media Art Network, ISEA2006 and the ISEA International Advisory Committee will be present.

++ ISEA GM @ ISEA2004
The ISEA General Meeting for all ISEA members will be held on August 22, 2004 at 12:00 in the Sampo Auditorium of the Lume Media Centre in Helsinki, Finland. This meeting will also give participants a chance to evaluate and comment on ISEA2004 and offer suggestions for the future. At 13:00, following the GM, the Director of ISEA2006, Steve Dietz, will give a presentation on ISEA2006.

A Brief History of Early Estonian Computer Arts
by Mare Tralla

It is thought that electronic art in Estonia is a rather new phenomenon. In popular opinion, it is only seen to originate here after the first Interstanding new media festival, which took place in Tallinn in 1995. Bi-annually organized, Interstanding was the idea of two individuals: Eric Kluitenberg and Ando Keskküla, with the first edition organized collaboratively between Soros Center for Contemporary Arts (SCCA), Estonia, Estonian Academy of Arts and SCAN, Groningen, Holland. In association with the conference, the SCCA organized its annual exhibition under the title Biotopia, which, looking at the connections between technology and biology, was ahead of its time and not understood by the local art world and media. Only later the understanding and significance of the ideas proposed by the curators, Sirje Helme, Eha Komissarov and reflected by young Estonian artists and even some scientists, have been revealed.

On the one hand, it is true that Interstanding could be blamed as the inspiration for many Baltic new media initiatives, as this was the first time and place where the seeds were sewn. On the other hand, if one looks only at the Estonian case, the development of the society in general and its economy also played a role in the use of the digital medium by some Estonian artists. Firstly, the Estonian state had declared IT and TCT its developmental priority, however that did not include funding in the cultural sector; it was mainly targeted to primary, secondary and technical higher education. Yet, there was a lot of media talk about those developments and schemes; the idea of E-Estonia was widely advocated in 90s. But even despite very little funding of IT and ICT in the cultural sector, some money and equipment found their way there, too, thus access to technology became easier. Unfortunately, the general development of the ICT sector in Estonia and its rapid commercialization also meant that the space was quickly filled by activities with which artists had nothing in common and was not an area that artists had the will to occupy.

The activities in the period after 1995 have been quite extensively documented, due to the work of SCCA (later CCA) and a number of artists who were active within the more traditional contemporary art scene. It is wonderful that this exists, but at the same time, a neutral perspective on what really happened to media art in Estonia is long due. I am speculating here, but I think we have missed activities in Estonia that were not so close to the local established art world and its networks, activities that similarly, in the 80s, happened among close circles of friends or computer enthusiasts. The current history of Estonian media art after 1995 is filled with partial interests and even conflicts, personal likes and dislikes. With my more traditional art background, I am not the right person to point fingers at anyone, but just to bring out the need for new writing and research in this field. Also, I have observed from a distance the petty politics that have done no good for the interest of digital arts in Estonia since 1996. The reason for the local conflicts has been mainly a desperate race for international acknowledgment or ‘fame’, which is probably quite similar in many other small cultures, where it is a way of escaping local cultural isolation.

Members of the cultural establishment have voiced their disappointment that there is no alternative new media centre in Estonia, but they see the alternative centre as something similar to ZKM, and are not analyzing issues of sustainability and need for such a centre in a society as small as Estonia. At the same time, smaller and vibrant initiatives by local groups, like Moks, and Multikultuurimaja have been active almost invisibly. Recent activities by local artists and practitioners show different types of interests and initiatives in new media in Estonia. Just as an example, during ISEA2004, there are two week-long initiatives by local, young artists; one, an associated programme of ISEA2004, occupies a warehouse for second-hand computers in central Tallinn for a week, showcasing Estonian and Baltic artists’ works, including a night of experimental sound. The other collides with ISEA2004 and includes opening festivities and exhibitions in an alternative cultural space, ‘Culture factory’, in an old abandoned polymer factory.

To look at the origins of local computer arts and the possible current parallel practices, one needs to revisit the period before Interstanding. In spring 2004, Tuuli Lepik defended her MA dissertation “END IF or Estonian earliest computer art and its sub-cultural background in years 1960 –1995”. Her work was the first serious study into the period of computer arts in Estonia before 1995.

The computer-assisted works made during that period in Estonia can be considered only conditionally as ‘computer-arts’ as they were made without a niche that could identify the works as art. Only the lens of history provides us with the possibility to consider those early attempts in the context of art. In her research, Tuuli Lepik observes a wide variety of authors, from those of the first Estonian computer games with visual output and programmes generating audiovisual outputs to those of simple printouts like ASCII-art that have acquired an aesthetic value. That so-called maker of “material without art” might be “a designer” -creating the understanding of the technology of the computer making visual art. Lepik finds that the early programmers worked with great enthusiasm when producing early computer programmes.

In the title of her research, Lepik uses the archaic programming command ‘end if’, which ends the lines of possibilities of a statement. At the same time, many statements can be interwoven and there can be an infinite number of possibilities. And so “end if” ends only its own statement. New statements are still possible, leaving the system open. Lepik characterizes the early creative works by keywords: archaic, meaning, game, naivety, the means, cryptic.

