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Gulsen Bal

In today’s world, one always faces the question of whether borders are still defining the limits of the global and if this is the case then how globalisation does influence the emigrational/nomadic paradigm… Unavoidable dynamical fluxus of continuous relocations substitutes the procedures of iteration. This interaction, as the notion of chaotic itinerancy implies: the forces in play cannot be described by a fixed constant vectors, characterizes the transformation of the possible into the real within a rhizomic marking. A becoming unstable of the models are part of an artificial world might be generative for the following becoming stable in the midst of a response to the notion of ‘progressive’ negation. What remains to be thought is the repetitious desire to recognise ‘ourselves’ to a double degree. “For in that hybridity of histories and cultures you have the spectacle of the simulacral... What this […] negations of identity dramatise, in their elision of the seeing eye which must contemplate what is missing or invisible, is impossibility of claiming an origin for the Self (or Other) within a tradition of representation that conceives of identity of a totalising object of vision.”1

The force of cultural difference is, as Barthes once said of the practice of metonymy, the violation of a signifying limit of space; it allows, on the very level of discourse, a counter division of objects, meanings, spaces and properties. However “…where do we in that uncanny echo between what may be described as the attenuation of identity and its simulacra?”2 Yet, does the existence of the Other depend on the Self or is it the Self which creates the Other? To see how superficial the discourse of otherness is, it is interesting to see how the trivial of selfhood is as the Self and the Other are both polarities of the same ideological construction. The process of “othering” selfhood subsequently is fixed and identified in identification. So there is no simple Self or simple Other, there are instead configurations of both as represented through cultural discourse. However, in today’s art world there is a discourse on otherness, the art of migrations. The notion of migration has become ubiquitous in the art world. In the discursive space that was opened by the problematisation of globalisation through questioning what kind of project then is possible within the space opened up by the new geographies, at the very point of crossing the borders?

1ICA Documents 6, The Real Me, Post-Modernism and the Question of Identity, published by Institute of Contemporary Arts, ed. by Lisa Appignanesi, 1987, p.4
2 Ibid., p.8

Gulsen Bal: This creative project, “The Making of Balkan Wars: The game”, is a collaborative initiative of a group of artists that formed out of necessity to address some particular problems associated with the production, exhibition and distribution of works of new media through employing the real historical game that transpires new geographies and everyday life. How do you (re) locate the problematic of this “situational representation” in the paradigms of a ‘generative matrix’?

Vassilis Kokkas: Politics, history, philosophy or things you can not put into words, whatever the framework, we all have already noticed that the media tend to speak in their own ways. In my opinion, both aspects are true: that we have been taking advantage of what appears in the media as reality, in favour of what we want to create, as well as that we have been using some accessible media as a way to deal with what is difficult but necessary to deal with.

Alex Spyropoulos:The Balkana city is full of critique primary focusing on the internal structure of the Balkan territory, the relations with the internal and external “other”, the outside pressure and intervention. This last argument is the argument that makes the Balkan reality very similar to the structure that is used for the construction of a video game, since Balkanism is one of the primary objectives of many strategic imaginary constructions. That’s why the video game approach is essential to understanding and communicating with the Balkan territory -especially if you transform the metaphor to a god like video game (where the player plays with the avatars while s/he is trying to conquer the world). The Balkana city is trying to focus on many factors that transform and create the Balkans: all the empires that ruled the area from the Byzantine era to the current Occidentalism, the crossroad of the religions, the struggling for self identification, the social whole that is excluding the person and many more. The new media is just a vehicle with G.P.S.(Global Positioning System).

Stewart Ziff : Babel like world of multi-linguistic, multi-theocratic, oppositional forces in which there are no evident pathways to any evident goals and in which there is a no obvious distinction between either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and constructive or destructive action. The heroic and the despotic become one in labyrinth of ever shifting historical reference.

Ilias Marmaras: Well. There are many problems related to this question, concerning both “old art’’ practices and new media ones. P.C tries to focus within some of them. For instance, technological innovations have established new rules for engagement with a public that has become accustomed to increasingly frenetic and effortless media. The amply demonstrated utility of the new media for the purposes of marketing now motivates creative practices that short-circuit, parody, deflate, and digress from the imperatives of consumption. While relevant distribution systems are clearly in a state of flux, historical parallels with the emergence of film and radio would lead us to believe that this fluid condition will not last. What would it mean for digital media and distribution systems to assume a stable configuration? Would such a configuration be something other than an apotheosis of marketing? Would it more resemble extreme sports, violent video games, or the archive of artefacts that are conventionally known as cinema?

