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Subject: nettime-l Digest, Vol 10, Issue 11

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Today's Topics:

    1. Mike Davis: Living on the Ice Shelf. Humanity's Meltdown
       (nettime's avid reader)
    2. [nettime] New Media Art in Croatia (Klaudio Stefancic)


Message: 1
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 12:15:48 -0100
From: nettime's avid reader <>
Subject: <nettime> Mike Davis: Living on the Ice Shelf. Humanity's
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

Living on the Ice Shelf. Humanity's Meltdown
By Mike Davis

1. Farewell to the Holocene

Our world, our old world that we have inhabited for the last 12,000 years,
has ended, even if no newspaper in North America or Europe has yet printed
its scientific obituary.

This February, while cranes were hoisting cladding to the 141st floor of
the Burj Dubai tower (which will soon be twice the height of the Empire
State Building), the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of
London was adding the newest and highest story to the geological column.

The London Society is the world's oldest association of Earth scientists,
founded in 1807, and its Commission acts as a college of cardinals in the
adjudication of the geological time-scale. Stratigraphers slice up Earth's
history as preserved in sedimentary strata into hierarchies of eons, eras,
periods, and epochs marked by the "golden spikes" of mass extinctions,
speciation events, and abrupt changes in atmospheric chemistry.

In geology, as in biology or history, periodization is a complex,
controversial art and the most bitter feud in nineteenth-century British
science -- still known as the "Great Devonian Controversy" -- was fought
over competing interpretations of homely Welsh Graywackes and English Old
Red Sandstone. More recently, geologists have feuded over how to
stratigraphically demarcate ice age oscillations over the last 2.8 million
years. Some have never accepted that the most recent inter-glacial warm
interval -- the Holocene -- should be distinguished as an "epoch" in its
own right just because it encompasses the history of civilization.

As a result, contemporary stratigraphers have set extraordinarily rigorous
standards for the beatification of any new geological divisions. Although
the idea of the "Anthropocene" -- an Earth epoch defined by the emergence
of urban-industrial society as a geological force -- has been long
debated, stratigraphers have refused to acknowledge compelling evidence
for its advent.

At least for the London Society, that position has now been revised.

To the question "Are we now living in the Anthropocene?" the 21 members of
the Commission unanimously answer "yes." They adduce robust evidence that
the Holocene epoch -- the interglacial span of unusually stable climate
that has allowed the rapid evolution of agriculture and urban
civilization -- has ended and that the Earth has entered "a stratigraphic
interval without close parallel in the last several million years." In
addition to the buildup of greenhouse gases, the stratigraphers cite human
landscape transformation which "now exceeds [annual] natural sediment
production by an order of magnitude," the ominous acidification of the
oceans, and the relentless destruction of biota.

This new age, they explain, is defined both by the heating trend (whose
closest analogue may be the catastrophe known as the Paleocene Eocene
Thermal Maximum, 56 million years ago) and by the radical instability
expected of future environments. In somber prose, they warn that "the
combination of extinctions, global species migrations and the widespread
replacement of natural vegetation with agricultural monocultures is
producing a distinctive contemporary biostratigraphic signal. These
effects are permanent, as future evolution will take place from surviving
(and frequently anthropogenically relocated) stocks." Evolution itself, in
other words, has been forced into a new trajectory.

2. Spontaneous Decarbonization?

The Commission's coronation of the Anthropocene coincides with growing
scientific controversy over the 4th Assessment Report issued last year by
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is mandated
to establish scientific baselines for international efforts to mitigate
global warming, but some of the most prominent researchers in the field
are now challenging its reference scenarios as overly optimistic, even
pie-in-the-sky thinking.

The current scenarios were adopted by the IPCC in 2000 to model future
global emissions based on different "storylines" about population growth
as well as technological and economic development. Some of the Panel's
major scenarios are well known to policymakers and greenhouse activists,
but few outside the research community have actually read or understood
the fine print, particularly the IPCC's confidence that greater energy
efficiency will be an "automatic" byproduct of future economic
development. Indeed all the scenarios, even the "business as usual"
variants, assume that at least 60% of future carbon reduction will occur
independently of greenhouse mitigation measures.

The Panel, in effect, has bet the ranch, or rather the planet, on
unplanned, market-driven progress toward a post-carbon world economy, a
transition that implicitly requires wealth generated from higher energy
prices ultimately finding its way to new technologies and renewable
energy. (The International Energy Agency recently estimated that it would
cost $45 trillion to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.) Kyoto-type
accords and carbon markets are designed -- almost as an analogue to
Keynesian "pump-priming" -- to bridge the shortfall between spontaneous
decarbonization and the emissions targets required by each scenario.
Serendipitously, this reduces the costs of mitigating global warming to
levels that align with what seems, at least theoretically, to be
politically possible, as expounded in the British Stern Review on the
Economics of Climate Change of 2006 and other such reports.

Critics argue, however, that this represents a heroic leap of faith that
radically understates the economic costs, technological hurdles, and
social changes required to tame the growth of greenhouse gases. European
carbon emissions, for example, are still rising (dramatically in some
sectors) despite the European Union's much praised adoption of a
cap-and-trade system in 2005. Likewise there has been little evidence in
recent years of the automatic progress in energy efficiency that is the
sine qua non of the IPCC scenarios. Although The Economist
characteristically begs to differ, most energy researchers believe that,
since 2000, energy intensity has actually risen; that is, global carbon
dioxide emissions have kept pace with, or even grown marginally faster
than, energy use.

Coal production, especially, is undergoing a dramatic renaissance, as the
nineteenth century has returned to haunt the twenty-first century.
Hundreds of thousands of miners are now working under conditions that
would have appalled Charles Dickens, extracting the dirty mineral that
allows China to open two new coal-fueled power stations every week.
Meanwhile, the total consumption of fossil fuels is predicted to increase
at least 55% over the next generation, with international oil exports
doubling in volume.