She used all possible ways to collect information: interviewing people, using excerpts from records, Internet sources, dialogues, conversations with people in Internet chat rooms, in lists and also by mail. The historical facts of Estonian computer art were retrieved from articles in the local newspapers and journals from the columns of culture and computer science.

Through that work, Lepik discovers that there was an active hackers sub-culture in Estonia at the end of the 80s and in the beginning of the 90s. The former ‘artists’ of that circle currently form a group of varied professionals - programmers, designers, public figures and scientists. As a close circle of people, those authors were difficult to pinpoint and the information found about their activities only emerged after finding someone from a particular computer centre or classrooms of which there were several in Estonia in those days. The historic material about those centres has however being neglected by museums and is only found in private collections. Even the universities have not documented their early activities in computing. This may of course also be related to the secrecy of the Soviet era and the way the Soviet regime controlled any technology which allowed one to manipulate information. All kinds of reproduction technologies were heavily controlled. Computer graphics were taught as a separate subject or mixed with the studies of design in many universities in Estonia. But there are almost no examples of computer graphics works done before the year 1995 either at the Tallinn Technical University or at the Tartu Art School because of high entropy. Based on my own encounter with the Tartu Art School in the late eighties, there seemed to be no need to save a work and ‘take it home’. Lepik describes her detective work as collecting folk stories, from one word of mouth to another, leading from one person to another, from one material to another.  In this way, it is of course difficult to control the authenticity of the material, especially because often the real evidence of a particular programme or print or experiment no longer exists.

The first visual images of a cat by Heiki Sumre, made with an M-3 computer at the Cybernetics Institute in Tallinn sometime between 1960 and 1965, were made to demonstrate the use of the computer and to entertain the school groups visiting the Institute.  The printer computer graphics arrived after the introduction of Minsk-2 at the Cybernetics Institute, which allowed printing out. First, the ASCII images printed were of unknown origins and by unknown authors, used like pirate software now, the programmes often arrived in Tallinn through computer centres in Russia. An ironic fact is that one of the first popular programmes printed out an image of Mickey Mouse.

The first exhibitions introducing computer art in Estonia were held already between 1969-1973, when Enn Tõugu and Ivar Papp organized exhibitions at the Tartu Engineers House, using international computer magazines as sources. The 70s mark an active period of formation of computing centres in Estonia, by universities and research institutions. That meant some kind of access to computers for reasons besides ‘official’ research and needs. Ustus Agur, an Estonian scientist and computer enthusiast, wrote several articles in the early 70s, which look at the creative potential of computers and the perfect symbiosis of cybernetics and arts. Engineer Harry Tali also recalls discussions with his artist friends who were fascinated by the computer as a tool for artists. Yet computer art was not considered an art.

Many artists exploited the computer to produce mechanical or anonymous patterns. Computer technology allowed using matrixes with ease. Artists like Heitti Polli, Aavo Ermel, Tõnu Kukk, Raul Meel, Priit Pangsepp, Mall Nukke, the group “Fin Plotter” and Studio 22 used this in their works. In the 1980s, artists from Group Fin Plotter tried to show their computer graphics works in established art exhibitions, but found that the works were not accepted.  However, Fin Plotter had 4 separate exhibitions since 1986. From the above-mentioned names, group Studio 22 has managed to be included in the more traditional contemporary art world. Their abstract, meditative, audio-visual programmes ‘Early Sping’ and ‘Sea-space’ were exhibited within the context of the early Soros Centre annual exhibitions, and they found recognition by the local art press.

One of the first computer animation films “Stroika” by Viktor Siilatsi, Krista Siilatsi and Keith Siilatsi from 1987, was one of the first computer animation films that can be looked at independently as a film produced in Estonia and probably in the Soviet Union. It is a perfect comment on Soviet society at that time: the film is about a man who builds a house, taking bricks from a finished end of a wall to continue building, so the work never ends. Unfortunately, only bad quality video footage remains from the original Basic III programme.

In 1990, several artists also started working with interactive multimedia and later the Internet. Often they looked at the computer not merely as a tool, but tried to look at it in a more philosophical context and also as communication device. Rauno Remme, Ando Keskküla, Raivo Kelomees. Tiia Johannson and Mare Tralla belonged to that group. The ways those artists reached the computer and how they used it are all different. Rauno Remmes’ absurd computer game “Wanna Play” is an excellent example of a user’s frustration with playing old, redundant computer games that arrived with humanitarian aid packages and that were totally useless. The artist generates his own game in Basic, which gives an impression that there is a game and one can play it, but it is absurd and pointless; before you start, it is over.

The local computer art history is also well described with the development of personal technological skills. Many artists are now recognized as top computing specialists. For example, the programmers of the firm Bluemoon Interactive, who are famous for their software solutions, like the Kazaa file exchange programme and the technical solutions for the Internet phone Skype, started as young game programmers in the mid 1980s. At first they were making games just for fun, but soon discovered that there was also a market for their productions.

