An Insider's Report from the Nettime Squad Meeting in Ljubljana, 22 & 23 June 1997

From time to time the Nettime floating community chooses to replace it's on-line invisibility for genuine eye to eye discussion. Ljubljana played host on the 22nd and 23rd of June to such a meeting following the events in Budapest.

The so called founding group of Nettime, the Central Committee, together with representatives from the Soros Foundation in Ljubljana, and specifically it's media branch "Ljudmila" organised the conference. Our dear "Uncle from America" Mr. Soros (as we, from time to time, carelessly referred to him, trying to discuss his almost obscene power position in Eastern Europe) funded the conference. Besides OSI Slovenia, according to Diana Mc Carty, Press Now and V2 also gave money suport to the Nettime Conference. In this ocassion the Zentral Komeetee Nettime Book of Texts - "ZKP 4" was printed in the popular Herald Tribune Newspaper format in 10.000 copies. (Try to get your hands on it. It is a precious 62 page manual for surviving Internet euphoria!)

Topics were presented in morning and afternoon sessions over the two days. These topics, which were not widely announced to the public were the following: What is net-art?, on/offline publishing , media activism and "The Beast" - the East, as the title of the Nettime conference in Ljubljana was the "Beauty and The East". Evening programmes, which were widely publicised covered the following: pirate radio, lectures by Peter Lamborn Wilson and Critical Art Ensemble, and an all night party with various D.J.s held in the K4 club in the centre of the city. A venue which was an underground disco club in the eighties.

Nettime was and is, in it's material version, a kind of mise-en-scene of the rhizomatic non-linear structure which is evolving everywhere. This structure seems not to have a centre nor a periphery, just some topical nodes here and there. However, at some point during the meeting it was obvious that in some instances in these fully open structures, one can find even more hierarchical constraints. When everything seems so informal, one can lose time searching fixed nodes or references. You might find yourself "caught in the act". Where there are supposedly no borders, you may find yourself detecting them, and soon this open, non-structured field begins to feel claustrophobic.

From the Nettime meeting it is possible, generally speaking, to detect two broad lines of thinking. One being a restructuring of Nettime as an informal but important critical network and the other positioning our "being in the world".

Both of these two directions, from my point of view, can be grasped also from the "NetTime Piran Manifesto", which was formulated after the two day conference when the members moved for weekend free floatings meetings out of Ljubljana. (Piran is a small city, typically Slovenian, on the Adriatic coast).

The first direction deals with the individual or group acting as a kind of entity which is neither historical nor geographical fixed, consciously taking the position of the scum of society. Not of the capitalist one but of' the "god" - Capital itself. (Capital is no longer wearing it's post-capitalist, nor post-industrial clothes? ) However, and this is where things become complicated, the scum of society matrix that was possible to detect at the Nettime meeting, and which reffers mostly to the positioning of the so called Western participants, was not a kind of parasitic body trying to get everything possible from the already established society structures.

The scum of society matrix proposed autonomy and a kind of progressive political option: new autonomous economy and new structures developing from the appropriation and restructuring of the so-called old ones. It was proposed to go back to writing only (e-mail boxes), as a possible counterculture intercommunication strategy and not simply improving the Internet, i. e, to erased the images -- pictures and the pushy internet software industry in the background of it.

In the guise of such utopian mind, it is possible to find genuine strategies for fighting and acting, not just simply reproducing through technology.

The second possible direction is the one that generated from the intersection of East and West Europe topic of the second day meeting. As Wilson stated the second world was erased (we are lucky, aren't we?) and what is left is the first and third world. Is it possible to detect a new mathematics proposed by the "god" - the Capital? Instead of the second world, there is a big hole from which one jumps into the third. I will call this hole and the second direction "The Matrix of the Monsters", again with reference to the general title of the Nettime conference "Beauty and The East" ( The Beauty and the Beast!!).

The "Matrix of the Monsters" poses serious political and analytical questions related to the key question - Who are the new and old actors in the construction of this "Brave New World"? It is quite telling that the second "non-existing" world has to be perceived not only as the image but as the articulated actor of this world.

When it comes to the differences between East and West, it has to be cleared that the actors from "the black hole" the so called Eastern Europens are not only simply mirroring the first world - the developed capitalist societies, but articulating, interpreting it. And such articulation is in my view a very different vision (as Donna Haraway noticed), from the post-modernist observations that all the world is reproduced in images or replicated in copies.

New networks of actors have emerged in Europe and elsewhere since 1991. They do not want to simply adopt the mask of either self or other offered by previously dominant narratives of identity and politics. "The Monsters", as were pricesely articulated by themelves in Ljubljana, insist on difference - a critical difference within and not as a special classification method marking the process of grounding difference, such as apartheid. (Cf. Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Slavoj Zizek). So this is why on the second day meeting, the role of the Soros foundation in the ex- East Europe contect was posed, the relation between the state and the NGO's, and last but not least, about the dialectics of interpretation - who, when and how is allowed to write about the (Art, Culture, Political) History of the once known Eastern Europe.

At the end of the millenium, I have found the two matrices not only raising questions of reflection and of correspondence, but offering elements of political and analytical intersection that must be discussed and articulated together. (Marina Grzinic, Ljubljana)