Van Gogh TV

Welcome to the website of the DFG project number 388224396 “Van Gogh TV. Indexing, Multimedia Documentation and Analysis of its Legacy”, which was carried out by the Institute for Media Design at the University of Applied Sciences Mainz and the Media Studies Department at the University of Bonn from 2018 to 2021.

The project deals with the “Piazza virtuale” project, that Van Gogh TV carried out at documenta IX in 1992. Van Gogh TV was a group of media artists and hackers, that carried out a series of pioneering media projects via television and early computer networks between 1988 and 1994. The largest and most elaborate of these projects was “Piazza virtuale.” This interactive television project used all the electronic media available at the time to involve the television audience, who could watch the program via both the television channel 3Sat and the Olympus satellite. The goal of the project was to recreate casual communication in the style of an Italian piazza on the TV screen.

In “Piazza virtuale,” people could use telephone, fax, mailbox and videophone to take part in the broadcasts. Depending on the program, there was the opportunity to discuss with each other, get to know each other, make music or paint together, move a camera in the studio in Kassel, chat via modem or confess one’s sins in a virtual confessional or read the current issue of the newspaper “taz”. The television audience of the time welcomed the interactive program enthusiastically, with up to 25,000 callers per hour trying to participate at times. Artists from all over the world were also connected via videophone and live satellite broadcasts, producing their own broadcasts and staging performances.

“Piazza virtuale” already anticipated many features and functions of today’s social media. For example, in addition to the direct interaction between users, it granted the possibility to offer goods on a virtual marketplace, which is reminiscent of the concept of current online auction houses. In addition, early forms of the phenomenon of trolling, i.e. the targeted disruption and provocation of other participants during a conversation, became apparent.

Here you can find out more about the DFG project and its staff, as well as the latest news from the project. There are also information about the various formats and the international studios called “Piazzettas”. There are also videos from the research project and archived materials we found during our research.