german version - autonomous net nodes
Interface Between Cyberspace and a Real Place

"the focus in the 80ies was on creating centers. a stage was a free space & a free space was a stage. now decenters are pushing into the foreground in the 90ies, which means creating the nodes of a communicative sculpture. the stage seems to be everywhere, it is the interface to dialogue."

That was how the Stadtwerkstatt formulated its program for the nineties in 1992. The central guidelines for action from the initiative - "taking over free spaces and arranging them", which referred in the eighties to real public space and was realized with a house, where autonomous art and culture work could happen, shifted in the nineties to media space. The focus was on development work (together with other activists), which aimed to occupy media space for artistic and cultural use, creating self-administered media structures in the sense of the public access idea, which would be available to art and cultural practitioners as a stage and platform of operations: interfaces between real space and media space, where production and self-formulation in the sense of a "critical investigation" of the conditions of society are possible. Under these conditions in the mid-nineties - in cooperation with the cultural initiatives KV Kapu, KV Kanal, Theater Phönix and the Upper Austrian Culture Platform KUPF - the Internet node was set up at the Stadtwerkstatt. It is a stage and operational surface in cyberspace for the Upper Austrian art and culture scene and a model for the way in which activities that are not businesses or commercially oriented can keep their place in cyberspace. has its local headquarters at the Stadtwerkstatt in Linz, on the one hand as a server and provider infrastructure, and on the other hand as a social space in the "real life" environment of different groups and persons. The set-up of the technological infrastructure in the spring of 1996 resulted in the needed servers, permanent connections, dial-up possibilities and jobs. It has also been the central strategy for this Internet node to create a separate, self-administered infrastructure. As it was amply demonstrated in the eighties, these autonomous locations are necessary for discourse and dynamics to develop, for alternative contents to find expression, and for self-formulation to be possible. They are meeting points and crystallization points for the artistic and creative potential that operates outside the logic of commercial exploitation. Face2Face to exchange ideas and engage in discussions, experiments and joint projects: a permanent conference. Since then, numerous independent initiatives and artists have come to take advantage of the possibilities offered by as members of the association of the same name.

This Internet infrastructure enabled the expansion of the scope of action into a decentralized and networked virtual space. It is an interface and a platform (for agitation), enabling a permanent conference of computers independent of appointment calendars. Now at the beginning of a new millennium, it is no longer possible to do without the new technologies in everyday life. Production, working and communication conditions have undergone a lasting change. Life without a computer and a permanent connection at work and a modem at home too is no longer imaginable. Checking e-mail at any time of the day. Research on the Web as the first step in obtaining information. Organizing everyday work through e-mail messages to colleagues, etc. Information overkill. Spam. Delete. Yet there is also an opportunity to be part of a closely woven network of information and the communication of information, to find out about things, ideas, actions that do not otherwise land so reliably in your own mailbox. Mailing lists as a way of spreading information quickly, for coordination and organization. An indispensable instrument in a culture of protest, such as that which has emerged in Austria in recent months. Even in a city as small as Linz, it was possible to bring 5000 people together on the street within a few days for one of the first major demonstrations.

An essential precondition for this is that the tools and the possibilities for using them are self-managed. The servers are equipped with the open source operating system Linux. The services, servers and possibilities that are available can be used and enhanced as needed. There is a dynamic interweaving between tech freaks, artists using the medium as a tool for artistic expression, and cultural practitioners presenting their contents and concerns in this medium or using it for coordination, organization and communication. The aim is to actively continue the development of both content and technology. It involves the pleasure of trying things out, testing new tools and checking their usefulness, discovering your own forms for using this medium. Whereas commercial developments push corporate access to the user as a consumer, from private data all the way into their wallets, the focus of initiatives like is that the producers themselves have access to the functions and tools of the networks. Software must be adaptable. The tools should be determined by the demands of artistically motivated work, rather than limiting it through standard configurations such as those supplied by commercial providers. Artists must not be reduced to adding their own color elements to the wallpaper in the given grid of the world view of Microsoft & co. provides an extensive server structure and various Internet services that are available to all users and staff members. MAIL, WWW, FTP, REALAUDIO, IRC, PROXY, DNS, NEWS, and Oracle servers, unlimited Webspace that can be independently filled with content uploaded through FTP. The connection to ACOnet via the structure of the neighboring AEC guarantees access to the non-commercial net. In combination with a second connection via the VBS (Vienna Backbone Service) that is expanding to Linz, is able to offer fast connections and unlimited service.

The Website as a stage, as a medium of publication and as a platform for communication. Newspapers, archives/databases, research works, cultural studies, theses, literature, music, experimental and artistic productions, radio/DJs on demand, discussion forums, newsgroups. People do not just surf here or put a homepage on the net, but rather learn, experience, investigate the Internet. It is a matter of communicating, presenting, programming, composing HTML sites, creating databases, encoding, downloading, uploading, IRC, Telnet, protocols, interfaces,... and most of all, putting users in the position to take advantage of all these possibilities THEMSELVES. Content-production, for which the tools can be /have to be suitably adapted and further developed again and again.

