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Thing Frankfurt 28.5.1994

28. 5. 1994

Initiated by Muntadas and produced by Randolph Street Gallery

An Interactive Installation by Muntadas
Chicago Cultural Center
78 East Washington Street, Chicago
Michigan Avenue Galleries, 1st Floor
May 20 - September 4, 1994
Open Monday-Sunday. For info call 312.744.6630.
(Invitational opening reception, Friday, May 20, 6 - 8 pm)

An Electronic Archive

Accessible worldwide via the Internet and World Wide Web
May 20 - ongoing
At the Mosaic URL:

A Working Model
A satellite office at the Projects Space
Randolph Street Gallery
756 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
May 20 - June 18, 1994
Tuesday - Saturday, 12 - 6 pm

(Chicago) Randolph Street Gallery (RSG) joins internationally renowned artist Muntadas to present the debut of The File Room, his new project that expands our understanding of cultural censorship. The File Room utilizes the latest communications technology to document numerous individual cases of censorship around the world and throughout history with an easy-to-use, interactive computer archive.

The Development of The File Room
Conceived by Muntadas close to 10 years ago, The File Room is the latest project in a series of works that address power relations in society. The series has included his internationally-presented installations

The Board
Room and The Stadium.
Born in Spain and based in New York since 1971, Antonio Muntadas' artworks take form in video, multi-media and installation. In the past three years his projects have been exhibited in New York, Tokyo, Stuttgart, Jerusalem, Winnipeg and many other cities. He has recently completed a ten year video study of the art world entitled "Between the Frames" which will be presented in 1994 in Bordeaux, France and at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio.
In producing The File Room, RSG continues its commitment to generating activities and exploring issues that probe the intersections of art and society. Two and one-half years ago, Muntadas and Randolph Street Gallery began developing The File Room for public presentation in Chicago. As the archive is symbolic of the need for free and open communication, and because its format employs the latest in telecommunications technology, Muntadas created a collaborative forum for developing The File Room. Over a series of visits by Muntadas to Chicago, The File Room has developed as a collaboration drawing upon the resources and expertise of many organizations and individuals.
At an artist residency in September 1993 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Muntadas publicly introduced the project and began working with its School of Art and Design to develop the technical elements of a hypertext, multi-media database which will be accessible through Internet. Northwestern University has provided an Internet connection and technical support for the development of the project. The Banff Centre for the Arts (Alberta, Canada) awarded The File Room a working residency as part of this year's Nomad Networks program, for the research and development of global networking art projects. Muntadas was an artist in residence at the School of the Art Institute in February 1994 where he lectured on his previous work, putting The File Room in the context of his public installations. Student researchers in New York, Paris, and Chicago have been contacting information sources, researching, soliciting submissions from individuals and entering information on censorship which has come from existing resources such as People for the American Way's ArtSave project, the ACLU, the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, the Chicago Artists Coalition's archive on censorship and many other organizations and individuals. Through mailings and postings on the Internet, censorship information has come to RSG from around the world and as The File Room will remain an open system, users will be able to continually submit cases as the archive grows.
A bibliography citing source material dealing with censorship in the cultural sphere will be part of the archive, along with a list of anti-censorship resources. A publication on The File Room will be available later this summer. It will include essays by Rachel Weiss, Herbert Schiller, Robert Atkins, Carol Becker, Judith Kirshner and others.

Experiencing The File Room
The File Room challenges existing definitions of what constitutes censorship, and creates a forum for discussion and exploration of the many issues surrounding acts of cultural censorship. Presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs at the Chicago Cultural Center, the physical design of The File Room installation symbolizes information control. The walls of the space are lined from floor to ceiling with metal filing cabinets. Eight computer terminals accessing the archive will replace file drawers in the cabinets. The archive opens with definitions of censorship gathered from a number of different sources. These divergent opinions establish a wide range of what constitutes an act of censorship and introduce the subjective nature of the concept.
As Robert Atkins of The Village Voice has written:

"What's censorship and who's a censor? For some of us, moving a controversial artwork from a prominent to an obscure place in an exhibition hall fits the bill. But what about a juried show at a mall that excludes nudes? Or an art institution that never shows the work of artists of color? And let's not even mention self-censorship. Antonio Muntadas' The File Room may be the first artwork-cum-exhibition to grapple systematically with such matters, while documenting 500 years of arts censorship and human rights violations."

The project will include cases of censorship in the areas of visual art, music, dance, theatre, performance, literature etc. and will not be limited to cases of censorship of individual artworks. Included among the instances of cultural censorship are the suppression of artists' careers;
bans on entire media or subject matters at various times in history; self-suppression by those in fear of reprisals; denied or limited access to information on cultural achievements by entire groups or non-inclusion of such information in "authoritative" sources compiled by majority representatives. The continually growing archive will begin as a prototype, to be shaped by ongoing research and by submissions from around the world.

In addition to the Cultural Center, RSG's Projects Space will house The File Room office May 20 - June 18, where visitors can access the archive from an on-line terminal which will also allow browsing through other Internet resources.

The electronic archive of The File Room will also be accessible internationally to users of the Internet by way of a free software program called Mosaic. This program allows easy access to text, images and sound housed in computers worldwide. The File Room will be housed in one such site on the World Wide Web (a fast-growing international network of computers).

The Information Superhighway (e.g. the Internet) holds immense power for the future of worldwide communication and resource accessibility. The File Room intends to use this Superhighway to demonstrate its capabilities to bypass more traditional means of broadcasting and its potential for grassroots activism. Yet these capabilities are threatened now by the mega-mergers in telecommunications and the federal policies that are in formation. It is hoped that projects like The File Room will interest more people in the fate of the Information Superhighway, and activating the role in its development.

For information on how to access The File Room and other activist resources via the Internet, or to learn more about getting access to the Internet, call RSG.

Financial support for The File Room has been provided in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Playboy Foundation.
Interviews with the artist can be arranged by calling RSG.

Randolph Street Gallery is a nonprofit artist-run center, celebrating 15 years of supporting and generating activities at the intersection of art and society.

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