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Politisches Statement

v4.5 | 12 06 02
Open Letter to the Austrian Public

Open Letter to the Austrian Public
September 2000


::Right Wing Government Targets Public Netbase

The individuals, initiatives, and organizations listed below hereby demand that Public Netbase, the Viennese Center for New Media, should neither be forcibly closed, nor should it be moved from its current location in the Museumsquartier. We urge the Austrian government to acknowledge Public Netbase as a pioneer in the field of new media arts and culture by enabling the organization to continue its work in the Museumsquartier.

Since its opening in 1994, Public Netbase has played an instrumental role in shaping the rapidly changing landscape of electronic culture. Under the dedicated guidance of Konrad Becker and Marie Ringler, Public Netbase has contributed both to local media culture in Vienna and to new media culture in larger European and global contexts. In addition, Public Netbase offers a unique mix of community services, including technical training, public Internet access, and a sophisticated artistic program; it also produces exhibitions, organizes conferences, provides essential resources to several communities, and helps advance the culture of new media technologies by significantly contributing to the development of theoretical and practical models. Continuing to integrate these initiatives into the cultural context of the Museumsquartier would contribute tremendously to the type of cultural context and competence that will allow Austria to proceed through this new century in a manner in keeping with its rich cultural heritage.

Unfortunately, since the change in government, Public Netbase has become the target of unreasonable accusations, hidden machinations, and unwarranted attacks. The withdrawal of all federal funding, the government's effort to stop support on the regional level, and the unsuccessful but extensive investigation into alleged financial misappropriations, are clearly being enacted as a means of silencing critical voices in Austrian civil society. We find this situation to be not only shocking but also deeply distressing, considering the contributions Public Netbase has made to the local community and to the field of new media arts.

We insist that the Austrian government reconsider and clarify its cultural policy regarding Public Netbase and acknowledge its achievements. Public Netbase should be supported for the unique cultural environment it creates, and for its history of support for experimental and emerging artistic practices. Not only should Public Netbase be given consistent support, but so should those individuals and organizations participating in the impressive variety of other Austrian independent and experimental media projects that have come into being over the last decade. These projects have demonstrated that media art and network practices have a distinguished history and that they attempt to reflect the creative diversity and a broad range of critical discourse of crucial importance to the emergence of global culture. Too often, electronic time-based media has been inappropriately described as marginal, fragmented, or outside the cultural debates about creativity in the current art scene. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this is why an organization like Public Netbase has been a staunch promoter of this rich new media culture. As such, it is the responsibility and duty of the Austrian government, as the custodians of public culture, to reinstate funding for Public Netbase and facilitate their continued presence in the Museumsquartier. Anything less would be a disservice to the public and to the cultural legacy of Europe.



~Offener Brief




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