The United Nations Development Program, which has made its own study of
sustainable energy goals, warns that it will require "a 50 percent cut in
greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 2050 against 1990 levels" to keep
humanity outside the red zone of runaway warming (usually defined as a
greater than two degrees centigrade increase this century). Yet the
International Energy Agency predicts that, in all likelihood, such
emissions will actually increase in this period by nearly 100% -- enough
greenhouse gas to propel us past several critical tipping points.

Even while higher energy prices are pushing SUVs towards extinction and
attracting more venture capital to renewable energy, they are also opening
the Pandora's box of the crudest of crude oil production from Canadian tar
sands and Venezuelan heavy oil. As one British scientist has warned, the
very last thing we should wish for (under the false slogan of "energy
independence") is new frontiers in hydrocarbon production that
advance "humankind's ability to accelerate global warming" and slow the
urgent transition to "non-carbon or closed-carbon energy cycles."

3. Fin-du-Monde Boom

What confidence should we place in the capacity of markets to reallocate
investment from old to new energy or, say, from arms expenditures to
sustainable agriculture? We are propagandized incessantly (especially on
public television) about how giant companies like Chevron, Pfizer Inc.,
and Archer Daniels Midland are hard at work saving the planet by plowing
profits back into the kinds of research and exploration that will ensure
low-carbon fuels, new vaccines, and more drought-resistant crops.

As the current ethanol-from-corn boom, which has diverted 100 million tons
of grain from human diets mainly to American car engines, so appallingly
demonstrates, "biofuel" may be a euphemism for subsidies to the rich and
starvation for the poor. Likewise "clean coal," despite a vigorous
endorsement from Senator Barack Obama (who also champions ethanol), is, at
present, simply a huge deception: a $40 million advertising and lobbying
campaign for a hypothetical technology that BusinessWeek has characterized
as "being decades away from commercial viability."

Moreover there are disturbing signs that energy companies and utilities are
reneging on their public commitments to the development of carbon-capture
and alternative energy technologies. The Bush administration's "marquee
demonstration project," FutureGen, was scrapped this year after the coal
industry refused to pay its share of the public-private "partnership";
similarly, most U.S. private-sector carbon-sequestration initiatives have
recently been cancelled. In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, Shell has just
pulled out of the world's largest wind-energy project, the London Array.
Despite heroic levels of advertising, energy corporations, like
pharmaceutical companies, prefer to overgraze the commons, while letting
taxes, not profits, pay for whatever urgent, long-overdue research is
actually undertaken.

On the other hand, the spoils from high energy prices continue to gush into
real estate, skyscrapers, and financial assets. Whether or not we are
actually at the summit of Hubbert's Peak -- that peak oil moment --
whether or not the oil-price bubble finally bursts, what we are probably
witnessing is the largest transfer of wealth in modern history.

An eminent Wall Street oracle, McKinsey Global Institute, predicts that if
crude oil prices remain above $100 per barrel -- they are, at the moment,
approaching $140 a barrel -- the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation
Council alone will "reap a cumulative windfall of almost $9 trillion by
2020." As in the 1970s, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors, whose total
gross domestic product has almost doubled in just three years, are awash
in liquidity: $2.4 trillion in banks and investment funds according to a
recent estimate by The Economist. Regardless of price trends, the
International Energy Agency predicts, "more and more oil will come from
fewer and fewer countries, primarily the Middle East members of OPEC [The
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries]."

Dubai, which has little oil income of its own, has become the regional
financial hub for this vast pool of wealth, with ambitions to eventually
compete with Wall Street and the City of London. During the first oil
shock in the 1970s, much of OPEC's surplus was recycled through military
purchases in the United States and Europe, or parked in foreign banks to
become the "subprime" loans that eventually devastated Latin America. In
the wake of the attacks of 9/11, the Gulf states became far more cautious
about entrusting their wealth to countries, like the United States,
governed by religious fanatics. This time around, they are
using "sovereign wealth funds" to achieve a more active ownership in
foreign financial institutions, while investing fabulous amounts of oil
revenue to transform Arabia's sands into hyperbolic cities, shopping
paradises, and private islands for British rock stars and Russian

Two years ago, when oil prices were less than half of the current level,
The Financial Times estimated that planned new construction in Saudi
Arabia and the emirates already exceeded $1 trillion dollars. Today, it
may be closer to $1.5 trillion, considerably more than the total value of
world trade in agricultural products. Most of the Gulf city-states are
building hallucinatory skylines -- and, among them, Dubai is the
unquestionable superstar. In a little more than a decade, it has erected
500 skyscrapers, and currently leases one-quarter of all the high-rise
cranes in the world.

This super-charged Gulf boom, which celebrity architect Rem Koolhaas claims
is "reconfiguring the world," has led Dubai developers to proclaim the
advent of a "supreme lifestyle" represented by seven-star hotels, private
islands, and J-class yachts. Not surprisingly, then, the United Arab
Emirates and its neighbors have the biggest per capita ecological
footprints on the planet. Meanwhile, the rightful owners of Arab oil
wealth, the masses crammed into the angry tenements of Baghdad, Cairo,
Amman, and Khartoum, have little more to show for it than a trickle-down
of oil-field jobs and Saudi-subsidized madrassas. While guests enjoy the
$5,000 per night rooms in Burj Al-Arab, Dubai's celebrated sail-shaped
hotel, working-class Cairenes riot in the streets over the unaffordable
price of bread.

4. Can Markets Enfranchise the Poor?

Emissions optimists, of course, will smile at all the gloom-and-doom and
evoke the coming miracle of carbon trading. What they discount is the real
possibility that a sprawling carbon-offset market may emerge, just as
predicted, yet produce only minimal improvement in the global carbon
balance sheet, as long as there is no mechanism for enforcing real net
reductions in fossil fuel use.

In popular discussions of emissions-rights trading systems, it is common to
mistake the smokestacks for the trees. For example, the wealthy oil
enclave of Abu Dhabi (like Dubai, a partner in the United Arab Emirates)
brags that it has planted more than 130 million trees -- each of which
does its duty in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However,
this artificial forest in the desert also consumes huge quantities of
irrigation water produced, or recycled, from expensive desalination
plants. The trees may allow Sheik Ahmed bin Zayed to wear a halo at
international meetings, but the rude fact is that they are an
energy-intensive beauty strip, like most of so-called green capitalism.