What also makes the research into the early period of computer arts even more difficult is the multitude of types of computers used: from Minsk – 32 to less available Commodore Amiga-s with different file formats and operating systems. The extracts of codes and files have no value anymore if they have no output. For example, the files of the installations “PCS 07-11” made by Raoul Kurvitz and Andres Lepp in 1994 are useless when there is no possibility to expose them in hardware, yet that work was the first digital art installation bought by the Estonian Art Museum and probably will never be seen again as an installation, as the museum did not invest in the hardware of that period.

It was surprising to see all the different types of activities by early computer enthusiasts and artists in Estonia. The above text only touches some, perhaps the most influential, of them. There could also be many parallels drawn with activities in the rest of the world. Despite the isolation of Soviet Union, it is surprising to see that the works made here carry so much similarity to the works done in West. Sure, often the international computer magazines, where bits of information were used, are to blame here. At the same time this also shows the communication starting between the west and ‘east’, and the enormous interest by Estonian scientists, programmers and artists, who later in 90s provided the ground for introducing ICT into Estonian society and artists into the world of new media.

Mare Tralla
Mare Tralla (EE/UK) is the programme chair of ISEA2004 Tallinn, she is an internationally active media artist and organizer. 2000-2003 she was the head of E- media Centre at the Estonian Academy of Arts. Her artwork often questions the place and the role of women in our societies and how women from Eastern Europe are perceived or seen in the Western world. Her work tackles or illustrates sensitive issues often with a large dose of humor and irony. She was also a co-curator of the last new media festival Interstanding in Tallinn in 2001.

Electronic arts and new media culture in Scandinavia - a brief overview
by Minna Tarka

When visiting Nordic countries, where to get connected with local practitioners? And is there a distinctly Nordic quality to be witnessed in the media arts of Scandinavia?

Even if Scandinavian policies relating to media, culture and IT are crafted along similar lines, there are strong differences in the contexts and positionings of media art and cultural practice. Thus interpretations of what a transdisciplinary practice in art and technology involves, and where its boundaries should be placed, vary a lot across in the five Nordic countries.

This diversity was a perhaps surprising finding of the research project Nordic media culture - actors and practices, realised by m-cult (FI) in collaboration with PNEK, (NO), CRAC (SE), Lorna (IS), Reykjavik and CultureNet Denmark (DK). The research involved a mapping of organisations, a 150-respondent-survey on practices as well as reports on national contexts. It showed that differences in context and discourse are not only national, they are also local and regional.

Centres, networks and patchworks: some national characteristics
The Scandinavian model country for electronic arts is Norway, where a national E-Art policy, together with dynamic centres such as Atelier Nord and NOTAM in Oslo, BEK in Bergen, and TEKS in Trondheim provide a fruitful environment for production and critical discourse, also exemplified by the very active Norwegian online forae.

In building their environment, Norwegians have closely followed developments in the Netherlands, and they also have their own 'Virtual Platform' - PNEK, Production Network for Electronic Art - to coordinate activities between the centres, disseminate information and develop competences across the country.

The Norwegian scene is also decidedly about electronic arts, with education grounded in art academies. Prominent areas are in electronic sound and open source tools development for networked music collaboration.

Detail of the SUX project desktop developed at BEK, 2003.

Finnish media art has received wide international recognition and has been framed as a key area in national 'cultural export'. One reason for the success is certainly the long-term international networking and the development of critical discourses in seminars and publications. But also the patchwork of variously profiled organisations creates a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts, connecting practitioners and providing informal learning environments.

Finland's links with the international electronic arts scene stem partly from ISEA'94 Helsinki, but also from the MuuMediaFestival which presented interactive installations already in early 90's. Media arts organisations - eg. MUU, Avantofestival, Av-arkki - collaborate with national institutions such as Kiasma and LUME with their excellent presentation and production facilities.

The 'demo scene' of  programmers has been big in Finland and has bred new generations of computer artists and designers, whose contributions are directed not only to games production but increasingly to the art world, as in the case of media arts collective and the Pixelache festival.

Overall, the Finnish media arts presents a very hybrid scene: arts, design and research as well as the more popular and tactical modes of electronic culture co-exist and cross over. This hybridity is in focus for m-cult centre for new media culture, which works to support the field, develop competences and accelerate exchanges in research, development and production.
In Sweden, Stockholm has the already 70-year old Fylkingen with electronic music and performance, CRAC's media lab and workshops, and Splintermind which streams projects across Nordic countries. In Malmö, Electrohype hosts one of Scandinavia's key media art festivals while the Malmö University Art & Communication has an education and research profile in interaction design and creative technology.

Compared to the Norwegian strong electronic arts network and the Finnish hybrid patchwork, the research revealed a more dispersed scene in Sweden, where boundaries between sectors and media arts initiatives seem to be more closely guarded.

On the other hand, an integrated model for transdisciplinary practice is presented by the Swedish Interactive Institute (II), a network of research studios that spans the whole country. In II studios, teams of artists, researchers and engineers collaborate and seek liaisons with the IT industry to promote a 'social entrepreneurship'; and the results are increasingly witnessed at electronic arts manifestations around the globe.

