Communication Front 2000 Book, "Crossing Points East-West"


Crossing Points East-West

Let's begin by giving a bit of background on the project itself, Communication Front.

CFront is a curatorial project so far with three consecutive editions in Plovdiv, from 1999-2001. Its fourth edition is planned for 2003. CFront is an international event oriented towards the production of works and analyses on a clearly delimited and concrete topic, chosen to raise pressing and critical questions of immediate concern to media art and culture and the Internet community. CFront is organized in close collaboration with and with the organizational support of the "Art Today" Association.

CFront emphasizes the artistic approach rather than technical aspects and strives to create an platform appropriate for communication, discussions, the development of common ideas and artistic strategies. Around 40 participants from Eastern and Western Europe, the US, Canada and Australia come together in Plovdiv for two weeks of intense and concentrated work - artists, theorists, curators, net and political activists. CFront is not a festival. It does not have representative character and avoids entering the discourse of cultural and entertainment industry. In its form, it is rather close to the Temporary Media Labs as proposed by Geert Lovink. [1]

CFront develops the idea of an open community of varying size which constantly regroups and migrates to new ideas forming new temporary nuclei around new projects. It starts out with the concrete time span of the intensive two weeks of the project, and unfolds in the long term, as the common work practice, the friendships and mutual interests of the participants extend into the future in different form through the channels of communication that have been built up. But Communication Front is not intended as merely a communication channel in which information is exchanged. Communication is a process that is much more complex than just transporting information from A to B and from B back to A. Communication is not just free-floating bytes traversing the Net. Every message, every sign is influenced by the context it is carried by, and in turn influences that context. There is no communication without social relations, just like there are no social relations without communication.

It is no easy task to discover how to use the new interfaces. If we do not make special efforts to search for a fundamentally different approach based on a new understanding of the essence of the media, "the information overload (.) leaves a feeling of over-saturation and stagnancy, the new is regarded as the old, innovations become something banal. (.) Communication leads an existence without aims, without understanding" in interactive space. [2] Vertical methods of measuring are still applied to culture, and the possibilities offered by information technologies exceed those of the user. The question is not simply how to come to an agreement, but to look for ways of overcoming apathy, established stereotypes, tiredness, aggression. We need a new alternative, a chance to hear the other side.

This book is closely linked to the second edition of Communication Front /international project of electronic and media art and culture/, which took place in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in June 2000 under the motto "Crossing Points East-West." One part of the texts included were produced on the spot in Plovdiv during the working seminar of CFront, inspired by the debates and discussions of the round table in the context of the theoretical meeting. Others are investigations into the topic written specifically for the book when it became clear that we would have the possibility to publish it. We took the liberty of extending the circle of authors beyond the immediate participants in CFront 2000 and included well-known texts by "veterans" of our topic - texts that seemed important to us in terms of clarity and power of exposition of the problems presented in the book.

The deliberately eclectic selection of texts in the CFront book ranges from strictly theoretical, through anecdotal texts to some fervent manifestos or experimental forms that are more characteristic of hypertext and the Net.

With this book we hope to give a "push ahead" to the local Bulgarian context linked to the development and theorizing of media practices and art. We're far from wanting to prove ourselves as experts in the topic raised. With our selection of texts we strove to satisfy also the emotional side of the questions posed, looking for a critical approach to media and art. At the same time we left the authors to express their personal position free of curatorial pressure, outside the weight of institutions imposing boundaries or limiting the creativity of language. We tried to overcome self-censorship and the restrictions so typical of the recognized profile of the "whining" East European who offers no resistance, not only in totalitarian times, but also over the last years.

It is typical not only of Bulgarian artists and curators, but more generally for the East-European context, that they have a rather pragmatic approach to communication, which they do not share with the rest of the community - it serves to further their own careers. We would be happy if this book could contribute to a search for other forms and other reasons for communication, which lie outside the immediate and narcissistic purposefulness.

If you are a young Eastern European artist, researcher and theorist, critic or curator still studying and with not much experience with new technologies and media, we hope that we can be of some help to you in the general flow of information, or lack of it, in the ocean of diverse information, not only with the texts published in this book, but also with the links and references we carefully selected and attached to each text, as consistently as our strengths allowed. With this we hope to raise the question of visibility on the Net, visibility of information itself, the question of developing skills not only to make use of technology, but also of the complexity and variety of information that is useful not only for making informed decisions and building up some artistic career.

If on the other hand you are a street-wise media artist, theorist or curator who feels right at home with East-West discussions and has long felt tired of stereotypes linked to this discourse, or if you belong to the group of "embittered" local media activists and have by now grown up and shaken off your initial impulsive local enthusiasm, we hope that this book will help you think back to almost-forgotten aspirations, ideas and episodes if you are willing to, or may just offer you entertainment, and why not hold something completely new and unexpected in store for you among the well-known and familiar old stuff.

If the Western art community and system has a special meaning and is of crucial importance for East-European and Balkan artists, theorists, curators and critics, what is its meaning for our cultural history, and what can we offer in return? It is said that tolerance is an approach typical of Western democracies. At the same time, everybody acts according to their own ideas, because there is no cross-cultural platform that may translate between the different locations. Developing such a platform will turn out to be beyond our strengths as long as we don't depart from the superficial political correctness typical of many projects. If we do not wish to copy the pyramidal structure of Western art, what alternative shall we build for the East?

And of course, networking is not everything. As Steve Bradley, artist and curator from the US, said in one of the discussions at CFront: "What will I do with all this information? How will I apply it to my own local context, when I'm back in the States teaching my students?"

Dimitrina Sevova and Alain Kessi


[1] See the text by Nina Czegledy in this volume, or Geert's original text: Geert Lovink, "TEMP: Temporary Media Lab, Kiasma/Helsinki, Oct 8-Nov 14", Syndicate, 7 September 1998 <>.

[2] Milena Tzvetkova, The Paradoxes of Information Culture, Kultura weekly, Vol. 22 (2133), 11 June 2000, p. 11 <> (in Bulgarian); the text was reprinted, along with an English translation, in the New Publicity Almanac 2000 <>.

Tazi statiq na bylgarski / This text in Bulgarian
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