And, while we're at it, let's just ask: What if the buying and selling of
carbon credits and pollution offsets fails to turn down the thermostat?
What exactly will motivate governments and global industries then to join
hands in a crusade to reduce emissions through regulation and taxation?

Kyoto-type climate diplomacy assumes that all the major actors, once they
have accepted the science in the IPCC reports, will recognize an
overriding common interest in gaining control over the runaway greenhouse
effect. But global warming is not War of the Worlds, where invading
Martians are dedicated to annihilating all of humanity without
distinction. Climate change, instead, will initially produce dramatically
unequal impacts across regions and social classes. It will reinforce, not
diminish, geopolitical inequality and conflict.

As the United Nations Development Program emphasized in its report last
year, global warming is above all a threat to the poor and the unborn,
the "two constituencies with little or no political voice." Coordinated
global action on their behalf thus presupposes either their revolutionary
empowerment (a scenario not considered by the IPCC) or the transmutation
of the self-interest of rich countries and classes into an
enlightened "solidarity" without precedent in history. From a
rational-actor perspective, the latter outcome only seems realistic if it
can be shown that privileged groups possess no preferential "exit" option,
that internationalist public opinion drives policymaking in key countries,
and that greenhouse gas mitigation could be achieved without major
sacrifices in upscale Northern Hemispheric standards of living -- none of
which seems highly likely.

And what if growing environmental and social turbulence, instead of
galvanizing heroic innovation and international cooperation, simply drive
elite publics into even more frenzied attempts to wall themselves off from
the rest of humanity? Global mitigation, in this unexplored but not
improbable scenario, would be tacitly abandoned (as, to some extent, it
already has been) in favor of accelerated investment in selective
adaptation for Earth's first-class passengers. We're talking here of the
prospect of creating green and gated oases of permanent affluence on an
otherwise stricken planet.

Of course, there will still be treaties, carbon credits, famine relief,
humanitarian acrobatics, and perhaps the full-scale conversion of some
European cities and small countries to alternative energy. But the shift
to low, or zero, emission lifestyles would be almost unimaginably
expensive. (In Britain, it currently costs $200,000 more to build a
zero-carbon, "level 6" eco-home than a standard unit of the same area.)
And this will certainly become even more unimaginable after perhaps 2030,
when the convergent impacts of climate change, peak oil, peak water, and
an additional 1.5 billion people on the planet may begin to seriously
throttle growth.

5. The North's Ecological Debt

The real question is this: Will rich counties ever mobilize the political
will and economic resources to actually achieve IPCC targets or, for that
matter, to help poorer countries adapt to the inevitable,
already "committed" quotient of warming now working its way toward us
through the slow circulation of the world ocean?

To be more vivid: Will the electorates of the wealthy nations shed their
current bigotry and walled borders to admit refugees from predicted
epicenters of drought and desertification like the Maghreb, Mexico,
Ethiopia, and Pakistan? Will Americans, the most miserly people when
measured by per capita foreign aid, be willing to tax themselves to help
relocate the millions likely to be flooded out of densely settled,
mega-delta regions like Bangladesh?

Market-oriented optimists, once again, will point to carbon offset programs
like the Clean Development Mechanism which, they claim, will allow green
capital to flow to the Third World. Most of the Third World, however,
probably prefers for the First World to acknowledge the environmental mess
it has created and take responsibility for cleaning it up. They rightly
rail against the notion that the greatest burden of adjustment to the
Anthropocene epoch should fall on those who have contributed least to
carbon emissions and drawn the slightest benefits from 200 years of

In a sobering study recently published in the Proceedings of the [U.S.]
National Academy of Science, a research team has attempted to calculate
the environmental costs of economic globalization since 1961 as expressed
in deforestation, climate change, over-fishing, ozone depletion, mangrove
conversion, and agricultural expansion. After making adjustments for
relative cost burdens, they found that the richest countries, by their
activities, had generated 42% of environmental degradation across the
world, while shouldering only 3% of the resulting costs.

The radicals of the South will rightly point to another debt as well. For
30 years, cities in the developing world have grown at breakneck speed
without any equivalent public investment in infrastructure services,
housing, or public health. In large part this has been the result of
foreign debts contracted by dictators, payments enforced by the
International Monetary Fund, and public sectors wrecked by the World
Bank's "structural adjustment" agreements.

This planetary deficit of opportunity and social justice is captured in the
fact that more than one billion people, according to UN-Habitat, currently
live in slums and that their number is expected to double by 2030. An
equal number, or more, forage in the so-called informal sector (a
first-world euphemism for mass unemployment). Sheer demographic momentum,
meanwhile, will increase the world's urban population by 3 billion people
over the next 40 years (90% of them in poor cities), and no one --
absolutely no one -- has a clue how a planet of slums, with growing food
and energy crises, will accommodate their biological survival, much less
their inevitable aspirations to basic happiness and dignity.

If this seems unduly apocalyptic, consider that most climate models project
impacts that will uncannily reinforce the present geography of inequality.
One of the pioneer analysts of the economics of global warming, Petersen
Institute fellow William R. Cline, recently published a country-by-country
study of the likely effects of climate change on agriculture by the later
decades of this century. Even in the most optimistic simulations, the
agricultural systems of Pakistan (a 20% decrease from current farm output
predicted) and Northwestern India (a 30% decrease) are likely to be
devastated, along with much of the Middle East, the Maghreb, the Sahel
belt, Southern Africa, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Twenty-nine developing
countries will lose 20% or more of their current farm output to global
warming, while agriculture in the already rich north is likely to receive,
on average, an 8% boost.

In light of such studies, the current ruthless competition between energy
and food markets, amplified by international speculation in commodities
and agricultural land, is only a modest portent of the chaos that could
soon grow exponentially from the convergence of resource depletion,
intractable inequality, and climate change. The real danger is that human
solidarity itself, like a West Antarctic ice shelf, will suddenly fracture
and shatter into a thousand shards.