From Electrohype festival 2002.

In Denmark and Iceland, the fragmentation of the media arts scene was felt deeply and voiced by the research respondents as an 'intense need for a place': a media lab, a centre, a meeting point for practitioners. Despite the short-term and project-based support structures - typical to to all Nordic countries with the exception of Norway - organisations such as Artnode and Superflex in Copenhagen have done exemplary work in presenting and supporting net art and streaming media.

In the academic sector, Denmark presents a stronger picture. Especially Aarhus is becoming an important node in digital culture, with a university network joining digital aesthetics research (Aarhus University) and advanced visualisation (CAVI center) with the arts and IT sectors.

In Iceland, one might even speak of a  'brain drain': the availability of foreign travel grants has led to a number of electronic artists becoming permanent residents of New York, Paris and other metropoles, while local support has been minimal.
An important initiative to support Icelandic media arts is Lorna, established in 2002. This summer, perhaps significantly to the effort to put Iceland back on the map, Lorna together with Baltic and European partners, organised Iceland Inside Out, a trans-cultural mapping workshop.

Transdisciplinary, trans-Baltic collaboration
ISEA'94 Helsinki manifested the launch of the Media Lab UIAH, which now hosts one of the world's largest doctoral programmes in new media art and design. Interdisciplinary research and development of media culture and technology is doing well in Scandinavia, with long traditions in participatory methods. Besides design oriented environments such as those at Malmö University and UIAH, there are significant nodes in 'digital humanities' and computer games research, with the international DIGRA association's HQ in Tampere University's Hypermedia Lab and with a new Games research center in IT University of Copenhagen.

In the last couple of years, Nordic and Baltic networking has gained significant momentum. Projects such as the RAM workshop series (Visby, Oslo, Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius) have networked actors both regionally and globally. NIFCA, Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, has organised a series of new media art residencies. The Nordic Cultural Fund, together with the Nordic Council of Ministers have made several initiatives possible, among them the Nordic research project reviewed in this essay.

ISEA2004, organised by m-cult, Estonian Academy of Arts and a host of local and international partners will be an important manifestation of this activity. With its trajectory across the Baltic Sea and a programme spanning arts, research and popular media culture, ISEA2004 is a perfect metaphor for the increasing transdisciplinary and trans-Baltic connections.

Minna Tarkka
Minna Tarkka directs m-cult, centre for new media culture in Helsinki. She has acted as critic, producer and researcher of media art and design, as professor at UIAH Media Lab professorship and director of MUU. She was also programme director of ISEA'94 in Helsinki.

This review is based on the research publication Nordic media culture - actors and practices (ed. Minna Tarkka and Mirjam Martevo), m-cult 2003. 

Presentations of and links to mentioned organisations can be found in the online database at 

Ponijpirts: The Mobile Sauna Project
Interview with Karlis Kalnins, conducted by Kristine Briede (edited by Marc Tuters)

Based out of the K@2 media centre in Karosta [1], Liepaja, Latvia, Karlis Kalnins' Ponijpirts is an project for cultural integration, a multi-media mobile installation, that invites its audience come together for a sweat. Built inside of a '81 Renault horse transport, Ponji Pirts is a sauna on wheels, designed to travel throughout Latvia and the Baltics, to serve as a means for bringing together the  region's different cultures to share in a common Nordic pastime. Traditionally constructed with a wood burning stove, and with room for 15 people, the sauna is also designed to record conversations and transmitting them to an interactive web-based map of the Ponji Pirts's adventures. What follows is an interview between the  artist and one of the heads of the institution that hosted the project at their media centre on the Baltic Coast of Latvia in the former Soviet military outpost of Karosta.

