Early History of Electronic Cafe

Sherrie and I wrote the following manifesto for the project we were doing for the 1984 Summer Olympics Arts Festival in Los Angeles. At first we called it the "Networked Project," which we were creating in response to the arrival of the Orwellian year. Later the project was named "Electronic Cafe" (the Electronic Cafe Network Project), which was installed and operational for seven weeks -- connecting culturally diverse communities throughout Los Angeles, and was commissioned by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).





If the arts are to take a role in shaping and humanizing emerging technological environments, individuals and arts constituencies must begin to imagine at a much larger scale of creativity.

We must begin to create at the same scale as we can destroy, or else art, and more dangerously the human spirit and imagination, will be rendered decorative and impotent.

If the boundaries between art and life dissolve it will be the result of artists migrating towards a new order of artmaking, abandoning the conventional standards and practices and becoming 'new practitioners' or systems integrators, who produce situations, contexts, and permanent environments or utilities. The 'new practitioners' can begin the process of healing the aesthetic wound that has disfigured the business of Art, and continue the aesthetic quest in more relevant directions.

New creative activities must emerge such as multi-media creative solutions networks, not simply computer networks for Artists, but rather multi-media telecommunications networks with agendas that can engage multi-disciplinary constituencies. This will require the development of new skills and the cultivation of new relationships between the participants. The movement is towards the control of a meaningful context, creating environments not just to support art, but that create the possibility for new scales of creativity across all disciplines and boundaries.

The dark side of the "new world information order" suggests that a new scale aesthetics be created. It will take several years from the time this work begins for creative solutions networks of appropriate number, scale, velocity, and dexterity to evolve to maturity. Consider: co-creating non-imperialistic, multi-cultural or domestic agendas for community or global scale aesthetic endeavors. Consider: the continuous re-invention of non-hierarchical telecom networks that will allow people to bypass cultural gatekeepers and power brokers. We must accept these kinds of challenges and recognize what can be gained by solving them.

All of this implies that there is a new way to be in the world. That the counterforce to the scale of destruction is the scale of communication, and that our legacy or epitaph will be determined in many ways by our ability to creatively employ informal, multi-media, multi-cultural, conversational, telecommunications and information technologies.

(c) All rights reserved 1983 - 2001 Kit Galloway & Sherrie Rabinowitz

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