Mike Davis is the author of In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire
(Haymarket Books, 2008) and Buda's Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb
(Verso, 2007). He is currently working on a book about cities, poverty,
and global change.


Message: 2
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 16:47:21 +0200
From: "Klaudio Stefancic" <>
Subject: <nettime> [nettime] New Media Art in Croatia
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

dear nettimers,

here i would like to contribute with my text 'new media new networks'.
it is about  new media art and culture in croatia from the late 1980's
till 2005. the text is written last year and it was meant to be
published in a reader dedicated to history of croatian art from 1940's
to the 1990's and aimed to international audience. it was one of the
reasons why i've decided to use a sociocentric approach in attempt to
represent this period of media art in croatia and to combine it with
the art theory of modernism and avantgarde. on the basis of my
research i also made a small homonymous exhibtion in galzenica gallery
in zagreb/velika gorica this year. the text is also available for
download here



New Media ??? New Networks [1]

If you mention the term new media in the presence of one of the most
prominent artists of the extremely popular virtual world of Second
Life, Gazira Barbelli, you will automatically activate a programme
script, which will blow away your avatar to a completely different,
unwanted location. The script entitled Don't Say Tornado is her
artwork, created to draw attention to inappropriate use of some terms
of traditional new media theory in the context of a completely
artificial world in which the artist herself (avatar) is nothing but a
set of binary data.

Although the Croatian new media art is far from being thoroughly
virtual, the example of Second Life indicates the current process of
redefining the new media culture in relation to the increase in the
number of the Internet users, changes in the ways it is used, faster
introduction of new media theory in traditional scientific fields etc.
In a somewhat modified version of his early new media theory (The
Language of New Media), Lev Manovich has raised a question whether
there is any sense in talking about new media in the culture that has
adopted digital production, processing and distribution of
information.  Therefore, he has developed eight theses for
distinguishing new media from old ones, claiming that the list itself
is a work in progress [2]. On the other hand, Geert Lovink has pointed
out that new media are at a critical juncture. According to him, new
media are facing the mass adoption of new technologies, fast
Internetisation of a non-Western world, the increase in capacity of
the Internet and its new uses known as Web 2.0. They are also caught
in a dilemma about whether they will be used in art institutions or
they will continue consolidation of their relatively independent
cultural sector based on exhibitions, festivals and conferences [3].

Discursive instability has marked the new media art and culture in
Croatia from its very beginnings. So far, they have been a
heterogeneous cultural area where political, social and artistic
clashes intertwine with coexistence and cooperation. In other words,
governmental bodies for public communication have been corrected by
the work of NGOs while the system of art institutions has alternated
with flexible networks of individuals, projects and initiatives. This
parallel opposition and negotiation among the dominant,
unwilling-to-change culture and marginalized cultures based on
promises of creative communication, citizens' participation in social
processes and a particular form of freedom typical of cyber culture,
have characterized new media in Croatia throughout 1990's [4].
The history of art is usually no more than the history of artists.
Such method is applied even when it comes to a selection of the new
media art [5]. However, new media art and culture in Croatia cannot be
properly presented without a description of the institutions that have
participated in the implementation of new technologies in society.
Those institutions can be described as networks that, in case of need
and depending on circumstances, mutually integrate, connect or
disintegrate, thus forming dynamic and flexible cultural space
suitable for various, not only artistic activities. In that sense, the
history of new media in Croatia during 1990's should include the work
of governmental and non-governmental institutions that were more less
directly involved in political and cultural clashes of post-socialist

Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, national independence and beginning
of the Patriot war, several distinguishing social networks have marked
the new media art and culture in Croatia.

Anti-war Campaign, Zamir, Arkzin

Chronologically speaking, the citizens' initiative "Anti-War Campaign"
(1991-1995) came first. The efforts for reconstruction of disconnected
phone lines among Croatia, Serbia and later Bosnia and Herzegovina
developed into BBS (Bulletin Board System). BBS is computer software
that enables users to connect by telephoning, to download or upload
files to BBS network, read the news and exchange messages. After that,
"Zamir Transnational Net" (abbr. "Zamir") was launched in Zagreb in
1992, with the initial help of the Dutch and German hackers, in order
to connect citizens and peace activists across the war-thorn former
Yugoslavia. The realization that public media have a political aspect
as well was quite a shock in Croatia, unlike in other post-socialist
countries [6]. In the state of war, the mass media and means of
communication were tightly controlled in the newly founded country.
Not only there was a problem of regulation of the Internet use, which
was officially introduced by connecting university academic and
research network (CARnet) to foreign servers in 1992, but the use of
"old" media (TV, radio, newspapers) was also reduced. Under such
circumstances, the non-governmental organization "Anti-War Campaign"
with initial funds of "Open Society" launched two media: fanzine/
newspapers "Arkzin" in 1991 and BBS system in 1992 [7].

At first, "Arkzin" was a strictly political fanzine but after a while,
editorial board widened the interest and included international
members and topics [8]. It gradually changed from the political
fanzine and political fortnightly to a hybrid magazine in which
politics, culture, theory and art met, crossed and overlapped in a way
that Croatian media scene had not been used to. Its hybrid quality was
especially manifested in the field of new media, which has been
continually recorded since 1995 [9]. It is important to say that
"Arkzin" was for a long time the only magazine that systematically
recorded events on the international scene of new media by their
extensive definition, later adopted by Australian Cultural Council,
which included the culture of DJ's, VJ's, electronic music created and
distributed via computers, urban club culture etc [10].

In the art world context, "Arkzin" was connected with the
international new media art scene on one hand and with the avant-garde
art tradition on the other. In the first case, one of the editorial
board members, Igor Markovi?? participated in the meeting that took
place in Trieste in 1996, where the "net art" pioneers drew op
principles of their activities and started a closer cooperation with
new media festival "Next 5 Minutes" and other events on the Dutch
culture scene [11]. Following the example of De Certeau's definition
of citizens' tactics as opposed to state's strategy, the Dutch
theoreticians Geert Lovink and David Garcia formulated a peculiar
media theory, known as "tactical media" in 1997. Promoting this theory
in the conditions of new media being implemented into Croatian
society, affected by war, economic transition and deficit of
democratic institutions, "Arkzin" constantly pointed out the public
and art media's political dimension [12].

