Ponton (since 1986)

also: PONTON European Mobile Art Project, Ponton Media Lab, Ponton Medias

After Minus Delta t had carried out their first large-scale media project at Ars Electronica 1986 called “Ponton”, the term was printed on the “Medienbus” that Minus Delta t presented at documenta 1987 and the Frankfurt book fair in the same year and the opening of the Alte Oper (Old Opera) in Frankfurt. In 1988, the term then appeared as the name of the media art group that had developed from Minus Delta t in the catalogue of the European Media Art Festival (EMAF). The “PONTON European Mobile Art Project” was now a team that, according to the catalogue, included Mike Hentz. Benjamin Heidersberger, Karel Dudesek, Gerard Couty and Axel Wirths from 235 Media. The group was represented in several programmes. But most importantly, they broadcast a television programme from their “Medienbus” without permission, which consisted partly of video recordings from the “Bangkok Project” and partly of video art by other artists. For this they used a transmitter that the Amsterdam television group Rabotnik TV had built for the artists.

The catalogue contains programmatic statements that already indicate the aesthetics of Van Gogh TV: “No fixed programming, no news programmes, nearly no censorship, the principle of coincidence, own advertising design, self-determined, local station with international standards”. However, the emphasis here is still on working with their own video recordings, not primarily with live material: “From visual and acoustic experiments, collages and mixes, the perceiver associates his own world. On the basis of pre-produced broadcasts, programmes are created through revision and live intervention that also take into account coincidences and moods. With the time limit already included in the concept, we prevent routine and bureaucratic culture.”

In the tradition of media activists, the primacy of practice is emphasised: “The axe in the house saves the carpenter. There is no substitute for practical experience of one’s own allotment garden.” Canonised concepts of media theory such as the “global village” are cited, international online networking is also mentioned, but above all, the idea of using a satellite to broadcast part of their programme at documenta is mentioned for the first time in this text.

The illegal TV broadcasting caused a minor scandal in Osnabrück. In order to avoid legal trouble, the members of Ponton claimed that these programmes were broadcast by a Dutch group of media activists. (In the squatter scene in Amsterdam and Rotterdam at that time, there were numerous pirate radio stations and also experiments with illegal television stations; in addition, numerous political and artistic groups were broadcasting on the Amsterdam Open Channel, so this claim had a certain plausibility). The alleged name of this group: Van Gogh TV. Although this name does not appear anywhere in the festival catalogue, it was thus launched in the German media art scene through the controversial action.

Interview with Christiane Klappert

Documents

Press

Axel Roselius (left) and Gérard Couty (right)

Axel Roselius, Ponton Media Art Lab

Christian Wolff, Ponton Media Art Lab Hamburg

“Frauen und Technik” at Ponton

Manuel Tessloff and Daniel Haude at Ponton

Sound studio, Ponton Media Art Lab Hamburg

Ponton Media Art Lab Hamburg

Ponton Media Art Lab Hamburg

Karel Dudesek, Ponton Media Art Lab Hamburg

Ponton Media Art Lab Hamburg

Robot camera, Ponton Media Art Lab Hamburg

Salvatore Vanasco and Ole Lütjens at Ponton Media Lab, Hamburg