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Cultural Exchange via Internet - Opportunities and Strategies
Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin, 12 October - 4 December, 1998

[as of December 1st 1998 the forum has been prolonged - ... open-ended]

Subject:Hello to the you all!!!
Date:Tue, 24 Nov 1998 04:35
Author:Pedro Meyer  []

Gerhard Haupt just invited me after the fourth week of this intense dialogue going on here, I am glad he did even though a little delayed, as the format of these presentations is absoultely excellent. I really like the manner in which the text is displayed and the possibility to follow through on the discussions. Good work Gerhard!!

About the subject of this forum, let me first introduce myself and tell a bit of what I am involved with.

I created a "Center for Photography" on the internet, called ZoneZero, [] which is now in it's third year of existence ( in dog years, as some consider life on the internet, that would be about 30).

In this space we have the work of more than a hundred photographers from all over the world. What separates us from many other sites offering photographic works is that our individual exhibitions are not presented to show off the talent of a given artist, for commercial reasons, but to offer photographic essays that have a specific content which we find merits to be seen. We are attempting to use the technologies available on the internet to further the photographic discourse, but also taking into account we do not want to be so far in the forefront that there are only a few who have the tools or where-with-all to actually see and read what we have to offer.

Our site is totally bilingual English / Spanish. (down to the buttons) which complicates our life considerably as far as costs and time of production is concerned, but we could not see doing it otherwise.

We have been fortunate in that we have a large following coming from about 92 two different nations. The number of hits we are receiving per month exceeds the million mark and in some months has doubled that, it is growing by an astounding 5% per month. So we are indeed reaching a wide audience to an extent that we never imagined possible only two years ago.

The importance of having such a wided audience is obvious as far as the long run viability of such a project, as withut some form of income the party is over sooner or later. We had given ourselves five years to get to the point of becoming self sufficient and we believe that we are on target to make this happen within the next two years. All the income that we will derive from advertising will be reinvested in consolidating the project and in so doing assuring the future and continuity of our endeavor.

We have found that increasingly we are getting more and more projects where the photographers are using the new tools that they have available to express themselves. At first it was only the straight photographs, but this is slowly changing as there are more artists who are starting to see the potential of this new medium. For sure there were always a large number of photographers exploring the digital medium, however they had not yet achieved the sufficient maturity that warranted showing their efforts. This has started to chage and I am convinced that we will see a flood of new work in the not too distant future.

One area of which we feel very proud off, is the result from the interchange that we have been pushing forward between the audience and the artists. It is slowly happening as well, that the audience feels comfortable addressing the individual artists through direct email. We find that this issue alone will have a lasting and important impact on the history of art, as this one on one, two way communication, between the artists and their audience is certainly something that did not exist before other than in the most inmediate and direct circle of friends that the artist would have. I would have loved to have been able to write to Andy Warhol at the time, the way people today write to Joel Peter Witkin in ZoneZero.

The problem we have today is one of identity, as what or who are we as ZoneZero? Gerhard Haupt presented us a "magazine" in the links he created in these pages, and he was not wrong other than the fact that we are not really a magazine, or are we? What about being a Gallery ? or a Museum ? or a Library ? or Book Store? or Book? or Cultural Center? I am sure you get the point. These are all metaphors of our analog world that somehow do not seem to fit exactly to our anatomy, yet we have to live with that for the time being. Every time there is a new technolgoy there is the problem of how we describe what occurs in the process of using such a technology.

If Marcel Duchamp took a urinal and declared it was a piece of art, what stops me from declaring that ZoneZero is a work of art as well? We don't even have a name to define what it is that we are doing, let alone establishing if it can be called art. Some of the web sites that have been declared as art, I find utterly and totally boring and uninspiring. To some who have not seen much of what passes as art on the web, they find some of these contributions quite "original". The problem of originality is like with Photoshop filters, when first seen some of these effects are quite dazzling. But are they art? Have we now all become artists? is the notion of art as traditionally understood in need of some severe revision? Or should we take a page from the book of Sub Comandante Marcos in Chiapas, who is waging a war from the jungle (and winning) without even having much in the way of guns. The war is with the words on the internet and newspapers, while the government is still fighting a traditional one with tanks and have still not caught on to what is happening.

Well, I would hope I have thrown enough subject matter up for debate to continue having a lively debate going on here, especially as we come closer to the end of this forum.

All best
Pedro Meyer

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Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin, on the use of Internet in the cultural exchange with and between Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America.

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