As said above, "Arkzin" also referred to avant-garde art tradition
that always questioned the dominant social, political and art climate
in Central and Eastern Europe [13]. When it came to "Arkzin", it
challenged the establishment in several fields: in the field of
politics (state of war, autocrat regime, economic privatization), in
the field of culture (new ways of communication, new lifestyles,
subculture etc.) and in the field of arts (art institutions'
bureaucratic system as opposed to the freedom of the Internet etc.).
In many aspects, "Arkzin" was a successor of "Zenit" [14]. It accepted
new technologies based on digital data processing (computer, the
Internet); made space for new media as alternative productional and
distributive tools (web pages, net art); re-introduced the neglected
media objects in the context of art and culture practices (fanzine,
posters, leaflets); treated artistic and discursive practices of
theory, philosophy, sociology on equal terms; reinterpreted high
culture - pop culture relations (rave subculture, pornography);
promoted team work (journalists published texts under collective or
individual pseudonyms); worked hard on internationalisation of art and
culture (on-line and off-line networking, new media festivals reports,
interviews with foreign artists, theoreticians, activists); opposed
and even Dadaistically made fun of dominant culture.

In the 1992-1995 period, there were two ways of accessing the
Internet: either with the help of academic and research network for
those who actively participated in scientific institutes and faculties
or with the help of Zamir's BBS network that, based on fragile
telephone lines, was insufficient even for activists [15] . For these
reasons, the basic activities of "Arkzin" were criticism of state's
attitude towards new media and fight for free access to the Internet.
However, the government did not have any media politics, only
restrictions caused by war so that media activism of "Arkzin", similar
to avant-garde art, sometimes reminded of Cervantes's Don Quixote
tilting at windmills [16].

The concept of "tactical media", promoted by "Arkzin" throughout the
1990's, reveals a considerable influence of the Dutch culture on new
media culture in Croatia. There are several reasons for this: a
constant interest of the Dutch activists, artists and theoreticians in
Croatia, residence and education of Croatian journalists, artists and
theoreticians in the Netherlands and interpretation of media theory,
made by the Dutch theoreticians gathered around "Adilkno" project,
which Croatian intellectuals gladly accepted [17].

Seen form the new media perspective, "Arkzin" design was closely
related to design of its web sites and designer Bla??enko Kare??in Karo,
but the attention should be given to off-line edition as well. The
innovation of publications' design lied in creative application of new
media in the area of old media/ graphic design. Any changes in page
layout were possible only with the help of computer technology. Being
aware of new expressiveness resulting from new media used in graphic
design, publication designers listed hardware components, software
tools, font types next to the usual impressum information. It was
quite common to design a page layout as interface (using
characteristic Macintosh and Windows fonts, conversational windows,
falling menus, e-mail models etc.) or timeline imitating aesthetics of
hypertext. The publication's illustrator Bla??enko Kare??in used
software and the Internet iconic quite often.
On the other hand, designers created the web site by making old media
the content of new media. They kept a traditional role of illustration
as a dominant visual message; unlike publication, they simplified the
web page layout, stressing hyperlink with the font size or simple
colour change; they emphasized the "length" of web pages offering the
option of long scrolls etc. The traditionality of web sites' design
was moderated with the use of hyperlinks, animated GIFs etc.[18]

In the context of only a few Croatian users of the Internet i.e.
predominantly journalism/ television culture, these design methods
were extremely important. They were tactical because they easily
switched from one medium to another, combined old and new, and
articulated quick and radical social changes that were part of every
day life in Croatia of the 1990's.

Multimedial Institute, Net-Club Mama

During the depressed 1990's, "Arkzin" was a sole example when it came
to media coverage of the issues that were a matter of Central and
Eastern Europe governmental and non-governmental institutions'
interest. The examples of Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia can serve for
the comparison purposes: Budapest Fine Art Academy opened Department
of Media Art in 1991, and several years later, in 1996, Centre for
Culture and Communication (C3) was founded by Open Society Institute
to support media artists. E-Lab was founded in Riga in 1996 and club
"Ljudmila" in Ljubljana started to work one year earlier. On the other
hand, a major part of the new media art and culture in Croatia
promoted redactional policy of "Arkzin", a part of the wider citizens'
campaign that was going on at the time.

The first two, exclusively multimedial cultural spaces in Croatia were
Multimedial Institute (Mi2), opened in 1999, and Net Club Mama opened
in 2000 [19]. Like in many other post-socialist countries, The Open
Society Institute financially supported the foundation of these
institutions. On one side, activities of Multimedial Institute and Net
Club Mama have been a continuation of "Zamir" and "Arkzin", and on the
other side, they have been a specific adaptation of the new media art
and culture to post-war society, determined by neo-liberal ideology
and consumerism. The similarities between two models of NGO's cultural
activism (Anti-war Campaign and "Arkzin" as opposed to Multimedial
Institute and Mama) are the wide area of fight for civil society's
standards, right to approach channels of public communication at
reasonable prices, freedom of minorities' cultural forms etc. As far
as the art area is concerned, Multimedial Institute and the Club have
been the only constant public gathering places for artists,
theoreticians, curators, hackers, programmers, critics and activists
interested in various forms of media art. In addition to this,
Multimedial Institute was one of the rare production centres for all
the forms of new media art. By organizing various activities
(lectures, presentations, publishing, exhibitions, festivals) it has
shifted the public attention to the increasing importance of the
Internet in everyday life, promoting various forms of net art, and
supporting the idea of free software and need for reinterpretation of
author's rights in the context of digital production and distribution
of cultural assets.
Due to Multimedial Institute's activity, a new model of cultural
practice replaced a paradigmatic space of "Arkzin" redaction,
functioning at three levels: at the level of organization of cultural
festivals, including exhibitions, lectures, workshops, conferences; at
the level of maintaining mailing lists and at the level of socializing
in the club on daily basis [20].

