From punk to mainstream

Gerfried stocker


The career of cyberspace is quite rich and multi-coloured. So it is just consequent to use the plural “ciberspacios” as the title of this exhibit. An exhibition, which aims to provide a kind of overview of the vast spectrum of artistic work that deals with this new space which engulfs us more and more like a second nature.

When William Gibson coined the term “cyberspace” in his meanwhile famous novel Neuromancer he used it to describe his idea of a virtual space which although entirely constructed inside of computers could be entered by humans with the help of special high-tech equipment—a neuronal interface.

But it was the more profane data-helmet with build in computer screens and a data-glove which for quite a while became the popular image of cyberspace, manifold published in glossy books and magazines.

A main feature though of Gibson’s cyberspace was its lack of laws and rules–a space outside of the laws of nature and gravity but also outside of the usual legislation.

It was a dangerous a dodgy sphere, entirely under control of dubious and corrupt enterprises. To prevail in it needed special expertise and the boldness of people who had nothing left to loose.So the heroes of this cyberspace lived in the underground, eager to subvert and undermine the shady intentions of the regime and the big companies and they fought against all odds for a better world.

But of course meanwhile the cyberspace is no longer the hideout for cyberpunks. And we have also learned to use this word as a much more general term for all those phenomena of our digital age where social exchange and interactivity takes place by means of digital telecommunication technology.

Millions of ordinary people spend not only their time but also a lot of money to create their own avatars to roam the virtual worlds of networked computer games like World of Warcraft or Second Life, or to exchange their photos, videos, private stories and sexual desires in this large cyberspace called the Internet.

Looking at all these, one is amazed at how much of Gibson’s literary vision has become reality, we now even have new types of illness among people who get seriously addicted to the computer. Cyberspace has become mainstream.

But still, if you talk to enthusiastic users/inhabitants of e.g. Second Life, there is a lot of this underground myth and cyberpunk fashion still in it. Although it is purely operated according to commercial interests, most of its users consider it an escape from the real world, a wild west of our time in which rules and laws don’t mean that much.

Pretty naive one might say considering the total control that Linden Lab—the US company who runs and owns Second Life—possesses over all the bytes and pixels of each of its 3.5 million users.

Anyway, there are more than enough reasons to look at the work of artistswith great expectation, and see how they are dealing with cyberspace and its consequences in our real world.

At the beginning I called this exhibition an overview, but maybe it’s more like a fast trip that stops by at some of the most relevant topics and also shows us some very subjective favourites.

Ten artists, that’s by far not enough to give an overview, but definitely it is worth to partake in this journey. And again, it’s the plurality, the wealth of different approaches to this topic, that shows us the value and relevance of artistic work as an irreplaceable and unique contribution to the development of adequate cultural strategies that enable us to respond to the technical revolution on a cultural and socio-political level.

In a time where the digital dominates all areas of our lives we need such diversity, we need wastelands and mud, ivory towers and sophisticated experimentation, we need space to breed the unexpected.

If creative industry doesn’t just mean to sell computer animations to advertising companies, but if we understand creativity as a major resource and condition to develop innovations, then we should have enough reason to support artistic experiments and engagement.

LABoral Centre for Art and Creative Industries has good chances to become one of the few places that respond to these challenges with a new and appropriate concept for a cultural institution.

One, it doesn’t just serve the need of representation but focuses on research and production—creating not just a monument to stare at but a vehicle to move with.