"there was a bandwidth playing on the radio"

Compiled for Convex TV by Martin Conrads

The mainstream is lagging in the exploitation of new media, but Convex TV, an on-line artist/funk magazine, organized amazing computer-enhanced chill-out zones and technological installations (2).

On Saturday, May 17th 1980, the day before they were to fly to America to begin their first US tour, Joy Division singer Ian Curtis visited his home in Macclesfield and watched the televised film Stroszek by his favorite director Werner Herzog. In America, Herzog shifts gears to a surreal road movie, ending with poor Bruno (sans Eva) adrift on a lonely ski slope, contrasted with Pavlovian dancing chickens (3).

In the 20th century, when people were still bathing in the aura of progress, a bunch of Berlin-based semi-youngsters decided it was time to dive into the processes of the aural. Heavily devoted to their tongues, ears and fingertips, they invented the idea of "convex tv." and started a three year journey, which took them to the edges of netspace, air-time and e-commerce (4).

The people from Convex TV had a radio show on the student university radio that had been given some of good old 'Voice of America's' airtime. The program was highly experimental, and used the internet during its broadcasts once a month for producing live texts and images. There was no sound here yet, on the internet that was. Listeners of the program through the ether, could take a seat in front of their computer and join in the live text event on their screens. People outside of the transmitter radius could do this also, having a very different radio experience indeed (5).

At the test bed of their futurity, convex tv. connected both radio and the net to the urban spaces of Berlin. By passing regular radio transmissions onto a multiplexity of broadcasting-levels, they left traces on the internet and on site for media-archeologists to discover. Demanding attention from more traditional media, they designed manifestos such as "HTML deejaying y/our favorite lo-tekst myth.", "there's a bandwidth playing on the radio", "*developed arrestment* - make alias. (a PJ for ten or six notes on the death of self-organisation)", "the porn empire links back", "some thoughts on the paste-media era", or "We Can't Stop the Dancing Chicken" (6).

We started with convex tv. in Berlin in late 1996. Our website had constantly evolved since early 1997. From the beginning we tried to develop the web content in accordance with our broadcasting issues, which for the most part were journalistic topics- digital culture, media culture, or electronic culture, as we preferred to call it. First, we put on our website all the transcribed programs we broadcast, so you could read it like an online magazine.

But very soon we saw that this was not the only possibility to work with online broadcast, with online presence. So even before we worked with the real audio software as a broadcasting tool, we developed a very low-fi broadcasting technology which we called "html-djing". It functioned like this (7):

Durante i primi periodi il collettivo non aveva gli strumenti adatti, la conoscenza e le connessioni per trasmettere segnali audio in rete. Fu allora che il collettivo pensò a una forma di trasmissione in rete parallela a quella via etere, per decostruire i confini dei media ordinari. L'invenzione era semplice: l'HTML deejaying. Mentre trasmettevano via etere (coprendo solo l'area di Berlino) trascrivevano testi die programmi e li cutuppavano spedendoli ad un server FTP, sincronizzato in tempo reale con la trasmissione in diretta. L'HTML DJ ricaricava la pagina con i nuovi contenuti quando bisognava farlo. Gli ascoltatori che avevano accesso solamente alla radio ascoltavano il ricevitore, quelli che avevano anche una connessione ascoltavano e leggevano, e gli ascoltatori che non potevano ascoltare, perché magari stavano a Budapest, avevano una strana esperienza di sola lettura. La pagina veniva continuamente aggiornata con nuove informazioni. Forse era la prima trasmissione testuale in rete che si comportava come un medium audio-visuale, forse era l'ultima. Ovviamente la trascrizione simultanea del parlato era una cosa improponibile: la versione testuale non era mai la versione più recente. Per cui c'erano errori, mancanze, piccole dissonanze tra il suono della radio e le immagini e i testi in rete. Per trasformare tutto ciò bisognava farlo in pubblico. -Streaming Texts- (8)

Then, during 97, very soon the real audio software became common as a streaming tool, so we started streaming on the web parallel to our on air programs, which normally were being produced once a month. Also we started to put up an archive of our streams and programs. We soon saw that this was one of the big advantages of net.radio in correspondence to traditional air frequency radio: You could get a feedback for things which were produced some time ago and also you could get e-mails by people who did research in the archive and then could reply to them. By having an archive you also offered an invisible audio sphere where the linear model of traditional on air frequency radio was broken up by the structures of the web - you produced an audio hyper structure, where it was up to the user to choose the files and create her or his own audio listening structure (9).