In the period 2000-2005, Multimedial Institute organized exhibitions
and festivals dedicated to net art ("I Am Still Alive", 2000), free
software, media art and networking ("Becoming Digital", 2001/2003;
"ASU2 ??? Art Servers Unlimited", 2001; "Critical Update ??? New Media
Culture Week 2002"; "Next5Minutes", 2003; "Sloboda stvarala??tvu", 2005
etc.). The most relevant new media organizations, artists and
theoreticians from Europe, North America, Australia and India were
presented there. Just as "Arkzin" did in 1990's, Multimedial Institute
has used "old" and "new" media for its activities: inside the
"laboratory" it has been developing and maintaining "TamTam" software
based on the Wiki technology, as well as translating and publishing
books on philosophy, free software movement, sociology, politics and
new media theory [21]. In occasional cooperation with Multimedial
Institute, other NGOs have been formed that have also dedicated a part
of their activities to new media art. Among these, the independent
curators team "Kontejner" presented mostly works of the Croatian,
Slovenian, Serbian and American artists [22] at festivals "Device Art"
and "Touch Me" in the period 2004-2006; the independent curators team
"WHW" organized a typical new media event "Project: Broadcasting" in
2001 [23]. Another important characteristic of Multimedial Institute
is its principled openness towards hackers, one of the social layers
who have been helping to build a contemporary Internet culture.

Due to various forms of teamwork, free software programmers staying in
Zagreb, art workshops and socializing in the club, the gap between
humanistic (artistic) and technical culture on Zagreb new media scene
has been considerably narrowed.
  Besides already mentioned Bla??enko Kare??in, the artists who have been
more less influenced by the new media culture of "Arkzin" and
Multimedial Institute are Ivan Maru??i?? Klif
(, Darko Fritz (, Ana
Hu??man (, Andreja Kulun??i??
(, Lina Kova??evi??
(, and Nenad Romi?? a.k.a. Marcell Mars
( [24]. A large majority of their artistic
activities belong to post-conceptual, socially critical art practice.
Generally speaking, the same can be said for their work what Manovich,
analyzing the works of Alexei Shulgin and Dmitry Prigov, said about
the Russian art scene. He said that due to a peculiar historical
experience, the Eastern European artists were always more careful and
distrustful to utopian promises of new technologies than the Western
ones, and preferred black-humoured and dystopian aspects of new media,
rather than long-term social and artistic projects [25].

Cathedral, Media Scape

Any serious overview of new media art in Croatia would be incomplete
without the institutions and artists that have perceived new media
primarily as an artistic device used to point out or change existing
art procedures. In the context of Manovich's description of new media,
this network and its members see new media as a new representational
machine rather than a new social and artistic practice resulting from
their use [26].

This network was best presented by the exhibition/ project "Katedrala"
(1988) and a series of exhibitions, lectures, presentations and
symposiums held under the name Media Scape
( in Zagreb from 1993
until 1999 [27]. "Katedrala" was a team project carried out by artists
Darko Fritz, Stanko Juzba??i??, Boris Bakal, Ivan Maru??i?? Kilf and a
programmer Goran Premec. It was conceived as a multimedial interactive
gallery ambient, created and controlled by computers, various
electronic devices, screens and other new media objects and it was
dedicated to the major modernist artists [28].
The focus of the artists joined in this project was the two Manovich's
new media paradigms: database and algorithm. Both refer to the medium
of art production (image, sound, text) and the possibility of its
control. Since one medium is often "translated" into another, these
artists' works were usually multimedial and the process of remediation
is performed through different and complex interactive protocols. The
ambient installations prevailed and with the help of modern
technology, it was possible for the visitors to participate in
realization of an artwork. Due to their potential to generate and save
a great amount of data and to interact, CD ROM, closed circuit, video
and television installations were favourite new media genres among the
artists gathered around this network.

Once more, the artists Darko Fritz and Ivan Maru??i?? Klif should be
mentioned because their works can be interpreted in both contexts. Due
to their tendency to work with out-of-date technology (telefax
machines, old instruments, LP records, gramophone etc.) and
democratic, amateur do-it-yourself culture, they fit in the context of
Multimedial Institute network, while due to their inclination to
multimedial, interactive and gallery-situated works they fit in the
context of Media Scape network [29]. Within the framework of the
latter, we can also interpret the works of Sandro ??uki??, Magdalena
Pederin, interactive video installations of Dalibor Martinis, Dan Oki,
Simon Bogojevi?? Narath, Sandra Sterle, Kristina Leko and others.

UMAS ??? Department of Visual Communication Design, International
Festival of New Film

The third network is located in the town of Split, thus being the only
network of artists, theoreticians, curators and audience existing out
of Zagreb. Some of the participants of this network have already been
mentioned in the contexts of "Katedrala" and "Media Scape" but the
true meaning of this network lies in the area of art education. In
1997, Academy of Fine Arts in Split opened Department of Visual
Communication Design, which became the first high education programme
in Croatia dedicated to the new media education [30]. Department of
Visual Communication Design, and later Department of Film and Video,
offered basic insights into the new media arts, whether digital film
and video, photography or web design [31]. In other words, the
Department's programme was based on the process of reinterpretation of
the established art forms from the new media perspective, the process
that Manovich called meta-media and Janos Sugar inter-media process

A year earlier, International Festival of New Film had been
established in Split, which has also been presenting new media art
since 1997. The international jury has chosen and awarded new media
artworks. Due to the Festival's programme and activities of Department
of Visual Communication Design together with Department of Film and
Video, a number of new media artists and theoreticians, such as Lev
Manovich, Geert Lovink, Tamas Banovich, Nan Hoover, David Blair,
Gisela Domschke and others, have presented their work in Split.

