A summary of the conference given by Marcus Neustetter
on Reconnecting Cultural Systems at the Koldo Mitxelena
Kulturunea on 7th November 2003 within the framework of
the conferences on Artistic Proposals of today, here and
Influenced by his South African context and spurred
on by his interest in the relationships between art
and technology, Marcus Neustetter is conducting a series
of research projects into the possible local relationship
between art, business and technology. As an artist,
his work has been directed at relating high and low
tech of the media. As a cultural promoter, in 2002 he
founded Sanman (South African New Media Art Network).
He has also been an educational adviser to various institutions,
artistic and digital publications, both local and international,
as well as cultural platforms such as “LEA”
and the UNESCO digital art virtual library.
At the conference, Marcus Neustetter commenced by giving
a brief introduction to describe the geographical context
in which he is living as well as to the formal and informal
networks. According to Marcus Neustetter , South Africa
is a country which is experiencing many important changes
in a very short space of time. In the last few years,
city areas have changed tremendously. A system that
is characteristic to African cities has been applied
on top of a grid system pertaining to early 20th century
In Marcus Neustetter’s opinion, this has meant
that the black inhabitants have been induced to interact
with the city. Apartheid has affected the development
of the mass-media and the way in which they have tried
to keep up with the international pace. Elements which
originally pertained to the local system are now spares
for the new city. “This has produced a kind of
technological patchwork. We are trying to get the old
means to work with new applications”, he declared.
The inhabitants use the new technologies, make them
their own and adapt them to suit their requirements.
“The people are what makes the city work”,
Marcus Neustetter declared. As an example of this phenomenon,
Marcus Neustetter described how the inhabitants tap
the fixed telephone lines to solve the problem of the
lack of public telephones.
The Trinity Session
In the year 2000, the panorama in Johannesburg was bleak,
there were no budgets and subsidies dedicated to artistic
projects and, as a direct result, the art galleries
closed their doors. The brain drain, particularly within
the art world, was unstoppable. South Africa was a devastated
land and the people repositioned by migrating. In this
context, Stephen Hobbs, Kathryn Smith and Marcus Neustetter
decided to start to work together in producing public
art projects, critical texts, exhibition commissions…
Trinity Session’s areas of interest are related
to urban development and criticism of this development,
technology and electronic art. One of the first projects
to be made was an exhibition in which the Trinity Session
members wrote down hundreds of names of people and entities
on the gallery walls. There was an immediate response
from the people and they started to work with people
located both in South Africa and abroad, having migrated,
by making use of networking.
Marcus Neustetter showed several projects that Trinity
Session had developed. One of these was an exhibition
made with the collaboration of artists living and working
outside South Africa. They were asked to show their
vision of the city of Johannesburg. All the production
work was developed by networking.
Another of the works developed by Trinity Session was
the attempt to transform the Johannesburg Faraday station,
an informal area, into a formal space for cultural exchange.
“Faraday is an important space within the city,
it has a taxi stop, the national transport system, and
we considered that it could be an adequate area for
promoting an interaction between the city’s inhabitants
and the artists”, Marcus Neustetter explained.
For months they negotiated with nonmedical practitioners,
artisans, and people of the Angoma ethnic group who
inhabited this space in order to try and adapt it. “We
all worked together to renovate and adapt the space.
The experience was very positive for us since the degree
of interaction between the habitual users of Faraday
and the artists was really high. Moreover, a great deal
of African iconography was found at Faraday and which
the artists could incorporate into their work”,
Sanman, another of the Trinity Session projects, is
now developing work at a local and international level
in collaboration with groups and institutions that are
involved or interested in the new media art. Sanman’s
projects have many different forms ranging from exhibitions
or workshops to collaboration work with artists and
experts in the new media in order to create new work.
“At this precise moment, we are working with mobile
technology. We would like to make it available to people
and see how they use it. We are working in workshops,
and we aim to stimulate the people to create. We are
also conducting research with multimedia experts in
order for them to help us create new programs and interfaces.
South Africa has only had access to these technologies
over the past ten years and I am convinced that some
new, highly interesting projects will come from this
field”, he concluded.