|Report by David Garcia|
|Our task was to re-iterate and expand on the ways in which small scale "do it yourself" (DIY) media can contribute to the creation of a more dynamic civil society from the bottom up. In my presentation I showed the work of Amsterdam's community access cable operator SALTO and a number of videos demonstrating ways in which the Next 5 Minutes had co-operated with SALTO over the last decade to link local public debate to local public media. |
:::Transit Location of the Cluj TML Transit:::
Transit is housed what was once an abandoned and dilapidated Synagogue which is being slowly renovated by a dedicated group. The building is situated at the end of dusty alley the entrance which does not encourage visitors. It is a rout you would be unlikely to discover without invitation. I was told that it is called the alley with no name. This is easy to believe. Every one working at Tranzit is clearly dedicated to a project which combines urban renewal with a vision that art and public debate (not just commerce) are essential to a spiritual renewal of a beleaguered region But one of the recurrent themes of the meeting was a recurring sense that But there is no disguising the pressures which this center is under. Money for even the basics is in short supply and Transit survives through the dedication of a team of brilliant people who in another world would be rewarded. A deep and angry frustration is one of the things I take away. A sense of profound disappointment in the revolution and a fear that all the best people are leaving.
The structure and sense of the building where a development workshop takes place would not normally be a part of the report but Transit is an exception. There was no getting away from the atmosphere created by the building itself and the dedication of those who work there. It is simply part and parcel of the event. One of the organizers Joanne Richardson uses the term "art on the edge of politics" in the excellent webzine she edits "subsol", but entering Transit you have the sense of being on the edge ...of the... edge.
:::A summary of content and activities of the Cluj TML:::
"Commercial and political pressures have left Romanian journalism at its lowest ebb since the demise of communism. The early 1990s saw an explosion of investigative reporting, but the concentration of media ownership in the hands of local elites, interference from central government and an increasingly corrupt working environment, have combined to chip away at basic standards of truth and accuracy among journalists in recent years. Shifts in media ownership, with increasing numbers of publications owned by politicians, businessmen or former security service officers, have played an important part in this decline." By Paul Cristian Radu, Dan Badea and Sorin Ozon
The extract pasted above is quoted from the Anchete www.anchete.ro website. A project organized by independent Romanian journalists. The site was frequently referenced during the TML and suggests something of the general skepticism about mainstream media as a source of reliable information. This project and others highlights the importance of independent (bottom up) media initiatives which this workshop set out to explore and support. The very existence of sites such as Anchete and Provincia give some sense of a growing understanding that civil society will not be delivered in the same way as goods and services in a capitalist economy they have to be built slowly and the trust which is the essential component of this process develops incrementally Like many post- communist states the habit of centralized control die hard and many of the discussions centered around a need to see the development of regional identity as a natural process of discovery and not always signaling the break up of the state.
At the heart of the Transindex meeting was a reality check on the democratization of media in both Romania and generally in post-communist Europe that was supposed to have happened post 1989. We asked the question: have any of these hopes been fulfilled? and where are the disappointments? And how can small independent media make a contribution to improving the situation.
Transindex was not a neutral event, it was conceived as a response to the fact that the standardization of TV, radio, print, & web to a few widespread and commercially driven forms had already diminished the possibility of media enhancing dynamic public discourse.
:::N5M and My Contribution.:::
The event itself has to be seen in the light of the wider tactical media agenda outlined above. The program in Cluj was thus dealing with both local issues but seeing them in the wider context of the development of independent media initiatives.
My task (with Derek Holzer) was to re-iterate and expand on the ways in which small scale "do it yourself" (DIY) media can contribute to the creation of a more dynamic civil society from the bottom up. In my presentation I showed the work of Amsterdam's community access cable operator SALTO and a number of videos demonstrating ways in which the Next 5 Minutes had co-operated with SALTO over the last decade to link local public debate to local public media.
I spoke about the Amsterdam's Tactical Media Lab which had ended a few weeks earlier had explored the importance of "migrant media" as a means of both networking and raising awareness in an era when western Europe was growing more fearful of immigration. An important issue in this context was the difference in perception of migration in Romania where the problems are those of losing people. Not only local talent but also the traffic of women for the commercial sex industry in Western Europe and also children and babies being exported for adoption. These issues were represented in the Transindex TML through both documentary film and in a poster campaign "Mind Bomb" by Firma-9 a collaboration between activists in Cluj and designers working in San Francisco. Seeing this work gave us useful possibilities for programming the Next 5 Minutes festival in Spring 2003.