Strategies and Tactics

The media art in Croatia has had a long tradition. The earliest use of
computers in art happened in 1969 when the electronic engineer and
explorer Vladimir Bona??i?? began to collaborate with the art movement
Nove tendencije. Throughout 1970's, when Nove tendencije stopped to
exist and a decade of domination of conceptual, performing and
activist art practices started, art referred to technologies in
several ways. In the area of video art, particularly in the works of
Dalibor Martinis and Sanja Ivekovi??, convergence of consuming
electronics (portable cameras, TV set etc.) and art was happening in
two ways. First, on the experimental level because the artists in
almost gestalt-like manner tested characteristics of new medium and
second, on the level where new media were seen as a platform for
criticizing "society of spectacle".

According to this rough classification of the media art, each of the
two new-media models in Croatia during 1990's belonged to a different
side of the tradition. "Katedrala" and "Media Scape" belonged to the
side that facing the modernist dilemma ??? pure art or social activism ???
chose the autonomous art field in which experimenting with technology,
with the purpose of broadening freedom of artistic expression, had
more prominent role with the ending of 20th century. "Arkzin" and
"Multimedial Institute" followed the line, which in a constant
reminding of determinedness of every material, including art practice,
saw the new media not only as a group of new technical protocols but
also as a chance for new transgression of art, politics, high and
popular culture etc.

The sharp sensibility of "Arkzin" to the issue of media freedom is one
of the most important factors in an attempt to differentiate these two
new media paradigms. Another important factor is a political potential
of popular culture, which is exactly what "Arkzin" was doing,
according to some texts written by a long member of editorial board
and designer of "Arkzin" Dejan Kr??i??.  He claims that a true critical,
corrective opposition to a bureaucratic socialist system of the late
1970's and 1980's was a particular practice of youth, usually popular
culture that degraded with the introduction of parliamentary
democration, since they lost the initial focus of interest, their
raison d'etre [33]. It seems that the new media in Croatia of the
1990's should be seen as a revitalization of alternative, opposing
potentials of pop culture that stood against a grey background of war,
economic transition, autocrat government and xenophobia.


The first generation of artists formally educated in media art at
Split and Zagreb Fine Art Academies was presented at the exhibition
"Re:sources: New Media and Young Croatian Artists" at the Gal??enica
Gallery in 2003. Only one of around 20 presented works did not belong
to video or animation art [34]. It can only be speculated about a real
popularity of film and video art among young Croatian artists. It
seems there has been a long and respectable tradition of experimental
film, video and animation, which has also determined the new media art
in Croatia [35]. Still, Geert Lovink suggested in one of his essays on
history of new media that the art tradition has always looked down on
the Internet and "network computer" as devices for art practice [36].
Using definitions introduced in Croatian art history by Ljubo Karaman
in the 1950's, Igor Markovi?? thinks the inability of so-called
peripheral and provincial  communities to creatively assimilate
influences of topological, not geographical centre, is responsible for
the omnipresent aversion to net art in Croatia. According to his
interpretation, advertising aspects as well as traditional aspects of
photography and video characterize Croatian artists' works on the
Internet [37].

Nowadays, the access to the Internet in Croatia is completely opened
to the market of the corporative capital. After more than a decade of
monopole, T-Com had to allow the access to so-called last mile in
2006. Despite this, Croatian citizens are still paying one of the most
expensive tariffs for the Internet access in Europe.

It is still impossible to find out, within a reasonable period, the
number of the Internet users in Croatia for the years 1996 and 2006.
In addition, the Modern Gallery, the institution dedicated to the
presentation of Croatian modern art, still does not have a web site.
On the other side, a recent survey has shown that Croatia has the
third-largest number of Fire fox users, following Finland and
Slovenia. In addition, Multimedial Institute's activity of promoting
Creative Commons licence is one of the most prominent in the region
while slow but persistent lobbying for the governmental use of the
free software is still going on. Finally, new media are becoming the
only media in Croatia, too.

(May 2007) Klaudio ??tefan??i??										(translation: Anita Kojund??i??)

[1]  The author would like to express his gratitude to Dejan Kr??i??,
Marcell Mars, Igor Markovi??, Dan Oki and Sr??an Dvornik for their help
with this text by providing necessary information and conversations.

[2]  Manovich, L., New Media from Borges to HTML in The New Media
Reader; edited by N. Wardrip-Fruin and N. Montfort, Cambridge
Massachusets&London, 2003: 13-25


[4]  The author borrows the terms opposition and negotiation from
Stuart Hall's cultural theory. Hall Stuart (2006): "Coding/ Decoding",
in Duda, D. (ed.): Politika teroije. Zbornik rasprava iz kulturalnih
studijas. Zagreb, Dispute: 127-139

[5]  For example, see Rachel Green's Internet Art (Thames&Hudson,
2004) or Darko Fritz's presentation of history of the Croatian media
art on

[6]  For Janos Sugar's correspondence with Gaert Lovink  about typical
post-socialist experience of (inter) media artist, see

[7]  In 1995, Zamir's network had 2000 members. Among others, Erich
Bachman writes on the establishing the BBS system on

[8]  Until 1998, Arkzin's editor-in-chief was Vesna Jankovi??.
However, the board found it important to establish the institution of
collective, non-hierarchical editorship in which all the participants
were equally included. Other members of editorial board were graphic
designers Dejan Kr??i??, Dean Dragosavac Rutta, Bla??enko Kare??in,
journalists, publicists and theoreticians Igor Markovi??, Boris Buden,
Boris Mikuli??, Boris Trup??evi??, Geert Lovink and others.

[9]  "Arkzin" wrote about the Dutch group "Agentur Bilwet", cyber
feminism theory, work of Slovenian net-clubs "Ljudmila" and
"Kiberpipa", festivals such as "Next 5 Minutes", "Ars Electronica",
Venice Biennale, art groups and artists such as Critical Art Ensemble,, Stelarc and Ivan Maru??i?? Klif. Furthermore, translations of
texts written by theoreticians such as Geert Lovink, Andreas
Broeckmann, Hakim Bey, Richard Dawkins, Peter Weibel, Mark Dery, Mark
Terkessidis were published.

