Revolting was a temporary media lab which ran during ISEA '98 in Manchester, England. It was organised by Micz Flor (CrashMedia, University of Salford, Mute Magazine). It has been described by a number of journalists and participants as the most exciting event to take place at this year's conference.

To: Cybersociology Magazine ([email protected])
From: micz flor <[email protected]>
Subject: Re:port: Manchester/UK/Revolting

15th Aug - 20th Sep 98

What is happening in Manchester, UK? This summer the post-industrial city
in the North-West of England hosted the temporary media lab Revolting.
Possibly a bit late for the fast serving mailinglist. A personal but
valuable starting point for me to snoop around the context within which
Revolting was placed...




At the opening of the Revolting temporary media lab you would encounter
little more than a crowded bar area, two empty shelves, the Revolting
newsletter (tabloid format) a set of 60s sofas and the subtle electronic
tracks of Berlin's trax tv. No (media) art on display - wait, some people
mistook the Flying Toasters screensaver projections for an installation
work and subsequently must have thought: this is bad art. But nobody said

Between the 15th August and the 20th September 1998 the empty shelves got
filled with material: photocopies, videos, slides, audio tapes,
photographs, print outs. And the web site incrementally raised its content
index, now supplying over 10 hours of sound files, scans, texts, graphics,
links, messages. The revolting FM transmitter on 106.5FM lifted most of the
content on-air and the coffee machine in the bar area must have produced
gallons of content itself. More info on the projects can be found on the site.


Remaining temporary, the Revolting laboratory should be seen in direct
opposition to the trend of media centres as they grow throughout the UK
these days. According to plan, over 50 'centres' might be built throughout
the next ten years. Start counting the cities you know and wonder where the
remaining 40 centres will be built - and being a centre in relation to
what? The reasons for this media centre epidemic are multi-layered.
European policy wants to support the development of media centres, and
where policy goes, money follows. EU policy believes that computers do
good. They allegedly breed education, skills, jobs, humanity, ... name it.
And the current structure of UK's capital funding (see also lottery money)
supports the accumulation of money in order to construct or convert buildings.

The temporary media laboratory critically reflects on this believe in the
centre and the building. When it comes to independent media production it
is obvious that there are peripheries. In fact most of the appeal for the
centres to exhibit, invite or imbibe smaller media effects derives from the
attraction of the diverse, the distance between the centre and the
periphery. Such projects can remain light like a feather, whereas the
centre in many cases will eventually (and I guess 10 years is already a
conservative estimate) be vacant monuments of the turn of the millennium.

Instead of falling into the trap of building, equipping and running a
centre, Revolting aimed to create a temporary density of activities and
theoretical discourse in the North-West of the UK. Accepting that a media
lab will always be flavoured by the Zeitgeist within which it is
constituted requires temporary solutions.


Today, the media lab is a media phenomenon. You can find them everywhere
and they might well be looked upon as the 90s version of collectives or
communes; political and artistic entities which might claim to be the last
bastion of political consciousness within activism and art, after the
gallery has long lost its outreach potential in terms of social change.
However, even though the media lab seems to be a generalised stencil for
media production, it is clear that the only unifying factor is the empty
technological framework which allows to produce, archive and present media.

At the Art Servers Unlimited conference in London, July 1998, the most
striking outcome was the diversity with which those independent internet
initiatives need to be measured. In mere economic terms, the equation of
costs of space, equipment and workforce can function as a mapping device
for the socio-ge ographical location of such initiatives. Space is expensive
in the West, especially in cities, equipment is comparably expensive in the
East - but space is less of a problem in the Lower East Side of Europe. In
the West workforce is generally expensive, as cultural production becomes a
luxury article in richer societies. Still, the UK has a long tradition of
cultural production funded by the dripfeed of unemployment benefit
(something very novel but on the rise in Germany).

As the term Cultural Industries gains a currency on its own, it would be
interesting to explore the economic and social objectives of small (and
independent?) media labs. One crucial distinction which needs to be taken
is the time span over which those entities function. The Revolting media
lab was temporary and there fore removed from the financial and
psychological maintenance struggle of ongoing initiatives. Production was
crucial, but exchange clearly the priority.