As everybody knew, there was no such thing as net.radio, but a great variety of ideas and experiments around *sound* on the internet. as all of you had your own unique experiences with "net.radio", we didn't want to provide a 24 hour schedule in a centralist planning style. instead we liked to ask all of you to participate in creating the contents of the meeting. to make it a little bit easier we had tried to define a matrix for topics, that could be discussed and/or be subjects of direct action and experiment (10):

As you could see from our homepage, we had a tripartite logo: This was due to our media strategy, which consisted of three levels of work: on air presence, on site presence and on line presence. The on site part was called "test bed", it was a semi-public space in Berlin, which we mostly used as an office, but sometimes also as a bar or an exhibition space. Also we invited DJs to come to our place to do live streams. It was never really figured out if something was more a work situation, a public party or an art situation (11).

Unfortunately, the first impression upon entering was that someone had broken in and made off with half the stuff -- indeed, some works were to be found at various other locations in the city. The model for the show was perhaps the Hybrid Workspace, a kind of information depot at Documenta X. Viewers were presented with some photocopies, a couple of televisions and a group of uninviting shelves housing a few tapes. Perhaps more interesting things could be found via the internet, at www.art-bag.org/convextv (12).

With an excellent techno-minimalist design --within what we could have called a 'clear line' style that was very easy on the eyes-- convex tv was one of the pioneering spaces that broadcast streaming images and sound in real time on the Internet (13).

One of the basic ideas of convex tv. was to make a link back from the very abstract use of radio as it was perceived then - as a mass medium - back to a really small community, to produce a kind of a community radio. I have to add that our archive was only made possible by the help of Radio Internationale Stadt and orang.orang.org, which is a Berlin-based audio server. I think that it was very hard always to react precisely and fast enough to what was constantly being developed by the media industry.

To (seemingly) cover this situation, we worked on a project called [.format], where we asked a lot of people to think about their use of formats, also to think about their use of the term "format". We made a website to present this project, here it was: http://www.art-bag.org/convextv/format. The basic idea was to use a globe as a symbol of [.format]. Within this project, we realized a series of interviews with people about the format-idea. We also asked artists to contribute to an audio CD, to do audio pieces about their ideas of formats. Also, we made a 24 hours program where we invited special people to come to test bed and contribute by producing programs on the format issue. In the end it showed that the most important format was the own body, because if you broadcast for 24 hours and you were always in the same room, then the room, and within that room your own body, became a format itself (14).

Convex.tv had an online archive of both audio files and text on their site, of which the text was unfortunately mostly in German, even if the interview it originates from was in English. To give you an impression of the activities here are some interview excerpts (15):

Q: what was convex tv.?
A: convex tv. was multi-dimensional:
a) an on-air radio program,
b) an internet audio archive/database (stored at Radio Internationale Stadt),
c) the convex tv. plug-in, the parallel broadcasting of audio and text files,
d) ad hoc installations in art spaces and last but not least
e) a virtu(re)al space for socializing. but:
f) it was not *club-art* whatsoever!
Q: and what was convex tv. in terms of *content*?
A: convex tv. was dealing with the cultural, political, economical aspects of digital technology, end-of-the-century pop culture and art. the main format of these contents were audio-files on the internet. (for more info on this subject > see below.) most of the spoken word carried by this audio data was German. but there were also some programs in English.
Q: who was convex tv.?
A: convex tv. was a collective of 3-14 persons coming from different backgrounds, permanently contracting and expanding...
Q: was convex tv. radio on the internet or internet in the radio?
A: with the combination of on-air radio and its RealAudio database convex tv. was all in one: convex tv. dealt with questions of digital technologies on its traditional radio show and brought radio into the net. with this model convex tv. combined two different kinds of accessibility. whereas on-air radio was able to reach a mass audience (at least in theory) at one moment in time, our archive was accessible whenever you wanted to - and you were a mass audience, too (16).

