[RAM]7: Models of Collaboration

Minsk, March 4-9, 2005

Introduction to RAM 7
by Nils Claesson

Minsk, Belarus in nowhere land, the bad ass country of Europe was hosting the RAM 7 workshop during a week in March. An international group representing over 10 countries had a great time living at the 40 years of Victory Hotel and making new friends and contacts in a deep frozen monument over old time soviet architecture mixed with newly erected suburbs creating a Gotham city like feel.

Minsk is a big expanding city with a young population that has seen the explosion of users of new media the last years. Today the country has 1.3 million mobile phone users and Internet is expanding all the time. This is a great opportunity to create a critical net culture and develop a new media art scene.

It was the first time ever that Minsk hosted an International New Media workshop. The theme was Models of Collaboration in a broad sense: from multiple authorship creating collective photo-project to free universities, tactical media, collaborative projects concerning research and development, hands on pure data, and an introduction for the Belarus audience of new way and methods
of working.

The event was organized in collaboration between CRAC (www.crac.org) and Minsk Office 4 innovative Practise, a newly started NGO. The local organizers got support from The Belarus Art Academy and the museum for Contemporary Art where a retrospective exhibition describing the RAM-project that started 2001 was held. The exhibition and RAM 7 activities were given a lot of space in local and national television and news. All the open presentations and summaries of workshops where presented at the Belarus Art Academy and one of the most striking results of RAM 7 is ongoing negotiations between the local organizers and the Art Academy that may host a future centre.

by Denis Romanovski

The workgroups were planned to adapt them effectively to the local context: needs, interests, possibilities and existed initiatives. There were three workgroup sections initiating both theoretical discussions and practical studies: Free-Universities, Art & Science collaboration and Collective Creativity. The idea of such wide angle of topics has the target to explore approaches to new media culture available in Belarus while sharing experience, inspiring creativity and teaching practical tools. On the other hand the variety of groups appeared as collaboration models realized during the seminar. First two groups (Free-Universities and Art & Science collaboration) dedicated their discussions to growing necessity of network based educational and interdisciplinary initiatives/structures. Collaborative Creativity section came up in several groups and activities.

We started the seminar inviting all international participants to join popular community based game called PHOTOhunt (www.photohunt.by), where dozens of local amateurs groups were competing in digital photography browsing the city and random society sites during the whole first day of the seminar.

The “Photomachine” workgroup headed by Valery Lobko turned photographing process into collective action: “a photomachine made from plenty of photo-eyes”. During the seminar days the group grew up to 45 persons, moving between locations, themes and concepts.

Two groups were studying Open Source tools in master-classes of Barbara Huber: “How to produce networking on/with/between free radios and audio-producers” and by Andrei Savitsky: “Using Pure-Data”.

The Laboratory of Media-culture and Communications from the Lomonosov Moscow State University leaded “Tactical Media” workgroup.

On-line-collaboration group spontaneously formed around a competition “1000 and 1 way of using mobile phone technologies” submitting and commenting their proposals of the most funny and the most unordinary use of mobile phones. The competition processed on a popular forum www.onliner.by

“RAM 1-6” documentary exhibition, which took place at the Museum for Contemporary Visual Arts had a particular target to express solidarity/collaboration of the RAM network and at the same time to present RAM-project as publications map. Except RAM documentary the exhibition exposed three individual projects by Nomeda and Gedeminas Urbonas, Robert Brecevic, Nils Claesson.

The Art & Science seminar
by Dmitri Plax, moderator of Art and Science seminar

The Art & Science seminar was aimed to discuss different issues concerning interdisciplinary collaboration. Discussion, in which artists, scientists, students and teachers were participating, had two different levels – theoretical one and practical one. Theoretical level covered a big area of questions – from mathematician’s point of view on connection between vectorial geometry and abstract paintings, to discussions about different models of building of independent interdisciplinary platform for collaboration between artists and scientists.

Practical level consisted of presentations of different examples of already existing media labs and other institutions for collaboration between art and science. Participants tried to adapt the existing role models to Belarusian reality in different ways. Wide spectrum of solutions was presented – from regular member-based organization with most of activities in virtual space, to unusual computer game-based studies of situation in new media sphere – an instrument to connect different parts and made a map of net-working needs in art and science areas.

The main results of Art and Science seminar are knowledge exchange and the inspirational factor. Foreign participants learned much about situation in Belarus and Belarusian participants got some better knowledge about the development of art and science collaboration in different European countries.

Inspirational factor of RAM 7 as a whole and Art and Science seminar particularly is already expressed in international mailing lists discussion about future net-working and in building of new media center in Minsk, which is taking place right now at The Belarusian State Fine Arts Academy. This new media center is a first of its kind in Belarus and most likely the very first example of collaboration between independent new media artists, curators and activists and big state educational institution such as Belarusian Art Academy.

Free-Universities seminar
by Tatiana Tushina

An initiative to lead a [Free-Universities] seminar came from a fact that in the summer of 2004 the European Humanitarian University in Minsk has been shut down. The questions conserning the problem of “university”survival, the influence of digital technologies on development of more flexible and open models of remote educational system, using of meanses and methods of community supporting inside and around of “virtual university” have became extremely actual in this situation. The [Free-Universities] working group was experimental attempt to gather in an non-academical open discussion atmosphere the local and international actors having various interests and the defferents points of view on the distance learning and knowledge sharing subject in general.

For future participants was proposed a broad range of themes: a history, value, examples of anti-, open-, free-, non-traditional universities; the self-organized educational attempts, analizing of distance learning systems, educational open source programms, the innovational interdisciplinary educational courses on crossing of the science, art and digital technologies. The seminar was opened for all applications and form of participation and became a real collaborative research at a local and international level. As a result in the seminar took part the representatives of the belorussian educational and informational projects and artistic - educational european networks. The basic direction of discussion was: using and combining the digital technologies in educational and artistic areas, possibilities of cooperation between «virtual university» and the artistic noncommercial organizations and networks, including the next aspects: using of the same technical and programming meances (open source, wiki, digital radio, streaming, virtual conference etc.) and the same ideology (free spread of knowledge and information, collective form of participation in creative and educational process, strict preference to horizontal and democratic model of communication.

It is possible to say that an assumption of efficiency art - education interaction was justified, within four days of an intensive exchange of experience the [Free-Universities] working group has turned to collective of adherents. And according to the opinion of belorussian participants, the experience of artistic networking gives a new impulse for development of educational and informational network resources, to the development of new courses and educational programs in the new open -, digital- free University.