This years International Symposium of Electronic Arts (isea98) was held in
Manchester and Liverpool under the header of 'Revolution'. But let's be
realistic! A blockbuster electronic arts event-slash- symposium called
Revolution is unrealistic. Still, it is anything but unexpected. Over the
last few years several trends have developed which - if followed through
consequently - make the appropriation of such a dramatic word for radical
change more understandable. Firstly, the momentum associated with the
social uprising of the late 60s has been transformed into social
romanticism and introduced deep into popular culture. Secondly, the
'Digital Revolution' has been announced. The fashionable transfer of
notions of radical change from the sphere of the social sciences to those
of technological advancement makes one question the reliability of the
concept of revolution as such. Finally, the battlegrounds of subversion
have allegedly re-located to the digital (and analogue) rea lms of networked
technologies. Revolting hangs up on the Revolution Master Narrative and
dials again.


Being temporary easily translates into being peripheral. And when talking
about the periphery we have to ponder concepts such as attendance,
audience, the public. Just as well, based in Manchester throughout the
summer hole the concept of the lab always emphasised the importance of the
archive. The live events, happenings, presentation in the space had two
audiences. One on site and one on demand. Revolting produced over 18 hours
of video material and the web page contains over 10 hours of audio
material. For a temporary media lab the archive is crucial and concepts
such as 'the public attendance' need to be understood through networked
media and distribution channels. Long live the real-time-archivists!


With a five week programme inviting international and local media players,
temporary also described the ongoing transformations of the Revolting
space. At times we had two presentations a day, especially throughout the
time where isea98 had it's 48 hours of academia based across the road at Manchester Metropolitan University. This ongoing change was crucial to the
flavour of Revolting. The foundation remained the same: a bar area, a
coffee machine, a kitchen, three Macs, VCRs, tapes, radio transmitters,
slide projectors, beams, etc. - but the space became what the participants
would make of it, sometimes disrupting the expectations with vigorous

Given the pace of the alterations and adjustments - creating a tea room,
then emptying the whole space for a performance, then installing half a
dozen of video monitors, then building an auditorium for 40 people, then
turning the space into a fanzine library - would set 'compromise' as a
default value. As it turned out this backdrop of improvisation seemed
rather adequate for most of the media works which presented themselves at
the space. Without getting caught up between the aesthetic imperatives of
the white cube and the process oriented nature of media activism, the
presentations could focus on the essence of their work. Especially as the
participants would generally be present to introduce and discuss the work,
the revolting context provided enough gravity to pull people towards the
subject matter.


Manchester is internationally known - that's for sure. Mainly for football,
cricket and the industrial revolution and the presence of Marx and Engels -
much later for Punk, then Rave, the Hacienda, Factory records, then came
the 90s and things went a bit quiet for a while. Recently a new selection
if independent record labels have been set up and it generally believed
that the music culture is going up-hill again.

Manchester has the biggest student population in Europe (ask any private
cab driver), but it needs to be said that this student population seems to
be superimposed onto the city, being its own economical entity, supplying
bars, clubs, restaurants, accommodation, as a matter of fact whole parts of
the city with business.

If you believe the papers then Manchester is booming. Whole parts of the
city are under development. The Northern Quarter - for the past decades
known for its sweat shop fashion and sex industries has recently been
renamed the Creative Quarter. Artists moved in, city developers followed.
Since the term Cultural Industries has been created for the UK, it doesn't
matter too much if you are an artist, desig ner or architect - at the bottom
line you are a more or less successful entrepreneur. Almost any small
(creative) enterprise has to evaluate itself in terms of economy: being a

Today Manchester is led by the new Manchester Men, architects, planners,
developers who are rebuilding and re-conceptualising the city. This
re-thinking of scale and structure has a number of origins, the most
dramatic one being the IRA bombing of the city centre in 1996. A whole
central area is under redevelopment, aiming to increase commercial value of
property which has previously been used by small business enterprises,
which have been entirely wiped out of the centre with the blow. At this
level, Manchester is run by business deals and politicians do little but
shape the development of the facades.

When it comes to the cultural developments currently underway, electronic
arts and media culture come into play. Substantial funding is being
supplied to the area. This money is sometimes targeted towards the
development of small and medium enterprises. But the implications of the
term Cultural Industries works both ways. Not only do cultural initiatives
have to evaluate themselves economically, but also they are suddenly in a
position to receive money originally devoted for business development. Fab.

Under the cover of training schemes and access courses a series of
initiatives have been set up to facilitate the area with possibilities and
support structures. The focus varies from commissioning art, supplying
structures, set up training or access schemes, network people or simply
generate ideas or give space.

Key players in the North-West area of the UK are (in alphabetical order)
the Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology (FACT, which also organised
the art programme of isea98), Innovation in Design and Electronic Arts
(IDEA, a group of artists who also run a number of training and access
courses and own the Deaf And Dumb Institute at which Revolting was located)
and The Manchester Telematics and Teleworking Society (MTTP, who are in
partnership with many electronic village halls throughout the city and
develop a network for micro and small enterprises).