Kristine: Who are you?
Karlis: Mans vrds ir Karlis Kalni, I'm a Canadian of Latvian origins.
Kristine: O.K., so what are you doing here in Karosta, then?
Karlis: We're making this Pirts Mobilais - Mobile Sauna inside this old horse trailer. Yes.
Kristine: Then, please, describe this idea some more...
Karlis: O.K. so...Three years ago in the mountains of British Colombia, Canada we were sitting around and there was really cold. We were standing at this glacier and the mountains were all around, and there was this forest and a river came through and the water was so cold. It was summer time, you know, it was hot, the sun was shining, but if you get into the water, you could not get warm again. And then we thought: Oh, what we would need now is Sauna. But we were 4 hours drive from the nearest city, we were really far away. And that's how we were thinking and one thing led to another and we built this Mobile Sauna. And we started to use it and it became very popular.
Kristine: But, that was in Canada.
Karlis: Yes, in Canada. And, you know, every time I come to Latvia and every time I see some truck driving by or I am cold, I think, it would be really nice if we had a mobile sauna here, it would be really good. And Marc Tuters, Mrcis was talking to Calle and suggested that we build one here as a project for integrating the cultures. Because one thing that's interesting about all the cultures that are here - these northern cultures - they all get cold and everybody needs to get warm and get clean. So, what a perfect opportunity for this culture integration! To have people sit, get naked and sweat together and become clean, both physically and I suppose spritually and physiologically.  So, the thing is about getting naked together in a sauna, a 'pirts'. These clothes that we wear are many things. They keep us warm. But if we are warm, then why do we wear clothes? And what are the things that the clothes give us? The sense of importance and class, because, what we wear... You know, rich people wear rich clothes and poor people wear different clothes from the rich people, the businessmen wear suits and those kind of things. But also like knights and soldiers - it's armor - it protects us from other people in some ways.  So, one of the nice things about getting into a sauna is that you get hot and you relax and you are sweating together with everobody else, so you are equal... all your psychological armor is taken away. So, it's not really only about getting clean and sweating, but also about the communication, I think.
When you go to the sauna in Riga and you ask if you could rent a towel, people may be ask: "would you also like to rent a girl besides?"  It's strange... but to sweat together is also considered sacred by many people around the world.  In Canada, where I live, the Natives have a sweat lodge.  It's a very spiritual, sacred, healing place...
Kristine: O.K. There is one more thing. I have been watching you already for several weeks and I see that you are building this sauna through the computer and also in our previous conversations I understood that this sauna will be also more new media orientated. Could you, please, take up this subject?
Karlis: O.K. so, what happens is that there is this guy Tapio Makkela. He is a media art guy from Helsinki and he has been exploring this concept of "Steaming media" as opposed to "Streaming media" - streaming would be video, audio over the web and steaming would be then the steam that comes out from the rocks at the sauna. So, and one of his concepts was how these intimate spaces, intimate but public in different ways change how we relate to each other. So, back in 1997 or 1998 he built a sauna and he put in an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) terminal. So, you type and communicate with other people and people are reading your messages and they could type back and they would have this dialogue using this keyboard that he put this in sauna.  And then I think he brought in guests and then people from all over the internet would converse with this persons sweating. The conversation that I read was with Lev Manovich. He is a Russian guy who lives in California.
So, after I built my sauna,  I met Tapio and he was building another sauna, but this time in collaboration with the Canadian artist David Rockeby. And it was this very elaborate sauna. One wall was a projection screen and there were cameras which you could not see, but they were there. And the concept was that you would sit in there and the screen would be all fogging. And if you wave in front of the screen you would kind of clear the way on the screen like if you would virtually clean away the steam and then you would see either yourself or some other sauna in the world which was linked up through this video. After that then I was working in Banff, in the same place where Tapio was building this sauna and I would come there and I'd look at it. I was inspired to do something that was a little simplier - a little easier, but also a bit more wide spread, and also working with this GPS - based on ideas from my previous work with this gpster project [2] and this locative media concept [3]. 

For a few years now, every weekend in Vancouver, where I live, we have been having sauna parties in a mobile sauna I built out there. I would drive the sauna to the front door of a part, so that inside a house there would be DJ's and musicians and then people would go out and jump into sauna. My roommate would record this [4] but all the recording equipment became a little intrusive (and dangerous) so, we came up with this concept of wiring the place so that you could just hit a button and record the sound. But, as we had a mobile sauna we thought that by adding GPS into the mix, we could log our location too and associate that with the audio and a website where you could look at a map and see all these little dots that when you click on them play sounds from the sauna.

For more information on the project please got to the Ponipirts' URL 5.]. The Ponjipirts is currently stationed in Karosta where it is being operated by Calle Biosmark (calle AT

... 1 (website for K@2 media lab)
... 2 (website for the GPSter/geograffiti project)
... 3 (website for the Locative Media Lab)
... 4 (website for Sauna Sessions audio archive)
... 5 (website for the Ponipirts project)

Locative Media, the MILK model
by Marc Tuters

Locative Media is the term used to describe a mapping paradigm that has received a degree of interest in the media arts recently due, in large part, to the the newfound accessibility of lo-fi pervasive computing applications to artists. According to the Wikipedia "the locative case corresponds vaguely to the preposition "in", "at", or "by" of english and indicates a final location of action or a time of the action" [1].  In the academic and corporate computer science research and development sector, location-based services for next-generation mobile device have been much celebrated in recent years --noted technologist Scott Fisher for example states: "as the processing power and graphic frame rate on microcomputers quickly increase, portable, personal virtual- environment systems will also become available. The possibilities of virtual realities, it appears, are as limitless as the possibilities of reality. They can provide a human interface that disappears--a doorway to other worlds" [2]. A graphic example of such a system was displayed at last year's Art+Communication 6 festival in Riga [3], organized by the RIXC Centre for New Media Culture, in which conference attendees were invited to play a demo of the playing the popular online video game Quake in the streets of Riga! Developed at the University of South Australia, ARQuake used a wearable computer mounted into backpack to project the 3D space of the video game over the landscape of 'the real world' through a head-mounted display, coordinating the two via GPS (Global Positioning System) technology [4].