[10] Lovink, G., "New Media Art & Science", 2005, 30th May 2007

[11] Green, Rachel "Internet Art", London: Thames&Hudson, 2004: 54


[13]  ??uvakovi??, M., "Estetika apstraktnog slikarstva, Beograd:
Narodna knjiga/ Alfa, 1998: 18

[14]  "Zenit" was an avant-garde magazine, at first published in
Zagreb (1921-1923) and later in Beograd (1923-1926). Ljubomir Mici??,
whose intention was to introduce social and artistic principles of
avant-garde period into Croatia and Serbia, launched it. Although
pushed to the margins, "Zenit" enriched the Croatian art with many
avant-garde features, in particular constructivism, futurism and

[15]  The commercial access to the Internet was extremely expensive
when it first started in 1995. In the mean time, the national operator
was sold to Deutsche Telekom.

[16]  Igor Markovi?? informed me about the surprising passivity of
state institutions when it came to implementation of the Internet,
claiming that governmental reaction to non-governmental organizations'
criticism was ill-defined and chaotic, rather that preconceived and

[17]  "Adilkno" or "Organization for improving illegal knowledge"
("Agentur Bilwet" in German) is informal group of intellectuals,
researchers and theoreticians who started to work in Amsterdam in
1983. They have published several books such as: "Cracking the
Movement", "Squatting beyond the Media" (1990) about subculture of
squats in Amsterdam; "The Data Dandy" (1994), a collection of essays
on cyber culture; "Media Archive" (1992) about repositioning mass
media in relation to socialist project downfall (Croatian edition was
published in 1998). Their theory was influenced by The French post
structuralism, pop culture, media art and Marxist theory.

[18] It is still possible to see "Arkzin" web page on

[19] Some of the founders were Nenad Romi?? a.k.a. Marcell Mars, Teodor
Celakoski, Vedran Gulin, Tomislav Medak, ??eljko Bla??e, Petar Milat,
Boris Buden and others.

[20]  A newspaper redaction had an important role in the society of
former Yugoslavia due to a particular model called "socialism with
human face". The turbulent 1990's kept a part of that symbolism. Among
the most relevant "Arkzin" predecessors were youth magazines "Polet"
and "Studentski list".

[21]  The following translations should be mentioned here: Lawrence
Lessig's "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace", McKenzie Wark's "A
Hacker Manifesto", Marina Gr??ini??'s "Estetika kibersvijeta i u??inci
derealizacije", Michael Hardt & Tony Negri's "Empire" etc.

[22]  These artists were presented: Vuk ??osi??, Luka Frelih, Ivan
Maru??iu?? Klif, Magdalena Pederin, Dubravko Kuhta, Berislav ??imi??i??,
Sa??o Sedla??ek, William Linn, Ines Krasi??, Nika Oblak, Primo?? Novak and

[23]  "Project: Broadcasting" was dedicated to Nikola Tesla. It was
taking place for almost a year at different locations in Zagreb and
was broadcasted on national radio. It consisted of exhibitions,
lectures, discussions, performances, concerts etc.

[24] One of the artists whose work has not been covered by any of the
three new media networks is Igor Zlobec. In 2000, he started the web
site "Zlobecsport". It soon transformed from a web page with a purpose
of presenting off-line works to a typical net artwork. Another artist
should be mentioned here, Antun Bo??i??evi??, whose interactive sound
ambient "Va??no je sudjelovati" was exhibited in Osijek in 2004. A year
earlier, Maja Kalogjera organized the international exhibition "Ground
of My Studio" in the GRADEC Gallery with the works of Ruth Catlow,
Agricola de Cologne, Marc Garret, Maya Kalogera, Jess Loseby, Eryk
Salvaggio, Teo Spiller and Jody Zellen.

[25]  Manovich, L., "Behind the Screen Russian New Media" from
Convergence  15 May 2007

[26]  Manovich 2003: 16

[27]  Media Scape was an international manifestation, founded by Heiko
Daxl, Ingeborg Fullep, Bojan Baleti?? and Malcolm LeGriece.

[28]  "Katedrala" was dedicated to Vasilij Kandinsky, Modest
Mussorgsky, Marchel Duchamp and Joseph Beuys. For further information

[29]  The term "network computer" is used here to point out the
cultural practices neglected in the theory of "early new media",
determined by popularization of the Internet and its introduction in
the world of mass media, increase of the wireless Internet access, new
forms of artistic on-line networking based on Web 2.0, influence of
open source, i.e. Creative Commons' cultural and artistic movement
etc. In short, the term is a temporary methodological construction
created for the purposes of this historic countdown, in accordance
with Manovich's differentiation between new media and cyber culture.
For further information, see Manovich 2003, 16 and "The Language of
New Media" of the same author.

[30]  Some of the founders were Ivo Dekovi??, Tomislav Leroti??, Vlado
Zrni??, Gorki ??uvela, Mirko Petri??, Slobodan Joki?? a.k.a. Dan Oki and

[31]  Himbele, ??. and ??tefan??i??, K. "Protiv pedago??ke atrofiranosti
(interview with  Slobodan Joki?? a.k.a. Dan Oki), "Zarez", 25 September
2003  (15 June 2007)

[32]  Lovink, G. "Intermedia: The Dirty Digital Bauhaus, an e-mail
Exchange with Janos Sugar" from "Convergence: The International
Journal of Research into New Media Technologies", 5 March 2007
In Sugar's conception "inter-media" stands for "inter-disciplinary"
plus "media".

[33]  Kr??i??, D. "Alter/native" in "Communication Front 2000 Book", 18
April 2006

[34]  It was Dunja Sabli??'s graduation work - CD ROM "Vila Velebita".

[35]  The hybrid area where film, video and "traditional" art of the
early 1970's overlap can be presented by GEFF (Genre Film Festival),
the work by Vladimir Petek and FAVIT (Film, audiovizualna
istra??ivanja, televizija), Dalibor Martinis and Sanja Ivekovi??'s work,
  experimental films of Ladislav Galeta, Tomislav Gotovac and others.

[36] Lovink, Geert: "New Media, Art and Science", 2005 30 May 2007

[37] Markovi??, Igor: "Periphery vs. Province" from "Convergence: The
International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies", 2
April 2007


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