There were many examples of very different and yet similar approaches of this traditional webcasting, from Convex TV, which approached both radio and the internet in a conceptually radical art-way (17):

[Click here!]
..........Click Here!
You were here: Home > Computing & Internet > Web Building > Studio > Feature Story
Feature Story
[spacer GIF][Click here!] [Click here!] [Click here!] [Image]
[Image][Image] [Image][Image][Image] [Image][Image][Image]
Departments ...........Audio in Action:
Development ...........The Complex World of convex.tv
Careers & Training
Graphics & ..............decided to conduct a little behaviorist experiment.
Multimedia ..............The scene was Documenta X, 1997, one of Europe's most important
Sysadmin .............. .art events, staged only once every five years in Kassel, Germany.
As part of the extravaganza,.the Hybrid WorkSpace had
Web Building ............been set up for various groups - including the net.radio
Studio .............. .. ..collective convex tv. - to come in and, well, work.
Computing & ...........The crowds who've poured into Kassel from all over wandered
Internet .............. ..through the exhibition and, eventually, into the Hybrid
Buy Software ..........WorkSpace, where they found a group of appropriately
Online ................ .. artsy-looking twenty-somethings sitting around a table talking,
Download .............. .passing papers back and forth, and smoking hand-rolled
Hardware ............. . cigarettes. A few others tapped a bit at computers before getting
Tech Resources .......up again and wandering off, and a guy with headphones was
Tech News ..............flipping records (Sun Ra then) on two turnstiles in
Web Site Services ....front of some industrial-age contraption with lots of impressive
Software Reviews .....knobs and switches.
Support ............ .. ..The crowds were confused. They milled around, reading manifestos
.............. .. ............pinned to the whitewashed walls, glanced at the radio innards
.............. .. ............strewn out in front of a perplexed fellow with a set of pliers,
.............. .. ............and milled around some more.

.............. .. ............Was this art? It didn't really even look that much like work (18).

There was a historical gap between the two formats of text and sound, it seemed. but there was a tiny moment in history, when the gap was bridged by a unique technique (19):
Dancing stored information, retrieving radio at loose ends.

Before hooking up with the gravy train that was Elvis, the Colonel made a living working in carnivals and fairs, and was founder of the Great Parker Pony Circus and Colonel Tom Parker and His Dancing Chickens. For the latter, he would place live chickens on a hot plate covered with sawdust; the chickens then shook their legs and hopped about to avoid the heat.

Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio.
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio.
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio.
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio. (20)

"trimm dich" - the motto of the gathering - had been borrowed from a west german 1970s campaign for public health and meant: get fit! mikro and convex tv. provided beds and vitamin-breakfast, having helped you to achieve this aim...

In general Berlin net.radio-days didn't want to be a strictly organized symposium, but an open space for meeting and discussion. net.radio-days were organized by the Berlin based organisation of "mikro" in cooperation with the local convex tv. collective and took place at several locations in town (21).

Media collectives across Europe had spent the final years of the last century learning to transgress national borders via new modes of shared broadcasting and artistic creation. The Berlin-based - and recently deceased - collective convex tv. came to the conclusion (22): "there were a few simple reasons for doing things collectively: technologically and
economically speaking the collective was the only space where you could be marginally successful and successfully marginal. that meant: in order to create marginal media products you had to invest the same amount of energy and intelligence as into a mainstream product. that was the rule of the mutual." (23)

It was not even that we had to sell ourselves. There was a really good text of convex.tv's website actually called "Make Alias" about the desirability of marginal collective groups from many point of views. We all knew about this cultural capital stuff that was going on, and it got really difficult. But convex tv view was 'make an alias', which I really liked (24).

As everything got wireless, media of all kind were moving to the centralized matrix known as the Ether. While the traditional forms -internet, multimedia - showed many signs of vanishing, the Ether was being invaded by even older media species. convex tv. was one. Yet with each additional transmitting station, each new antenna, the media the Ether could support became richer, more complex, more differentiated. The Ether had begun offering things you simply couldn't hear (25):

In the manner of the tradition of Enlightenment Europe's academies of arts and sciences, convex tv., in co-operation with you, were soliciting responses from a global public and in sound form to the following Prize Contest. This announcement was addressed to all persons, anywhere in the world. You were invited to respond to our Prize Contest in a creative way and from whatever happened to be your own techno cultural perspective and background. You should have aimed to provide the most convincing and conclusive solution possible in a spirit of open competition. On the threshold of a new millennium, this international competition of minds hoped to become a symbol of a creative and co-operative global society in the 21st century.