The Internet is not just the WWW and "networking" is not to be understood solely in a technical sense. The technology is a means to an end. Especially in forums such as "mailing lists", people who are widely separated from one another geographically can be brought together "at one table" so to speak. By means of new technologies, people "meet", work together on projects, keep one another up to date, without having to be physically located in one place. Nevertheless, face2face meetings are essential. For this reason, lays great importance on the social surroundings, the real surroundings in the Stadtwerkstatt house, on the one hand, and the virtual surroundings via mailing lists, IRC, talk, e-mail, ICQ, ... on the other, where experiences can be exchanged, problems defined/solved and questions raised/answered.

An important service area is making publicly accessible computer terminals available to members in the house at Kirchengasse 4. In this so-called club room there are computers for Mac, PC and UNIX users available. servus users and other interested people can come into the club room to obtain information, to surf, to send e-mail messages, download software, try out various possibilities, without having to set up a computer at home to do it. A HelpAdmin in on site for problems of any kind, who can provide assistance to the users. Useful collections of tools for designing WWW sites and links to possible solutions to technical problems provide orientation. Workshops contribute to fostering the community idea and also spark a critical discussions of the medium. Speakers are invited to members' meetings on certain themes (e.g. Linux, cryptography...), who not only discuss the technical aspects of the topics, but also and especially address the socio-political aspects. Link lists offer additional information on the specific topics.

Only with a technical environment that can be independently adapted will it be possible to develop various projects according to individual needs, while gaining the requisite experience and insights from the very beginning, whether with regard to databases, RealAudio servers, MP3 streaming, ASCII Webcams or much more. Because of the infrastructure provided by the Stadtwerkstatt, for instance, it was possible for the free city radio of Linz "Radio FRO" that broadcasts from Kirchengasse 4 to broadcast via the cable network and on the Internet, even before obtaining a license, in order to try out what it means to broadcast 24 hours a day. At the same time, it was also possible to prove that initiatives with little funding are fully capable of putting together a complete radio broadcast, in which active citizens are both willing and able to articulate their concerns. An opportunity to experiment with formats and aesthetic questions with no obligations regarding quotas is also given. The insights gained in this way continue to flow into the ongoing work.

A net art project that focused the interactive possibilities of the medium was "ClickScape98", which was realized by the Stadtwerkstatt as part of the European Cultural Month in Linz in the fall of 1998. Internet visitors from around the world could become "visible" in Linz with a mouse-click and leave their "messages" on the banks of the Danube by the Nibelungen Bridge. "Signs" were made by turning lights on and off in the windows of a building, pedestrians on the Nibelungen Bridge were accompanied by sounds made audible through loudspeakers mounted on the lampposts there, and on the "Wilde Efeu" ("Wild Ivy"), the electronic neon sign on the facade of the Stadtwerkstatt, chats took place via a WWW interface in public space. The events triggered in the real environment of public space by mouse clicks were played back onto the Web through Webcams and thus displayed to Internet users.

Another example that should be mentioned here is a females-only mailing list, which grew out of the work on the Cultural Development Plan for the city of Linz: The list has been in existence for about one and a half years. At the end of 1998, during ongoing discussions on the future direction of culture in the city of Linz, a group of women was commissioned to draw up a "women's chapter" for the Cultural Development Plan. Various discussions were conducted with different organizations, artists and cultural practitioners. When the so-called "women's chapter" was completed, a period of lobbying work among politicians began, to ensure that these demands were included in the Cultural Development Plan. The group continued to meet and invented for themselves the label "Fakultaet - Frauen aus Kultur and aehnlichen Taetigkeitsbereichen" ("Women active in culture and similar fields": with a wink at the word for an academic decision-making body and men's networks). The Cultural Development Plan has meanwhile been completed. The "Fakultaet" continues to exist and communicates primarily through the mailing list. Further activities and procedures are discussed by a "core group" at irregularly held face2face meetings. The mailing list functions as a forum and information pool, from a job exchange to exchanging ideas, for all those who cannot regularly take part in the real life communication.

Self-administered Internet nodes like, that are located at the socio-cultural nexus between real and virtual space, firmly anchored on the one hand in a real cultural and artistic environment and on the other as "virtual intersections" for the distribution of information, coordination and presentation, have an essential significance for the development of culture in the 21st century. Under the given media-political conditions in Austria, they are an indispensable instrument in forming public opinion in a country where there is already little enough room for a diversity of opinions and freedom of expression.

Together with similar initiatives in other federal provinces, is working on an "Austrian Cultural Backbone", a "backbone" in cyberspace dedicated to contemporary art and culture praxis, which aims to build up a technical infrastructure (access, production environments, and powerful connections) and also to contribute to building up media skills. In addition to this, what is taking place here is a networking of the independent art and culture scene in Austria, where strategies are developed, lobbying engaged in, campaigns conducted and content produced. It is a contribution from a vital and diverse scene to contemporary and national and international art & culture in Austria.

Gabriele Kepplinger/Thomas Lehner, April 2000

OK Centrum für Gegenwartskunst, 27. Mai 2000