Groups and Organizations

Piazza virtuale is part of a perplexing multitude of other works and (media) art groups that preceded the project or developed out of it. These groups and projects will be discussed in this chapter, as Piazza virtuale was to a great extent a culmination of practises, approaches and technologies that developed during these earlier activities. In retrospect, these are distinguished by such a single-mindedness and strength of purpose, that they can be considered a body of work in its own right, despite its departure from the traditional notion of an artistic oeuvre. After Piazza virtuale and the break-up of Van Gogh TV, the founders of the groups went on to form new collectives, some of them art-oriented, but most of them, astonishingly, business enterprises, which will also be discussed in this chapter.

The artistic practice of launching and carrying out collective projects under ever new “brand names” instead of individual artworks can be traced back, on the one hand, to methods introduced into the canon of aesthetic modernism by loose associations of artists such as Dada and Fluxus. On the other hand, this practice also corresponded to a neoliberal form of work organisation and “branding” that corresponded to the time of the emerging internet economy. Piazza virtuale was, on the one hand, the starting point of further art groups and activities, but it was also from the circle of Piazza virtuale organisers that companies emerged that were among the forerunners of the “New Economy” in Germany.

The starting point for all these activities is the artists’ group Minus Delta t, which was founded by Karel Dudesek and Mike Hentz in 1978. Benjamin Heidersberger, who together with Peter Elsner had founded his own artistic platform with Head Resonance Company, occasionally worked with the group. In 1988 he founded Ponton together with Dudesek and Hentz, with Salvatore Vanasco joining the group shortly after. This group was responsible for some of the most daring and experimental (media) artistic projects of the time from 1988 onwards under the names Ponton European Media Lab and Van Gogh TV. The work as an artistic collective, which the group exemplified, had been brought into the DNA of the group especially by Mike Hentz through his participation in artists’ groups and networks such as Padlt Noidlt, Frigo, Infermental. Code Public or Radio Bellevue.