Stelios Giannoulakis: Distribution structures tend to violently enclose creativity in forms that may use some kind of artistic pretext but generally remain determined by a web of interests clearly detached from the need for artistic expression itself. Turning this situation on its head, P.C. uses the idea of the network itself as the material to be reprocessed, articulated and structured within the process of artistic creation.

Gulsen Bal: The production of objects gives way to “a growing multitude of imageobjects” whose immediate reality is their symbolic function as image, how the emergence of virtual reality can be defined in relation to the concepts of the image as representation and image as simulacrum?

Vassilis Kokkas: In the moment you enter into The Game, you will notice how we’ve used representations of reality mixed up and redefined in a way that speaks for itself, i.e. a typical Balkan rural landscape with hills, (simulacrum) is covered with artificial 3D bodies and synthetic sounds, which create a fantastic situation, a reflection of reality.

Ilias Marmaras: The main problem to face is not so much the problems of linguistic categorisation but the separation between noise and information.

Nina Vagic: What we experience as a real space or object is actually the product of complex mental processes and the virtual reality is an extension of consciousness… So the ‘virtual images’, in a way, by paradox, are supposed to be more ‘absorbing’ and more ‘expressive’… and the real objects are the once to be elaborated consequently by ‘virtual perception’…

Gulsen Bal: What is the idea of creating a game like platform based on real time historical facts in which the chosen storyboard territory towards the conditions specific to the Balkan Peninsula? What are the issues at stake in this territory that that might characterise the “Balkanisation” in a simulated Balkan reality?

Vassilis Kokkas: Again, we treat these aspects in a totally subjective way. We work a lot on the axis of the Balkans being a fantastic creation par excellence.

Alex Spyropoulos: Had it been easy for a player to learn how to behave and act in a simulated Balkan Reality from this game, then there wouldn’t be any Balkan problem at all in the region. We have often faced very sensitive matters concerning minorities and identities while us creating the game. If one considers that around 700.000 people died in the past decade in the former Yugoslavia, it becomes apparent that it is impossible to learn how to behave and act in the region without actually leaving there or in a region with similar “sensitivities”.

Ilias Marmaras: We must not forget that we are dealing with the map and not with the territory. Balkan Mall is not a documentary that deals with the physical reality. We are concerned mostly with the intention of the user/spectator toward the media space, his/her believes about information streams and reality. Comprehension can be an element of a game, war is something different.

Nina Vagic: The chosen territory is Balkan Peninsoula, for a simple reason – there is no other territory in the world that rich in wars and conflict. There are some 55 counted, until today, and ‘tomorrow is another day’, you know… Maybe by the time of printing this txt, this number will change… This is ‘Balkan reality’. There is no reason to invent or to imagine… You just fallow the real facts and there is a storyboard! The ‘Balkanisation’ in this simulated parody-like Balkan reality means that you have to find the way, by choosing a way to survive…

Gulsen Bal: What is the axis of political/social vector as an agenda in this context?

Vassilis Kokkas: A truly non-linear vector.

Ilias Marmaras: We are talking about new media, technology, distribution systems and Balkans. Considering these matters, I would reverse the question in order to reload the meaning: what is not political/social in such a context?

Nina Vagic: The whole project is based on the local political/social issues. Even the works are chosen fallowing these criteria. It is a try to revaluate the territory and to offer ‘The Balkan’ way of seeing things in this context… to propose to change a long time Balkan status of being an object to the status of the subject in international relations, even though approached through virtual means…

Gulsen Bal: An apparent overwhelming interest in the art and culture of the Balkans seems strangely coincide with the disappearance of this region out of the headlines of political news. Are these Balkan exhibitions, within which some of them was organised by well-known European curatorial ship such as “In Search for Balkania”, “Blood and Honey”, “Future’s in the Balkans and In the Gorges of the Balkans, a Report,” just a fashionable trend which will be soon paid back by another one?

Vassilis Kokkas: That might be, and we will follow with interest what will happen to it.

Ilias Marmaras: So, at the same time we see a difference between the worlds of mainstream media and the art world. We see that their attention does not always coincide (yet). Regarding the enormous difference between the influence exerted from television to the public and that of exhibitions like ‘’Gorges of the Balkans’’, I don’t feel very embarrassed of this fashionable trend. After all, for some of us-at least- that we are leaving at the Balkan Peninsula, in one way or another Balkans is a permanent trend.

Nina Vagic: After China Balkans, and than who knows what? Maybe… Non of the mentioned curators is from the Balkans, so as the consequence they have different approach and interpretation of the Balkan art and issues. It is a part of general politics - the European integration of the region. For us it’s different. We are experiencing this reality directly, and it is a constant thing, it was like that before and after entering of Balkan Art in the west - European art scene. For us it is not the fashion moment for shore, it is ‘our blood and our honey’…

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Page last modified on September 01, 2006, at 09:46 AM