At this same event, the term locative media was initially proposed as a tentative category for new media art that sought to explore the intersection of the virtual space of the internet with the physical space of the urban (or non-urban) environment, that attempted to distinguished from the corporate discourse in location based services (LBS). This space was further explored during a subsequent workshop in a suburb of Liepaja, Latvia, also organized by RIXC [5]. At Longitude 21.00, Latitude 56.55, on July 16-26, 2003, the Locative Media Workshop, brought an international group of artists and researchers to the K@2 Culture and Information Centre in Karosta, (a partially abandoned military installation on the coast of the Baltic Sea resembling 'the Zone' from Tarkovsky's Stalker [6]) to explore the idea of location in new media. The event focussed largely on exploring creative uses for the GPS (Global Positioning System) real-time mapping and positioning technology, and how, in combination with wireless networking technologies, that former might impact on notions of space time and social organization by potentially permitting people to produce and share their our own cartographic data, and map their physical environments and it's stories [7]. Participants of the workshop pondered techniques for the cultural appropriation of military technology from within the decaying ruins of a former military empire, perched on the edge of integration into a new regime (NATO & EU).  The workshop utilized mobile, location-aware networking devices/software (courtesy of and developed by the Waag Society [8], to trace the movements of participants in real-time as they mapped Karosta's so-called 'elephant trails', a web of footpaths criss-crossing the installation's rigid military grid structure [9].

One of the projects to emerge RIXC's involvement with locative media has been The MILK Project, a collaboration between the Dutch artist Esther Polak and the Latvian artist Ieva Auzina's [10]. MILK uses GPS devices to map the routes taken by dairy products from the udders of a Latvian cows, to the mouths of the Dutch consumers. The MILK project functions on at several levels: on one it is a poetic exploration of locative media that reinvents the notion of landscape painting; on another MILK is an ethnographic study that uses a map to present in-depth interviews and images of its subject; and on yet another level MILK suggests a model by which, in the words of Polak "the buying of a product can bee a joyful and aesthetic fulfilling experience in itself, comparable with a virtual trip." In the remainder of this article I would like his last notion of what I'll call "the MILK model" for mapping and of locative media as a potential consumer interface.
The MILK Project suggest to me that the same combination of technologies that have allowed for artists to image new forms of locative media (tracking technologies, digital cartography and network mapping methods) can also be used to create representations of social and political realities that are designed to be easily comprehensible to an average consumer. The MILK model for visualizing data related to consumer objects suggest means to "deconstruct" them, allowing one to visualize:  i.) the routes taken by the various sources that constitute a certain object --i.e. a GPS trace-route from the farm to the factory to the grocery store; ii.) the conditions of a products production --i.e. photographs of the farm and/or factory; and potentially even iii.)  a social network map, representing, for example, the relations between the company that has produced a product and its parent and sibling companies --a form a mapping can help ease comprehension of complex social networks as effectively demonstrated by the work of Richard Rogers [11], Josh On [12], Jo Walsh [13] and the Latvian researcher Valdis Krebs [14], to name but a few.   

While campaigns for ethical consumption have traditionally attempted to reach the consumer through a process of reasoning and argumentation, this tends to requires a commitment of both time and concentration that many people feel they do not necessarily have to spare. Extrapolating from MILK, and the above-mentioned social network mapping projects, we can perhaps, however, imagine a form of locative media that tactically uses the aesthetic appeal of maps to reach people more on the level of affect. Operating on a register closer to that of entertainment, such a project might seek to captivate the consumer by presenting itself as a kind of X-Ray device into the black box of consumer society, that permits one the experience of peering under the organized surface of consumer society to reveal a Matrix-like web of interconnected decentered complexity.  Crucially, however, the objective here would not be to mystify this complexity, but rather to present this as a visually compelling world (game-space) for a consumer to explore through a variety of maps that convey information regarding the products conditions of production, facilitating a degree of awareness into the process perhaps even creating a new category for consumption that we might call "awaretarianis m".

... 1 (entry for "locative case" on Wikipedia website)
... 2 Fisher, S., Virtual Interface Environments (I990), cited in Howard Rheingold, Virtual Reality (London: Mandarin, I993), p.131
... 3 (website for Art+Communication6 festival in Riga )
... 4 W. Piekarski and B. Thomas, "ARQuake: The Outdoors Augmented Reality System," Comm. ACM, vol. 45, no. 1, Jan. 2002, pp.36-38, ACM Press
... 5 (website for Locative Media Workshop)
... 6  Tarkovsky, Adrei (dir), Stalker, (1979), Image Entertainment, DVD Release Date: October 15, 2002
... 7 (website for Signe Pucena and Andrew Paterson's Mapping and Sewing Together Mythologies)
... 8 (website for Waag's Real-Time Amsterdam project)
... 9 (website for Mari Keshi-Korsu's Elephant Paths project)
... 10 (RIXC's website for the MILK project)
... 11 (website for Richard Rogers's Foundation, Amsterdam)
... 12 (website for Josh On's They Rule project)
... 13 (website for Jo Walsh's mapping projects)
... 14 (website for Valdis Krebs mapping projects)

The Trans-Culture Mapping Network & the Iceland Workshop
by Marc Tuters

The Trans-Culture Mapping series is a network for cultural exchange amongst media artists founded to investigate cultural applications for mapping in the context of an enlarging Europe. Comprising seven NGO's, mostly from the periphery of Europe, the initiative has been led by RIXC Centre for New Media Culture in Riga LV (the first time such network has centered on Eastern European nation) and will culminate in an exhibit at the 7th international Art& Communication festival in Riga, October 1-3, 2004. 