The Prize Question:
Producing an Advurt (jingle) to promote the general or specific ideas, conditions, utopias, references of net.radio to a worldwide audience!

The Advurts had to address the following issue:

Liberating the net from radio?
Liberating radio from the net?

The Prize: 1 net.radio (26)

Part of our agenda was, never to precisely define what we were doing, which also was an effect of convex tv. being 14 people with different occupations. With convex tv. it was a very mixed level of working and communicating with each other, and these situations then "produced" convex tv., a constant working with images and sounds, space, text and people. This, I think, was the most important part of the project: having a room, where people could come and talk with each other. Also we always produced misunderstandings "for example the whole website was not designed that well...

Thus, people could follow the adventures of this small collective on their journey to friendship, fame and happiness. But this was only the theory-module of the whole story. Just think of their practice and you wish the millennium had never come: the connection of media, the construction of situations, the simulation of institutions, the intuition of inversion, the invention of objects, the subject of formatting. All of these and many more were the nouns to sentences which contained verbal forms such as "streaming", "hosting", "presenting", "inviting", "joining", "listening", "defining" and "speaking". Having tested every single word, sound, space, time, situation, bit, tag and .net which was available at that time, our travelers were finally mesmerized by their own significance, and transformed themselves into a project of the past by deprocessing every vehicle used, except their friendship (28).

Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's longtime manager, died Tuesday of complications from a stroke. He was eighty-seven.(29)

There was a bandwidth playing on the radio (30).

List of hyperlinks:

1. http://www.art-bag.org/2000years
2. http://www.artnet.com/magazine_pre2000/reviews/goldman/goldman2-6-98.asp
3. http://www.art-bag.org/convextv/pro/chicken.htm
4. http://web.archive.org/web/20010909180822/mi.cz/obl/online/convex.htm
5. http://www.heise.de/tp/english/special/ku/6169/2.html
6. http://web.archive.org/web/20010909180822/mi.cz/obl/online/convex.htm

7. http://web.archive.org/web/20030408191513/http://www.i-lab.org/b6cor.htm
8. http://www.rekombinant.org/media-activism/article.php?sid=32
9. http://web.archive.org/web/20030408191513/http://www.i-lab.org/b6cor.htm
10. http://radioqualia.va.com.au/ctl/texts/convex.html
11. http://web.archive.org/web/20030408191513/http://www.i-lab.org/b6cor.htm
12. http://www.artnet.com/magazine_pre2000/features/allen/allen11-22-98.asp
13. http://aleph-arts.org/epm/eng/webs.html
14. http://web.archive.org/web/20030408191513/http://www.i-lab.org/b6cor.htm
15. http://www.kunstradio.at/FUTURE/RTF/SYMPOSIUM/LECTURES/BOSMA/bosma-txt.html
16. http://www.yourserver.co.uk/revolting/workplace/convextv/ (missing)
17. http://homestudio.thing.net/revue/content/bosma.htm
18. http://home.netscape.com/computing/webbuilding/studio/feature1999v1n2-2.html
19. http://amsterdam.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-9902/msg00089.html
20. http://www.art-bag.org/convextv/pro/chicken.htm
21. http://radioqualia.va.com.au/ctl/texts/convex.html
22. http://www.unesco.org/courier/2000_07/uk/doss33.htm
23. http://www.art-bag.org/convextv/pro/alias.htm
24. http://www.irational.org/irational/media/berry2.txt
25. http://amsterdam.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-9902/msg00089.html
26. http://www.art-bag.org/convextv/pro/station/2/station/index1.html
27. http://web.archive.org/web/20030408191513/http://www.i-lab.org/b6cor.htm
28. http://web.archive.org/web/20010909180822/mi.cz/obl/online/convex.htm
29. http://www.art-bag.org/convextv/pro/chicken.htm
30. http://www.art-bag.org/convextv

This text was originally compiled for the net.congestion-reader in 2000 (and later posted to nettime). It consists only of fragments of texts about or from "convex tv." that can be found online. Since "convex tv." dissolved in December 1999, for this text all phrases were put in the past tense. From the original hyperlinks of 2000, only one was missing in 2004, all the others still remain intact or could be updated. (mc)