:::The Legacy of Social Dialogue:::
It was important to be reminded of Romania?s rich tradition in "samizdat media". The importance of small scale independent media which helped ensure the survival of civil society. It was a vital component of the dissident movement which helped to transform Romanian society in 1989. The Romanian group Social Dialogue an alliance of artists, writers and political dissidents were a critical factor in preventing a more destructive civil war erupting by holding out the hope of the emergence of a genuine civil society. A number of those who were and are part of Social Dialogue were present at the TML and able to reflect on what had subsequently transpired. Very important was the presence of original members of such as Dan P erjovschi was the person who directed us to the impressive Anchete website which offers independent journalists a forum for exposing scandal and corruption. An important component of the pressure that a site like this can exercise is its visibility (through translation to foreign journalists) Like a number of the Post Soviet satellites Romania is often more sensitive to foreign rather than domestic opinion Artists Exposing Corruption in Post Communist Countries. One of the most important contact for us was with the artist group from the Czech Republic Pode Bal www.podebal.cz. This group have tackled head on the issue of corruption in post-communist soviet satellite countries. They have made a number of impressive interventions that were headline news in Czechia. And their presentation provided a wealth of tactics that could be applied in other regions.
The discussions that followed this presentation pointed up the differences in attitutedes to political corruption between established party political western democracies in which corruption is frequent but leads to the "politics of scandal" and post-communist countries where no one is shocked by corruption.
The presentation of Ovidiu Pecican was important. He showed The Prowincia website http://www.provincia.ro/this was a memo addressed to The Romanian government which caused considerable criticism when it was first "published" but has gradually come to seem like common sense. The project highlighted the simmering issues of militant regionalism that is often simmering below the surface of the Balkans The question of the Hungarian voice and presence in the wider politics of Romania was one of the unspoken elements of the meeting. And the possibilities of expressing these differences without being thought to be threatening stability was clearly seen as a necessary step towards genuine social dialogue .
The public domain was every where even in my bedroom. The public domain even wanted to inhabit the private space. Do we have a public domain or not? Independent journals But we don't have a public domain we don?t have and active public participation. We still have to advance in involving ourselves in public debates. I don't have the feeling that the civil society has made a significant contribution to civil society. We spoke of official actors but I don?t have the feeling that I am represented by them. What to do in order to improve the situation speaking about this I would say I am part of a group we decided to publish a magazine named the ProWincia it is a common forum for a variety of groups together in a friendly way. After a while we To write a memorandum addressed to Romania.
:::An alternative state:::
How to improve the use of money centralized by taxes. Nowadays we speak more freely about devolution in Romania some magazines wanted to continue this discussion. Tried to create an active dialogue with our readers. Even our personal life was transformed.
:::New Local Developments:::
Despite the pessimism of an earlier generation there are younger people who are determined to make the most of the possibilities offered by the new media. Impressive was the group who edit TIUK the underground webzine combine webzine with parties and other forms of cultural intervention.http://www1.freewebs.com/tiuk!/ Another impressive aspect of this was the intergenerational collaboration were the brilliantly schematic drawings of Dan Perjovschi.
>Counter-Documentary & Politics of Representation
(this discussion will focus on visual media but the following issues can also apply to other media which distribute "documents": what is a document; documentary and counter-documentary styles & forms of production; connection between documentary & propaganda; reality/fiction boundaries; strategies of indirect and non-representation)
>Mapping Media Activism
(in light of the collaboration with Next 5 Minutes, it seems timely to ask what tactical media means today, and how it differs from other forms of media interventions - strategic, alternative, migrant, nomadic; what is the connections between tactical interventions and mainstream propaganda; the geography of media activism - what regions and issues remain unaccounted by current media theories; what can "activism" mean in a specifically post-socialist context)
>Public Domain & Democratization
(different meanings of the public domain - as a shared social, cultural space of ideas and as a juridical category of property rights that belong to the community or government; where does the idea of public domain come from; who owns the public domain, who pays for it, who has access; what is the future of public space in a digital media environment; what is the significance of open source & copyleft for the public domain)
>Informal discussion of old & new forms of borders - from mass economic migrations of labor to new borders of intellectual property and on the internet (this is unplanned & open to all participants, though you are welcome to make a description of something you want to talk about)
>Minor Media Production & Distribution
(presentation and follow up discussion of different modes of production and distribution for "alternative" content; the idea of grassroots and do it yourself production in different media - tv & cable, festivals, pirate radio, (e)zines, etc - the prosumer & the disappearance of the distinction between producer and consumer)
This visit to the TranzIndex Conference would not have been possible without the support of the European Cultural Foundation.