In August of 2003, RIXC organized the Locative Media Workshop in Karosta, Leipaja, a semi-abandoned former Soviet military base on the Baltic coast of Latvia. The event brought together a diverse group of artists to contemplate, amongst other things, how to appropriate the American military technology of GPS in the ruins of this former military city, where former Soviet citizens carry "alien" passports. (William Gibson commented on this fact in his blog at the time saying: "I have a special fondness for descriptions of places like this. They trigger ghost-dialog: "Forget it, man, she's *Karostan*. Latvian 'alien' passport. It's not going to happen." [1]) This original Locative Media Workshop became the model for the Trans-culture Mapping (henceforth TCM) series of workshops [2].

Throughout the summer of 2003 TCM featured a series of week-long workshops in Helsinki (FI) [3], Strasbourg (FR) [4], Loftgren (NO) [5], the southern cost of Iceland [6], as well a portion of the RAM 5 [7] event in Riga and an upcoming workshop on the Tammakari island in the Helsinki archipelago just after the official part of the ISEA symposium. The TCM events have brought together a variety of self-identified "new media" artists (coders, film-makers, sound artists, etc.) to investigate ideas of locality principally through the metaphor of cartography. Their interpretations of the mapping theme raged from using GPS and web-mapping in order to create photo-blogs, to more contemplative studies on the meaning of place borrowing methods from contemporary archeology. What follows is an informal interview I conducted during the TCM's Iceland workshop, put together by local host organization Lorna, in which I asked the other participants to describe how and why they ended up at this new media arts workshop, based loosely as it was around GPS, and how they positioned themselves and their work in relation to mapping.


From the 30th of June to the 10th of July 2004, the participants of Lorna's TCM workshop toured the southern coast of Iceland by bus from Rekyavik to Hofn, stopping to take-in the raw beauty of the island along the way. Participants came from very diverse backgrounds both in terms of  practice and nationality to work individually and collaboratively on techniques to interpret Iceland's vistas with new media tools. Towards this end, landscape was vigorously documented with perhaps 5000+ still images, not to mention audio and video to be edited and compiled into films and sound works, and uploaded to a database to be viewed through web applications.  By the close of the event, several mapping projects had been realized, including an annotated map journal by Palli Thayer, a time-based flash interface to Timo Arnall's GPS data and geo-encoded images by Even Westvrang and a proximity mapping application by Matias Arje, all of which will be made available in an open-source format on the project's website [8]. (Other participants whom I did not interview included Derek Holzer, Sara Hostler, Pete Gomes and Davis Bojars)

Marc Tuters (mt AT Who are you and what brought you here?

Palli Thayer (palli AT I'm the workshop organizer, I'm a member of Lorna, a Rekyavik-based new media group and a partner organization in the TCM. Lorna's responsibility for Iceland Inside and Out was to raise a portion of the funds and organize a 10 day workshop... As far as my artistic practice goes, before I started working in digital, I used to be an abstract painter, but I couldn't figure out where to put the dots... it all seemed so arbitrary, so I got into generative art where an algorhythm could make that decision for me.

Even Westvrang (even AT  I'm from Norway... into interactive media, interfaces, design, theory, narrative. I came here on the suggestion of Laura Beloff from the Art Academy in Oslo and because of a general interest in locative media.

Annie On Ni WAN (slimboyfatboyslim AT I'm a Hong Kong new media artist currently based in Goteburg doing a master thesis on interface design and I'm interested here in the representation of GPS data by physical computing (motors, electronics and microcontrollers), something which I don't think has been done before.

Timo Arnall (timo AT I'm a London designer living in Oslo. I came here 'cause I was fascinated by Iceland's extreme environment and wanted to go to a workshop focusing on 'tools'. I'm into adaptive design hackability and emergent use. It's a small movement building up amongst a few practising designers, looking at patterns in successful projects, and bringing together a bunch of theories from HCI, design, emergence and usability, to form a new design process more rooted in traditional design practice.

Jason Harlan (harlan AT I code, do math, and I'm an aspiring designer. I'm originally from San Francisco, but I've been kinda nomadic for a few months now working with you (E.D. Marc Tuters) and with RIXC on understanding how to aggregate the media created in these workshops. I'm interested in finding a quick way to depict the different mapping scenarios we encounter.

Matias Arje (matias AT I'm a coder from Findland, who really enjoys doing creative social engineering stuff with computers, for example [7]... I've managed to make people click their mice over 3 000 000 000 times. I found out about the event through Juha Huuskonen (E.D. the head of Piknik Frequency in Helsinki, one the TCM partner organizations) and the mailing list.

