Cybersociology Magazine: Issue Five

Book Review by Janko Vook, Public Netbase t0, Vienna

Station Rose 1st Decade: 1988-98.10 years of native multimedia art: edited by Gary Danner

Sation Rose have done loads, and most of it can be found in their new book Station Rose - cyberspace is our land'. The subtitle native multimedia art, MIDI, webcasting, realtime, life after history' suggest that we are dealing with new media. And considering that the first projects of Station Rose are going back as far as 1988, we could rightly consider that the documents printed in the book represent a form of technical avant-garde, originated in Vienna, Austria. In Europe, Station Rose certainly were one of the first artist group to produce interactive CD-ROMs and expand their range of activities with email in the early 90s.

Station Rose originally started as a project space by Elisa Rose and Gary Danner, a multimedia art station (multimediale Kunststation), in Vienna. And as we open the book, the first text we encounter is the opening speech by Oswald Oberhuber dated 11 March 1988. The fact that we do not learn anything about Mr Oberhuber and the lack of an overall introduction to the book will turn out to be the readers biggest obstacle in understanding this publication. Over the next couple of pages we seem to dig through an archive of images and text samples taken from those early times, such as "Station Rose is 100% public, is PUBLIC ART" - sound bites from a very free floating speculative media theory. And the images show art, they show people pointing at things on Flip Charts, they show things on walls and in windows. Beautiful things, bizarre things, but mainly things which are missing an explanation.

Already in the first weeks of Station Rose's existence the project managed to host some of the now well known Viennese digital diaspora, such as Armin Medosch, now editor of the well established digital publication Telepolis, then reading from his first book of Science Fiction, published by Station Rose. Similarly, the GDR based Christoph Tannert, now a well established Berlin based curator and critic features in the early days of Station Rose, talking about the "other side of the truth - avant-garde in the GDR?"

But on the whole, the first half of the book feels like the diary entries and collected pieces of an individual history, the history of Elisa Rose and Gary Danner. Following their biography from Vienna to Cairo to Frankfurt to the Ars Electronica in Linz and various other places across the globe, the reader has to reassemble the puzzling traces Station Rose left behind - and decided to put into print.

Texts by David Hudson, Geert Lovink, Howard Rheingold and F.E. Rakuschan help us to see what other people saw in the project. A fax by Timothy Leary, fails to do so. Texts by Station Rose, like press releases and diary can come across as to-the-point statements and observations, especially the visit to Cairo bares moments of 'deconstructing Europe'. On the other hand some of the texts from press releases should have been edited far far away...

On the whole we are facing a compilation of snippets and samples, very much in tune with the overall approach of Station Rose. In the end the book does not reveal what is truth and what is history. 'Station Rose - cyberspace is our land' draws an interesting line through the past ten years of digital history in European culture. It will be fun to those who might encounter friends in the audience, or those who want to know all about Station Rose, because this book seems to contain all there ever was.

Janko Vook is a free-lance journalist. After finishing his MA in art and theatre studies in Berlin, he moved to London before ending up in Vienna. Janko contributes regularly to independent publications across Europe and is the co-author, with Luther Blisset, of "Strangeways" (Univ. of Salford Press, 1998).


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