Space: the last frontier... Technology plays a crucial role in the
development of the cultural mindframe o f Manchester. If you look at the
label culture and the raves of the late 80s it becomes obvious that
Manchester always managed to marry independent entrepreneurial production
and cultural profiling. With the increase in city development and the
subsequent decline of available spaces, small technological networks might
present an opportunity to escape the corporate feel of urban regeneration.

The Deaf and Dumb Institute (DADI building) of IDEA could provide
Manchester with such a network, also FACT will start working on a media
centre and the development of a Merseyside Network in Liverpool in 99 to
facilitate the diverse cultures with a network and public access terminals.
Once outside London, the idea of private funding for cultural developments
is a bit of a joke. Hopefully Universities and public institutions will
offer their redundant resources to facilitate independent groups, but art
organisation and funding play a crucial role in the process of
facilitating. North of the city centre, on the border to Salford an old
factory building is underway to become an independent mixture of studio,
meeting, and exhibition space and a small media lab entity: From Space (on
a mailing list near you in early 99).

Micz Flor

[Manchester, Oct98]

Special thanks to Andy Lovatt from the Manchester Institute of Popular
Culture for his Manchester specific input, thanks to Graham Parker, Laurie
Peake and Simon Robertshaw. And standing ovations to Tosh Ryan for being
himself and everywhere and in places where nobody else dares to go...


Aurora Universalis - Makrolab Mission (Stephen Kovats, Nina Czegledy &
Marko Peljhan); Backspace; Biotech Hobbyist Magazine (Heath Bunting &
Natalie Jeremijenko); Bit Plane (Bureau of Inverse Technology); Black Arts
Alliance (Black Arts Alliance); Black Women's Guide to Europe (Liverpool
Black Sisters); Community Media & Black Activism (Black Multimedia Arts
Collective); Martin Conrads; DeepDish TV (DeeDee Halleck); Die Kunst;
Digital Artisans (Richard Barbrook); Elect ronic Pulse Systems (Ricardo
Dominguez); Micz Flor; Gio d'Angelo; Global Bedroom Communications (Fanzine
Culture compiled by Graham Clayton-Chance); Hypermedia Research Centre;
Infopool (K3000 - special guest: Shedhalle Zurich); Manchester Area
Psychogeographics (Bob Dickinson); Million Youth March (Million Youth
March); Museum of Modern Strategy (Miguel Leal, Cristina Mateus); Net,
Radio & Streaming Media (Gio D'Angelo & friends); on-air, on-web, on-site
(convex tv.); Poets Get Paid (Poets Get Paid); Recognising (V.Barbul,
A.Davic, V.Midic, B.Milicic-Davic); Redundant Technology Initiative (James
Wallbank & friends); Natascha SadrHaghighian; Soaps Around The World
(dogfilm); Soft, Warm And Secluded (Florian Zeyfang,; Tactical
Media (Geert Lovink); Teens Talk Revolution (Jamika Ajalon in collaboration
[see page]); Vera Tollmann; Virtual Migrants (Kuljit Chuhan); Virtual
Revolutions (various, see page for list of artists); volte-face (luxus
cont.); Waiting Area / Ejector Seat (monitor 007); What About Communication
Guerrilla ? (autonome a.f.r.i.k.a. gruppe, L. Blisset, S. Bruenzels)

Virtual Revolutions was a collaboration with Revolting. More info:

Revolting was operated by Martin Conrads, Micz Flor, Natascha
SadrHaghighian, Vera Tollmann and Florian Zeyfang, organised by Micz Flor.
The Revolting web architecture was developed by Gio D'Angelo, the project
was assisted by Vera Tollmann and editorially supported by Graham Parker.
Revolting was hosted on-line by and on-site by IDEA. Additional
key funders were the Arts Council of England, University of Salford and FACT.


The Annual Programme
Arts About Manchester
Crash Media
Digital Summer 98
Foundation for Art & Creative Technology
geek (e-zine)
Green Room
Innovation in Digital and Electronic Arts (IDEA)
Manchester Institute of Popular Culture
Manchester Online
Manchester Telematics & Telework Partnership (MTTP)
Northern Quarter Network

Micz Flor [[email protected]]
[t/f]+44.151.7092663 [t]+44.161.2956157 [a]
[b] [c]
[q] "There is no administrative production of meaning."


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