Hline Gylfadottir (hlin_kikir AT I'm an Icelandic artist friend of Palli's, I've been doing works dealing with future animals, old people drawn as Japanese cartoon characters.

Marc: So, what's the deal with mapping anyway?
Palli: I think we have to consider all the different types of information we're capable of extracting from GPS data and try to view that data in an abstract manner. We don't just have position, we have relation to a significant position, we have temporal data, we have elevation, etc. 

Ani: For me it's all about focussing on the subjective quality (through abstract representations) of the supposed objectivity of mapping. The GPS track-log is subjective since you choose where you're going.

Timo:  Mapping seems critical to taking 'cyberspace' back out into the real world, making it more relevant and embodied. As a designer, I think the active, dynamic and collaborative map is going to set itself at the centre of many interactions.

Jason: Maps have rich utitility and representation within a small space, and recent advances in consumer-grade technology have made it possible for amateur cartographers to easily contribute to maps, collaboratively. 

Matias: I see the role of mapping in this project as sort of a paradigm or a framework for content, onto which we are building different tools or projects, in quite a freeform manner.

Marc:  What're you doing here?

Even & Timo: For the last 5 years I (Timo) have been photographing daily experience, more recently I have also been recording locations via GPS, resulting in personal geographic histories to accompany the photographs. We're looking at visual representations of logs of images and GPS tracks. When correlating images with GPS tracks the images are often backgrounded in relation to spatial data [9].

Ani: I'm making kinetic cartography sculpture, more like an exploration than only a visualizing of the GPS data. I think the work creates alternative, more sensual representation of the data. I started by building the sculpture from basically nothing just some trash and carton boxes.

Jason:  Building a framework to catalog the different scenarios we were in.

Matias: I'm doing an application which visualizes the timeline of the GPS track and displays images from the route [10].

Hline: Creating monsters as seen on old maps. This sense of something unknown is not present on maps today when every detail has been measured.

As workshop participant myself I'm going to tack-on a last word myself (a la Jerry Springer). In his famous monologue in Swimming to Cambodia [11], the late-great Spalding Grey explained his concept of questing for a "perfect moment". Usually to be found in an exotic foreign locale, this "perfect moment" is a solitary Zen kind of experience when a feeling of contentment washes over you, and suddenly you're in the moment. An obsessive-compulsive with a --ultimately fatal- tendency towards depression, he made it seem like these experiences were exceedingly rare, and that one quested in life through a series of disappointments in search of these allusive moments.  While I have to admit that entirely too long was spent during this workshop tapping away at my keyboard, I none-the-less had more than my share of solitary moments of near perfection in Iceland: standing entranced in a luminous ice cave under 10 tons of glacial ice; watching a seal bob in the waves off of the coast of Hofn surrounded by sea birds and trancing-out to the steady pounding of the waves, and watching the Puffins dive into the wind from the crystaline cliffs at Reynishverfi. Yet, for all these moments of personal meditation (whether before nature or the laptop) I've come to understand the real value of these workshops may be in how they physically manifest what otherwise would be totally a-geographical communities. New media artists (what some policy-wonks are disturbingly starting to call the "creative class") along with the business class traveler, cultivate a new fluid kind of relationship with place by their constant mobility --even more so than the latter, as new media artists are often not tied-down to a particular home base and domestic responsibilities.  yet, while the spectacle of constant movement provides a certain rush, the oppressive sameness of airports, cheap hotels and ones desktop interface tends to leach the particularity from a place, turning everything into a 24/7 real-time blur. Perhaps then, this current interest in mapping can be thought of as a way contaminate our increasingly digitized gazes with markers of the local, in the hopes that we might turn-off the machine, tune-in to the unpredictable moment that surrounds us and just... let... go...

... 1 (William Gibson's blog entry on the Locative Media Workshop)
... 2 (website for Locative Media Workshop website)
... 3 (website for Pixelache locative media workshop)
... 4 (website for the Stasbourg TCM workshop page)
... 5 (website for the Loftgren TCM workshop pahe)
... 6 (website for the Iceland TCM workshop page)
... 7 (website for the RAM 5 workshop)
... 8 (website for one of Matias' former projects The Kill Everyone Project)
... 9 (Timo and Even's project The Time That Land Forgot)
... 10 (Matias' Proximity Mapper application)
...11 Demme, Jonathan (dir), & Grey, Spanding (wr), Swimming to Cambodia, Hallmark Home Entertainment, release date Sept. 17th 1996

ISEA Newsletter Contributors: Kristine Briede, Nina Czegledy, Minna Tarka, Mare Tralla, Marc Tuters.

ISEA Newsletter Online Design: René Paré (MAD).

ISEA Board Members:
Peter Anders, Chris Csikszentmihalyi, Nina Czegledy, Gunalan Nadarajan, Anne Nigten, Julianne Pierce, Wim van der Plas, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Mark Tribe.

Angela Plohman, Coordinating Director

To subscribe, send a message to: - no subject heading, with this message in the body:
subscribe isea-forum

ISEA, Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts
Pieter de Hoochstraat 38-2
1071 EG Amsterdam, The Netherlands
info AT

end  of newsletter